What's a vector anyway?

What is a vector anyway, and why do I need to vectorize my lettering?

When you start hand lettering you may not even care that you can digitize it or do anything else with it. Because you're just doing it for fun. But if you want to start selling large prints, t-shirts, mugs or fonts, you will need to learn how to properly digitize your lettering. 

The best way is to vectorize it

You probably heard this term before, but if you're still unsure about what it exactly is, here is a bit of info on this topic. And a quick little video —scroll down— explaining the difference between raster and vector images.

Just to be clear, raster is what you would work with in Photoshop and vectors is what you would create in Illustrator.




Scaling limitations

Raster images are created using hundredths, thousands or even millions of little pixels (those little squares you see in the yellow box above). These little pixels make up the color and detail of your image. You can edit each square to your liking and really get into the little details.

If you create an image that is 2in x 2in at 300 DPI (1,200 pixels) it will look awesome at that size. But if you want to enlarge it to 10in x 10in at 300DPI (30,000) it will start to look blurry. That's because Photoshop will take a guess and come up with extra pixels (the missing 28,800) that didn't exist before.  And that's why your photo will look pretty bad.




More of a flat, cartoony look

Vector graphics rely on math and points, no pixels involved here. The way it works is you create points and the computer connects them with a straight or curved line.

Smooth and blur free. Your 2in x 2in logo can be scaled to 2ft x 2ft no problem.

The downside is that you can't create as much detail in color variation as you can with raster images. Vectors tend to look flat. Like comparing a cartoon to a movie. Now you can use the blur function and gradients to create that rasterized look, but that adds a whole lot of data which increases the size dramatically.

DPI: DOTS PER INCH refers to print. Printers use dots of ink to create an image.

PPI: PIXELS PER INCH refers to screens. Screens use pixels to represent an image.

Pros of Raster

  • Great for photos that have rich detail.
  • Shading, color and detail is infinite. The more pixels the more detailed your image will be.

Pros of Vector

  • Great for logos, typography and cartoons.
  • The more points you create the more detailed your graphic.
  • Doesn't get blurry when enlarged.

Cons of Raster

  • The more pixels your image has the bigger the file, and it will slow down your computer very quickly.
  • Get blurry when enlarged. 

Cons of Vector

  • Less detail to play with. You can only edit points.
  • Less effects to apply to your images.



  • If you create something in Photoshop, make sure it's at the size you want it to be in the end, we call that Actual Size.
  • Don't create full layouts in Photoshop, like flyers, book covers, business cards or posters. Use InDesign for laying out the individual images you created in Photoshop. (Seriously, I've been doing this for over three years, and there is nothing worse than working with dozens of Photoshop layers. Usually, there is a lot of swearing going on when that happens).
  • If you are sending anything to a printer, always ask first for the dimensions and DPI they require the art to be set to.
  • When saving for web, only pay attention to the pixels, the PPI or DPI does not matter at all. What does matter, is image optimization. That would be Save for Web in Photoshop or Illustrator. You can also use PicMonkey, Pixlr or Tinypng . I recommend Tinypng, it's super simple and the images still look great.

I hope this clears up some confusion on this topic. I hope to see you all using the proper software in the future. And if you have any questions on this topic please comment below and I will answer as best as I can.


Now, do you want to see what you can create once you vectorize your lettering?

Find out why you should vectorize your lettering in this new post -->


vector vs raster

Want to digitize your hand lettering but don't know where to start? Take a look at these two courses I made just for you.