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Vector graphics explained

Vector graphics are digital graphics created using basic geometry — points connected by curved or straight lines. Using these points and lines, you can create everything from simple geometric shapes to incredibly intricate digital illustrations.

What are vector graphics made of?

Vector graphics are made of points connected by curved or straight lines. The paths created by these lines can be open, meaning they have a start and end point, or they can be closed by joining the last point to the first one, which creates a shape. The positions of the points as well as the shapes and sizes of the lines are defined using mathematical equations. Because of this, vector graphics can be scaled and displayed at any size without losing sharpness or changing appearance. The shapes are simply redrawn at a new (larger or smaller) size by your Mac.

What do these points and lines look like?

In Pixelmator Pro, you can add a custom shape and make it editable to see its vector points and lines. For example, say you add the Waypoint shape, then Control-click it and choose Make Editable. Now, you’ll see each of the individual points of the shape. If you click to select one of the smooth points, you’ll also see its direction handles. The direction handles set how much the line should curve between that point and the one next to it.

What are vector graphics used for?

Vector graphics are used to create the shape tools used in almost all image editing apps and even apps like Pages and Keynote. Using these shape tools, it’s possible to create icons, logos, glyphs, and even advanced digital illustrations. Traditionally, vector graphics weren’t used much on the web, but because of their usually smaller file sizes and new technologies that make it possible to display vector images on the web, vector formats are becoming more popular for online use.

Can photos be displayed using vector graphics?

Essentially, no. It’s practically impossible to create good-looking vector versions of photographic images — and even when it’s attempted, the vector versions usually have obvious flaws (such as posterization) and often results in much larger file sizes. Photographs have lots of very different changes in shape and colors that cannot be easily redrawn using basic geometric shapes, even when many different shapes are combined together. For that reason, digital photographic images are created and displayed using a map of colored dots, or pixels.