Bitmap and Vector Images – Which is Better for Your Signage?

Bitmap and Vector Images – Which is Better for Your Signage?

There’s a lot of terminology involved with graphic design and signage, so it’s only natural to feel a little overwhelmed when discussing your options for your business or shop signs. Ausign has been creating custom outdoor banners, shopfronts and a wide variety of signage for Melbourne businesses since 1976. We are often asked the differences between vector images and bitmap images so to help you understand, let’s look at the features of each format, and discuss the scenarios where one may be preferred over the other.  

Bitmap Images

Any image that is a photograph or a scanned copy is a bitmap image. These images are made up of pixels which are small blocks of colour that form an entire image when mapped together. Bitmap graphics can be easily edited in a professional photo editing programme such as Adobe Photoshop, however, when you zoom in or enlarge a bitmap image, you’ll start noticing individual pixel squares, and this could affect the clarity of the overall image and make it appear ‘pixelated’. Bitmap images work well when in situations where you won’t be constantly resizing and repurposing an image file. For example, for use online as background images, blog headers, and social media images.

You’ll often see them saved with the below file extensions:

  • .jpg – One of the most common file types. JPEG files are relatively small, but are lower quality than other file formats.
  • .gif – This file has a limited colour palette. Works well for small web graphics and animations.
  • .png – A great option for high quality images, this file achieve high quality resolution in a manageable file size.
  • .tif or .tiff – TIF files are considered the highest quality and most versatile file type. They are often used for commercial purposes.
  • .psd – A saved Photoshop project. These files can only be opened by Adobe Photoshop.
  • .pdf – A versatile file type that can contain bitmap or vector files. PDFs are often used for printing documents such as leaflets and books.

Vector Images

Vector Images are created on a computer using vector graphic creation applications, such as Adobe Illustrator. Unlike bitmap images, vector images are not based on pixels, instead they use mathematical rules to draw lines and curves that can be combined together to create a whole picture. Also unlike bitmap images, shapes in vector images are completely editable and the image can be sized up or down extensively without degrading the picture quality. Since vector images never lose quality, they are great for applications where the image will be reused and resized such as for business logos, signage, and illustrations. While vectors are great for designs that use straightforward solid colours, it can be difficult to achieve subtle colour gradients or shadows and it’s tricky to achieve a photo-like result.

Which Should I Use for My Signage?

It is possible to print signs using bitmap images. However, ultimately the size of the image will determine how usable it is from a printing perspective. Bitmap graphics often don’t work when applied to large format signs because they’re not of a high enough resolution to withstand the enlarging process.

As they scale up or down to fit on something as small as a business card or as large as a billboard, logos, icons and abstract images should be vectors. Vector images are far more versatile than bitmaps, and that’s why most signage companies prefer to work with them wherever possible.

If you’re looking to invest in new shop signs, outdoor banners, wall printing or other signage solutions and you’re unsure about the most suitable graphics, the team at Ausign is here to help.

As an experienced, full service Melbourne signage company, we can work with your supplied graphics or we can develop an eye-catching yet fully scalable design to give your signage the best result. Get in touch with us online or by calling (03) 9419 0970 now.