Vector Graphics Demonstration

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Vector Graphics Demonstration

How Vector Software Differs from Bitmap Graphic Applications

Commentary by Paul Jacobsen
 

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Vector Graphics and Bitmap Graphics are very different yet most people do not know the differences. One very important difference between the two is 'scalability' ...the ability to re-size an image.

When you see a fuzzy, chunky looking image on a web page, or in a document, it's a good bet the image was too small in it's original form and the page author, knowing no better, simply stretched the bitmap to the larger size required ...sacrificing image clarity in the process. It should be noted, however, that down-sizing a bitmapped image will not adversely affect its quality since the pixels it is made of are being compressed rather than stretched.

Had a vector image been used in this scenario, the fuzzy, chunky image could have been up-sized to the exact proportions needed with absolutely no sacrifice in quality. See example below.



This example is extracted from the demonstration image on this page.
 

 

 

Vector image at 500% zoom / magnification

Bitmap image at 500% zoom / magnification

 

Creating an Aztec Pyramid in the Jungle


Since we are discussing the 'sacrifice' of image quality, we'll make an Aztec pyramid as our example. This article is not meant to be a detailed tutorial, but rather an overview of the differences between vector and bitmap, and to illuminate the process of building an illustration in a vector graphics program such as Xara X ...which was used here and throughout this site.

Vector software operates similarly to CAD (Computer Assisted Design) programs in that it mathematically describes an item with lines and curves is opposed to colored pixels in a bitmap image. Once the objects required to construct the illustration are created, they must be filled with appropriate textures and shadows, then arranged on layers (front to back) to accomplish the 3D look. See the simplified example below.
 

Layers in Vector Illustration

[L1] Is the background and is on the bottom layer
[L2] Is the surface of a step and is on the middle layer
[L3] Is the shadow and is on the top layer

Step One - Creating the Vector Outline Drawing (Wire Frame Drawing)


 

This step is simply creating all the objects that will be required to make the final image. Working in 'wire frame' mode is the 'drafting and measuring' stage.

 

Step Two - Assembling Components and Applying Textures & Effects


In this step the appropriate textures and shading are added to the image and fine tuned to a natural and realistic looking state. In the Xara X program it is possible to use a variety of shadowing effects, transparency options and feathering to accomplish a softer, more realistic overlay of elements (objects). [More on vector object management HERE.]

a) The objects for the platform at the top of the pyramid are created and grouped into one object, then placed atop the pyramid base.
b) The openings in the pyramid walls are created. Only one object needs to be created then three clones are made and rotated into place for the other surfaces.
c) The platform and openings are now duplicated and re-sized to form the stairs and foyer at the base of the pyramid.
d) A wall panel is now duplicated twice, filled with black instead of the original texture, and a linear transparency added. These are then 1) overlaid on the wall panel and 2) flipped vertically to create the shadow on the structure on the ground.

Since vector images are made of individual objects, it is never too late to go back and adjust any component later on, or even add new ones to a layer to achieve the desired final result. Basically, a vector image is entirely 'modular' in nature which means individual elements can be changed, replaced and manipulated with no carry-over effect(s) on other objects.

 

Step Three - Finishing Touches


Finally the finishing touches such as a background are added to make the image complete. At this point the image can be scaled, with no loss of clarity, to virtually any size and exported for use on the web, a press or in a wide variety of other graphic and page layout programs such as PhotoShop, Illustrator and PageMaker ... just to give Adobe a little 'plug' ... to name a few!

 


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Last Updated - 03/11/2009 06:25 AM

Vector Graphics Demonstration