Advantages and Disadvantages of Bitmap and Vector Images (Resubmission)


Compare the relative advantages and disadvantages of bitmap and vector image types.


Bitmap and vector image files are two completely different types of image, however, given their differences they both have heavy advantages and disadvantages for their uses. A bitmap (or pix map) image is a computer file used to store a picture. It consists of tiny blocks called pixels (picture elements). They are especially suited for the storage of real world images. “Bitmap comes from the computer programming terminology, meaning just a map of bits, a spatially mapped array of bits. Now, along with pixmap, it commonly refers to the similar concept of a spatially mapped array of pixels”[1].

In contrast to vector illustration programs, photo-editing programs like Adobe photoshop work with bitmap images. Working with bitmap images allows small details to be refined, have drastic changes be made and have effects intensified. However, “The most common and obvious disadvantage of these image format is that they are not upward scalable”[2].  Bitmaps can be made smaller without any loss to the quality of the picture, but they are unable to be scaled to a larger size without losing quality. Bitmap images that are scaled larger in size are very noticeable as the individual squares or dots that make up the image can be observed. “When you see it at its optimal size you don’t notice the individual dots, but if you try to make it bigger, the image become fuzzy, jaggy or pixilated”[3]

“Vector graphics is the use of geometrical primitives such as points, lines, curves, and shapes or polygon, which are all based on mathematical expressions, to represent images in computer graphics”[4]. Scalable vector graphics are very different from bitmaps. “Vectors describe the shape of an object as a series of points connected by curved or straight lines, represented as a mathematical formula”[5].  The lines within the vector graphic are assigned with a stroke and thickness and the object is able to be filled with certain colours. “These strokes however, can only be one continuous colour and it cannot be changed”[6]. This is a large disadvantage for bitmaps as the colour range is significantly depleted.

The advantages of using vector graphics are there use of a small file size and the ability to scale the image to any size without loss of quality. This means images can be stretched out to very large sizes without any loss of quality to the picture. “Vector based graphics on the other hand are mathematically described and appear smooth at any size or resolution. Bitmaps are best used for photographs and images with subtle shading. Graphics best suited for the vector format are Logos, page layout, type, line art or illustration”[7]. File sizes in vector graphics are also considerably smaller than bitmap images. This allows far more information to be stored within a vector file as opposed to a bitmap file.

It is through the various techniques and uses that the advantages and disadvantages bitmap images and vector graphics can be observed.

[1] Wikipedia, accessed 21/6/12 <; last updated 5/5/12

[2] Zicara: Web design & Web Design Company, accessed 21/6/12 <; last updated 2011

[3] Ibid.

[4] Wikipedia, accessed 21/6/12 <; last updated 16/6/12

[5] ne14 Design, accessed 21/6/12 <; last updated 2012

[6] Ibid.

[7] Bitmap 2 Vector, accessed 21/6/12 <; last updated 2012

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