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What Is Vector Art?

Vector Art is a technique, not a style.

Perhaps a better term would be "vector-based art," meaning art created in a vector-based program. Vector art consists of creating paths and points in a program such as Illustrator or Freehand. The program keeps track of the relationships between these points and paths.  Vectors are any scaleable objects that keeps their proportions and quality when sized up or down. They're defined as solid objects, and can be moved around in full, or grouped together with other objects. Vectors can be defined by mathematical and numeric data.  So vector art is anything that's created in Illustrator, Freehand, Corel Draw, Flash or other "vector" illustration programs.

(Vector programs: Illustrator, Freehand, Corel Draw, Flash, etc.)

The other side of the coin is raster art. Raster art consists of pixel information, where every pixel is assigned a RGB or CMYK value. This can create smoother and more detailed images for photos and paintings, but if the image is scaled, the program has to create new information resulting in that distorted look.

(Raster programs: Photoshop, Painter, Fireworks, MS Paint, Gimp, etc.)

What is Not Vector Art?

Just because something is "cell shaded" or "flat colored" does not make it a Vector. The use of filters (cutout, etc.) creates a raster-based image and thus is disqualified from ever being considered a vector image. Only a vector program such as the ones mentioned above can create a vector image.

A vector takes time to create. The artist makes decisions on how much or how little detail to include. The artist makes decisions on colors to use. These are the same decisions one makes before sitting down with conte crayons, pastels or oil paint.

I understand that these days there is some program overlap. Photoshop has some vector tools and Illustrator has some raster tools, but if you use the lasso and the paint bucket, you are not creating vector-based artwork. If you run a filter you are not creating vector-based artwork.

What Does Vector Art Look Like?

Long story short: Vector is not a "style" like Anime, but a "medium" like charcoal. Asking what vector-art looks like is like asking what an oil painting looks like. It could look like Rembrandt, Picasso, or a fifth grader's fingerpainting.

Vector doesn't automatically mean flat shaded, just like "painting" doesn't mean high detail. Vector-based programs include tools for use with gradients and meshes, and thusly can be used to create high detail illustrations.

Vector Art Examples

BS FULL TORQUE by turn2002NeonJapan by drownsoda:thumb5090085:

BS Full Torque by turn2002 | Neon Japan by drownsoda | Xenomorph by sirspy

I would like to thank esodesign for providing the majority of this clarification/submission guide.</b>
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ttime0227 Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I am trying to understand what Flat vector illustration means. I am new to Photoshop, does that mean that all the items in an illustration are in one layer?
rnz111 Featured By Owner Edited Jan 20, 2016  Student Digital Artist
when your art work is made from photoshop and the tool you used is a pentool to create a shape  it's called "vexel" its a combined word for "vector pixel"
because if you use the pentool to create a shape you can still edit/move the anchor points just like vector and since the photoshop is a pixel based program thats why it's called vexel
animalover4six Featured By Owner May 1, 2015
I just used a random vector program that was included with my bamboo tablet so I played around with it and mad a random abstract
Xerofaezen Featured By Owner Jan 22, 2015  Student General Artist
I wonder if it still counts if you just use paths in photoshop? cos those are vectors, right?
soaps01 Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2015
So, I'm sorry, but would ibispaint, if you know what that is, be a vector based program
CreamyShundala Featured By Owner Aug 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Inkscape creates Vector.
Kitsune0Jester Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you. That clears things up.
CosmosKnights Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2014  Student Digital Artist
So if photoshop is used it technically is not vector based art but raster art ? o.o
inside-our-mind Featured By Owner Nov 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you so much for the easy-to-understand explaination.
ClearRoseCreations Featured By Owner Oct 16, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Thank you. This was very helpful, as I had no idea what vector art was. :)
rdeder Featured By Owner Aug 17, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
If it's not Vector and it's not Raster - what is it? - , check out the abstracts
Pwney Featured By Owner May 23, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
read our comments below to go on an adventure lol
Samantha-Deathwish Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Pwney Featured By Owner Nov 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
isnt vectoring pretty much tracing except that you dont even freehand trace over it because you have a program that will create the curve/line for you with a "point a to point b" method?
BathedInSin Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Just to add my 2 cents, (Please god dont start a flame war with me, please) I love how you said people who vector do have talent but in his first response, the dude said there's no talent in it then proceeded to yell at you that hes so talented LOL  and most of the things he accused you of was him doing that himself.... Just saying. XD

Also, dont let him tell you your work is crap because its ponies or that you're less than he is. That kind of thing is really rude and uncalled for and not true in the least. I do not profess to be the world's greatest artist (Because I am not) but i'm better than some and worse than others. We all are and doing our own thing that makes us and our fans/friends happy is all that matters.... and not being a dick. lol
Pwney Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
His first response to me was actually sarcasm.  He never actually meant that people who vector don't have talent, he said it in a way to make me look like a dumbass lol.

But yeah thanks man.  I was never really offended by our conversation anyways.  It was amusing.  Also I wouldn't start a flame war with you because you aren't a dick xD <3
BathedInSin Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
try not to be anyway lol XD
viobear Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Yes it is exactly that simple. It is just simply tracing where the program creates the art for you. There is no talent in it. Anyone can create masterful pieces with simply tracing. *cough*
Pwney Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Yeah that's what I thought. I don't like that...
viobear Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2013  Student Digital Artist
You're retarded. Check out my time-lapse video and tell me its that easy. [link]
AkitaKat Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
lol that's nice
viobear Featured By Owner Apr 15, 2013  Student Digital Artist
Pwney Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Jeeze I was just asking. No need to get your panties in a bunch. Usually I would see videos of people layering their vector over another previously created image. Thereby they were tracing the image. And I don't know if creating your picture is easy or not because I haven't vectored. But I can confidently say that drawing the picture without the aid of a program that creates the lines and curves for you is a lot harder..
deviantART muro drawing Comment Drawing
viobear Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2013  Student Digital Artist
I don't wear panties.
Also, no serious artist publishes work that a program created for him/her. Your accusation is very immature and incredibly uneducated.

You said that you don't know if creating a picture is easy or not because you haven't vectored, yet you have a strong opinion on how easy vectoring is. You are not a smart person, or you need to grow up.
(3 Replies)
furrytrash Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2012  Student General Artist
This was so useful, thanks! :D
Just-Terrific Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2012
This will help me identify art a lot better now. Thanks
Eternities22 Featured By Owner Jun 30, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I thought a vector meant an object or character that has been cut out of an image.
Aouros Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2012
Thank you.
oIIGIIo Featured By Owner Mar 13, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
thank for the Informational :) :windows:
munkiemee Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for this ^-^
Lethera Featured By Owner Mar 2, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Thanks I really needed this! :)
I see many people label their artwork as "vector art" and also see it in the category that the art is under, and it always confused me. Even looking it up didn't really give any hints. Your explanation was easy to understand and enlightening. Thank you! :D
AeryonSun Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is very informational! Thank you so much! I was very confused about the term for a while!
Kira-Nyan Featured By Owner Nov 4, 2011  Student Filmographer
Oh, thank you!
Now I know....quite a bit about the two. ^^;

Well, it did tell me what vectors are. Thank you again~
roompoetliar Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
im not agree with it...
15-Michiko Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2010  Student Artist
Thanx so much :)
Jaiya-art Featured By Owner Mar 22, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What about Anime studio?
BerXerKer Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2008
okay, so photoshop is not a vector program... what if i use only those vector tools in photoshop, is it considered as vector art or raster?
ScorpiusRisk Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2008
That was very helpful. Thank you.
o0Tron0o Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2008
yea apparently my stuff is vectored, thx for moving them to scraps saying that they arn't
xmiaa Featured By Owner Dec 18, 2007
This helps a lot, thank you for clarifying.
totallyblack Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2007
brarti kalo aku buat pake Ps, gak termasuk vector? biar juga aku pake path tool?

jah illustrator nya masih lom bisa, jadi gimana tuh?
doredore Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2007  Professional
emif Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2007   Digital Artist
This really answers all kinds of questions for me. I really had no idea what vector was and wasn't and generally just beleived anything anyone told me about it. I assume there are a lot of people who go by that standard too.

I'm so glad you wrote this up.
oNigiRb Featured By Owner Sep 16, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks for the info!

so vector art is different from vexel art?
algraine125 Featured By Owner Aug 15, 2007  Hobbyist General Artist
thanks for the information bro.. :)
i love it....
vidthekid Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2007  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Does the use of "blend modes" to define relationships between layers (which contain vector objects) disqualify a piece from the Vector category? While the resulting image must be calculated pixel-by-pixel, there is no actual raster data that is constrained to a given resolution. Indeed, such a work can be rescaled up like any single-layer vector artwork, with no blockiness or blurriness introduced.

How about "adjustment layers"? Again, this adjustment is applied at a pixel-by-pixel level, but that same adjustment can be applied at any pixel size with the same effect. (I'm referring to things like gamma corrections and other color transformations here.)

Are these kinds of things allowed in the "Vector" category, or do they need to be put in "Vexel" or somewhere else?
Vallero Featured By Owner Jul 18, 2007
Could someone point me to a good paint shop pro XI or photo shop cs3 vector tut?

Thanks in advance.[link]

cry2ta1 Featured By Owner Jun 9, 2007
what would be the top programs for creating vector art??
The-Heart Featured By Owner May 24, 2007
Wow! I just found this while browsing the fAQs. Great explanation and I thank you!

~Head Administrator
pendevous Featured By Owner May 6, 2007
This is really helpful. Thanks a lot. :)
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