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How to Use Vector Images in Photoshop CS6

Adobe Photoshop Creative Suite 6 gives you multiple tools to work with. You'll be better equipped if you know how to use vector and raster images. Here are a few tips for vector images.

One cool thing about vector images — or object-oriented images — is that when you zoom in, they don’t look blocky. That’s because vector images are made of segments and anchor points, which are elements that indicate the endpoints of the segments. Both segments and anchors are defined by mathematical objects called vectors. Vectors use a unique mathematical formula to define the specific location of an object and its geometric shape.

Vector images are usually the product of drawing programs, such as Adobe Illustrator, but Photoshop is also capable of producing a vector or two.

[Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/alius Image #2875709]
Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/alius Image #2875709

Here are a few more handy things to know about vector graphics:

  • A curve is still a curve, even at 20,000 feet. Because they’re mathematically defined, vector graphics can be sized and otherwise transformed without an inkling of quality loss. Take that little 2-inch spot illustration and size it up to mural size, and it appears identical.

  • You can get pretty pictures in small packages. Vector-image files can be small because file size depends on the complexity of the vector objects, not on the size of the illustration.

  • Vector images are independent — resolution-independent, that is. Not only can they be transformed and printed without degrading their quality, but they also have no built-in resolution — they take on the resolution of the output device.

    For example, if you print to an imagesetter (a high-end printing device used for color separations) at 3600 dots per inch (dpi), the image comes out at 3600 dpi. Print it to a 300-dpi laser printer, and what do you get? A 300-dpi image.

Because your monitor can display images only on a grid, vector images display onscreen as pixels. This accounts for the jagged appearance you sometimes see when you zoom into a curved vector object. But don’t worry; it prints just fine.

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