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Raster vs Vector: Which to Use for Packaging?

When it comes to designing and printing your product packaging, you want to aim for crisp quality and vibrant colors. Product packaging defines your products and can help your brand stand out from competitors.

To perfectly achieve the look you want, it is important to know what file type to use for your packaging designs: raster vs vector?

Differentiating between raster vs vector can be confusing, which is why we are breaking it down in the simplest form to help you better understand the concepts.  

What is the difference between raster and vector?

Before we decide which is best for packaging, let’s analyze the main differences between the battle of raster vs vector.

An example of using the raster file type for custom packaging.

Raster is composed of pixels to complete an image. If zoomed up close enough, you can see all the individual colored squares. Once a raster file, they cannot be converted to vector.

The file types include JPG, PNG, GIF, and BMP.

Photos found online from popular search engines are mostly comprised of rasterized images since it is the default format for cameras and many computer graphics applications.

An example of using the vector file type for your custom box.

Vector is composed of paths that define geometric shapes to create an image. They can be edited and scaled without losing image quality, allowing for more flexibility. Vectors can be easily converted to raster if required, but difficult the other way around.  

The file types include EPS, SVG, CGM, and XML.

Vector is favourited by designers because vectorized images can easily be manipulated in any shape or size without losing resolution, making it a great choice for designs and assets that frequently require resizing.

Raster vs Vector: Which is best for packaging?

To decide which file type is best for your packaging design, it all depends on your branding and what you want to showcase.

When to use vector

It is better off utilizing vectors to reduce the risk of low-quality images for any designs that are comprised of geometric shapes. Vectors can be expanded, compressed, widen or lengthened to fit any dieline without losing the quality.

We recommend our clients to use vector files whenever possible to ensure the highest quality after printing.

If you have rasterized graphics that can be vectorized, you can recreate it in Adobe Illustrator. This option is only for graphics that can be redesigned with the mathematical shapes, lines, and curves.

That means that photographs taken on a camera cannot be vectorized if you want to achieve the exact same look.

The dieline for a custom box made for OKS Orthodontics.

When to use raster

Photographs are always in raster format because that’s how the files are saved on cameras. They need the individual pixels to replicate real-life images being captured.

If you want to display a photo of your product on the packaging, you have to ensure that it meets the requirements for the highest quality.

For photos that are smaller than desired, it is strongly unadvised that you stretch it out. It will drastically lower the quality of the photo and result in a poor final product.

Be sure to take your photographs in the highest quality to avoid any potential problems. The image should be taken or made exactly to the specifications you need.

Featured above is the packaging we completed for a client. The visuals are crisp and colors are bright, creating a very eye-catching box that will definitely turn heads!

The Draft Day logo on the side of the box is a vectorized image. If ever needs to be resized to fit a larger box, the resolution will not be affected.

The photos of the children and baseball merchandise are rasterized because they were photos taken on a camera. The photos look clear because we made sure that they maintained the 300 DPI resolution during the editing stages.

However, if there is ever a need to resize to fit a larger box, the resolution will decrease.

A custom package for a baseball subscription box.

The requirements for the highest quality packaging designs

1. 300 DPI

It is recommended to use a high resolution of 300 DPI to achieve the highest quality after printing. We cannot guarantee the best quality if the images or graphics have a DPI lower than 300.

It is possible to use an image with a lower DPI, but it will not be as crisp. It will look fine from afar, but you will notice the pixels and blurry lines up close. You can speak to a product specialist to determine what will work best for you.

If you are not sure if the resolution is high enough, you can right click and view the properties on your computer. Unfortunately, if the photo isn’t of high quality, you should probably retake it.

2. CYMK Color Model

To ensure that the colors of the final packaging design match exactly what you want, make sure to use the CYMK color model. If your designs are not converted from RGB to CMYK, you will not receive the same printing quality that you would expect from your design when it is printed.

3. Request a Box Sample

To be confident with your product packaging designs, it is a great idea to request a box sample to analyze and identify flaws that were not visible in the online proofs.

There is nothing more satisfying than seeing your packaging designs at its highest quality and potential.

Any other questions regarding raster vs vector? Or maybe you are ready to bring your product packaging designs to life. Our product specialists at PakFactory are here to help you every step of the way.

About author

Mark Velarga

Mark Velarga is PakFactory's Director of Digital & Content Marketing. He writes about all things related to design, business and technology and how it serves value to customers, business owners, packaging designers and industry experts. Connect with him on Linkedin.
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