Raster vs Vector: Which to Use for Packaging?

Banner image that shows vector vs raster

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?

The difference 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 differences.

What Is the Difference Between Raster and Vector?

The difference between raster and vector is quite subtle, so it’s important to analyze their qualities to know which one to use.

Raster

Raster graphics or bitmap images are digital images consisting of tiny rectangular dots/pixels in a grid formation to represent an image. Raster images are commonly made from photo scans or digital camera captures and is best suited for non-line art images. One advantage of raster images is their ability to show subtle color gradations and complex compositions.

Raster version of daango artwork
photo: daan go

However, since raster graphics are pixel-based images, scaling the image up will cause image degradation, giving it jagged and rough edges. This makes it important that if your packaging is utilizing raster graphics, make sure they are large enough so that print quality will not be affected.

As you can see above, raster images can compromise print quality when it comes to packaging. To maximize the quality of print and to avoid errors when printing, ensure that the resolution of your image is high enough. We advise that keeping your DPI resolution to at least 300 for print to ensure you get a high-quality print on your packaging.

Note: Common raster file types are JPG, PNG, GIF, and BMP.

Vector

Vector graphics consist of paths that define geometric shapes to create an image. They don’t lose image quality when scaling or editing, allowing for more flexibility. Vectors can easily convert to raster if required.

A vector image of daan go logo
Photo: daan go

Designers love vector images because they can easily manipulate the image in any shape or size without losing resolution. This makes vector a great choice for designs and assets that frequently require resizing.

Note: Common vector file types are EPS, SVG, CGM and XML.

Raster vs Vector: Which Is Best for Packaging?

Now that you know the difference between raster and vector, you can decide which option to use. 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 use geometric shapes. You can expand, compress, widen, or lengthen vector images to fit any dieline without losing the quality.

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 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.

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

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.

Photo that uses raster and vector elements
PHOTO: PAKFACTORY

Featured above is the packaging we completed for a client. The visuals are crisp and colors are vibrant, creating a very eye-catching box that will definitely turn heads! The Teknikio logo on the top of the box is a vectorized image. This means that the resolution will not change if you ever need to resize the logo for a larger box.

The photos of the toy 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.

Note: 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.

Requirements for High-Quality Print

1. 300 DPI

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.


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