Whatever I know today about digital art is through my personal experience. I do not have a formal education on this topic. Whatever I learnt was through working on real time projects. Projects where there was a lot involved. Projects where I failed, pushed myself to figure out solutions and still complete projects within the deadline. I have had failures, and those were the moments where I learned something new!
I know people who say, ‘I don’t have a formal degree or knowledge on this subject, it’s impossible to start working in this field without one’.
Well I won’t contest that thought or dismiss the value of formal education (I wish I had one), but that shouldn’t stop you from not beginning to work on your dreams! I have known people who tried year after year to crack entrance exams of design schools without any success. When they ran out of patience, they simply walked away from art, only because they linked the score of that exam to their creative ability. Now that is not done!
Here’s my attempt to share what I learnt over the years. This article is for complete beginners, to give you an idea about the various types of digital illustration. The very basic.
Let’s talk Vectors & Rasters!
If you have heard about these words, great! If not, you need to understand the difference.
Imagine a logo of a brand. Let’s say Burger King. Take a nice look at the colors, the shapes, the lines. Everything looks so clean! You probably don’t see a lot of gradient in the colors. The curves are smooth. The best part, the logo is printed on their napkins (really small) and the same logo is printed on the billboards that you see outside (size…well REALLY LARGE). That amount of scalability is not something you can achieve with a photo you have clicked through your phone’s camera. You try and stretch it, and you see the pixels showing after a while.
I’m sure Burger King does not have a folder with all possible size variations of their logo. Just that one super scalable image.
That’s a Vector.
Raster images (example: that selfie you took recently) are graphics which are composed of multiple pixels. Really zoom into your selfie and you will see a grid. Each cell in the grid filled with a pixel of a certain color.
Vector graphics (example: Brand Logos) are graphics which are not composed of pixels. They are a combination of paths. Imagine them as mathematical formulas. Imagine a whole sheet of ratios, proportions (and other mathematical jargons). Under that Burger King logo is a whole set of formulas and other data.
Every time you try to enlarge a Raster image, after a while the pixels show up. You simply cannot enlarge it beyond a certain point without loss of quality. It’s almost like pulling someone’s cheek! You can only pull to a certain extent and then you see the face getting all distorted…because there is only so much cheek! :P The cells are not multiplying as you pull the cheek! (Thank God for that).
The whole idea of filling a grid with tiny pixels do allow you to do a lot of cool stuff.
Gradients and blends. Raster images will allow you to make beautiful color blends. Imagine the sky during a sunset. The colors change beautifully and gradually. You find it difficult to distinguish between the orange and the violet. You often say things like, ‘there is a orangish-violet color’. That’s the gradual change rasters can offer.
Sketchy lines. If you like the way a pencil line looks on paper. You may realise the gradient thing is happening there again. There is a dark to light variation.
Coming to the size of the file, Rasters are pretty heavy. You may have noticed DSLR images are always heavy when it comes to file size. That is because the number of pixel information stored is really high.
Higher the quality of the image – Higher the number of pixels to achieve that quality – Higher the file size.
Software to make Raster illustrations:
Procreate, Adobe Photoshop, Sketchbook pro, Microsoft Paint!
File type: jpg, png, tiff, psd, PDF
I work mostly with rasters.
No more pixels. Now you can pull the cheek as much as you want without distorting/ hurting the face. As you pull, the formula simply multiplies while maintaining the aspect ratio of the image. So no matter how much you zoom, those lines will still be clear.
They are made of points and paths between those points.
Generally you don’t see vector illustrations being as detailed as raster ones. The color variations are less, lines are cleaner, number of colors used is also on the lower end.
More solid colors, sharp lines and less details. These would be characteristics of your everyday vector illustrations.
File size is drastically lower when compared to raster. A logo file will be less than 1MB in most cases.
It is possible to convert Vectors to raster very easily. Converting raster to vector is a time consuming process.
Software to make Vector illustrations:
Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, Inkscape
File type: ai, cdr, SVG, PDF.
Click here for examples from the internet.
Now who wants a burger?