Vector Graphics: What Is A Plotter? Part 1

Oct 5th 2015

If you’ve shopped PrinterStop, you’ve probably noted the Plotters category, but unless your job requires the use of a plotter, you may not know what they’re used for. Why can’t a laser printer or an inkjet printer do what a plotter can? The central differences between a plotter and a laser or inkjet printer are (1) what types of images each can print and (2) how each prints the image. For information on types of images, see below. For information on printer functionality, see Part 2!

Raster vs. Vector

Most of us are used to dealing with Raster images (also referred to as bitmap), usually in the form of photographs. A raster image is made up of thousands of tiny squares, called pixels or dots. Each pixel contains individual color information and works together with the rest to render the image. Raster graphics are ideal for digital photographs, detailed graphics, and scanned artwork because the number of pixels allow for a very customizable and detailed image. The image’s grid of pixels is finite, so pixelation and blurriness occur when a raster image is enlarged.

A vector graphic, instead of rendering the image using a bitmap, uses mathematical formulas and geometric primitives (simplest geometric objects the system can store). Vector images are ideal for logos, letterhead, fonts, and other art graphics with flat, uniform colors or simple gradients. These images cannot be as detailed as raster images because there are no pixels and because of other limitations; however, the mathematical formulas allow the image to be infinitely shrunk down or enlarged without losing quality because the formulas themselves do not change with the size of the image. Vector images have and will continue to become more and more popular on the web.

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