What Is Raster and Vector Data Structure?


Larry Thompson

What Is Raster and Vector Data Structure?

Data structures play a crucial role in organizing and representing information in various fields, including computer graphics. Two commonly used data structures for representing graphics are raster and vector. Understanding the differences between these two data structures is essential for anyone working with digital images or designing graphics.

Raster Data Structure

The raster data structure, also known as bitmap or pixel-based representation, is the most common way of storing and displaying graphics on digital devices. In this structure, an image is divided into a grid of small square areas called pixels. Each pixel represents a single point of color on the screen.

Raster images are created by assigning a specific color value to each pixel, resulting in a matrix-like representation. The resolution of a raster image determines the number of pixels per unit area, typically measured in dots per inch (DPI). Higher resolutions provide more detail but require larger file sizes.

Advantages of Raster Data Structure:

  • Raster images offer high-quality representations of complex shapes and colors.
  • They are suitable for realistic images such as photographs.
  • Common file formats for raster images include JPEG, PNG, and GIF.

Vector Data Structure

The vector data structure describes images using mathematical formulas instead of individual pixels. Instead of grids, vectors use points, lines, curves, and shapes to represent objects. These objects are defined by their properties such as position, size, color, and shape.

Vector images can be scaled indefinitely without losing quality since they are based on mathematical equations rather than fixed pixels. This scalability makes them ideal for applications such as logos and illustrations that often require resizing.

Advantages of Vector Data Structure:

  • Vector images can be resized without loss of quality.
  • They have smaller file sizes compared to raster images.
  • Common file formats for vector images include SVG, EPS, and AI.

Differences Between Raster and Vector Data Structures:


Raster images are resolution-dependent, meaning they can lose quality when scaled up. In contrast, vector images are resolution-independent and can be scaled up or down without sacrificing quality.

File Sizes:

Raster images tend to have larger file sizes due to the amount of information required to store each pixel. Vector images, on the other hand, have smaller file sizes since they only need to store mathematical formulas.


Raster images are composed of individual pixels, making it difficult to edit specific elements without affecting the entire image. Vector images are composed of mathematical equations that define objects, allowing for easy editing of individual components.

Image Types:

Raster images are suitable for representing complex shapes and colors found in photographs or detailed graphics. Vector images excel at representing simple and geometric shapes such as logos and icons.

In conclusion, both raster and vector data structures have their uses in different scenarios. Raster is best suited for realistic images with complex details, while vector is ideal for scalable graphics with simple shapes. Understanding the differences between these two structures will help you make informed decisions when working with digital graphics.

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