Why We Require Vector for Laser-Cutting

Perhaps you designed some sweet table coasters in Photoshop. Or you found a cool design online that is a jpeg (raster). You’ll quickly realize there’s not a way to save that file out as a vector file. You may then be asking “what does vector even mean?” Well, we’re here to help. Not only will we explain the difference between vector and raster files, but we’ll give you some ideas on how make your files ready for laser when starting with a raster program.

Vector vs Raster

Raster images are made of pixels. A pixel is a single point or the smallest single element in a display device. If you zoom in to a raster image you may start to see a lot of little tiny squares.

Vector images are mathematical calculations from one point to another that form lines and shapes. If you zoom into a vector graphic it will always look the same.

There are a couple ways to think about this. Have you ever used the satellite view on Google Maps? What you’re seeing is satellite image of the area you are looking at. Your roads and markers get lost. Trying to find your way to grandma’s in that view would be difficult. Vector is like a traditional map. With distinct lines that guide you from point to point. The laser needs a distinct map with lines and coordinates to follow.

Another issue when designing in raster, is that your image is not scaleable. Going back to zooming in, we could see the resolution loss when viewing our raster image at a larger size. Vector graphics are not composed of pixels and therefore they are resolution-independent. You can scale your vector image to your heart’s delight and it will always look clean and crisp.

How do I know is my file is vector?

Well, one way is to examine your file and zoom in. If you’re seeing the pixelated edges, its raster. When you select the image can you see the vector points? You can also tell by the type of format your file is.

Vector file formats – AI, EPS, SVG, DXF, DWG

Non-vector file formats – JPG, PSD, BMP, PNG, GIF

Is there a way to convert my file to vector?

You can convert your files to vector with various methods. There are tools online that will convert for you, but generally these are not going to be as exact as you want and may result in too many vector points. Your best bet is to import your image into a vector drawing program such as Illustrator, Corel or AutoCAD or Inkscape.

Luckily, these programs have tools that will help you convert your image. We have created tutorials for tracing in each of these programs which you can view below.