What’s the difference between a vector and a JPEG?

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Brian Jackson / Alamy Stock Photo

Get to grips with two of the most commonly used file types and understand when each one is needed.

Whether you’re having a new brand logo designed or just want to download the right image for your website, we’re here to help you identify what file type you need. Let’s kick things off with JPEGs…

What is a JPEG?

A JPEG is the most common format for a digital image file. It is a compressed file format, which means that when you download an image from a stock photo library like Alamy, it’ll appear smaller on your desktop than the original file you purchased. But don’t worry, this is just because a JPEG squashes the original file into a more transferable format – a bit like folding a sheet of paper so it fits in an envelope.

As soon as you open up the image in your photo-editing software (e.g. Photoshop), the image will be perfectly restored to the full, high-resolution image you selected on Alamy.

When to use a JPEG

JPEGs are perfect for digital photographs and they’re the default file format on the Alamy website. They can be saved at a variety of quality levels, which is great if you need a smaller file size.

Remember: the lower the quality you save the JPEG at, the higher the compression rate. To avoid too much compression and possibly damaging your files, when you save your JPEGs in photo editing software like Photoshop, save them at quality level 8 or above.

Things to look out for when using a JPEG

As a JPEG is made up of pixels, you need to make sure you download the right file size for your project. If you’re going to use the JPEG in a large-scale project like a billboard, upsizing the image will affect the quality of the image quality and could make it look a bit blurry. Read more about upsizing images in our blog.

Now, moving on to vectors…

What is a vector?

Vectors, also known as vector graphics, are unique. Unlike other graphics, they’re made up of a series of lines, points, angles and curves, instead of pixels. This makes them perfect for more simplistic designs, working well with designs that use solid colours.

Vector graphics have a series of layers that can be individually edited, and no matter how much you scale a vector up or down, you won’t see any loss in clarity, appearance, or quality.

How do I know if an image is a vector?

Vectors come in a variety of file formats, with the most popular being EPS, AI and PDF.

On Alamy, our vectors are available as EPS files, which are zipped with a JPEG version for download.

When to use a vector

Vectors are most commonly used for less complex projects like typography or logo designs, or for projects that will need to be printed, for example a marketing banner.

Logos and fonts: A logo or font might be used on something as small as a business card or as large as a billboard. Vectors are infinitely resizable so you can change their size as much as you want without seeing any distortion or loss of quality.

Prints: As the quality of a vector file isn’t affected by resizing, they can be a great option for printing on a variety of materials.

We’ve picked out 3 of the key benefits of using vectors, just to give you an idea of their perks:

  1. They’re infinitely resizable – you can change their size as much as you want without seeing any distortion or loss of quality.
  2. They’re easy to edit – every layer of a vector can be individually edited in software like Adobe Illustrator. Designers will most commonly use Adobe Illustrator to create and edit vector files.
  3. They have a small file size – they’re less complex than other file formats which means they have a smaller file size and a faster processing speed!

Some handy resources for info on image files:

How to uncompress a JPEG – Vlog

Our guide to File Sizes 


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