What’s the difference between pixels and vectors?

At Personal Thesis we work with all kinds of images. We always ask you to deliver the images/figures in your thesis to us separately. The base for almost all images that are used on a computer, are pixels and vectors. You might have heard of these before, but what exactly are they and how do they differ? We’ll explain it in this article.


Starting with the most well-known of the two: pixels. This word is a combination of the words ‘picture’ and ‘element’. Pixels were originally invented to repair damaged pictures: the pixel is a result of a system where rasters are placed on top of pictures. This raster divides the image into small squares that, when together, form the image.


Pixels are like small blocks that form an image. When it comes to vectors, a different principle is applied. With vectors, mathematical formulas are used to place dots, lines and curves in a space. These formulas decide the starting point of a line, the direction of the line as well as the end point. Vectors are not only used in images, but are also used to create 3D-images or products in 3D-software.

Pixels VS Vectors

So, what is the most important difference between these two types of images? The answer is simple: scalability of the images. Pixels are very difficult to enlarge. When you place an image of 500 x 500 pixels on a billboard that’s 5 x 5 meters, every pixel will be 1 cm in size. While on a computer screen thats 50 x 50 cm, these pixels are only 1 square mm in size. This example illustrates that when you scale a pixel image, you are basically scaling up the pixels themselves. This is why rasterized images are often seem very pixelated and bad when the resolution is lower.

Vectors on the other hand, can scale up endlessly. Mathematical space is used to scale those, in contrast to the more literal space in which pixels exist. This mathematical space scales up endlessly, which results in the vector-image always remaining good quality and ‘sharp’.

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