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What’s the Difference Between Raster and Vector PDF?
Knowing Which Type of PDF File You Have is Key.
It’s easy to tell the difference between raster and vector PDF files by viewing them in Adobe Acrobat. This is important since the two file types are converted differently. Vector PDF files are best transformed through data extraction. This is accurate and precise and involves minimal manual clean-up. Raster PDF files are traced since there is no data to extract. This is an approximation and requires operator involvement as well as manual clean-up. Visual Integrity specializes in tools for vector conversion and will produce high-quality, accurate drawings from vector PDF input. If a raster PDF or scanned drawing is run through our software, we will turn the flat image into a tracing layer for manual work-up.
Which PDF Conversion Tool Do I Need?
If you need to:
- Use PDF in a CAD/CAM program; look at pdf2cad, PDFin for AutoCAD, pdf2bricscad, PDF Import for DraftSight, PDFImport for ProgeCAD.
- Open and edit vector PDF diagrams in Visio; check out Insert PDF for Visio or pdf2picture
- Transform a PDF page into an editable PowerPoint slide; try Insert PDF in PowerPoint.
- Work with PDF-based graphics such as logos, drawings, diagrams, and charts; look at pdf2picture
- Convert PDF to image formats; try pdf2picture
- Convert a scanned drawing to an editable file, try the tracing tools in Adobe Illustrator, or search online for “raster-to-vector” solutions.
- Add PDF support to an application or automate a PDF conversion or creation process, check out our Developer Center
3 Ways to Tell The Difference Between Vector and Raster PDF
Watch a Short Video to Learn the Difference
Try the “Blue Test”
Start by opening your PDF file with Acrobat or Acrobat Reader. Click anywhere on the drawing. If it turns blue, it’s a scanned drawing. Depending on the quality of the scan, you may have some success with a raster-to-vector tool. Alternatives are to manually redraw it or outsource it to be redrawn by a service bureau.
The Zoom Test
Another way to tell the difference between vector and raster PDF is to open the file. Use Acrobat, Acrobat Reader or just your browser. Use the Magnifying Control to zoom in on a detailed section of the file. At 100-150%, it may be hard to tell the difference. Continue zooming until you are at a magnification greater than 400%.
The section of the picture should be magnified on your screen, and it quickly becomes apparent whether you have a vector or raster PDF file. The vector PDF file will look clear and smooth at any size, while the raster PDF will become blurry or grainier the more it’s zoomed.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Vector and Raster PDF
Visually evaluate the difference between vector and raster PDF. In the example below, the drawing is enlarged 400%. Sometimes, it’s necessary to magnify the file by more than 1000% if it’s a high-resolution scan to determine the file type. In this example, it’s possible to edit the vector PDF on the left but not the raster PDF on the right.
Which Graphics Formats Should I Pick For Web and Print?
Once you understand the two basic formats for graphics – vector and image, you know the tools to pick. Vector graphics are made up of objects, lines, curves, and text, while images comprise a collection of dots or pixels. Images are also referred to as bitmaps or rasters.
Visual Integrity can convert most PDF files into either vector or image formats. It’s important to know which is best for your job.
If you need to break a PDF file down into objects and text for editing, then you want to choose a vector format. The vector formats supported in our software are DXF, PDF, PS, EPS, SVG, WMF, EMF, CGM, HPGL, and MIF.
If you do not need to edit the file and simply want a sharp copy to insert into a document or to publish on a website, you can go with image formats. We support TIFF, GIF, PNG, JPEG, and BMP image formats. If you print the graphic on a laser or ink-jet printer, convert at 150 or 300 dpi (dots per inch) resolution. If publishing to a website, 96 or 72 dpi is best for screen display. Remember that the higher the dpi (resolution), the larger the file size. It’s best to use the lowest resolution, which achieves the level of quality you want.
Note! Our software does not convert scanned images (raster PDF) into editable objects. To convert scanned images into vector objects, you need a special class of software called “raster to vector.”