A woman at a computer with the words Arttober Continues! in the background

By John Carter

Hi Net Neighbors! Welcome to another Arttober Edition of Tech Tuesday, where we cover all the questions you have about Tech and the Digital World. This week we are continuing our Arttober work, moving away from Raster Art, which is moving pixels, and towards Vector Art. Now on the surface Vector Art can seem similar, if not identical to Raster Art. It is when we scratch the surface where we see differences crop up. Before we go into those differences though, let me give you an example of a vector object you may have seen. Do you have a favorite sports team? Regardless of where that logo is printed or displayed, somewhere it is stored as a vector object.

So what are Vector Objects?

As we covered before, a Raster Object is comprised of pixels. Pixels are limited by the sizing their parent image was created in. That is why you can only stretch a photo you’ve taken by so much before you start seeing the ‘smooth’ lines become jagged. In this way Raster Objects are true to life. Smooth objects are only smooth from our perspective. If you zoom in on a sheet of glass, you can start to see tiny grooves and roughness.

On the opposite side of the digital divide are Vector Objects. Whereas the parts of a Raster Object are collections of pixels, a Vector Object is a mathematically derived shape. Now I know many of you probably took a massive breath at the word math, but don’t worry you don’t have to know a single bit of math to work with Vectors. All the math takes place behind the scenes. You deal with Vector Objects all the time. Ever write an email, text, or document? If you have, all those letters on the screen are Vectors. Think about it for a moment. When you change the size of a letter from ten to twenty does the letter get jagged? No. They are smooth no matter the size. Because they are Vectors. If you deal with shapes in Google Docs or Microsoft Word, those are Vectors too.

Why do I want Vectors Objects though?

Are you making a logo? Do you want to be able to change the colors of an element with just a click? Or do you just want to do some art? All of these are possible when dealing with Vector Objects. Although you may not need them, logos are a perfect use case for these sorts of elements. With a logo you are generating an image that must look good on business cards, cups, hats, billboards, and airplanes. To achieve this with a Raster would require a file of positively huge proportions with regards to pixels. Meanwhile a Vector with a size of 1 inch by 1 inch, can be set to whatever size you want, and it will always look crisp and clean.

Sounds amazing! How can I get started?

As with Raster Art, there are many options available. So many, in fact, that were I to list them all I would be here for hours, and you would be very bored. Therefore, we are going to take a similar path to our prior lesson and focus on a handful of options and let you go from there. Along those lines, we are going to look at one paid, Affinity Design, and one free option, Inkscape. I have personally used both and find them excellent resources.

Affinity Design

If you are joining us from last week, you are sure to recognize the name Affinity. I wrote at length about Affinity Photo. Well Affinity Designer, also from Serif, is that company’s answer to Adobe’s Illustrator. Adobe is a massive competitor in the space and most people are playing catch up. This is especially true for Designer where there are several features that are just not there. However, these are not game breaking features. I would, instead, mark them as quality-of-life items. You can certainly get by without them and a great many people do, especially when you consider how Affinity is a one-time cost while Adobe is a subscription.

Designer has robust tools for handling a great many vector objects, the limits of which are dictated by the capabilities of your computer. You can take simple shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles and use them as building blocks for more complex objects. By arranging a circle next to a square, you can use the former as a cutting tool to take a semi-circular chunk out of the latter.

Within, though not limited to, Design, is a Pen Tool which allows you to create your own custom shapes and paths. Paths can be simple lines, but they can also be used as the basis for a Vector Brush. Vector Brushes allow you to create textured effects across the path’s length. So what started as a simple line can become a series of spots on the side of a jaguar.

Now where Designer really rises above the pack in its ability to use Raster brushes in Vector objects. With this, artists can create complex Vector images and then shade within each shape with the subtle granularity one may find in a traditional painting. A good place for something like this is in children’s books where I have seen it used to great effect.


Everything I have said about the cost of Affinity Photo is true in Design. Designer is paid product with a desktop cost of fifty dollars and an iOS version costing twenty-two dollars. For that cost though, you will have access to Designer through the entire 1.0 development cycle. Meaning that so long as the number is 1.something you will get those updates for free. You will also have access to your old versions of the product, so if an update to Designer does not work on your computer you can still use an older edition.

Ease of use

If you are familiar with using shapes in Microsoft Office or other Desktop Publishing Products then you will have a leg up here in Affinity Designer. There are plenty of tutorials online for you to access, though not as many as Adobe Illustrator. The good news there is that since many of the tools are the same you can use guides from one to play in the other.

Now in the Affinity Photo section from last week I said I wished I had interacted with the iPad version first. This week, I am going against that point. With Designer I find the ability to use a mouse far more useful than a pen input. Now if I was going to utilize the Raster Brushes as I mentioned earlier, I would certainly prefer a pen. Either way, Designer is a powerful tool regardless of the path you take.


As I have mentioned a few times, there are a few alternatives out there with the biggest being Adobe Illustrator. But since the cost of entry is so high, and your computer may not run it depending on the age of your machine, I recommend some alternatives. One is a possibility you may not have thought of before, Microsoft PowerPoint. Yes, you heard me, PowerPoint. With recent updates they have included many of the same tools with regards to editing and combining shapes as you may expect to find in other, higher-profile, programs. To get the most you are going to want to have Microsoft PowerPoint 2016 or later. You may already have that through your college, school, or other means but if you don’t there are still powerful alternatives for you.

My go-to one-hundred percent free alternative to Affinity Designer is a program called Inkscape. After playing with PowerPoint for a bit, Inkscape is where I went next. It is an amazing tool with pro-style features joined to a price point which is available to all. With recent updates Inkscape has become even better, giving the program a graphic overhaul to bring it more in line with what designers expect from a Vector Program. The only real downside is that there is no mobile version, making this a strictly desktop toy. Still, it is a great program, and I cannot heap enough praise on it.

Anything else?

As with anything art related, the amount of words one could expend on this topic is nearly infinite. Like last week, my intention was not to be wholly comprehensive but to instead expand your knowledge and point you in new directions. Vector Art can be a very rewarding endeavor and if that sounds like something you may be interested in then I suggest you take a look. Stay tuned for next week when we will be looking at the third part of our Arttober Series, 3D Art.

Until then, have fun, find adventure, and stay safe!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>