Photoshop is extraordinarily useful design program for creative designers. You can edit things destructively, things non-destructively, as well as making vector and raster art. In this blog post, I will explain the differences between these things and their counterparts, and also explain how each one is used and how it works.

Edits and the Differences

When editing a photo, you have to keep in mind that its all pixels, all minuscule colored dots, and they each carry information. Photoshop sometimes has to change this information to make edits, and that is not always what someone wants. Destructive editing is defined with a permanent change in the pixels, not whether you somehow manage to destroy the image or not. The word “destructive” also has a negative connotation, but, sometimes destructive editing is what people want to use in order to edit their photos.

Destructive editing is defined like this. When you open a document and make edits such as darkening the photo, the pixels will actually darken, and when saved over, cannot be returned to their previous state. Destructive editing was once the most common way of editing, as it is the oldest way of editing. There are many programs on the market that utilize destructive editing, even programs like Photoshop and Photoshop Elements allow destructive editing. Of course, you can also non-destructively edit photos in both these programs, but it requires a little more depth of knowledge regarding layers, masks, curves, and other various things to non-destructively edit in them. Photoshop has its destructive editing options directly in its menu.

These are some of the ways you can destructively edit a photo.
  1. Go to the menu bar and click “Image”.
  2. Lower your mouse to the adjustments bar. 
  3. The list that pops up is a list of ways to destructively edit things.

Now on the other hand, non-destructive editing is now becoming more and more common, as it is possible to do this without having to completely throw away the specific information within each pixel, changes that can not be reverted. It allows you to make edits without actually losing any information. Since you don’t lose any data when you make non-destructive edits, your photos will not lose any quality when you make such edits.

You can make non-destructive edits in Photoshop using various things like…

  • Adjustment layers– these will allow you to make color and tonal adjustments without permanently changing the photos data. (How To?)
  • Smart objects & smart filters – Smart filters that are applied to smart objects will never lose quality, and using smart objects will allow you to stretch and warp your photos without losing data. (How to? And how two?)
  • Masking– Layer and vector masks are non-destructive and you can edit the masks without being destructive to your photos. (How to?)
  • Using RAW files– Using RAW files allows you to make edits without being destructive, since RAW files store image adjustments separately from the original image file. (About/How to?)’

Raster versus Vector – What’s What?

I just mentioned the term “vector” above and many may not know what this means. These two things you may of never ever heard of before, but you’ve definitely seen it. This makes it all the more easier to understand! They’re all around. Rasters and vectors are both different types of image files. Rasters are much, much more common, and are known as jpg, gif, and png. What do these all have in common? They use pixels! Raster images are created by drawing with pixels, for example, when you see a jpg or png and zoom in on it, you’ll notice that sometimes the pixels will become blurry the more you zoom in. On the other hand, vectors are not made up of pixels, but rather made with programs CAD or 3D softwares. They are usually made for things that will be printed for physical things, such as labels or signs. This is because vectors are a mathematical equation, that calculates the lines and shapes, allowing vectors to always be perfectly crisp and clear, no matter the size or how far you zoom in.

Rasters may be considered the closest to painting physically. When making a painting, you fill in the areas with lines and colors, and sometimes these areas blend. The same for rasters and their pixels, since they’re so tight and interlocked, it may look like a painted masterpiece. You blend colors to make them look natural and smooth.

Vectors, on the other hand, are made by drawing the outline of a shape, and are essentially tiles that are pieced together piece by piece, one at a time. These tiles are then made to display a specific color, and each object tile may have different colors in order to create the vector.

Each one of these has many differences and ideas to think about when using them. Would you need to make the image bigger? How large do you want the file size to be? Do you want many colors that blend together? Do you want to edit photos? Some of these questions or similar questions may be good to consider when choosing to work with a vector or a raster.


The Pros of a Raster

  • Pixel based
  • Helpful for blending or fine-tuned photo edits. Very good for painting and illustration that may require mixing colors in a way that looks like a physical painting.
  • Very common image formats! Known formats such as jpeg, gif, png, tiff, bmp, psd, pdf, all originate from raster-based programs.
  • Programs for raster are common, such as Photoshop.

The Cons of a Raster

  • Do not scale up indefinitely and when zoomed in upon, it visually may look like a pixelated effect was applied.
  • Large raster images that are high quality will respectively have a large file size.
  • It is difficult to print all raster images due to how colors work, and it may appear pixelated if you use the incorrect dpi/ppi. Not to mention, that it may be expensive  for your ink and printing budget depending upon what colors you use.

The Pros of a Vector

  • Mathematical equations to create an image!
  • Best for logos and icons, also good for labels and other things that may need to be sized up or down depending upon the physical size of the product.
  • Can be scaled to any size without any loss of quality.
  • Color can be adjusted extremely easy to fit ink and printing budget.
  • Common programs for Vector are programs like Illustrator.

The Cons of a Vector

  • Not good at all for blending colors.
  • Uncommon file formats (in comparison to the latter). Known file formats such as ai, cdr, svg, and some PDFs are used.

Now that you know how vectors and rasters work, go on! Rasterize your world. (Like paint your world, get it?) Or vector it if you enjoy mathematical equations with crisp outlines.

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash