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Should the icons be created in bitmap or vector format?


A bitmap image file (like GIF, PNG, TIFF, etc.) consists of pixel-based graphic information. Pixels (abbreviation for "picture element") are the tiny little squares of light that make up your computer screen. A 24x24 pixel icon representing a red square is actually comprised of 576 individual pixels, each described by little bits of numeric data in an image file. A bigger icon requires even more pixels, leading to more numeric information, and a larger file size as a resilt.
A vector graphic file (like EPS, SVG, etc.) consists of mathematical-based information. A vector image file containing a red square sized to 24x24 pixels would simply contain binary datd describing the geometrical location of the square's four corners, information about the color of the square, and information defining the size of the square to be 24x24 pixels on screen. That means our red square vector file only needs about six tiny bits of data as opposed to our 576 bits of data taken up by our red square created in bitmap.
In reality, the explanation is a bit more complicated than this, but you see the idea: Modifying the size of a vector image file from 24x24 to 48x48 only requires the editing of one bit of information (the dimensions). The math does the rest. But changing the dimensions of a bitmap image file from 24x24 requires the extra 1728 pixels, resulting in a larger file size.
That means one single vector file can represent it's image at multiple sizes, whereas a bitmap file may only clearly represent its single pre-set pixel dimensions.
So if a vector file format can be scaled to represent any dimensions it needs, why do the icon desigers use bitmap format for their icons?
If you look at the same icon, crafted in both bitmap and vector formats, you will see that the bitmap one is clear and sleek, with all the lines sharply defined. While all the icons that had been scaled from the vector file appear blurry.
This happens because, even though vector files can be resized, there is a weakness in them This weakness becomes more apparent at small sizes. Especially resolutions of less then 48x48 pixels. The flaw is that computer monitors still have pixel-based (that is to say, bitmap-based) displays.
When you take a vector file, initially sized at 24x24 and scale it down to 16x16, the relative proportions change. There's no chance you can evenly distribute 24 pixels of information into 16 pixels of space because, there's no such thing as half a pixel. So the image blurs.
There's also no way you can evenly resize 24 pixels of data upwards into 32 pixels of space. The image blures once again.
Even more, if you have that same vector file, originally sized at 24x24 and scale it up to 48x48, you're now doubling the proportions. Now you don't have crisp 1-pixel lines. You have messy 2-pixel lines. Size it up larger (to 96x96, for instance) and the lines will end up even thicker.
There are a few caveats: First, if you're working with larger icon sizes (say, above 48x48) you will not see the difference as dramatically, and you may consider the results to be fine. Second, your mileage will change as you design different types of artwork. The less-detailed your image is, the less you have to worry about vector rescaling.



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