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Which graphic format to use for icons?

A bitmap image file (such as GIF, PNG, TIFF, etc.) consists of pixel-by-pixel graphic information. Pixels (abbreviation for "picture element") are those smallest dots of color that your computer screen is made up of. An icon sized 24x24 pixels representing a red square is actually composed of 576 separate pixels, each represented by small bits of binary data in a graphic file. A bigger image requires even more pixels, leading to more binary information, and a larger file size as a resilt.
A vector image file (such as EPS, SVG, etc.) consists of mathematical-based information. A vector file containing a red square scaled to 24x24 pixels only contains numeric information describing the mathematical position of the square's four corners, information about the color the square is filled with, and information defining the size of the square to be 24x24 pixels on the monitor. Basically our red square vector file only needs about six little bits of information as opposed to our 576 bits of data taken up by our bitmap red square.
In reality, the explanation is a bit more complex than this, but you see the basics: Modifying the size of a vector graphic file from 24x24 to 48x48 only requires the editing of one bit of information (the size). The math does the rest. But changing the size of a bitmap image file from 24x24 requires the addition of 1728 more pixels, causing the file size to increase dramatically.
Thus one vector file can represent it's content at multiple sizes, while a bitmap file may only accurately represent its only pre-determined pixel size.
So if a vector file can change size to represent any size it needs, why would the icon desigers choose bitmap format for their creations?
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 look blurry.
This happens because, although vector files can be resized, there is a flaw in them This weakness becomes more apparent at small sizes. Especially sizes under 48x48 pixels. The weakness is that computer screens still consist of pixels, which means they ae bitmap-based.
When you have a vector image, originally sized at 24x24 and shrink it down to 16x16, the relative proportions change. There's no way you can evenly distribute 24 pixels of data into 16 pixels of space because, there's no such thing as half a pixel. So the image blurs.
There's also no chance you can evenly resize 24 pixels of information upwards into 32 pixels of space. The image blures once again.
Furthermore, if you take that same vector image, 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 chunky 2-pixel lines. Size it up larger (say to 96x96) and the lines will end up even thicker.
There are a few caveats: First, if you're creating larger icon sizes (for example, above 48x48) you will not notice the difference as much, and you may consider the results to be fine. Second, your mileage will differ 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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