If you’ve ever looked at more than a handful of digital images, whether logos, lettering, icons, or other types of graphics, then chances are you’ve already seen vector art in action. As one of the two main types of digital art (with the other being raster images), vector art is just about everywhere on the web. 

That’s because it’s versatile, scalable, and ideal for creating high-quality images with smooth curves and clean lines. Interested in creating your own vector art? Learn what it is, where it came from, and how to create original vector art from the ground up. 

Defining Vector Art

A person’s hand resting on a wood table holding an Apple Pencil. In the center of the image is an Apple iPad, which is displaying a vector image within Adobe Illustrator. The image depicts three vases, each filled with a plant or flower.
In the Skillshare class “A Beginner Guide to Adobe Illustrator for iPad | Create Vector Art on the Go,” teacher Tracey Capone creates vector art using only her iPad and Adobe Illustrator. 

Before making your own vector art, it’s crucial to understand precisely what it is. 

Unlike raster images, which are made up of a grid of square pixels, vector art uses mathematical equations to describe shapes and lines. In practice, this means that vector graphics can be resized infinitely without losing quality, thus making them ideal for logos, illustrations, and other types of designs where precision and scalability are essential.

The fundamental difference between vector-based images and raster images lies in their scalability. Raster images become pixelated and blurry when enlarged, while vector images remain crisp and clear at any size. 

Vector and raster images also differ in other key ways. For instance, vector images typically have a smaller file size than raster images, and vector images are also easier to edit and modify than their raster counterparts. 

Together, those differences combine to make vector art reign supreme in the world of digital design.

Things to Know Before Starting with Vector Art

A person’s hands fanning out sheets of white paper on a white table. Each sheet of paper is decorated with a different minimalistic texture in black ink.
In the Skillshare class “From Sketch to Vector: Digitize Your Sketches With The Shape Builder Tool in Adobe Illustrator,” teacher Di Ujdi demonstrates how she uses hand-painted textures to take her vector art to the next level. 

Creating vector art is a rewarding endeavor you can use to improve your artistic abilities, channel your creativity, launch a new career, or all of the above. But before you start, there are a few key considerations to keep in mind. 

  • Study and hone your foundational drawing skills: Although it’s possible to create vector art without any background in traditional art, knowing the basic principles of drawing can help you progress quickly and efficiently. Specifically, understanding shapes, lines, and proportions can greatly improve your vector illustrations. (Psst: Need to brush up on the drawing fundamentals? Skillshare’s broad selection of drawing classes can help.)
  • Think about your preferred resolution: Determine the resolution you want for your final output. Higher resolutions allow for more detail, but they may require more time and computing power. So while you’re just beginning your journey into the world of vector art, you may find it more practical to work in lower resolutions for the time being. 
  • Use a grid for composition: Employing a grid can help you maintain a balanced composition, aid in symmetry and ensure that your vector art is as visually appealing as possible.
  • Create depth: Experiment with the positioning of objects in your vector art to create depth and dimension. This can make your artwork more dynamic and engaging, and can help set it apart from other, more one-dimensional vector images. 
  • Consider your artwork in a larger context: Avoid cramming too many elements onto one canvas. Instead, think about how your vector art fits into a larger project or design. If you’re creating a logo for a website, for instance, consider how it will look on the site’s finished homepage. 
  • Add details: Incorporating intricate details can elevate your vector art and increase visual interest, but be prepared for the fact that this level of detail may require more time and patience.
  • Embrace mistakes: Don’t be discouraged by mistakes; they are an essential part of the learning process in every form of art, and vector art is no exception. Instead, choose to learn from them and use them to improve your skills in the long run.

Mastering Vector Art in 5 Simple Steps

A person’s hand holding an Apple Pencil and resting on a pink tabletop. They’re using the pencil to tap on the screen of an iPad, which is displaying the program Adobe Illustrator which is being used to create a vector image of a saguaro cactus.
In the Skillshare class “Vectorize in Adobe Illustrator on the iPad,” teacher Maja Faber creates cactus-themed vector art. 

Now that you’ve considered the essentials, you’re ready to tackle the process of creating vector art in five straightforward steps.

There are several popular programs for creating vector art, including Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer, CorelDRAW, Inkscape and more. But for the purposes of these instructions we’ll assume you’re using Illustrator, one of the most popular of the bunch. 

1. Choose an Image For Vector Conversion

Begin by selecting the image you want to convert into vector art. To make original vector art, that means you’ll need to use a drawing you created yourself. You can either create your drawing directly in Illustrator, or you can digitize physical sketches using Illustrator’s Shape Builder tool

2. Pick an Image Trace Preset

Adobe Illustrator (and most vector art software provides) an “Image Trace” function with various presets. Choose one that best suits your image and desired artistic style.

In Illustrator, for example, the “Grayscale” preset creates an image using only shades of gray, while the “High Color” preset maintains as much photorealism as possible. 

3. Vectorize the Image

Apply your chosen preset to your image, and watch as the software transforms it into vector paths. Adjust the Image Trace settings to fine-tune the results, and familiarize yourself with Illustrator’s capabilities in the process. 

4. Refine Your Traced Image

After vectorizing your image, take the time to refine it using Illustrator’s built-in tools. Clean up any imperfections, adjust lines, smooth out curves and otherwise ensure that the vector art closely matches your vision.

5. Separate Colors By Ungrouping

If your vector art contains multiple colors or elements, use the ungroup function to separate them. This allows for easier manipulation and customization, such as if you want to swap colors, replace certain details or mix and match elements between multiple pieces of vector art. 

Become a Vector Artist

Vector art is a powerful medium that opens up endless creative possibilities. By understanding the basics of vector art, honing your foundational skills, and following a systematic approach to creating vector illustrations, you can create endlessly scalable images and become a proficient vector artist. 

Whether you’re designing logos, illustrations, or other digital graphics, vector art is a valuable skill that can help you bring your artistic vision to the digital world with ease. And if you need help getting started with vector art or polishing the skills you already have, Skillshare can help. With our vast library of vector art classes and the talented teachers that lead them, you’ll find the knowledge you need and more.

Written by:

Carrie Buchholz-Powers