Vector versus raster for your pattern designs - Pattern and Design

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Vector versus raster for your pattern designs

Have you heard the terms raster and vector but aren’t sure what they mean? We’re going to look at the differences between raster and vector designs.


Raster designs are designs that you create in Photoshop and they’re made up of pixels.
One of the great things about creating raster designs is that you can use and create artwork the resembles artwork created by hand. Photoshop has a fantastic range of beautiful and realistic art brushes that you can use to create your artwork and replicated hand painted work.
If you’re creating hand painted or drawn artwork and then bringing it into the computer to create your pattern repeats, then Photoshop will also allow you to retain the beautiful hand created quality of your work. For me, the greatest benefit for using Photoshop over Illustrator.
One thing you do want to be careful of though is enlarging raster images. If you enlarge them too much, they do become pixelated so it’s important to think about scale when you are creating your hand painted or drawn elements as you want to avoid enlarging them if possible.
If you want to find out more about preparing hand created artwork for Photoshop, you can read more here.


Illustrator is a vector based program which means it’s made up of shapes or paths. When you bring hand drawn artwork into Illustrator you will need to image trace which essentially vectorises, turning it in to shapes.
One of the largest benefits of using vector artwork is that you can enlarge it to any scale and not lose quality. That means that you don’t need think about the scale of your motifs when you’re creating them as you are free to enlarge them at a later stage.
Vectorising hand created artwork will change the look and feel of it so you do need to think about the look and feel you’re after and whether you’re happy for your artwork to look vectorised or not.

Pattern repeats

You can definitely use both raster and vector programs to create your pattern repeats. You can successfully sell artwork to clients in both programs. In some cases, you might have a client has a particular preference for one program over the other, but as a generalization, you can sell designs in either programs. So don’t let that deter you. I know that a lot of people feel that they have to create their designs in illustrator, but that’s not true so don’t let that limiting belief stop you from creating your artwork in Photoshop if you’d prefer to do so.

It’s better to ask yourself, which program will suit the particular artwork that you’re creating.

In terms of creating pattern repeats and changing colours, it’s a slightly quicker and easier process in Illustrator but you can still easily create your pattern repeats and alter colours easily in Photoshop too.
My biggest advice would be to try and learn both programs. That way you can swap between the two depending on the artwork you’re creating and you can get the best of both worlds.

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  1. Nicole says:

    Absolutely spot on; regards scale that become overly aggregated pixels. I’m loving your blog! I’m very proud of you Rachelle! Thank you for all that you do…..I even don’t mind the emails that you send me because you’re not “pushy”. I’ve been on a maNIC creativity streak HOWEVER I am neglecting my office work! Paperwork ugh.

    Lotsa love 🤩

  2. Nanette says:

    IThanks for this. It makes total sense.

    I think if I ever learned how to use the “Gradient Mesh” tool in Illustrator, it would have created some of that painterly quality. But I have yet to master it.

    I am excited to experiment with Procreate, but I need to upgrade/update my iPad. There’s always something…

  3. Disha says:

    Lovely Blog. I am new to surface pattern industry. I love to paint motifs waith watercolors but I don’t like to vectorize them. Can we use both raster and vector patterns in one single collection?

    • Pattern and Design says:

      I’m so glad you like the blog.
      You can use a combination of the 2 programs to create a pattern but I would be careful about using a combination of patterns in the different programs. If you do, make sure that you retain the same look and feel throughout the collection.

    • Pattern and Design says:

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog.
      You can use a combination of the two programs to create a pattern. If you are creating a collection and want to create some in one program and some in the other you need to be careful that all of the designs have the same look and feel.

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