A type of computer graphics system which describes a computer image as a series of complex mathematical formulas and coordinates that decribe lines, curves, and other geometric shapes, as opposed to bit map graphics, in which the image is represented as a large grid of variously-colored pixels. (Consequently, vector-based graphics are also referred to as object-oriented, as images or elements within an image can be grouped together and considered by the software as individual “objects.”) Vector images take up less disk space and require less processing power and RAMto create and manipulate. As they are described mathematically, they can be output at as high a resolution as the output device is capable of generating, so long as the file format in which the file is saved is one that can handle vectors. The most commonly-used file format for vector graphics is encapsulated PostScript. PostScript printer fonts are typically vector-based descriptions of letters, numbers and other characters. A disadvantage to vector graphics is that they can be more difficult to create and manipulate than bit maps, but vector graphics are commonly the only way of producing line art that prints out smoothly.
Despite whether a file is a vector or bit map image, however, a conventional computer monitor can only display an image as a bit map, so a vector graphic will never look as smooth on screen as it does when output, as it will always have to be displayed at the resolution of the monitor, which is much much less than that of imagesetters or even laser printers.