Photorealistic images with vector graphics

Visual Math

Article from Issue 229/2019

What are vector graphics and how could we make them better?

Have you ever wondered why you can zoom in on a piece of text in your web browser, PDF viewer, or word processor, and it still retains the smooth look it had at the original scale? In comparison, zooming in on a web image generally yields a pixelated or ragged-looking result. What gives text this resolution-independent property, and is it possible to extend this property to graphics in general?

Understanding Vector Graphics

A discussion of computer graphics should begin with the observation that there are two types of graphics: raster graphics and vector graphics. You're probably quite familiar with raster graphics – rectangular grids composed of individually colored pixels. Zooming in on a pixel-based raster image eventually results in either a blocky picture or a somewhat smoother result that often looks a bit blurred. This blurring or distortion is caused by an interpolation algorithm that generates new pixel data for the magnified version based on the values of neighboring pixels. On the other hand, vector graphics relies on mathematical descriptions of curves. These descriptions are resolution-independent, which means that vector graphics can scale without losing quality. The glyphs of a font that you look at on your screen are examples of vector graphics in daily life. If you're interested in taking a closer look at the curves defining these characters, install FontForge [1] (or alternatively, Birdfont [2]), and open a font you're interested in (commonly stored in /usr/share/fonts).

For a deeper look at vector graphics, it is very useful to install a dedicated vector graphics editor – the open source Inkscape is an excellent choice. Start by adding a circle, a (rounded) star, and a single character from your favorite font. Set the fill of all objects to none and the stroke to a solid light gray. Then, with all three selected, choose the option Path | Object to Path. Viewing the resulting paths in edit mode (F2) with everything selected should yield a result similar to the images in Figure 1.


Use Express-Checkout link below to read the full article (PDF).

Buy this article as PDF

Express-Checkout as PDF
Price $2.95
(incl. VAT)

Buy Linux Magazine

Get it on Google Play

US / Canada

Get it on Google Play

UK / Australia

Related content

  • Inkscape Vector Graphics

    When it comes to drawing with the computer, professionals often opt for vector graphics. Inkscape brings the power of vector graphics to Linux users. Our workshop demonstrates how to use the program.

  • Inkscape

    The Inkscape vector graphics tool replaces expensive commercial solutions such as Adobe Illustrator. This article shows how to get started with Inkscape.

  • Inkscape 0.45.1

    Inkscape has always been good, but now version 0.45.1 of the vector drawing program shows a totally new creative aspect.

  • Xara LX

    Vector graphics often look much like comics: although you can hint at shading and highlights, it is more or less impossible to achieve photorealism. But this could all change now that Xara LX has been released as an open source program.

  • Darktable 1.6

    Hardly anything affects the quality of photos more than play of light and shadow, or the brilliance of colors. Darktable fixes incorrect exposure, conceals unfavorable lighting conditions, and ensures harmonious colors.

comments powered by Disqus

Direct Download

Read full article as PDF:

Price $2.95