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Theory

Vector Purity vs Raster Live Effects: Where do you stand?

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Consider an artist using 90% vector in their work and only 10% raster live effects, would you class this artist as a "vector artist" or would you see them as a "mixed medium artist"? Do you think "vector art" should be without raster live effects? Today's article looks at this debate.

Introduction

There's often a sense of pride and achievement for those who are able to produce elaborate pieces of vector art without the need for raster live effects, such as feathering and blurs. While others may share the pride of a scalable format, using a live effect can cut down the time needed to create the elaborate pieces and deliver more polished effects.

It got me thinking about how important purity is within our communities and whether going the extra mile to make something 100% vector is worth the extra time spent over saving time and potentially our clients money to add a quick effect? Or is it more of a case of pride rather than saving time?

Raster Live Effects

Today's article isn't going into a debate we had previously which was on Vector vs Raster as we're still working with vector but with raster live effects; however, exactly what are raster live effects?

From an Adobe Illustrator point of view, when you use a raster live effect on a vector object it duplicates the vector object, rasterizes it, applies X effect and then groups it with the previous vector object. You can see this process in closer detail by checking out my screencast on creating a vector drop shadow effect. When you reshape/resize the object with this effect on, AI recalculates the effect applied and renders it in real time. This is why it's referred to as a "live effect."

However, with these effects, you could argue that while they are scalable they do have a limit, which in theory vector doesn't have. You can change the resolution of the raster live effects by modifying the options, so is this argument redundant?

Case Study: deviantART

In my spare time, I'm a Volunteer Gallery Moderator (GM) of the vector galleries on deviantART. Previously, the galleries only welcomed work that was pure vector work, and if it contained raster elements then DA required it to be placed in the mixed medium galleries. Although that suited myself fine, it was a bit of a sting in the tail for some members.

While some previous GMs had a relaxed approach to featuring vector art with raster elements, I'm not comfortable with "bending the rules" and felt the issue needed to be tackled. I put the question to the community as to whether the galleries should welcome raster live effects and it was met with mixed results.

Some members would welcome the change as they wanted to be part of the vector community and given further opportunities to have their work given exposure within a vector audience, while others were against the proposed change as their argument was that if it wasn't 100% scalable, then it shouldn't be classed as vector art.

Both sides presented compelling cases as to why the change should and shouldn't happen; however, the change ultimately came down to the reason that those artists using blurs, etc... would feel left out of the community when their core work is vector. The decision was based on inclusion of people to the community, rather than excluding people.

The change was made and the galleries welcomed in vector art and vector art which contained raster live effects produced in vector-based programs. This was met with a majority of happy artists and with only a few people unhappy. Since the change, no further issues have came up and there appears to be less tension over the classification of an artist's work.

Consider an artist using say 90% vector in their work and only 10% raster live effects, would you class this artist as a "vector artist" or would you see them as a "mixed medium artist"?

Vector Purity vs Raster Live Effects: Opinions

With it being a sensitive issue with some artists, I decided to probe them with their opinions on the use of raster live effects within vector art and find out where they stand.

Zhaana

Q First and foremost, do you class yourself as a vector purist or are you proud to use some raster effects?

I'm not a purist vector but I'm not ever a fan of raster effects. I sometimes use only 10% of raster effects in my pictures and often I don't use at all effects, it just depends what kind of look I want to achieve in a piece.

Q If you're a raster effect user, why do you choose to work in vector? What do you see as the benefits to combine both elements?

Well I work with vectors because it's scalable, easy to use! Raster effects are like a cherry on a cake, it can just add the "thing" you wanted for your picture to become something beautiful.

Also, as I don't use Photoshop with a tablet, raster effects are my solution in one program.

Of course I don't overuse raster effects, otherwise I'd have a bad conscience and I couldn't call them vector works.

Q What is your opinion on artists who use some raster elements in their work, be it a raster overlay texture or a blur effect?

I don't blame them as I myself use them sometimes. But I don't like to see a vector picture overwhelmed with effects. It erases all the qualities about the vector medium.

Q Some would argue that the time saved using a raster filter and the file size saved are of a benefit in productivity and therefore it is acceptable to add these raster elements in their work, what are your thoughts on this?

True! It's a time saved when using effects.

Example: I still don't know how to use the gradient mesh so I use the gradient blur, faster and easier. Sure I'm a lazy and a procrastinating person when it's about how to learn new difficult things.

Q Places like deviantART now accept raster effects generated by a vector application to be used in pieces submitted in their vector galleries, do you feel this is a wise decision? If so, why? If not, why?

It's a wise decision and I'm grateful that deviantART accept raster effects in vector pieces.

First I wouldn't like my piece of vector to be classed in another digital gallery other than in the Vector gallery, just because it includes 10% or maybe less of raster effects.

Second, it stops any divisions about this subject and I like to be in peace with my fellow artists.

MarikaArt

Q First and foremost, do you class yourself as a vector purist or are you proud to use some raster effects?

I do not classify myself at all. I just do art the way I can and like.

I do not use raster effects much in vector, they look not very good to me. But I am not avoiding raster effects, if it helps my work to look better or exactly the way I want it to then I'll use it.

Q If you're a vector purist, why do you set yourself the standard to produce all of your work in 100% vector? What do you see as the benefits?

I think it's all about techniques, skills and speciality. As for me - doing pure vector stuff is calming me down.

Q What is your opinion on artists who use some raster elements in their work, be it a raster overlay texture or a blur effect?

They're still artists, vector artists. And it is too rash not to count their works as vector because of some texture overlay. Especially if the work is not about texture or blur at all.

Q Some would argue that the time saved using a raster filter and the file size saved are of a benefit in productivity and therefore it is acceptable to add these raster elements in their work, what are your thoughts on this?

Time saving and file size arguments are not valued in my opinion. Using raster effects depends on artistic value and quality.

Q Places like deviantART now accept raster effects generated by a vector application to be used in pieces submitted in their vector galleries, do you feel this is a wise decision? If so, why? If not, why?

Good decision. Finally! But of course it all depends on the works. If it does not look like vector because of all raster effects, I cannot say it still counts as vector just because it was made in a vector application. I think it needs more specifics, not just "vector application."

FlashParade

Q First and foremost, do you class yourself as a vector purist or are you proud to use some raster effects?

Well to answer the first question I classify myself a vector artist, but not a vector purist, because though many of my pieces are pure vector, there are some that are only about 90-95% vector, the other percentage being made up of raster elements such as a photographic background or texture.

Q If you're a raster effect user, why do you choose to work in vector? What do you see as the benefits to combined both elements?

Though I would like to maintain a vector purity in my works I do enjoy the effects achieved by using a raster texture. I know that there are ways to get a similar look with live trace, but I also don't like using live trace because I feel it's a bit like cheating, just like some consider using raster effects as cheating.

Q What is your opinion on artists who use some raster elements in their work, be it a raster overlay texture or a blur effect?

Since I'm not a vector purist I am completely fine with people using raster elements in their work. I do understand that it changes the work from being 100% vector, but in the end I'm just here to make art and not be part of any specific club or clique. I would much rather have my work appreciated for the overall effect than for every technique used.

Q Do you think there is any sort of divide in the vector community of those who support the use of raster effects and vector purists? If so, where do you get this impression?

I do feel that there is a bit of a divide in the vector community, and though I assume it's coming from both sides, it seems like I keep hearing more about purity in vector. It seems so weird because I don't really hear much about other communities with this divide. It almost feels insulting when I hear a comment about how a piece isn't vector unless it's 100% vector. I put a great deal work into what I do and I enjoy creating vectors, but when I hear negativity towards those who aren't vector purists it makes me wonder why I would want to continue doing vector, especially if I'm not going to be considered on the same level because I choose to use a raster effect.

Q Some would argue that the time saved using a raster filter and the file size saved are of a benefit in productivity and therefore it is acceptable to add these raster elements in their work, what is your thoughts on this?

I never really considered those reasons to tell you the truth. I use a raster element simply because I enjoy the effect that it gives my piece and it makes me wonder if those arguments have been put forward because those of us who are not vector purists are just trying to be accepted in the community as legitimate vector artists since they don't feel that they are.

Q Places like deviantART now accept raster effects generated by a vector application to be used in pieces submitted in their vector galleries, do you feel this is a wise decision? If so, why? If not, why?

I think it will help some people who are almost 100% vector artists get their Deviations submitted to the gallery that they would like them in, but I definitely think it will ruffle a few feathers, especially those who consider themselves higher in the community simply for not using those effects that are available to them through the vector program. This submission change still wouldn't help an artist like me, but it's a step forward in having the community come together as a whole for artists who enjoy creating in vector.

HumanNature84

Q First and foremost, do you class yourself as a vector purist or are you proud to use some raster effects?

Vector all of the way baby! But I do love a good digital paint.

Q If you're a vector purist, why do you set yourself the standard to produce all of your work in 100% vector? What do you see as the benefits?

It never dawned on me to use raster elements in my work. Vector has really been good to me over the years and I see no reason to add anything to change that.

Q What is your opinion on artists who use some raster elements in their work, be it a raster overlay texture or a blur effect?

Each artist must choose his or her own path. I respect any artist that pushes his or herself in any artistic endeavor. As far as the vector community is concerned, we need turn away from this practice. The new vector artists to the scene get very confused on what exactly vector
art is. A lot of people in the digital painting world think that vector art is more of a style and not so much a medium.

I also believe this practice of mixing raster elements with vector is Death of Distinction. Just because Adobe introduces raster elements into its programs does not mean we should use them. Yes raster are easy to use, but we are shooting ourselves in the foot by adding these elements.

Q Some would argue that the time saved using a raster filter and the file size saved are of a benefit in productivity and therefore it is acceptable to add these raster elements in their work, what are your thoughts on this?

Adding spray paint to an acrylic painting would speed up the process of painting, but would be considered a mixed media piece by any art critic. The individual artist is never above the medium; we must remember that or lose everything.

Q Places like deviantART now accept raster effects generated by a vector application to be used in pieces submitted in their vector galleries, do you feel this is a wise decision? If so, why? If not, why?

It's up to The DA vector moderators to make those type of decisions.
We will see what the future holds for this beautiful and perfect medium.

Conclusion

From a personal point of view, I do lean more towards purity over using raster live effects. I feel somewhat uncomfortable with using raster elements in my work and classing my work as vector art. To me personally it would be mixed media. However, that's not to say that I judge others for their use of these effects. I even pushed myself to use raster live effects in my work to try to remain as neutral as possible.

Admittedly, there are instances where the use of raster live effects are completely justifiable in my eyes. From the tutorial mentioned, I used blurs to create an impression of depth in the leaves of the illustration. To do this in vector would almost double the file size and make it hard to work with unless you have a computer from NASA! OK, maybe an outlandish claim but you get the picture. It would consume high memory resources to do it all in vector.

So what is your stand point on using raster live effects within your vector work? Or are you a purist?

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