Raster Animations have long been the standard in desktop publishing (DTP) and even though they have now slowly been disappearing into the technological woodwork, they will never be forgotten. Why?

It’s because raster is a lossy method of creating images, meaning that the rendering of images (that we see) is susceptible to the differences between the drawing of a raster document and the viewing of it on screen.

This leaves us with image artifacts (as the name suggests). When an image is rendered, it loses contrast and color saturation which can cause problems with people seeing the image as a solid color (as expected), but a glowing yellow.

Vector Animations, on the other hand, are not bound to a specific resolution or speed of rendering.

Raster refers to the images’ pre-rendered content as the images were not originally drawn. Vector refers to the images’ final, drawn content. If you have ever sketched a picture, drawn a comic, made a comic, drawn a sketch or painted a picture, then you will know that artists use vector to construct a 3D structure that can then be turned into a 2D image.

Vector Vs Raster – Which One Is Better For Animation?

If you are an animator that wants to be able to display every image in the final image, you will want to use a raster technique for maximum speed.

However, if you are a designer that wants to make the most of the graphical freedom offered by a vector technique, then you will want to use a raster technique.

So which is better?

Well, a raster image can only be viewed at certain times of the day or on certain screens. You cannot display a raster image on a device with limited or no space.

Similarly, a vector image can be viewed on any device with enough space.

On the flipside, a raster image takes a longer time to render than a vector one, so if you are using a raster process to create your final images then you will have to wait longer than if you are using a vector method.

When we talk about animation, both raster and vector can be used to create the final product. With most animations (shapes, objects, light, etc.) we want the result of the object or shape to be visible as it is and not appear when it is not visible on screen.

When working in the browser and the javascript background rendering environment, you have access to two methods to do this.

Raster Animations

With raster animations, the process that you have to go through is to draw the outline of the object you want to animate onto the canvas, then save the image and render it into the DOM.

Vector Animations

In contrast, you draw the shape into the HTML canvas element. Then you set the opacity and transform so that the shape is visible at all times.

This is one of the reasons that raster has traditionally been better for producing animations in the browser. This has come with a trade off in speed.

However, it also means that the ability to set up multiple animations for a single object or structure is possible. With raster, you cannot really do this. The program renders the image, you then add the animation to it and the image gets updated.


While there is a time and a place for both raster and vector animations, vector animation has more benefits than raster because of the flexibility that it provides.

In web design, it’s important to have a strong understanding of how each technique works and what its strengths and weaknesses are. You should only use animation techniques where you are confident that they are the best fit for your design and that they will produce the best results.

Got any questions? Would you like to share your own experience with animating raster and vector formats? Feel free to leave a comment below!