To Mix or not to Mix?
I often get asked questions regarding what is and what isn't allowed in a Vector piece to allow it to remain a Vector piece.
Sound confusing? Isn't a Vector piece always a Vector piece? The answer to this is 'NO!'
Let me explain by starting with the definition of a Vector: Although I've already posted ChewedKandi's definition of Vectors many times in my journals, I'll do so again now.
In digital art there are two layer formats: Raster and Vector. Raster formats are based in pixels and vector is based in paths and points.
When you resize a raster image, you are expanding the pixels. Your program has to try to estimate what the colours would be for the additional pixels
created. Due to this, the image loses it's clarity and creates a pixelated effect.
When you resize a vector image, you are increasing the distance between the points. Due to this, the image doesn't lose it's clarity and doesn't
The key element of vector is that it's infinitely scalable without any quality loss and it's why we love it!
When does a Vector piece stop being a Vector piece, and become something else?
When you add Raster elements!
Up until fairly recently, Vectors were Vectors, and any Vector that had ANY raster elements added to it were Mixed Media. In February of last year, changes were made to the Vector Category Rules to include 'Live Effects', which are minor effects that have been produced in a vector based program.
These include such filters as blurs, drop shadows, feathering and inner glow...but are not limited to these. The key words here are that the effects MUST be produced in a vector based program for them to be considered in a 100% vector piece.
What is a 'Raster Element' and what makes a Mixed Media piece?
Raster elements are anything based in pixels. If you've scanned a swatch of material or an old piece of paper and added it to your Vector work, even on a very low opacity, this is a raster element and will immediately make your work Mixed Media rather than Vector. If you've added a photograph of anything, your work is Mixed Media. If you've done 95% of your work in a vector program such as Illustrator or CorelDRAW, then take your work over to a 'paint' program such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro and add any postwork such as colour correction or contrast filters...your work is Mixed Media.
Think of any other artistic mediums; If you're a traditional artist and make an acrylic painting of a bird, then use markers/texters to do some line-work, you've mixed two mediums (paint and markers/texters), so your work is then Mixed Media. If you take a photo of a sunset...and then bring it into Photoshop and add digital filters, text and effects, your photograph is now Mixed Media. Mixed Media pieces are not limited to Vector + Raster pieces. Any time you mix two or more MEDIUMS of art, your work is Mixed Media.
So to put it simply: Mixed Media, in relation to vectors, is any vector work where any raster element has been added. When you create a Mixed Media piece, please be sure to place it in the Mixed Media category and not in the Vector category. Most Vector Groups on dA will allow Mixed Media pieces and will have a special folder for you to add your work to. Some Vector groups have adopted the term 'Vection' for Mixed Media Vectors. This is not an offical dA term, it was made by Asher-Bee so that Mixed Media Vectorists weren't left out of the Vector groups. Most groups that allow Mixed Media have a ratio of Vector:Raster, so be sure to find out what the group's ratio is before you submit your work.
Is there a way around using raster elements if we want to be 100% Vector?
YES!!! Illustrator has the 'Live Trace' feature and CorelDRAW has the 'Trace Bitmap' feature, both of which can be used to trace a raster texture or image. You'll probably need to play around with the settings on these features to get your desired effect, or if you'd like a tutorial, you can check out ChewedKandi's 'Creating Scalable Textures Within Illustrator' over on Vectortuts+. Please remember that 'Live Trace' or 'Trace Bitmap' should be used sparingly, and not for your entire piece
Well, I think that about wraps up the Mixed Media question! I hope you've found this helpful. Again, if anyone has any questions, please feel free to ask either here on this post or in a note to me. I'm very happy to help!