Web Design

Scalable Vector Graphics: What is an SVG file?

Nathan Maas July 12, 2022

Illustration of a GIF icon with abstract background

Find out what scalable vector graphics are, how they work, and why you should use them for your website logo and other images.

What is an SVG file?

SVG stands for scalable vector graphic, and is used to create images on the internet. SVGs are perfect for images that are not photos, and this is because they do not use pixels that make blurred edges. They use vector data, an element with a specific magnitude and direction. They create scalable images with crisp edges by storing the data with mathematic formulas made up of points, curves, and shapes that are easily manipulated.

No one wants a logo or picture that is blurry on their website. As more people view sites on phones, it is optimal to have SVG formatting when necessary. The problem with most other files is that when you increase the size of the image, it becomes distorted. This is where SVG comes in to save the day.

Raster Vs. Vector

Many different types of files can be used when saving and manipulating an image. The most common are PNG and JPEG. These are called raster formatted images, which store data in a grid of colored squares commonly seen in photoshop. That grid of squares is called a bitmap. All these different colored squares combine to form an image. These files work great for detailed photos, as color matters, and each square must be exact. The format of using a bit map hinders you from changing the size of the image. Increasing the image's size will lower the image's quality.

Vector formatted images like SVG and PDFs work in a completely different way. As discussed earlier, they use points, curves, and lines through mathematical formulas. When the image changes size, it keeps the relationship between points, curves, and lines the same enabling you to have a consistent picture with no blurred edges. This is done through XML code which uses tags or words and numbers to change everything from the size to color and even animation. This enables developers to go into the XML code and directly change virtually anything about the image.

Benefits of SVG files

  • Scalable, make the image as large or small as needed
  • Will not make an HTTP request
  • Inline in your code, enabling easy changes
  • Capable of exciting animations because of scripting compatibility
  • Works great for printing and merchandise
  • Optimized for search engine optimization as you can include keywords within the image
  • Smaller than other formats
  • Customization
  • Screen readers can interpret it

Disadvantages SVG files

  • It takes up lines of code
  • Not the best for detailed photos

Where to Edit or Make SVG files

As mentioned earlier, a developer can edit SVG formatted images directly within the code of your website. However, there is software for editing and creating vector files.

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • Microsoft Visio
  • CorelDRAW
  • GIMP
  • Google Docs
  • Inkscape

These programs will enable you to create SVG files without needing to know code.

In Conclusion…

SVG files are the answer to scaling images and keeping the quality consistent. They are easily manipulated and help with SEO. Several programs create SVG file images, and developers can help create and customize them easily. Utilize SVG formatted pictures on your website today!

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Insight by Nathan Maas

Account Manager

Nathan is a digital marketer passionate about how storytelling, targeted messaging, and implementing technology create business-changing content. As an Account Manager, he is responsible for assisting with communication to help his clients increase brand awareness, generate leads, and acquire new customers.

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