A raster image, also known as a bitmap image, is a two-dimensional representation of a picture or graphic composed of individual pixels. It is one of the primary formats used to store and display digital images. A raster image consists of a grid of tiny square-shaped pixels, each with its own color or grayscale value. When combined, these pixels form the complete image.
The term "raster" refers to the scanning pattern used in traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) displays, where the electron beam moves horizontally across each line and then vertically down to the next line. This scanning pattern is mirrored in the structure of a raster image, with each pixel's position determined by its row and column in the grid.
The resolution of a raster image is defined by the number of pixels it contains. Higher resolutions have more pixels per unit area, resulting in greater detail and sharpness. However, increasing the resolution also increases the file size, as more data is needed to store each pixel's color information.
An important characteristic of raster images is their inability to scale without loss of quality. Since each pixel represents a specific color value, enlarging a raster image causes the individual pixels to become more visible, resulting in a loss of sharpness and pixelation. In contrast, reducing the size of a raster image doesn't generally lead to quality loss, as the pixels can be combined and averaged to create a visually acceptable representation.
Raster images are commonly used in various applications, including digital photography, web graphics, and digital art. They are suitable for representing complex and detailed scenes, such as photographs, due to their ability to capture subtle color variations and intricate details. However, for graphics that require scalability and sharpness at various sizes, vector images, which are composed of mathematical paths and shapes, are preferred.
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