Vector or Raster charts: that is the question

Raster chart vs. Vector chart: there is a real debate going on between these two schools and yet, it’s very hard to say which nautical chart format is better than the other, as the choice depends most of the time on user habits or personal preference.



In one hand, Raster Charts are an exact reproduction of the traditional nautical paper charts, as they are digital scans of printed lithographic charts.

What is the great thing about Raster Charts? Users that have always used nautical paper charts are more than happy and reassured to find the same information on screen.


In the other hand, Vector Charts are a rendering of a lithographic chart in a point-by-point format. “Vector” is a synonym for line, and vector charts are composed of mathematically-defined geometric shapes: lines, objects and fills. Think of connecting the dots, it’s the same principle.

These dots are stored in a database and drawn on the computer or plotter screen by the software, thus the display of a Vector Chart doesn’t look much like a nautical paper chart.

What is the great thing about Vector Charts? You have more displaying options and they require less space in your hard disk.

Download our Free Guide on How to Choose the Best Nautical ChartKeep in mind that in general, Raster Charts are made by national hydrographic services and Vector Charts by private companies. Neither the first format nor the second exists for all the regions in the world, so the accuracy and richness of data will depend on the area you’re interested in!

Check MapMedia’s explanation for more information about advantages/disadvantages of raster and Vector Charts.

Check MapMedia catalogue and find out what format suits your needs better.

MaxSea International’s sister company MapMedia, offers a wide range of over 6000 marine raster charts restoring the accuracy and reliability of national hydrographic offices paper charts. MapMedia also produces vector charts through collaborations with the best charts editors of the market: Navionics, Jeppesen and some national hydrographic services (databases S57 for USA and Norway). MapMedia is able to provide a complete catalogue of vector charts along with marine raster charts offer.

5 thoughts on “Vector or Raster charts: that is the question

  1. Bryan July 28, 2016 / 17:56

    I think I would prefer vector maps because of the ability to scale without loosing quality. But it is like you said, it all depends on the user. I also like the smaller file size of the vector image, it makes for faster load times. Raster does have its good points to though. It allows for richer color and better image at the proper scale.
    Here is a good article that talks about raster and vector:
    Thanks you.

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