Raster To Vector

Many features can be represented as rasters or vectors. You'll want to select the data type based on the nature of the data and the analysis you want to perform on it.

Conversion Between Data Models

You can convert data between rasters and vectors but the nature of the data will be very different.

Conversion Between Data Models

Coverting Vector to Raster

Below is an example of watersheds in Humboldt County represented as Shapefiles. The "Feature To Raster" tool will convert these polygons to rasters.

Conversion Between Data Models

The image below looks very similar to the one above but now the watersheds are represented as rasters.

Output of Conversion Between Data Models

Problems Associated with Conversion

Whenever you convert data from raster to vector or vector to raster, you will degrade the data by some amount. Issues include:

Choosing Between Data Models

"Raster is faster but vector is corrector"

This is a common saying in GIS. More detailed guidelines are:

Other factors that can influence your decision include:


The following are examples of tools in ArcMap will convert rasters to vectors or vectors to rasters:

Note: Digitizing is where you convert raster data into vector data!

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