If you’re cutting a stencil by hand, it doesn’t matter whether you have a vector or a raster file. But when you cut with a machine (like a Cricut or a Silhouette Cameo), you definitely want a vector file.
For many of these machines, it’s possible to upload a raster file to their design program, but you’ll get better control and finer results if you upload a vector file to begin with.
- Vector files never pixellate no matter how much you scale them up; raster files look blocky and ugly when you scale them up
- Vector files store information about the curves themselves, not just the pixels in between the curves; it’s like giving instructions directly to the cutter (whether laser or craft cutter) about where and how to cut
- Vector files are editable at the *cut* level: that is, you can remove or add a path if you want, which you can’t do with a raster file (because the raster file is ‘flat’, and doesn’t differentiate between curves)
Here’s an illustration of the difference between raster and vector:
So, you want to get your raster image into vector form and keep it that way (don’t convert back to raster and then into vector) until you upload to your cutting program. Each time you go to raster you lose resolution, and you can’t get the details back.