How To Convert an Image to a Vector

  • Nov 19, 2019

For free, In 3 simple steps

Stop waiting on the art department or sending files out to a service provider. Converting an image to a vector is so easy and won’t cost you a dime. Here’s how:

Download Inkscape. It’s free, open source software with no adware or garbage. You can download it safely here.

1.    Open or import your Image (probably a .JPG or .PNG file)

2.    On the menu go to ‘Path’ then ‘Trace Bitmap’ or press shift-alt-b

a.    On the trace-bitmap screen there are a couple of options. Brightness cutoff set to about .50 seems to work the best for black and white images, but you can play with the settings. Click the Live Preview check box to see how the traced image will look with the selected options. I usually uncheck ‘smooth’. When you press OK, Inkscape will make a vector copy of your image. Just move the vector and delete the original before you save the file.

3.    Save-as .SVG file

That’s it. You can also save the file as a .PDF or .EPS – just hit ctrl-s and use the ‘save as type’ drop down box.

This process works for simple images like a logo. That's probably 90% of what we all work on in this industry. But if you have more complex conversion work, and you still want to try and do it yourself, here's the 3 best tutorials I could find on the Google.

How to Convert an Image to a Vector in Photoshop (YouTube)

How to Vectorize an Image in Adobe Illustrator

How to Convert a JPEG to a Vector Image

For the geeks (like me) that want to learn a little more. What the heck is the difference between a vector and bitmap image?

Vector files are not “images” or “photographs”, they are mathematical formulas defining lines, circles etc. Including files like .AI, .PDF, or even .DXF, vectors are typically created by software like Illustrator, Inkscape, AutoCAD and Corel.

Bitmap files or images (sometimes called raster files) are a collection of individual pixels. This includes .JPG or .PNG files, created or edited with Photoshop, GIMP or even your phone. Bitmap images are fuzzy at the edges, they don’t scale very well, and except for some simple engraving, they don’t behave well on a laser.

Since vectors files include the actual mathematical paths or “vectors” (draw a line this direction, this far), they are perfect instructions for the path of the laser head. They usually convert into a laser file perfectly and resize or scale perfectly.

Be sure to checkout our ‘mostly complete guide to laser engraving wooden promotional products

As always, thanks for being a customer.


Cameron Christian


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  • Tags: promotional products, laser engraving, wood, image, vector, convert