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Start with Inkscape

Tracing an Image

You can use this feature to benefit from getting paths that you can use and edit in your design, as a result of the vectorization. If you expect a 100% faithful representation of your picture, only in vector format, you will be disappointed.

Icon for Trace Bitmap dialog

The functionality is ideal to vectorize dark silhouettes in front of a bright background. There is an option for keeping colors, but Inkscape will then create one object for each color. You'll find yourself facing a pile of objects, each of a different color. This can be difficult to edit.

To vectorize a picture:

  • Import a simple bitmap image (e.g. a *.jpg, *.png, *.bmp file) by using the menu File > Import.
  • Select the image with the Selector tool.
  • In the menu, go to Path > Trace Bitmap.
  • A dialog will open where you can set different options.
  • When the result of the preview looks right, click on Ok. The result will be available right on the canvas. It will be positioned exactly above your picture.

Let's take a closer look at this wonderful tool. The first tab offers several different Modes :

  • Brightness Cutoff Mode. This is the most frequently used mode. It will create a silhouette-like path that follows the shape of your image.
  • Edge Detection Mode. Useful if you only want to vectorize the contours of a shape.
  • Color Quantization Mode. This traces along borders between different colors.

The mode Multiple Scans will give you a more detailed result, but it will create a separate object for each scan.

Don't forget to refresh the preview on the right of the dialog, and to click on Ok to create the vector object.

rocket.png, the image that we want to trace in this example.


The Trace Bitmap dialog with live preview for black-and-white tracing.

The image rocket.png has been imported and the Trace Bitmap dialog was opened. The Live Preview can be activated to show a rough preview of the result.


The rocket traced in brightness cutoff mode

The rocket traced with the Brightness Cutoff option.

The rocket traced in edge detection mode

The rocket vectorized with the Edge Detection option.

An image of a puzzle pieceA bitmap image in color.

The puzzle piece traced with multiple scans, colors, 10 stacked scans

Multiple Scans: Colors option with 10 scans. There are 10 stacked objects in the result.

The stacked scans can be moved after ungrouping.

After ungrouping, the 10 objects can be moved.

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