How to Raster to Vector Conversion

Raster to vector conversion is a fundamental and essential skill for all designers. Since vector is a crucial image format that is widely used in embroidery digitizing and advertisements, it’s important for designers to master the art of raster to vector conversion. Fortunately, plenty of manual and automated tools and tutorials are available online that can help designers get started with raster to vector conversion.

Here in this blog, we will be introducing a few easy approaches to converting raster images into vector format. However, before we begin, let’s just briefly introduce raster and vector image formats so you get the basic knowledge about the formats.

What are raster and vector image formats?

Raster and vector are two of the fundamental categories of all digital images.

Even if you aren’t a designer or digitizer, you would be well-versed with the working of raster images since these are the images that we get to see and use in everyday life. The most common format for raster images includes .jpg, .png, and others. Also, since you must have experience using raster images, you would know the inherent limitations of these images, including blurring and pixilation on zooming/expanding or shrinking the images. That’s because raster images are made of pixels (yes, that’s the same thing as your MP camera), which have definite dimensions, and any significant deviation from the actual dimension blur or pixelates the image.

That’s where vector images come into play!

Unlike raster images, vector images aren’t made up of dimension-limited pixels; instead, these are formed by mathematical formulae, which are used to create shapes, paths, points, curves, and colors. Also, since vector images are made up of mathematical lines, these are indefinitely scalable without compromising the resolution or image quality. This means that no matter how much you zoom in, the resolution would be intact in vector images. Some of the common vector formats include, .Ai, .EPS, .SVG and others.

What are the uses of vector images?

Vector images are extensively used in marketing, branding, embroidery digitizing, and the printing industry. Almost all sorts of graphics and embroidery that you see on websites, marketing merchandize, our fabrics are made using vector images.

What are tools for raster to vector conversion?

Since there is a high demand for vector images, various online and offline tools are available to convert raster images to vectors. Some of the most popular software used in the industry include; Adobe Illustrator and CorelDRAW. Also, various embroidery digitizing software are used to convert raster images to digitized files (which are also basically off-shoot of vector format). Apart from proprietary software, there are open-source, free raster to vector conversion software as well, including Vectr and Inkscape.

In fact, if you are a newbie, you can simply use one of the many free raster to vector conversion online tools. All you have to do is upload the raster image, let the tool convert it to vector format, and simply download it.

The only downside to this approach is that these free tools don’t guarantee to keep the quality and integrity of images intact. This means you can’t use these tools for commercial purposes.

How to convert .jpg to vector?

Well, if you are looking to learn the fundamentals of raster to vector conversion manually (for individual or commercial use), you would have to learn to operate one of the various software, like Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW, etc. Almost all professional graphic designing tools offer raster to vector conversion features, albeit some have automated functionalities, whereas others have a more complex process. Nonetheless, here’re the basic rules to convert flat images into vectors:

  • Choose your preferred software
  • Open the image in the software
  • Create a new layer
  • Trace the image using the pen tool (the idea is to create shapes and paths)
  • Fill in the shapes using the color picker
  • Once successfully traced, delete or hide the raster
  • Export the layer choosing .SVG or another vector format

How to convert a pdf to a vector?

Portable Vector Format (PDF) is another popular raster file format widely used to share documents and images. Fortunately, the process of converting pdf to vector format is easier. Follow the below-mentioned steps to convert your pdf file into vector format (remember, these steps may not work if the pdf is secured/locked by the creator):

  • Open the target pdf in Adobe Illustrator or any other designing software of your choice
  • Select the desired shapes, text, and graphics in the pdf using the selection tool
  • Select “Create Outlines” from the “Type Menu.” This will convert all the selected items (text, paths, and shapes) to vector format
  • Export the file into .SVG format

How to convert raster to vector in Photoshop?

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most powerful and widely used graphic designing software. The software is specifically designed to enable designers to work with raster images. This means that while you may be able to convert a raster image to vector format, it won’t be infinitely scalable and rather have a raster image embedded in the vector file. Nonetheless, here’s how you can convert a raster format (.jpg or .png) to a vector file (.SVG) using Adobe Photoshop

  • Open the software and load the image
  • From the “File” menu, choose “Export” > “Export As.”
  • Choose .SVG file format
  • Click export

As mentioned earlier, while you will be able to have a decent vector file through this simple process, the resultant file won’t be infinitely scalable and may have visible pixels when scaled up or down.

How to convert raster images to vector for free?

Well, if you aren’t explicitly concerned with the quality of converted vector files, various online and offline tools can help you quickly convert raster images to vector format. This doesn’t mean that we are criticizing these tools; in fact, some of these tools are great and even offer users to choose the color palette. However, when you are working commercially for advertising or embroidery digitizing, we won’t recommend you use these free tools since you can’t control the quality of the output file.