Step By Step Guide for Converting a Photo to a Vector

photo to a vector

You have the perfect photo to enlarge for the party, but the photo-printing website keeps alerting you that the image quality is too low for that size photo.

What will you do?!

It’s not the end of the world as you know it! You can convert your photo to a vector!

Vectorize it!

Let’s check it out.

What is a Vector?

A vector is an image that you can reduce or enlarge without losing quality. Vector images are comprised of mathematical equations or values. Because there are not rows and columns of pixels, they are easily scalable.

A vector is computer generated, so it never has a true, realistic photo quality to it. Resizing and reshaping a vector will not destroy the image, making it a useful tool for graphic designers.

Which Photos Can Be Converted?

The majority of photos in today’s world are raster images, also referred to as bitmap images. They are composed of rows and columns of pixels.

Have you heard the term, pixelated? That refers to what happens to a raster image when you try to resize it.

Reducing the size of an image will result in losing pixels and enlarging the photo causes it to look jagged. These images, including jpegs, gifs, and digital photos can all be converted to vectors.

Click here to learn more about what you can do with photography.

Your Guide to Converting a Photo to a Vector:

Images essentially need to be “traced” in order to be converted from photo to a vector. Each program has a way to do that.

Adobe Photoshop

Using Photoshop, you begin with a bitmap image in the default setting. These are the steps to convert this bitmap image into a vector image.

  1. When you open the Window menu, select Paths. This will pull up a panel where you will have three choices: A. The Pen tool – used to create straight lines and Bezier curves over the original image. B. The Freeform tool – not as rigid, creates a looser tracing. C. The Magnetic Pen – used to keep the color and brightness
  2. Using the tools under Paths, you will trace your image. Once you have it the way that you want it, click Enter.
  3. If you wish to use any other tools, i.e. Lasso, Marquee or Magic Wand to create further pathways, click the menu button of the Paths panel. You will then need to select Make Work Path.
  4. Next, you will decide how closely you want the path to adhere to what you’ve traced. Larger levels mean smooth transitions and smaller levels stick tightly to what you traced.
  5. When creating new work paths, double-click on Work Path to name your path. You also have the option to use the default path name. Don’t skip this step or your vector drawing will be replaced the next drawing.
  6. Now that your photo is ready, click File>Export>Paths to Illustrator.

Adobe Illustrator

This program is used by professionals and is considered (by some) the easiest way to convert a JPEG image into a vector.

  1. Open your image and select it.
  2. Once your image is selected, you will need to utilize the Tracing workspace.
  3. Select the Tracing Presets and Options menu. Here you will see the options for vectorizing your image. Some will be preset or you may select options, i.e. expand, blur, etc.
  4. After using your different options, select Preview to see your results. Here you can edit further until you are satisfied with the results.
  5. Once you have the vector image you want, click the Illustrator menu and choose the Save As option and select a vector format to save it.


Using the PowerTRACE feature, you can begin to vectorize your photo.

  1. Open a new document. Go to File>Import to import your image.
  2. Select your logo and open PowerTRACE: Bitmaps>Outline Trace> Logo or Use the interactive toolbar to select Outline Trace>Logo
  3. Now you will see the original image on the left and the traced image will end up on the right in your workspace.
  4. Use the Settings to adjust detail, smoothing, sharpness, remove background or specify color.
  5. Once the traced image is how you want it, click ok. The PowerTRACE window will close.

Back in the CorelDRAW interface, the two images will be on top of one another. You will use the Pick tool to drag the trace to the side so that you can compare the images. If better details are desired, you can go back and re-trace the original by clicking the Detail slider under settings.

  1. If the traced image is to your liking, select the original photo and delete it.
  2. To center the traced image, click P on the keyboard.
  3. If you’d like to zoom in, use P4 on the keyboard.
  4. When the image is exactly how you want it, you can you the Object Size settings to choose the dimensions you desire. To keep the width and height ratio, the Lock icon should show a closed lock.
  5. Now you are ready to print your vectorized image.


Scan2CAD has “superior vector recognition software”. Using their Automatic Tracing option, the time it takes to trace the raster image is greatly reduced.

  1. Use Automatic Tracing with simple, clear images.
  2. With more complex images, use the Thresholding tool to turn a grayscale photo into black and white, making it easier to trace.
  3. If you have a scanned photo, it is likely that broken lines may appear. You can correct this using the Thicken Lines tool.
  4. On a faint image or speckled image, you can use either the Remove Holes tool or the Remove Speckles tool. These tools will help to remove the holes or erase pixels, cleaning up the image for tracing.
  5. Now open your image and select one of the Scan2CAD conversion options. It’s that easy! You now have a vectorized image.

Using your Vectorized Images

Vectorized images can be used for signs, on clothing, for embroidery and general graphic design. The numerous websites making customized items from t-shirts to coffee mugs utilize vector images to cater to every customer request.

To discover more about vector images, check us out at

Published by

Jonathan Mookes

Matt is a long-time graphics and design professional, his current research is 3D imaging and video development using bleeding edge technology!

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