Have you ever created the perfect digital image and tried to enlarge it, only to find a mess of pixels, jagged lines, and blurry edges? It’s a common issue in digital illustration, because raster images—like JPGs or bitmaps, for example—can’t always be resized without losing quality. That’s where image vectorization comes in. Through the process of image vectorization, you can turn raster images into vector images that can be infinitely resized and manipulated with no loss of quality. 

Want to learn how to vectorize an image? Below, we provide tutorials for all image types. 

What Is Image Vectorization? 

What is vectorizing an image? Image vectorization is the process of converting pixel-based images to vector-based images. If you’re looking for a more in-depth explanation, here’s a breakdown: 

Digital images are either raster images or vector images. Raster images are made up of pixels (or small units of color). Zoomed out, a raster image appears normal, with smooth, sharp lines. However, as you zoom in, you’re increasingly able to see individual pixels, making the image look blurry or grainy, with jagged edges. 

A vector image, on the other hand, is created using mathematical shapes and lines, which allows it to be expanded or contracted thousands of times without losing quality. No matter how large or small you make the image, the quality remains the same. 

lobster illustrations
Vector images are created using mathematical shapes to achieve smooth, clean lines, no matter how the image is resized or manipulated. 

Why Vectorize Images?

Vector images are used in many aspects of graphic design, but very commonly in branding and printing. Vector images are much more versatile than raster, which makes them ideal for projects that require them to be resized or digitally manipulated. 

Think of a business logo, for example. The initial concept design will be one size—but you will likely need to use that logo design in multiple ways and formats, from your website to business cards to promotional items, like pens and t-shirts. It will need to be scaled to multiple different sizes without losing any quality—and you can only do that with a vector. 

How to Vector an Image

There are two main avenues for vectorizing an image: using a software program to manually trace and convert an image or using an online vector conversion program. Ultimately, either process will allow you to take a raster file and convert image to svg (scalable vector graphic).  

Best Software for Vectorizing Images 

In most cases, you will achieve the best results by manually converting raster to vectors. This generally involves uploading the original image to a software program, tracing each shape, and then combining them as a new file. This can be a tedious process but generally produces accurate, highly scalable vector files. 

Common software used to vectorize images include:

  • Adobe Illustrator
  • CorelDRAW
  • Inkscape

How to Vector an Image Online 

Alternatively, you can use an online image vectorizer program to convert raster to vectors. All you have to do is upload your image, and the program automatically traces it and produces a vectorized image. Some programs are free, while others require you to pay per download. 

While online options are quick and convenient, they can yield mixed results. You may, for example, receive a low-quality vector, an inaccurately traced vector, or a vector with a watermark. 

Popular online programs used to turn image into vector include:

If you don’t want to use an automated process to convert to vector online, you can also hire freelance artists through Upwork or similar marketplaces. 

colored pizza
Image vectorization allows them to have smooth, sharp lines, rather than jagged, pixelated edges. 

How to Convert an Image to Vector 

The image conversion process varies based on the native image type. Below, find step-by-step instructions for how to convert multiple types of images to vectors. 

Convert JPG to Vector or Convert Bitmap to Vector

Both JPGs and bitmaps are raster images, which means they are pixel-based. You can follow the same general process to convert JPG to vector and convert bitmap to vector—and the same goes for other raster image types, too, including PNGs and GIFs. Simply upload the original image and follow the step-by-step process below. (These instructions are specific to Adobe Illustrator, but you can use other software for the image conversion process.) 

  1. Open the Adobe Illustrator application.  
  2. Open your JPG or BMP image from the file menu or by dragging the image from your desktop into the application. 
  3. Select the image, and then select the Image Trace option in the toolbar. 
  4. Check the Preview box in the Image Trace panel. 
  5. Adjust the settings in the Image Trace panel, including colors, greys, and threshold. Under the advanced menu options, you can also adjust paths, corners, and noise until you feel like your image is at a good starting point. 
  6. Use the Smooth and Curvature tools to smooth any jagged edges or overly straight lines. 
  7. Once you are satisfied with your image, click the Expand button to convert your tracing object to actual vector paths. This will replace your original image with a vector. 
  8. Export as a vector file, depending on how you plan to use it—either an SVG for the web or a PDF for print. 

Vectorize Your Writing

Digitizing Calligraphy from Sketch to Vector

Convert PDF to Vector

Many printers use PDF as a standard for printing. Fortunately, PDF is a type of vector file, so there is no need to convert PDF to vector. 

Convert Photo to Vector

If you want to convert photo to vector, it’s important to understand that the end result generally won’t look like a realistic photograph, but rather, a stylized, graphic image reminiscent of pop art. Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Upload a reference image to Adobe Illustrator. Crop it as needed, and then check the Template box, which locks the layer (so you don’t directly alter the photo). 
  2. Create a new layer. This is where you will create the new vector image. 
  3. Using the Pen Tool, begin to outline the features of the subject in the photograph. Start with the general face shape, then outline the ears, lips, nostrils, eyes, eyebrows, and any accessories. Remember that this outline is meant to be minimal, so don’t worry too much about making the features super detailed or realistic.
  4. Fill in the facial features with color using the Select Tool and Eyedropper Tool. 
  5. Follow the same basic steps to create the hair and body—first create outlines, then fill in the shapes with color. 
  6. When you are satisfied with the illustration, save as an SVG file, and you will have a vectorized photo image. 
When you convert a photo to a vector, the result will be a stylized, pop art illustration. 

Convert Sketch to Vector 

What if you don’t have a digital image at all—but instead, have a pen or pencil sketch on paper? You can still use image vectorization with just a few extra steps. It’s best to start with a fairly simple image until you learn the image conversion process; then you can move on to more complex drawings. 

  1. Scan your drawing using a traditional scanner or your smartphone. 
  2. Open the image in Adobe Photoshop and make any quick fixes, including orienting it properly, centering it, and cropping it to allow adequate white space on all sides. Make sure your background color is set to white. 
  3. Use the Eraser tool to eliminate any unnecessary lines or smudges. 
  4. Use the Liquify tool to perfect your lines—making them straighter, more curved, or just more aligned with your overall vision for the image. 
  5. Select all (to select the entire image) and copy it. 
  6. Open Adobe Illustrator and create a new document. Paste the drawing into the document. 
  7. Add a new layer above the sketch layer. 
  8. Use the Pen Tool to trace the lines of your sketch. When you’ve added all your lines, you can also use the Live Paint tool to add color to your drawing. 
  9. Once you are satisfied with the image, click the Expand button to replace it with a vector. 
  10. Export as a vector file, depending on how you plan to use it—either an SVG for the web or a PDF for print. 
adobe illustrator
Use the Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator to trace and convert a sketch to vector. 

It All Adds Up

If you’re a graphic designer or digital illustrator, it’s essential to know how to convert image to svg. Vectorized images are much more adaptable when it comes to resizing, printing, and digitally manipulating. Whether you choose to vectorize image online or do it manually, you’ll find that vectors are key to crisp, clear, versatile artwork. 

Turn Sketches Into Vectors 

Vector Illustration: Drawing with the Pen Tool

Written by:

Katie Wolf