I love Vector Magic, a free online vectorization tool. It is a really cool browser-based tool that can be used to turn a photograph into an illustration. It doesn’t always succeed in getting that look that you might be looking for, but it does a pretty good job. I usually just use it to play around with photos to see what Vector Magic can do with it, but it also can be very useful if you want to convert a photo into an illustration. I started to wonder how many other vectorization tools and software packages there were out there and I was surprised to find out that there are a ton o them. Basically, most of these tools turn Raster / Bitmap / Photo Images into Line Art / Illustrations / Vector Art. What you might be wondering is:
What is the difference between Raster and Vector Images?
There are many differences between vector and raster images. The main difference is that vector images are able to be stretched or shrunk without losing any quality within the image, while raster images cannot be stretched without looking pixelated and degraded in quality. The reason for this is that a vector image is really a mathematical equation and are composed of paths and lines and are either curved or straight. However, raster images are composed of pixels. For this reason, logos are normally vector graphics because they can be shown huge or small and still have the same quality. I hope that you can now see why vector graphics are loved by graphic designers. If you are still confused, here is a nice collection of Vector Vs. Raster Images Articles.
List of Vector Conversion Software - Tools to Turn Photos into Line Art and Illustrations
(Free) Browser-Based, and free, photo to vector illustration conversion online tool. Convert bitmap images to vector images with a few simple clicks. Just upload your image and we will guide you through the process
($499) Adobe Illustrator CS3 is the standard in the graphic design and web design industry as a vector illustration software. However, Adobe Illustrator also includes a Live Trace tool that can quickly and accurately convert photos, scans, or other bitmap images to editable and scalable vector paths. Adobe CS3 also includes curve recognition, circle recognition, arc recognition, orthogonal line detection, corner detection, line connection, and much more. Available for Windows and Mac OS.
(Free to Try, $10 to Buy) Able Vector is an application (just for AUTOCAD users) and service (for everybody) that can be used to vectorise digital images, to vectorgraph (such as Macromedia Freehand, Adobe Illustrator or AutoCAD, CorelDraw, IronCAD, TigerCAD, etc.) in line style. With AbleVector you cannot to import and edit your company logo, idiograph or other picture (.tiff, .jpeg, .bmp, etc . . .) in your own vector image and allow you to change color and edit individual elements. Available for Windows OS.
(Free to Try / I think price is $99 to buy) AlgoLab Raster to Vector Conversion Toolkit converts architect, mechanical and various technical drawings, maps and other types of line artwork including black and white graphics for books and journals from raster to vector formats. This means that a paper drawing can be scanned, line artwork automatically recognized and represented in a vector format that then can be imported to your CAD or drawing program. Toolkit has the unique special feature to refine curves. So with a proper choice of parameters a vectorized drawing composed of curves normally looks better than the original one. Toolkit is designed to provide quality of high-end products. Even those who have one of such high-end products may certainly find that at least for some kind of drawings Toolkit provides better quality of the output vector files. So it is reasonable to have Toolkit available. Available for Windows OS.
(Free to Try / I think price is $99 to buy) AlgoLab Photo Vector is a handy tool for designers and CAD/CAM professionals to cleanup, make fast corrections, edit color designs with or without further conversion to vector formats. It may be especially useful for designs on fabric, textile, jacquard, carpets, mats, vinyl and other materials. Photo Vector is your best choice to cleanup scanned designs and edit colors. Available for Windows OS.
(Free) AutoTrace is a software program created in 1998 for converting bitmap images to vector graphics.
The aim of the AutoTrace project is the development of a freely available application with a functionality similar to CorelTrace or Adobe Streamline. AutoTrace can export universal DXF, offers curve recognition, and corner detection. AutoTrace is free software and is distributed under the term of GNU GPL. AutoTrace can be used on Windows, Mac, Unix, and Amiga OS operating systems.
Boris Red includes a Vector Trace tool that enables the conversion from a raster bitmap image such as a tiff, jpeg or a frame from a movie clip to a scalable vector graphic with a way to extrude any of the resulting vector shapes. Your images can be converted into vector graphics by choosing the Vector Trace tool and then dragging this Vector Trace Tool over the image that you want to be converted. There are even advanced tracing option, inlcuding the ability to select the color or alpha channel with which to base the conversion. Boris Red is available for Windows and Mac OS.
($349) Canvas’ AutoTrace filter can support tracing of not only color and grayscale images, but also black and white as well. Define the channel, threshold, resolution, as well as final color mode and trace type to refine the vector output to your needs. If you work with technical illustrations and graphics, you know how daunting the task can be when a project requires various documents, images, and data – even legacy files from obscure formats or obsolete products. When Canvas X auto-traces a channel, it leaves the original image unchanged and applies the current stroke to the resulting vector objects. When the tracing is complete, you can move the vector objects away from the image. Available for Windows OS.
(Free to Try / $19.95 to Buy) GentleDraw is a program for creation of 3D models from black-and-white images using vector conversion. You can move and rotate 3D models just by dragging them, changes are shown on the screen in real time. You can easily adjust color, texture, borders and animation settings. GentleDraw can save animations as animated GIF files. The program includes 3D models borders editor and animation routes trace editor. GentleDraw is a quick and easy way to produce high-quality animated GIF files. Available for Windows OS.
(Approximately $90) HiJaak 5.0 supports over 115 graphic file formats including Kodak’s FlashPix for digital photography, animated GIF support for the Web and more CAD formats. Plus full support for EPS graphics, GIF, BMP and TIF images, Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop files. HiJaak’s raster, vector and 3D engines work to improve the quality of graphics as you convert them. Available for Windows OS.
($299 - $690) Imagaro Z is a revolutionary new graphic software utility at a revolutionary new price! In addition to great autotracing, automatically reconstruct many objects to their original shape with a click of the mouse. Stop wasting time trying to identify a specific font! Texts can be quickly identified regenerated and automatically replaced with the correct typeface to give you a perfect look. Everybody working with graphics needs high quality scalable originals. Imagaro Z will take you there fast. With a minimum of effort, the intuitive editing tools in Imagaro Z turn scanned or imported artwork into perfectly shaped, scalable graphics, which can then be used for almost any purpose. Imagaro Z produces high quality scalable graphics when scanning graphics from stickers, ads, business cards, letter heads or other paper copies. This software has everything you need from scanning, super quick and accurate Sensedge autotracing, FontEye typeface recognition and advanced “smart” editing tools that maximize your productivity. A newly added bitmap resizing feature lets you work with low resolution graphics and small internet files. Use this feature in the enhancement of bitmaps to adjust the size, resolution, etc. This also enables you to achieve better results in your final image. Fully compatible with other graphic software tools, this is a “must have” utility for every graphic designers toolbox. Available for Windows and Mac OS.
(Free) An Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, or Xara X, using the W3C standard Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) file format. Inkscape can be used to trace bitmap images to convert it to a vector graphic. Inkscape supports many advanced SVG features (markers, clones, alpha blending, etc.) and great care is taken in designing a streamlined interface. It is very easy to edit nodes, perform complex path operations, trace bitmaps and much more. We also aim to maintain a thriving user and developer community by using open, community-oriented development. Available for Windows and Mac OS.
(Free) LineTracer is a tool for converting scanned hand-drawn sketches to vector format. It exports to EPS, which means the output can be used by about any program. It is primarily meant for helping illustrators and animators. The application is GUI based and runs on Windows. Currently it works best with images that have about 200-300 DPI. Available for Windows OS.
($199) LogoSpruce lets you tidy logos and other scanned artwork quickly within Adobe Illustrator, using intuitive drawing and trimming tools. To help you work faster, turn on the Auto-Guides and LogoSpruce automatically identifies endpoints, midpoints, and tangent lines. Using LogoSpruce and its hyper-drawing tools, you’ll soon be tracing faster than ever. LogoSpruce’s tools include Trim tools(click a path segment, delete to nearest intersection), Hyper-drawing tools (Straight line tool, 3-point bezier tool, tangent arc tools), Auto-guides (Cursors change automatically to reflec), One-touch guide lines (place horizontal, vertical, and angled guide lines with a single click), Move to align tools (Align an object, or group of objects, to a base object), Raster Rotation (Drag along an edge to quickly level any bitmap), and Path Conversion tools (Convert a path to an arc and back, in a few clicks). Available for Windows and Mac OS.
($59.95) MagicTracer is a raster to vector converter for Windows. With over 100 customizable functions, MagicTracer works as your all-purpose tool for raster to vector converting. It even comes complete with a simple interface and real-time previews that allow you to see how a custom setting will affect your project. MagicTracer is used for personal and professional projects alike, whether you are a hobbyist or an architectural design company. If you need vector conversion and tracing MagicTracer may be what you need. Raster to vector conversion will assist anyone who does lots of vector image cleanup in becoming more productive. MagicTracer includes curve recognition, circle recognition, arc recognition, orthogonal line detection, corner detection, line connection, and much more. Available for Windows OS.
($399) Macromedia Freehand MX is a vector illustration software that also comes with tools to trace bitmap images into vector illustrations. Just keep in mind that Adobe doesn’t plan to make more versions of Freehand anymore. With Macromedia Freehand MX, you can convert an image to line art, for use in Fireworks MX or Flash MX, using the Freehand’s Trace Tool. Macromedia Freehand MX includes curve recognition, circle recognition, arc recognition, orthogonal line detection, corner detection, line connection, and much more. Available for Windows and Mac OS.
(Free to Try / $32 to Buy) Panopticum Vectorizer 1.2 is a new handy tool for vectorizing color raster images. It was designed as a plug-in for Adobe Illustrator, thus user can use it in the medium of the mentioned editor. Panopticum Vectorizer will help user convert a raster image into vector image with defined contour precision in a blink. The color settings allow the number of colors vary from 2 to 256. The automatic preview window will give user opportunity to visualise vectorizing settings changes. Available for Windows and Mac OS.
(Free) Potrace(TM) is a utility for tracing a bitmap, which means, transforming a bitmap into a smooth, scalable image. The input is a bitmap (PBM, PGM, PPM, or BMP format), and the default output is an encapsulated PostScript file (EPS). A typical use is to create EPS files from scanned data, such as company or university logos, handwritten notes, etc. The resulting image is not “jaggy” like a bitmap, but smooth. It can then be rendered at any resolution. Potrace can currently produce the following output formats: EPS, PostScript, PDF, SVG (scalable vector graphics), Xfig, Gimppath, and PGM (for easy antialiasing). Additional backends might be added in the future. Mkbitmap is a program distributed with Potrace which can be used to pre-process the input for better tracing behavior on greyscale and color images. See the mkbitmap examples page. Look at this amazing example (above). PoTrace can be used on Windows, Mac, Unix, and Amiga OS operating systems.
(Free to Try, $295 to Buy) Project5 Photocut Processor is a raster to vector conversion program that produces photographic effect in vinyl using vinyl cutter only. You can overcome vinyl graphics limitations and produce any continuous tone image (photograph, landscape, etc.) with no additional costs. With Project5, you can produce any duotone bitmap. Project5 Photocut Processor is a raster to vector conversion program that produces photographic effect in vinyl using vinyl cutter only. Project5 is easy to use and has a very short learning curve. Project5 integrates with major part of drawing and sign software. Plug-ins for CorelDRAW versions 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 are available. Project5 is the fastest application in its class. It’s ready to produce up to 160 square feet of bitmaps per hour and is suitable for large sign shops. Available for Windows OS.
(Approx. $99) Raster to Vector is a stand-alone program that converts scanned drawings, maps and raster images into accurate vector files (such as DXF, HPGL, WMF, EMF, etc) for editing in any CAD application. Key features include input raster image formats: BMP, JPG, TIF, GIF, PNG, PCX, TGA, RLE, JPE, J2K, JAS, JBG, MNG and more, output vector formats: DXF, HPGL, EMF, WMF and others, create center lines and outlines, outline solid raster areas, color, Gray and black-and-white images vectorization, scale images in the X and Y directions to make them larger or smaller, increase or decrease brightness and contrast, tracing raster lines, arcs, circles, arrow lines, dash lines, polylines, hatches on monochrome, grayscale or color images, automatic correction: restoring of intersections, aligning, joining fragments, joining fragments to line, arc, circle and polyline, removing low sized vector objects, correction of recognized texts, automatically straighten images to a reference line, remove speckles of color to make colors more uniform, can adjust tolerance levels, batch processing, and more. Available for Windows OS.
(Try for Free / Buy for $299) Real Draw Pro is not really a bitmap to vector software, rather a combination of both vector and bitmap together. Real-DRAW Pro happily combine vector, 2D, 3D and bitmap editing in one drawing package. It seamlessly moves from one form to another, eliminating time-consuming conversion operations and the need for multiple drawing packages. Unlike in a normal vector editor you can actually paint directly onto any vector object using airbrushes, 3D or Artistic brushes and special Image Nozzles. You can paint on the canvas and the strokes will become another object to which you can apply effects, just as with vector objects. No other program can do this. As if this isn’t enough, Real-DRAW can also be used as an SVG editor (Scaleable Vector Graphics supported by all XML enabled web-browsers) with import/export support of color fills, outlines and transparencies. You can even export the whole design into Adobe Photoshop keeping all the layers, transparency channels, shadow layers and layer names as you created them in Real-DRAW. There are many more features that I can’t even include them all here. Available for Windows OS.
(Price range from $250-$350) Silhouette graphics art software for Macintosh and Windows instantly converts black and white or color bitmap images into vector designs ready for use. Graphic artists are faced every day with the problem of having to redesign logos or illustrations because the files they have to use are less than perfect (faxes, visiting cards, low definition files) or the original fonts have gone missing. Silhouette is available as plugin for Adobe Illustrator™ and as standalone application. Available for Windows and Mac OS.
($375) Studio Artist has resolution independent raster painting with vector editing capabilities. The program’s vectorizer is an artistic raster image to vector region converter. This new version includes the Vectorizer, which is a steroid enhanced artistic raster image to vector region converter. Studio Artist is the first and only software program that can automatically paint, draw and auto-rotoscope. Studio Artist examines a source image or video and then re-renders it in the style you choose, automatically or interactively. And now with version 3.5, Studio Artist has been expanded to include automatic vector art and animation. Instantly make cool resolution independent vector animations from any Quicktime video source. Available for Mac OS.
(Free to Try / $79 to Buy) TraceLine converts scanned and imported bitmap graphics to scalable outlines that can be used in other applications for any use. TraceLine can be used by anyone that wants to convert hand drawn sketches to editable paths, convert logos and graphics to editable paths, and convert photos to editable paths. It is very easy. First, you sketch out your design on paper, then you scan your design directly into TraceLine, or import an image from file, and then you trace your design and transfer it to your favourite graphics application. TraceLine also converts both monochrome and colour images. Simply specify the number of colours you wish to produce and TraceLine automatically carries out the colour reduction. The resulting colour blocks are calculated at the average value and you can see a visualisation before tracing. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger picture. Available for Windows OS.
($129) Segmation transforms images into vectors, contours and patterns. This versatile plug-in converts your Photoshop images into intriguing line art, paint-by-number, and Escher-like patterns. Apply within Photoshop or save outlines and colors in EPS for Illustrator or Freehand. Some of its’ features include the ability to xport PostScript EPSs and six additional formats, ability to generate the most versatile and creative conversions to vector contours, includes 168 malleable, Escher-like pattern presets in 17 categories, print shuge pictures from any printer directly within the plug-in, ability to create, import, and export custom color palettes. 15 thematic palettes get you started, the ability to optimize images for the internet with Web enhancing color-reduction, and much more. Segmation renders your images from the most simple to detailed contours, redefines your images when put into thematic palettes, and recreates your images into designer patterns for gorgeous use in print, multimedia or on the web. Available for Windows OS.
($695) Open over 100 raster formats and edit. To convert drawings, TracTrix automatically traces pixels in the lines of the scan and converts them to vectors. You can then edit these in your CAD or NC application. Convert scans of drawings, logos, boards etc. in BMP, C4, CALS, TIFF, JPEG and other raster formats to DWG, DXF, HPGL, IGES and EPS formats. With color separation, text recognition, clean-up and editing tools. Available for Windows OS.
(Free to Try / $59 - $119 to Buy) Faster than a tracing hand, this powerful software is the raster to vector converter you need for Illustrator (Adobe), CorelDraw (Corel), Flash (Macromedia), Mobile Designer (Beatware), Swish, Inkscape (freeware) and any vector-based software. Just scan any sketch, or select an image, make some bitmap adjustements (scale, select zone, enhance, swap colors, rotate…) and VectorEye will automatically create multiple file corresponding to differents settings. You can analyse, modify till the result suits you (quality, weight, number of vectors). Just save it in the appropriate format for your purpose and drop into your favorite vector editor or authoring tool to complete or animate your design. You could also use the batch system to launch hundreds of vectorization processes. Available for Windows OS.
(Approximately $90) Vextractor is a professional software for converting raster images to vector (vectorizer). Vextractor converts drawings, maps and other images, including photo, logos, black-and-white illustrations from raster to vector format. The program can save converted raster images to the following vector formats: DXF, WMF, EMF, EPS, AI or SVG. Files of these vector formats can be imported to popular vector graphics applications like AutoCAD, Corel Draw, Adobe Illustrator, and many others. Suppose you have an archive of a great number of raster drawings, pictures or logos, which you can only view and print. The possibility to convert that data to the vector format would be very helpful for your work. Now you can convert hand-made drawings to your graphic design, layout, or CAD application and save them to disk. If you have a hardcopy or raster image (photo), and you want to engrave a 3D inscription, logo or image on the metal, wood or plastic. Now you can convert the raster file to the input format (usually, dxf) for a CNC cutting or router system.
(Free to Try / $39 to Buy) VisualMask is a software tool that cuts images and creates image masks quickly and professionally. VisualMask uses vector shapes to define the different areas of the image. Working with vector shapes, you can always return to any shape and change its position and properties. You can quickly define the different areas of the image. Then, in an ongoing process, refine the definition of the areas that require more precision. Available for Windows OS.
(Free) WinTopo is a high quality software application for converting TIF, JPG, PNG, GIF, BMP files and scanned images into useful vector files suitable for CAD, GIS and CNC applications.The freeware version is completely free for everyone to use. This is a highly capable piece of software which produces better results than most expensive commercial alternatives. Over a million users worldwide have already taken advantage of this powerful converter. For most people there is no need to look any further (or to spend any money). Download it right now and start converting your images with the One-Touch Vectorisation button. Available for Windows OS.
(approximately $360) WinTopo Pro is a high quality raster to vector conversion tool. WinTopo Pro converts images from scanners and other digital sources into vector data suitable for CAD, GIS and CNC systems. You can scan old plans, archive drawings, or even photos and convert them into useful CAD data. Any image which is stored in TIFF, GIF, JPEG, PNG or BMP format can be processed by WinTopo Pro into DXF and other vector file formats. WinTopo Pro builds upon the powerful WinTopo Freeware by including many additional image processing tools, as well as more advanced vectorisation algorithms and options. This highly professional product is the software of choice of major industries worldwide. Our customers include NASA , Microsoft, MIT, British Telecom, BAE Systems, Motorola, EDS, and many branches of the US Department of Defence. Available for Windows OS.
Below Are More Tools That are Raster to Vector Converters, However, they are more for CAD and technical drawings, but if you are looking for this, you might like them.
TraceART is a professional raster to vector conversion program (Vectorizer) released by us. TraceART can let you quickly convert uneditable scanned paper drawings into accurate vector files for editing in any CAD program. It saves the converted file as an industry standard DXF file (Data Exchange Format) that can be read by any CAD program that supports this format. TraceART is a direct replacement for traditional tracing and digitizing, releases you from tiring work. CAD programs can only work with vector files. If you want to edit a raster file in your CAD program you must first convert it into a vector file. You do this using raster to vector conversion software. Once you have converted the raster file to vector you will be able to import it into your CAD program and edit it just like any other drawings you have created using you CAD program.
(Over $1000) Easy Trace is a proprietary computer application for doing raster to vector conversion. It is only available for versions of Microsoft Windows. This raster to vector conversion program is released by the Easy Trace Group, a company based in Russia. Easy Trace is very feature-rich and integrates very closely with AutoCAD. Available for Windows OS.
(Free to Try / $99 to Buy) Raster to Vector is a stand-alone program that converts scanned drawings, maps and raster images into accurate vector files (such as DXF, HPGL, WMF, EMF) for editing in any CAD application. Any image which is stored in BMP, JPG, TIF, GIF, PNG, and other formats can be processed by Raster to Vector into CAD DXF and other vector file formats. Create center lines and outlines; scale images in the X and Y directions to make them larger or smaller; increase or decrease brightness and contrast. Available for Windows OS.
(Free to Try) The Scan2CAD raster to vector trial lets you load your own raster images and convert them to vectors. There is no restriction on the size or number of images you can convert during the trial. Available for Windows OS.
TraceIT is a program for raster to vector conversion. Based on original algorithms TraceIT provides the maximum speed for bitmap tracing. TraceIT can operate with a wide range of raster formats including almost every bitmap type such as: BMP, GIF, TIF, JPG, PSD etc. In addition to standard bitmap images, TraceIT can also trace video files in AVI, MOV or MPEG formats. TraceIT can extract some exact frames from video file, trace a range of frames or a whole file. TraceIT includes a complete image processor that can be used at all phases of image transformations — from image capture using a TWAIN compatible scanner, to actual laser projection. TraceIT includes a raster editor that can be used to clean the image before tracing. The raster editor includes all necessary tools like Pen, EyeDropper or Fill. Zoom Window also can help to edit the image. There is even a vector editor that allows you to edit the resulting traced image. Once a bitmap has been traced, you can save the result in laser formats like ILDA, or even windows formats like WMF and BMP.
(Free) Vector Graphics ActiveX is a graphics component oriented for creating business and technology solutions. Based on COM technology it can be used by other applications to process graphic documents, analyze and visualize any kind of processes. Vector Graphics ActiveX is the ultimate graphics solution for you. It is the easy-to-use for creating technical drawings, illustrations and presentation, training material and business reports, charts and diagrams and much more. Vector Graphics ActiveX offers a wide range of new features and enhancements designed to increase productivity and extend your creative possibilities. Component is based on Layer-Class-Shape architecture. It means, that all displayed shapes are owned by the certain classes and can not exist themselves. Drawing shapes depends on a classes they are belonging, but each shape has an opportunity to draw itself. Thus the constructed architecture allows to repeatedly reduce the size of the stored data, to increase speed of loading and displaying documents, and also to provide excellent speed of program work with documents containing around 1 000 000 shapes.
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