Image Vectorization – Manual VS Auto-Tracing Software

Why is it important to vectorize images?

Well, bitmap images are not suitable for printing. This is because they consist of pixels that get blurry and grainy when you enlarge them. In addition, some programs, such as those used in engraving, printing, and architectural work, are only compatible with vector files.

From business cards to billboards, most printed media look great when vectorized. A vector image that is only a few inches wide will look just as sharp as when enlarged for a large banner.

What are the main advantages of manual vectorization over auto-tracing software?

And image manual vectorization is done by a graphic designer who redraws an image with digital drawing tools. Auto-tracing is done with graphics software that can use tracing technology to convert bitmap shapes to vector objects.

Manual Vectorization


  • 100% accurate vectorization.
  • General images


  • Not free
  • Needs time to complete. Depending on the image, graphic designers may need a day or longer to get the job done.



  • Free
  • It is a quick process that may only take a few minutes.
  • Supports all vector and CAD formats.


  • Usually only works well for simple black and white images.
  • Can produce imperfections and odd shapes

Vectorizing an image with software.

Automatic vectorization can be done with different software. One of the main types of software are vector editors or computer-aided design (CAD) software with auto-tracking functions. The software automatically processes the conversion from raster to vector. Bitmap files, such as JPEG, GIF and PNG are imported and converted to scalable vector files such as PDF, EPS and SVG.

Users can specify settings to match the desired characteristics of the converted image. For example, if you set a color treshold, all colors below a certain color can be converted to black and everything else to white. You can also set white as transparent.

Check out the tutorials below if you want to convert your own pixel image to a vector file using Adobe Illustrator:

Don’t feel like making your own vector file? No worries, we can help you and that too at an attractive price!

I don’t want to pay for software. Is there any way to create a vector file for free?

If you only need to vectorize a few images and don’t want to pay for expensive CAD software, there are several free online tools available to help you convert images to vector format.

Here is an example of such an online vectorization tool:

Can a graphic designer vectorize an image?

Yes, a graphic designer can manually vectorize an image by drawing by hand using digital illustration tools. Paths are traced from shapes in a source image. Like tracing with paper and pencil, digital tracing is usually done on top of the source image. Common business graphics such as logos and icons are often manually converted to vector.

Automatic software vectorization can sometimes be very inaccurate. Images converted with software or online tools are often distorted and imperfect after vectorization. Graphic designers can often vectorize your images with higher accuracy. Since your design is redrawn, it is 100% accurate with no small graphic remnants that software can leave behind.

If your image is manually vectorized it is often sharper and stands out more than the original bitmap image. Illustrations, photographs and complex logos tend to stand out more when they are vectorized. The imperfections and inaccuracies of automatically tracked images will often render the images unusable.

image vectorization

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Main factors affecting the quality of vectorization

The quality of a manual vectorization depends largely on the drawing and tracing skills of the graphic designer. Manual vectorization is generally more flexible because a source image can be vectorized regardless of resolution.

The quality of an automatic vectorization depends on the quality of the source image. To cleanly auto-track an image, a source image with high resolution is often required.

As with many things done automatically, automatic vectorization can save a significant amount of time, especially with a very detailed source image. But even with the setting options, auto-tracing can often skip too many details or generate strange shapes that don’t match the source image.

For a sharper and tighter look, manual vectorization by a good graphic designer is probably the better method. More often than not, your image will be sharper than an automatically traced image that may contain imperfect lines and small, unwanted details.

Example of manual vectorization versus auto-tracing

The images below show the difference between manual vectorization and auto-tracing. The image at the top is an automatically traced image. The image at the bottom is a manually vectorized image. Looking closely at this sample image can help you determine which method is appropriate to convert your image to vector

When should you use automatic tracking and when is manual vectorization the better choice?

Screen Printing

If you want to make a screen print, then manual vectorization is the best method because screen printers need color separation and this is best done by hand.

Architectural drawings

Since architectural drawings are intended to be accurate representations of actual buildings, manual vectorization is the best method for this purpose. Auto-trace software can often leave inaccurate and/or duplicate lines, which can be very detrimental to a construction project.


If you want to create an engraving, then manual vectorization is also the recommended method because engravers work with precise and solid lines and this is best done by hand.

Personal use

If you want to quickly vectorize an image that is not too important, it is best to start by using auto-trace software. However, keep in mind that manual vectorization often gives a sharper and tighter look than automatic tracing, as automatic tracing can often contain imperfect lines and small, unwanted details.

Company logos, flyers and other branded materials

To present your company in the most professional manner, you should make every effort to design and publish branding materials that best fit your company’s image. By manually vectorizing your branding materials, you can convey a professional and consistent identity across all platforms and types of media. Perfecting your brand details with vectorization can lead to respect and trust from your customers, which can ultimately translate into more sales.

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