Converting to a vector image
September 28, 2006 1:28 PM   Subscribe

Talk to me like I'm 12: Is there a good way to convert a .jpg to a vector image?

I have a high-resolution .jpg that I need to make into a vector image so that it can be printed on shirts. Unfortunately, I don't know what the best way to convert it is.

I've googled a bit for guides on how to do this, and my brain has been thoroughly boggled. I can't seem to find something that takes me through the process step by step. I know my way around photoshop and illustrator, but I'm not an expert on either.

So, can anyone point me to a good guide, or write me a quick one here?
posted by Yelling At Nothing to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Tracing over it.
posted by cowbellemoo at 1:37 PM on September 28, 2006

take a look at potrace. you are going to have to convert the image into a bmp first though.
posted by phil at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2006

Download potrace.
Save the jpg as a bmp in a short directory path.
Open command prompt: potrace x:\temp\file.bmp.
Bask in the glory of file.eps.

On preview, phil ftw.
posted by prostyle at 1:38 PM on September 28, 2006 [1 favorite]

No, there's no good way. There are plenty of ways, though.

Autotrace and potrace are freely available. Try them both. If your jpg is relatively simple, they will work fine. If your jpg is complex (i.e., a photo of a forest), they still may work, but the generated vector file will be ludicrously large and complex.
posted by jellicle at 1:40 PM on September 28, 2006

What version of Illustrator do you have? I'm not super-familiar with earlier versions of Illustrator, but CS2 offers a Live Trace function that works pretty well.
posted by MegoSteve at 1:44 PM on September 28, 2006

If you're using Illustrator CS2, you need to look at the LiveTrace command (in the Object menu). Open the Tracing Options dialog, click on the Mode popup, and change from the default B&W to Color. Experiment with choosing different numbers of colors, and make sure you've got the Preview checkbox activated. As you select different options, the image will regenerate.
posted by dbiedny at 1:44 PM on September 28, 2006

On the front page of Digg, as I write this:
posted by bradn at 2:14 PM on September 28, 2006

Also, in Flash you can Modify->Trace Bitmap, and then copy and paste the resultant vectors into your program.
posted by DenOfSizer at 2:16 PM on September 28, 2006

In photoshop, you can select areas of color and convert those into paths, which can be dumped into illustrator for cleanup. It's not overly sophisticated or flexible, but if you're lazy, and the image is high enough in resolution, it might be good enough.
posted by O9scar at 2:17 PM on September 28, 2006

Silhouette is a plug-in for Illustrator that will help you vectorize bitmap images.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:41 PM on September 28, 2006

Not any one best way. I'd give Online Raster-to-Vector Conversion System a shot. Seemed to work okay with a couple jpgs I fed it. It's based on autotrace
posted by alikins at 2:47 PM on September 28, 2006

You can do this in Flash, VERY easily. And you can use the free, 30-day trial of Flash, in case you don't have it. DenOfSizer covered it, but I wanted to vote for that method.
posted by Alt F4 at 2:57 PM on September 28, 2006

am i being totally stupid here, if it truely is high res why do you have to convert it to vector to be printed?

or do you want to screen print the outline of the graphic? then its a diff story really
posted by moochoo at 3:20 PM on September 28, 2006

a tutorial:
posted by tumble at 3:26 PM on September 28, 2006

If it's simple, say black-and-white-- you can do this all within Photoshop.

1. Enlarge size of image -- say, to 3000x300 pixels.

2. Use the magic wand and select the black portion. Go to the 'Select' menu and press 'Simliar'. This will (hopefully) select all of the black portions. If not, play around with the threshold number for the magic wand.

3. Go to the 'Select' menu and press 'Smooth'. Try 10px or so. This will smooth out your selection.

4. Open the 'Paths' dialog window, click on the right-pointing triangle button in the window. Click on 'Make Work Path'. Give a threshold of about 1px.

5. Go to File- Export- Export to Illustrator.

Play around with the settings, and hopefully you'll get there in the end.
posted by suedehead at 3:34 PM on September 28, 2006

I third Live Trace. I just taught my students to do it and they LOVE it.
posted by nimsey lou at 4:27 PM on September 28, 2006

Thirding Flash. As someone who uses Illustrator and Photoshop all the time, there really is no easier method than importing the image into Flash and letting it convert the image to vector automagically. It's that good.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:40 PM on September 28, 2006

Fourth LiveTrace.
posted by limeonaire at 6:01 PM on September 28, 2006

The open source "Illustrator clone" Inkscape has potrace built into it, if you need something a little more user-friendly. I've used it myself for the exact same reason as yours.
posted by Symeon at 11:07 PM on September 28, 2006

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