This article will cover a very powerful but little advertised feature of Inkscape. If you don't know it, Inkscape is a free vector graphics editor, counterpart of Adobe Illustrator (like GIMP is Photoshop's counterpart for raster graphics).
This feature is Inkscape's vectorization tool, made possible by the integration of potrace.
"Vecto-what? What for?" OK: first, a quick Computer Graphics 101, as part of our No Geek Left Behind program:
Use cases where one would want to vectorize a raster file? Sure. What if you want a correct paper print of a drawing you found on the web? What if you need a crisp partner's logo for a brochure and the best he provides you is a sloppy GIF? What if your company lost the source vector files for its logo? In such cases, this article will help.
Disclaimer: Ghacks does not encourage anybody to use these tools to murder your cat, refine plutonium, or rework copyrighted material to commercial ends. Use it when you cannot buy a print of the real thing, know your fair use limits, be a good citizen. OK? Let's vectorize the Ghacks logo.
Step 1: First, open the file you want to vectorize in Inkscape
Step 2: Select the image by left-clicking it, and click Path > Trace Bitmap (or hit Shift+Alt+B)
Step 3: Tune the settings with the preview. In this case, it is a good idea to increase the threshold (use the "Update" button to see the results of your changes). Then click ok to render the trace:
Step 4: Finally, the hardest awaits you: declare layers, group stuff together, do/correct the coloring/gradients, manually refine the trace, add effects, etc.
Despite all this, with some imagination and experience through trial and error, you can quickly achieve surprisingly good results (I especially like to play with the colors). And though this is technically more remix than creation (but who said remix is a bad thing?), you'll learn Inkscape tools in the process, bringing you one step closer from creating your very own vector masterpieces.
Inkscape is free software licensed under the GPLv2, available for all the major platforms.
Ronan is a geek and musician living in Montreal. He likes living in places full of weird home-made colorful posters and writes about software, music and life at flying molehill.
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