I have a black and white images PNG (+5000) on transparent BG. I am trying to find a setting that will trace the images without creating a white block in place of a transparent segment.

I need the drawing to have white interior but transparent exterior. All I could do is get partial parts white inside with"color, automatic,ignore white"

Removal of the white block with expand is not an option, I need to make this in to action that will turn all png to svg without that white block.

  • Hi. Welcome to GDSE. I'm not sure if this is possible. As far as I know, Illustrator's trace can't differentiate between alpha transparency and white, and "ignore white" will ignore all the white in an image, including the white outside and inside the object.
    – Billy Kerr
    Oct 21, 2021 at 9:13
  • @BillyKerr Is there something else that can do the job? I found POTrace but I have no idea what to do with that program after installing it. Oct 21, 2021 at 12:16
  • PoTrace is a command line application without a GUI. So you have to enter commands to use it. Sorry, I'm no expert with command line based applications. However, I'm not sure if it will solve your problem either. Inkscape is a vector image editor similar to Illustrator, and it actually uses PoTrace to do its Bitmap Tracing, but the result is basically the same as Illustrator's Trace, same problem, transparency is traced as white. The "Remove background" setting (i.e. same as ignore white) removes all white.
    – Billy Kerr
    Oct 21, 2021 at 12:43
  • @BillyKerr No, in Inkscape I do not get a block of white in the background added as I do in Illustrator. Inkscape traces images normally, white is white black is black and nothing stays nothing. Oct 21, 2021 at 13:14
  • Interesting, however I just tested in Inkscape, and get the same result as in Illustrator. see example. Note that Inkscape doesn't remove the PNG after tracing. You might just be seeing the left over PNG under the trace.
    – Billy Kerr
    Oct 21, 2021 at 13:28

2 Answers 2


I don't believe you can accomplish this with Illustrator's trace feature.

To Illustrator, white is the same as transparent. It sees them the same.

When tracing, if you don't ignore white, then white objects are created for both white and transparent areas. If you do "ignore white" then no white objects are created - and since transparent is the same as white to illustrator... well... you can't get transparent areas and white objects from a trace.

It's both or nothing.

(Probably has a lot to do with Ai being born as a print tool - where white equals transparent.)

  • Thank you @Scott . I found there is something called POTrace that could do the job. I installed it but have no idea how to use it. I have a folder filled with PNGs that needs to be traced into SVG with white interior and transparent around. Oct 21, 2021 at 11:59

Perhaps you can work around the problem like this:

In Photoshop:

  • Create an action which changes white to red, so you end up with an image which is black and red with transparent background. You could for example use Channel Mixer.

  • Run the action on all the images.

In Illustrator:

  • Trace to 3 colors with Ignore White ticked.

  • Expand the traced image.

  • Change all red fills to white. For example using Recolor Artwork.

  • my first thought as well, assuming the OP's images have white where they need the white to be, and are only transparent where they do not want the white to be.
    – Yorik
    Oct 21, 2021 at 18:19
  • Might be even easier... if there are white objects on the interior and it's just the background that is transparent - A photoshop action to merely add a color-filled background layer and save would work. Then action in AI to trace (with white), select color of background (can be done by color value), delete, save/export.
    – Scott
    Oct 21, 2021 at 19:22
  • @Scott, yeah that's a variation on the same idea. Might work. It's just that I'm in doubt if it's possible to select and delete the background in an action (the OP has +5000 images!). My proposed method also preserves transparent areas inside the object and I just thought it would be easier to make an action that simply changes a color rather than deleting objects. Didn't try it out though.
    – Wolff
    Oct 21, 2021 at 19:35

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