I'm trying to vectorize this Gray's anatomy diagram from the Wikimedia commons:


(Yeah, I know. Kind of an awkward image, but I'm a medical student studying Urology and we need good medical diagrams too.)

I'm trying to find a way to replicate the spongy texture in the image in the least painful way possible. I've looked into using texture images and masking, but the textures I've found are either the wrong color or just too jarringly different from the cartoon-y diagrammatic style of the rest of the image.

I'm trying to avoid having to hand-draw tons of little shadows/pores here, but if that's what it takes, any suggestions on how to do that efficiently would also be appreciated.

5 Answers 5


I know you tagged your question with , but this is how I would do it with Illustrator. Maybe you can do the same in Inkscape, but I'm not all that familiar with it.

In Illustrator:

1. Start with an arbitrarily colored rectangle


2. Apply a Stained Glass Texture to your rectangle

Effect > Texture > Stained Glass...

Adjust the settings as you see fit!

Stained Glass

3. Vectorize with Live Trace

I used the "Color 6" default, we'll remove the color in the next step.

(You must first expand the appearance to be able to live trace the stained glass texture)


4. Single-colorify

I selected the black webby-shape and moved it to another layer so I could ignore all the red. Then I created another rectangle (same size as the artboard) and used Merge to "invert" the shapes, then deleted the black webby-shape.

Single Color

4. Apply a Clipping Mask


This is also apparently a good way to generate a giraffe skin pattern :)

  • Thanks! Accept for showing that a vector solution exists at all.
    – mcstrother
    Jun 9, 2013 at 22:24

JohnB's answer is definitely the best technique for Illustrator. Just in case, I thought of an alternative idea that you can use in any program.

I found this cracked soil texture in CG Textures (category Soil, there a few similar ones):

enter image description here

And adding a black and white filter and a Photoshop effect called Stamp, I ended up with this:

enter image description here

Because it's a seamless pattern, you can repeat it and use it as a background.


Another indirect way would be to utilize GIMP's mosaic filter (Filters → Distorts → Mosaic) to produce a raster and then vectorize it. This method along with others is described in this mailing list exchange about the skin pattern of a turtle.

Here's a pattern I quickly generated with this method:

enter image description here

You can play around with the filter settings to achieve different results. These were the settings I used:

enter image description here

Vectorized, combined with a black background and clipped:


The Inkscape Solution: You said that you were trying to vectorize that specific image? There is a much simpler way to do this:

1.) Edit the image as you see fit to remove anything that you don't want in the final results.

2.) Open Inkscape and paste your image anywhere into it.

3.) Go to path --> Trace bitmap (Shift + Alt + B) and click it.

4.) Adjust the settings to ensure that it is sharp and has colors, etc. Here are the settings I used:

Invert Image (checked), Colors (Selected), Smooth (unchecked), and under options, 'smooth corners' is unchecked (of course, these are likely not the best settings. Feel free to modify them to your will).

5.) Click 'Ok' and Inkscape will create a vector for you. I followed my own instructions using the same image that you posted in here and was successful (this is the vectorized version): Vectorized Version

If the text is too blurry, you could remove it from the scanned image (before vectorizing it) and when you are done just label everything as you see fit using the text tool in Inkscape. To ensure that the text scales in sync with the image, select the text and the image and group them (Ctrl + G).


In Inkscape you can simply apply Extensions > Generate from Path > Voronoi Pattern

enter image description here

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.