This may be a very basic question for this forum but here goes.

I am beginning to create masks for sandcarving using UV film and I need to use B&W vector line art to be able to print a clear film with blacks dense enough to block the UV light during exposure. My images are in JPG, BMP, GIF, etc and I need to convert them to vector line art. I downloaded a copy of Inkscape which the film manufacturer said will work but this level of graphics is new to me. I only want to do simple B&W so I do not need the full art experience, anyone have any simple reccomendations?

Thanks in advance.

  • Are you able to post the art?
    – JohnB
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 16:49
  • My simple recommendation would be to use Google. Google "trace bitmap with inkscape" to find plenty of tutorials.
    – DA01
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 4:37

2 Answers 2


You can find a tutorial on tracing in Inkscape, which will accomplish what Live Trace does in Adobe Illustrator. This is essentially asking the application to trace the raster image and create vector paths so that you don't have to draw (or trace) them yourself.

Web searches you might try along with "Inkscape": "raster to vector" "bitmap to vector" or just "tracing."

Good luck.

  • This style of art involves reducing the 256 levels of grey to something more manageable, like 4. What you do is pick a few thresholds spaced evenly across the 256 grey values. If you take your original and export 3 copies each with a very tight threshold, live trace them and overlay the traces, you will have better success than if you merely traced the original. Illustrator can handle this natively also. Note that live trace benefits from higher pixel counts in the originals and scaling up a small px dimension image in this case is not a big deal since it helps average out the grey values
    – horatio
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 17:07
  • @horatio "If you take your original and export 3 copies each with a very tight threshold..." What do you mean exactly by "3 copies each" and "very tight"?
    – WhyWhat
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 11:00

I've found Vector Magic to be one of the most accurate auto-vectorizing tools. It grew out of a research project at Stanford quite a few years ago before becoming a commercial product.

While not free for continued usage, the online version allows for two free uses. Illustrator and Inkscape's outline tools have improved over the years, but VM has them both beat.

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