Sunday, January 13, 2013

Auto Trace vs Hand-Drawn Vector Conversion

Here is a good example of an image that can be vectorized using automated software and it may be acceptable to many customers, yet on closer inspection there is still room for improvement, so for those people whom detail is essential, manual vectorization may be necessary.

 The original raster image is fairly good quality, the pixel dimension is not too small and more importantly there is high contrast between the colors:

See both automated vectorization results and manual vector conversion. At a glance both seem acceptable vector drawings:

But a closeup of the auto-trace results shows some of the detail in the faces is gone. A person with elevated attention to detail will not find this vector conversion acceptable.

Closeup of hand-drawn vector conversion. Note the little noses have a better resemblance to the original artwork:

So taking a few more minutes (or paying a few more dollars) to manually redraw this simple vector image may be worthwhile.

See more samples
20% OFF one vectorization. Code BLOG032013. Only one per customer. Expires March 31, 2013

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Manual Vectorization vs Automated Vector Tracing

To vectorize a raster (bitmap) image into vector format you can either do it by manually drawing node by node using vector drawing software or you can use automated tracing tools within the vector editors. In Adobe Illustrator - which is what I use - the auto-trace tool is called "Live Trace".

Auto tracing is great and almost instant, just a couple of clicks and you are done, so you can save tons of time and money, but automated tracing doesn't work well with all images. It really depends on the original bitmap graphic; the quality, the contrast between colors, even the size. I think the perfect candidates for automated vectorization or auto-tracing are images that are:
  1. Non-geometrical "free flowing" shapes - like the sample tree below
  2. Large, good quality originals that are black and white or high contrast colors with very clear distinction between each color.
  3. Photographs that do not need to be changed to simple line drawings 

The images that will most likely need to be vectorized manually to have a good result, are images with geometric shapes, poor quality originals and images with color blends and gradients. See the difference between auto-traced vs a manually drawn vector graphic:

Samples of photographs vectorized by auto-trace
Samples of photographs vectorized manually and changed to line art
General vector conversion samples

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Vector Conversion of Photographed Artwork

If you need a graphic vectorized but you do not have an electronic file of the graphic, even if all you have is a photograph of an item with the artwork printed on, embroidered on, or otherwise visible on the photograph, we can try to reproduce it in vector format. See samples below.

When photographing artwork that is on a 3 dimensional item like a coffee mug, a hat or even just a flat sign, the actual artwork will be somewhat distorted in the photograph so it is always better to reproduce a logo using an electronic file of the actual graphic such as a scan of a printed logo, but when this is not available we try to correct the vector file as much as possible. See sample below:

More info here

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What The Font?!

Do you spend countless hours trying to identify fonts?

If you work in the graphic industry like sign-making, specialty printing, screen printing, engraving, etc., you probably have had to re-create a graphic in vector format so that you could use it with your machinery.  I vectorize all day long (convert raster images into vector art) and I used to spend countless hours trying to figure out which font was used on the original graphic so that I didn't have to manually and painstakingly redraw each letter out. I had customers wonder why a simple plain text graphic would be quoted higher than let's say an image of a tree with no text. It used to take me an hour to go through my font catalogs only to find out that I did not have the font or that perhaps it wasn't even a font but custom-made text instead.

But that was before I discovered What the Font?! What a great website! You simply upload your image with the font you are looking for and it will try to guess what it is. Most of the time it is right on and it is totally free! Of course the better your original image the better the results and I usually crop my image to display just the text. If the system doesn't find a good match you can also post your image to their forum and wait for feedback (I am usually in a rush but have gotten responses pretty quick).

Now I spend less time looking for fonts and more time gardening!

Other similar websites

Monday, December 5, 2011

Vector file that can be easily used by anyone

I sometimes get requests to create a vector graphic that can be easily used by anyone without having to resort to special skills or software. You can use a vector eps in common programs like MS Word but to actually manipulate a vector file (e.g. change colors, change text, etc) you need to use vector editing software in order to maintain the vector data. Vector software is not commonly used in your average office. There are many vector editing programs including free and open source editors and free online (browser) vector editors you can use.

Vector files can also be exported and saved as common formats like jpg, png, gif, and more, which can be used in common office applications. Jpgs, pngs and gifs are not vector.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Can't open vector file!

New to vector graphics?
You need vector graphics editing software to open a vector file and maintain the vector data.  Common vector programs are Adobe Illustrator, CorelDraw, FreeHand and many more including free and open source. See Wikipedia list of graphic vector editors.

Open the appropriate vector program and from the menu select: FILE >> OPEN or IMPORT.  If you simply double click on the file, your computer may find another program to open it and change the file's native format. Opening the file with a raster program like Photoshop will rasterize the image and the file will be of no use to anyone requiring vector art.

If you are not familiar with vector files and do not have a vector graphic editor but simply acquired vector art for a third party: a printer, sign-maker, etc.,  my suggestion is don't bother trying to open it, just send the vector file to your supplier and request a proof. Your supplier should give you a proof in a format that can be easily viewed.

I know what I am doing, I still can't open this %$#^&*!  file
Then there is the compatibility issue. Not every vector program can open every vector file (e.g. an Adobe Illustrator ai file may not be opened with CorelDraw and a CorelDraw cdr file may not be opened with Illustrator) but most vector programs can import/open and export/save as eps file format. I believe this interchangeability has made the vector eps very popular throughout the years. And although I've read rumors that the eps may be replaced by the super-famous pdf, my itty bitty business has not seen a decline in demand - yet.

Can't work with the eps either? Since I am no tekkie I don't know the reason why but I do know that simply down-saving the file in an older version of eps (postscript level 3.0/adobe illustrator 8) has worked for my loyal patrons every single time, regardless of what vector editing software they are using.

How can you down-save an eps that you cannot even open? Ah, that's a problem. I would ask whomever provided you with the eps file to down-save to an older version, but often-times the origin of the eps file is unknown. 'Tis the reason I try to keep up with the latest software updates (which reminds me; I'm behind)  - it can get very costly but avoids many headaches.

Good Night and Good Luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vectorization and Vector Graphics

In computer graphics, vectorization is to the process of converting raster graphics into vector graphics. Vectorization can be automated with tracing software or manual with vector drawing software.

What is a vector graphic and why or when do I need it? 
Has a commercial printer, engraver, sign company or other service provider ever asked you to provide an image in vector format? There are two major types of images in the graphic industry; Raster and Vector.

Raster images are the most common type and are made of pixels. If you zoom in to a raster image or you scale it up, you will probably see something that looks like little tiny squares, these are the pixels The very common jpg, gif, and png, are raster images.

Vector graphics are object oriented, they do not contain pixels. They are actually mathematical calculations from one point to another. Vector graphics can be scaled to any size without losing quality which is something you cannot do with raster images. See Raster vs Vector.

  • Vector art is scalable
  • Vector graphics are resolution-independent
  • With vectors, you can easily reduce the number of colors & printing costs
  • Vector images are required by plotters, cut signs, and engraving
  • Vector files can be exported or saved as many different file formats
Some printers and sign companies prefer vector files but a few services MUST have vector art for their processes to work, such as engraving and vinyl-cut sign making. This is because their equipment is guided by a vector path that is present only in vector files.
If you have an image that is not very good in quality or loses quality when scaled up in size, you can fix your image by having it vectorized. Once your image is in vector format, it can be used for may different projects and used at any size. You can print it on a pen, or on a billboard. More