Convert Image to .SVG

I get a lot of requests to convert a graphic of someone’s pet or family member into an SVG file so they can use it for a t-shirt or to use in a project. This tutorial will show you how to convert an image into a multi-layer SVG file or scalable vector graphics file.

You will need Inkscape, a graphics program comparable to Illustrator. It will run on Linux, Windows and Mac and is open source and is a free program.
You can download it at

  1. Open Inkscape
  2. Using the File menu choose Open and navigate to your image to open it.
  3. On the left side of the main window is a tool bar. Choose the selector arrow at the top.
  4. Click on your image to select.
  5. From the menu at the top of the window choose Path →Trace Bitmap.
  6. In the window that opens go to the bottom section: Multiple scans: creates a group of paths,
  7. Make sure that Colors, Stack scans, Remove background and Live preview are all selected.
  8. Uncheck Smooth.
  9. Next we will choose the number of layers. Keep an eye on the Live preview window and click the up arrow next to the Layer option until the preview picture contains everything you want to keep in your image. You may think you only have 3 or 4 layers plus the background but there are probably more. If you have more than 5 or 6 layers you will have to choose which colors to keep or your graphic is going to be too complicated to use in Design Space and you will have to find something else.
  10. Click on Update.
  11. Using the Selector arrow from the tool bar on the left click and drag your image to the left.
  12. Click on the image that remains and delete it
  13. Move the remaining image back inside the box.
  14. From the menu at the top of the screen choose Object →Ungroup.
  15. If your image has more than 4 layers you will have to delete the extra layers:
    • Click off of the image then click back on the image and drag a layer off to the side.
    • Click back on the image and drag the next layer off to the side but not on your first layer.
    • Continue dragging each layer off to the side until there are none left.
    • Click on a layer that you don’t feel is necessary (some layers may be an outline, some may be a color you don’t want to include, etc.
      • Tap the backspace key on your keyboard or go to the menu Edit-> Clear
      • Continue with the other layers until you have only the layers you want to include.
    • Click on a remaining layer and drag it back into the box.
      • Click on another layer and drag it back into the box and line it up with the existing layer
      • Continue until all the layers you intend to cut are lined up in the box.
      • Check to make sure that it looks the way you want it to look (it’s not missing any important parts)
  16. From the menu at the top of the screen choose File →Save and name your file with .svg at the end.
  17. Go to Design Space and if you aren’t already in a project start a new one.
    • Click on the Upload button on the left side of the screen.
    • Click the next Upload button
    • Click Browse Files and navigate to your image to open it.
    • Give your image a name and tags to find it later.
    • Click on Save and Design Space will do the rest.
  18. From a Design Space canvas, click on Image and find your uploaded image and click on it.
  19. Click Insert.

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