This process is called tracing or vectorization, and can either be done manually or using an automatic tool. In this tutorial, we explain how to use Vector Magic to perform this conversion quickly and easily.
Scanning hardware and software varies between manufacturers, so I will keep my remarks as general as possible. The following remarks are guidelines only; please experiment with your particular hardware, software, and source material to find the best choices for your particular case. Do not choose the black and white scan mode, as this results in loss of data through quantization.
Do not use the color scan mode, as this leads to undesired color artifacts in the scan around shape boundaries. In order to illustrate some of the characteristics of scans, I've done a little experiment. Then, I scanned this using a consumer-grade Canon scanner at three resolutions: 150, 300, and 600 dpi. As I indicated in the best practices section above, I concluded that it doesn't really make any sense to scan at higher than 300 dpi.
Sure, scanning at 600 dpi, gives you an image of twice the size, but it is also twice as blurry. If the edge is infinitely sharp, then it should only be seen by one pixel in the scanner's sensor.
That pixel should then be some appropriate gray, depending on how far across the pixel the edge actually lay.
In the 300 dpi case, the blurring spans two or three pixels, indicating that some blurring has occurred.


It is not clear whether this is due to limitations of the physical sensors or some processing done by the scanner or the scanner software.
Again, such a blurry result should be considered to have a much lower effective resolution. There are a few corners that are slightly rounded in the result but that are sharp in the original, but for the most part the vectorized result matches the original quite well. In this section, the result appears crisp and clean, and clearly reproduces the original shape very well.
That example was generated by printing a vector graphic with a laser printer and then immediately scanning it back in. The person who scanned it made the mistake of leaving the scanner in color mode, so there are color edge artifacts along the shape boundaries. The original print quality appears to have been poor, and the shape is generally irregular, as though it were hand drawn.
A size-reduced version of the image is shown below, and the full resolution version may be found here.
It should be noted that when a large image, such as this one, is loaded into Vector Magic Desktop Edition, the program analyzes the image to determine whether it makes sense to reduce the size of the image.
Please note that the resize function that is used is very carefully selected to improve the quality as much as possible through effective use of pixel averaging. Most resizing features in commercial bitmap editors do not perform scaling operations in this way, so please rely on Vector Magic to perform any shrinking operations. The next three images show highly zoomed-in views of the original scan and the two vectorized results.
The first is the original, the second is from the low result, and the third is from the medium result.


The low result uses fewer nodes and results in a simpler geometry, while the medium reconstructs the geometry more faithfully but uses more nodes.
I have included one final image of the paths from the medium result over the top of the bitmap.
This characteristic is one of the great strengths of Vector Magic relative to other auto-vectorization tools. This tutorial has provided guidelines and advice for how to best vectorize scans using Vector Magic Desktop Edition.
A number of practical tips were provided to help you get the most out of your source material and your scanner. And we showed two example of scans being vectorized: the first was a high quality scan of a crisp good-quality original, and the second was a low-quality scan of a low-quality original.
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