Converting Raster Images to Vector Images Can Be A Challenge, But It Doesn't Have To Be. - The Online Magazine for the Sign Trade.
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Converting Raster Images to Vector Images Can Be A Challenge, But It Doesn't Have To Be.

Finding the Right Tracing Software to Get the Job Done

By Paul Turnbull, User Experience Designer for CorelDRAW Graphics Suite

When a client brings in poor quality artwork and asks you to transform it into a great-looking sign or vehicle wrap, do you worry that youíll spend so much time on the job that you wonít make any money? It doesnít have to be that way.

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  • With a little knowledge, you can choose tracing software that delivers good results quickly, helping to improve your bottom line.

    What to look for in a tracing tool
    Your clients bring you bitmap (raster) images, but you need vector images to work with vinyl plotters and digital printers. No problem. You just need software to convert them, right? It sounds straightforward, but with so many tracing applications available, how do you know what to look for? Whether youíre considering standalone tracing tools like Imagaro Z or Smart Vector Pro, or integrated tools, such as color tracing in Flexisign Pro, Live Trace in Adobe Illustrator CS2 or PowerTRACE in CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3, here are some questions to keep in mind when evaluating tracing software:

    Are the results accurate enough? Can I preview my work as I go?
    You want to create a vector graphic thatís an accurate representation of the original content, but you also need to be wary of a graphic thatís hard to work with. Thatís why you need tracing software that lets you adjust the level of detail in the resulting vectors. Seeing an accurate preview of your results while you make adjustments helps you get what you want, faster.

    Can I edit the results?
    There are times when the image you have to start with is so poor that the vectorized results will require additional work. You need tracing software that lets you generate an accurate vector graphic with fewer objects and nodes so itís easy to edit. This will avoid the time and cost involved in redrawing an image from scratch.

    Are the tracing software options and combinations confusing? Will I spend too much time trying to figure out the software to get the results I want?
    When youíre running a business, thereís a limit to how much time you can spend on a single project. This is especially true with small jobs like putting a simple, one-color logo on a banner. Your software needs to be flexible without offering confusing options that will slow you down.

    Is there a lot of clean-up work afterwards?
    You want your tracing software to provide you with optimized results that minimize re-work. When considering a tracing program, look at how it handles curves and especially colors. Can you minimize the number of nodes youíll end up with on a curve? Too many nodes can lead to difficult editing and potential output issues. Can you control the number of individual objects that the trace result is creating? Can the number of colors be controlled and minimized?

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    How much does it cost?
    A good tracing tool doesnít have to come with a big price tag. Choose software thatís designed with sign makers in mind and integrates well with the other tools you already use in your business. You need something that fits into your workflow. And be sure to consider how easy it is to learn and use, so you donít end up spending a lot of money and energy to become productive with your software.

    A new option in tracing software
    When the software designers at Corel were working on the recently released CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3, they spent time with sign makers to see first-hand how they worked with customer artwork to make signs. The sign makers needed easy-to-use software that delivered accurate, usable vector results fast. This was especially important when they started with low-quality images from customers. Customers wanted results that were similar to what they could do manually, but in much less time.

    Included at no extra cost with CorelDRAW Graphics Suite X3, Corel PowerTRACE was created with these requirements in mind. Itís integrated right into CorelDRAW X3, so sign makers can work in a program theyíre familiar with instead of introducing something new into their routine. Another benefit of choosing an integrated tool is that the user can work in one program instead of switching between different applications.

    If youíre looking for tracing software that offers ease of use, accuracy and good results, Corel PowerTRACE is worth considering. This software is designed so that you donít have to spend a lot of time experimenting or adjusting options to get the results you want. The real-time feedback in the Preview window keeps you in control of the process and the softwareís ability to handle objects and nodes ensure that results are easy to edit.

    This new tracing tool is designed to deliver accurate, usable results. Edges and colors are preserved and results require minimal editing. In addition, users can choose to eliminate backgrounds so they are left with only the customerís graphic and they can map colors to a color model or a palette of their choice (such as PANTONE). Color handling also allows users to take .jpg or .gif files and convert them back to two colors again. It delivers great-looking results, without containing an unreasonable number of objects or nodes that would make editing more difficult.

    A little research goes a long way
    It is possible to get great results when transforming bitmaps into vector graphics. The right tracing software is an investment that can really pay off. By considering some of the questions in this article and how they relate to your workflow, you can find an affordable solution that simplifies tracing while delivering great resultsófor your customers and your business.

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