Ludicrous Software

Tracing a Bitmap? Consider Fireworks

Back after a little blogging hiatus, I just wanted to share a quick suggestion for tracing bitmapped graphics. This might be necessary if the only artwork available to you is a bitmap, but vector art would be preferable. This technique works best with artwork that is made up of large blocks of solid colours (although generally speaking, if you’re dealing with a very complex bitmap - lots of shading, gradients, etc. - it might not work well as vector art, anyway.)

Flash has a ‘trace bitmap’ feature, but I’ve always found it a little too fussy. I end up getting caught in a seemingly endless loop of picking particular settings for the trace, then seeing how it turns out. Inevitably, I can tell right away that cleaning up the resulting vectors would take much too long to make the process worthwhile, so I optimistically hit Ctrl-Z, change the trace settings a little bit, and repeat the process. Inevitably, I can tell right away that cleaning up the resulting … well, you get the idea. So I tried tracing the bitmap in Freehand (yeah, I know it’s no more; still has its uses, though!), with much the same results.

So I fired up Fireworks, loaded up my jpg file, and used the Magic Wand tool to select the blocks of colour that I wanted to vectorize. Next, I selected the ‘convert marquee to paths’ option, and Fireworks produced a nice little bit of vector art that looked WAY better than either Flash or Freehand could produce, and which could be copied and pasted into Flash with no effort at all.