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How to Convert a JPEG to a Vector File

How to Convert a JPEG to a Vector File

In the software industry, time is money. And websites are the number one tool to market your ideas. Since images best describe the website in a minimum of words, you definitely don't want pixelated images floating around. This article shows you how to convert a JPEG to a vector file for free, that's time saving as well as proficient.
Vijith Menon
Fact Although the web doesn't support vector formats, the Flash format FLV is noted for being used globally for logos and animation, and is supported by all browsers.

Pictures have a way of conveying emotion without using words. But in the digital world, pictures are made up of tiny rectangular boxes called pixels. Whether the sun hitting the mountain highlights the beauty of the snow capped on the mountain, depends on the quality of these rectangular boxes. A voxel is the primary unit of a 3D image, as it combines volume and pixels, giving it a 3D look.

Images are used for a variety of reasons, be it for enhancing a webpage or highlighting a cause. The main reason it exists is to be noticed. If that doesn't happen, the idea is a failure. Images are split into two categories, namely, vector and raster. While some blur the content while reducing the size, others compromise on quality. Here, we shall tell you how to convert a JPEG into a vector file, while keeping the integrity of the file intact.

What is a Raster Image?
A raster image is usually a photo created or captured in a set of dimensional space, usually 'x' or 'y' coordinates. If it's a 3D image, the 'z' coordinate is used. It is referred to as 'bitmap', because it's directly mapped onto the grid. Examples of raster file types are BMP, GIF, and JPEG.

A raster image loses its quality when it's zoomed into. This is due to a feature called DPI, or dots-per-inches. DPI refers to the number of square pixels occupied in a square inch. In case of DPI, it determines the quality and resolution of the image. Raster images are used on web pages because they are compatible with all browsers. These are saved in a resolution of 72 DPI, but would lose their quality if scaled up.

What is a Vector Image?
A vector image consists of lines and shapes encoded with the help of a mathematical formula. It lets you scale up the image to any shape that you wish, without the loss of quality or resolution. A bitmap appears jagged when scaled, and a vector image retains its crispiness during the same. The most popular types are EPS, AI, and PDF. SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) is a universal format created by the Worldwide Web Consortium, to provide a vector format for the web.

Logos of companies are created in a raster format, but saved in a vector form for the final edit. No matter how much it's zoomed in, the edges retain their positions. The image won't be pixelated.

Converting in Illustrator
1. Open the JPEG image in Illustrator.

2. Click on the image to select it. You know it's selected by the blue box surrounding the image.

3. Click on the small down-arrow button next to 'Live Trace'. Select one of the presets in 'Tracing Presets' and 'Options' in the control panel of Illustrator to determine the quality and threshold. If you are happy with your current image, you can use 'Live Trace' directly to change it into a vector format.

4. The threshold value tells you where we want to trace the lines. All pixels lighter than the threshold value is turned to white, and pixels darker than the threshold value are turned to black. The threshold value can be any number between 1 to 255.

5. Click on the 'Trace' button to trace the image.

6. Click the 'Expand' button to finish tracing the image.

7. Click on the 'Color Palette' to open the Color Palette window. Shapes in Illustrator have a 'fill' and a 'stroke'. A fill is the color inside the shape and 'stroke' is the outline color, given outside the shape. On the palette box, select the white box with a red slash running through it. The shape will have a clear fill or no color.

8. Change your 'stroke' color to black, thus filling the outline color.

9. Save or export the file in a vector format, to save your work.

Converting in Photoshop
Upload or scan the image you want to convert into a vector image. The dimensions should be a minimum of 600 by 600, so it'll be easier to zoom into.

1. Open the image. Double-click on the background layer to unlock it.

2. Select the background layer and duplicate it twice by using Ctrl+D . Select the top copy of the duplicated layer, and click on the visibility tab or eye icon to turn off its visibility.

3. Click on the middle copy of the image and go to the 'image' tab, go to adjustments and select 'desaturate'.

4. Select the copy again and go to the image tab, go to adjustments and select 'posterize'. Adjust the posterization level to 9 or whichever is appropriate. Rename the layer 'Posterized One'.

5. Select the background copy and make it visible by clicking on the eye icon.

6. Click on the 'layers' tab, create a new layer, and drag it behind the background layer.

7. Use the 'eye dropper' tool to select a color of the particular element in the photo, and use the 'pen tool' to trace around the color.

8. Add a new layer for each element and color of the picture. Trace it with the 'pen tool', and add a color with the 'fill tool', selected using the 'eyedropper tool'.

9. Change the opacity of each layer by dragging the opacity toolbar located near the 'layer' tab.

10. Zoom in and out to add appropriate shadows for each layer in a separate layer.

11. Save the final image in a .eps format to keep the vector formatting intact.

These are the best methods to convert a JPEG into a vector file. You can use Autotracer to trace your images online for a quick fix. You can also use Inkscape, an open-source software to trace your images directly. Whatever the method, vector images are scalable and can be used for a variety of reasons.