Vectorization is the process of converting a raster image into a vector line by having a computer program "trace" the image and automatically create vector lines. Most programs that can work with vector lines have methods for doing this automatically, however they all function differently and some images will work better in one program over others.
Generally speaking, black and white images are the easiest to vectorize, as all the program has to do is draw a line along the border between any black and white pixels. Images with more complex color schemes can still be vectorized, however you will have to tell the program more information about how to determine where the lines are drawn. Also, be aware that with highly complex images (such a photographs) it may not be possible to have a program handle the vectorization automatically.
Each of the following guides assumes that you have a basic understanding of how the software works. Please see the Software for Creating Images page for more information on these programs and how to learn to use them.
Select the software that you will be using from the tabs.
Illustrator offers a variety of automatic tracers, which work well for a variety of image types. The default tracer works well with monochromatic images where you want everything converted to a vector image.
Inkscape offers two types of vectorization - Single Scan, which creates a single path that traces the image, and Multiple Scans, which creates a full color (but simplified) image out of multiple vector shapes. Single Scan is generally the best way of creating vectors that will be used for cutting.
Trace Bitmap Options
Now you are going to set the line width of your image. If you want to cut the outline, it needs to have a line width of .001 in. To change this, first select the image by clicking on it. Go to Object > Fill and Stroke. On the Fill tab, click the No Paint box. On the Stroke Paint tab, click the Flat Color box. Click on the last tab, Stroke Style, and change the Width to .001 in. Also, make sure that the Opacity is set to 100%.
CorelDRAW offers a fully automatic tracing as well as a suite of presets designed for various types of images. Generally speaking, the automatic Quick Trace works well for monochromatic images where you want everything converted to a vector image. The presets work better for more complex images.
This works best for monochromatic images where you want every region or a closed outline converted to vector lines.