How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image

Written by rs wagner
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How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
Vectors are scalable without losing resolution, while raster images distort when enlarged. (flower-vector image by Liu Xiang from Fotolia.com)

Converting a Bitmap image to a vinyl cutter image requires the use of vectoring software. A bitmap image consists of a grid-structure of square dots called pixels. Vinyl cutter images relies on mathematical lines, or vectors. Vectors are made up of lines and angles that are attached to end points, or nodes. With a pen tool and tracing tools, you can manipulate the lines, creating a vinyl cutter image that appears smooth and cuts without jagged edges.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Raster Software (Photo Editing Program)
  • Vector Software
  • Vinyl Cutter Software

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Adjust the bitmap in a photo editing program, creating the cleanest image that you can with levels, curves and contrast.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    An example of contrast. (flower -vector backgrounds image by Liu Xiang from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Remove any stray dots of colour by removing the background. Fill in any tiny dots that appear on what should be a solid colour.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    Dots left on a bitmap can cause problems when cutting vinyl. (red dots image by chrisharvey from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Select "Image, Mode" from the menu. Select "Gray scale," which converts a coloured image into shades of black and white. Save the bitmap image to your hard drive.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    Greyscale images include tones of white to black. (détail de craquélement image by Bruno Bernier from Fotolia.com)
  4. 4

    Open your vector program. Create a new file, sizing the document to your finished size. Scale large graphics at one-half or one-quarter size for the time being. Import the bitmap image into the vector program by selecting "File, Place."

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    Vectors are lines. (pattern vector image by WaD from Fotolia.com)
  5. 5

    Do not resize the bitmap image. Zoom in by selecting "CTRL/CMD +" if the image is small. Select the image. Choose "Object, Trace" from the menu bar at the top of the page.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    Tracing is easier than redrawing the entire image with the pen tool. (trace image by Gautier Willaume from Fotolia.com)
  6. 6

    Select "Black and White" as the mode. Choose a preset tracing path or manually adjust the settings. Use "Threshold" converting lighter pixels to white, and darker pixels to black. Adjust the "Blur" setting for reducing small artefacts, or tiny distortions in the bitmap image, and for smoothing jagged pixels.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    The black and white mode reduces an image to two colours, making tracings better. (Black and White image by photo4emotion from Fotolia.com)
  7. 7

    Use "Fill" for creating solid blocks in the image or "Stroke" making lines thicker in the tracing result. "Resample" the bitmap image to a lower resolution increasing the quality of the tracing.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    Don't make vinyl cutter lines too thin. (red stroke image by Nicemonkey from Fotolia.com)
  8. 8

    Choose "Path fitting" adjusting the pixel difference between the original bitmap image pixels and the pixels of the traced image. Enter a lower value keeping the image true to the original. Select a higher value for smoothing jagged edges. Adjust the "Minimum area" tracing the smallest area of the image in pixels squared.

    How to Convert a Bitmap to a Vinyl Cutter Image
    A path is a section between two points. (Linear lady portrait image by Ilija Mitrevski from Fotolia.com)
  9. 9

    Adjust the "Corner angle" of the original bitmap for the sharpness of corners in the traced vector image. Select "View" to preview the original image and the vectored results. Create smoother lines by reducing the nodes in the tracing. Consult the "Help" file of your specific program for more information.

  10. 10

    Select "Trace" or "OK," depending on your specific program, when you achieve your desired effect. For more information on tracing a bitmap, consult the help file of your specific program.

  11. 11

    Select "Expand" from the Object menu, which divides the image into separate paths that are read by the vinyl cutting machine. Adjust any stray or overlapping lines with the pen tool. Save your file to your hard drive and import into your cutter software program following the manufacture's instructions.

Tips and warnings

  • Always preview the traced image in the "Outline" or "Wireframe" mode, ensuring that all lines are visible to the cutter. Raster images will not appear in this mode.
  • Use the "Join" feature when connecting circles or your image may not cut correctly.
  • Some functions of a tracing may not be available when using a preset.

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