How to Convert Any Graphic for a Plotter Cutter

Written by rs wagner
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How to Convert Any Graphic for a Plotter Cutter
This is an example of a grayscale vector graphic. (pattern vector image by WaD from Fotolia.com)

Converting a graphic for use on a Plotter/Cutter requires knowledge of vector graphics. Vector graphic are scalable to any size. Vector graphics are not based on image resolution, as bitmaps are. Vector graphics depend on mathematical formulas creating lines and curves that a Plotter/Cutter can read. Consisting of a grid of square dots, bitmaps are created in a photo editing program, are unreadable to a Plotter/Cutter and must be converted to a vector format using illustration design software.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Computer
  • Photo editing program
  • Vector illustration program

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Buy an illustration program that offers the ability to trace bitmap or "raster" graphic files. Choose a software program that allows you to preview in a "Wireframe" or "Outline" mode, and perform adjustments to the final trace.

    How to Convert Any Graphic for a Plotter Cutter
    Vectors are outlines. (ebb flow outlined image by Nicemonkey from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Use a program that offers easy editing by simplifying vector drawings by minimising "nodes," or points for creating detailed graphic designs.

    How to Convert Any Graphic for a Plotter Cutter
    "Nodes" look like tiny squares on the path of a line or curve. (global nodes network image by Michael Brown from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Select a program that offers preserved colours and lines from the original graphic. Choose programs capable of removing backgrounds for easier conversion when imported into a Plotter/Cutter.

    How to Convert Any Graphic for a Plotter Cutter
    Remove the background of a graphic when converting files to vector. (logo image by Biro from Fotolia.com)
  1. 1

    Save a graphic from a photo editing program as a bitmap, BMP. Choose "File," then "Save As" from the drop-down menu at the top of the document. Choose where you would like to save the file on your hard drive. Select "Enter."

  2. 2

    Open an illustration program. Create a new document by selecting "File," then "New." Size the image to scale.

  3. 3

    Press "CTRL/CMD"+"R" to show the rulers in the document, or choose "View," then "Show Rulers." Create guideline margins by holding down the mouse button, then dragging guidelines from both the top and side rulers.

  4. 4

    Select "File," then "Place" or "File," then "Import," placing the file into the document. Enlarge or reduce the file, as necessary, fitting the graphic into your margin area.

  5. 5

    Hold the "Shift" key when dragging the graphic to size, maintaining proportions of the graphic. Select "Enter," finishing the import procedure.

  1. 1

    Click on the graphic. Choose "Object," then "Trace" from the drop-down menu. Use a preset tracing function or customise the controls according to your needs.

  2. 2

    Choose from the colour modes for colour, grayscale, or black-and-white. Experiment with the different settings on your specific software program.

  3. 3

    Use the "Blur" function before tracing for smoothing jagged lines and to remove small dots or "artifacts" in the bitmap. Use a higher numerical value for a smoother path.

  4. 4

    Remove the background from the image, reducing nodes in the graphic by selecting "Ignore White" or "Remove Background."

  5. 5

    Choose "Preview," observing how the traced image will appear. Select "Enter" or "Trace."

  6. 6

    Select "Expand" from the "Objects" menu at the top of the document for viewing the vector tracing.

  1. 1

    Use the pen tool, manipulating any lines that intersect or need further adjustment for producing a smooth path. Press the letter "P" to select the pen tool or select the pen tool icon from the tool bar.

  2. 2

    Choose other options by holding down the mouse button on the pen tool on the tool bar and selecting your choice from the flyout menu.

  3. 3

    Select the "Plus" sign, "+", or "Minus" sign, "-" to add or remove points on a path.

  4. 4

    Press "Shift"+"C" for converting one anchor point at a time. Select multiple points by holding down the "Shift" key while selecting the points with the selection tool and by choosing, "Convert Selected Anchor Points To Smooth" in the Control panel options box.

  5. 5

    Save the file to your hard drive, then use the "Import" or "Place" command in your vinyl cutting software, following the software developer's instructions located in the "Help" file of your specific vector program.

Tips and warnings

  • BMP supports RGB, Index Color, Grayscale and Bitmap colour modes. You can specify Windows or Macintosh formats and a bit depth of up to 32 bits per channel.
  • Too much blur will distort the image.

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