Inkscape is versatile open source vector graphics software. I’ve used its bitmap trace function to convert drawings and photographs into scalable vectors, including: the tree in the header, it was originally converted from a drawing; the guy with the umbrella in this wallpaper; Snoopy in this wallpaper.
To compare the quality of VectorMagic’s bitmap conversion results and Inkscape’s, I chose a photo of my brother and cousin, and a bitmap of the tree in my blog’s header.
The tree was traced using the “logo with blending at colour boundaries” option, with four “colours” (black, grey, another grey and white), and on medium quality. I was really impressed with the quality of the vector from VectorMagic – I didn’t feel the need to do this one on “high”.
Circled in red are some examples of where detail is lost. While VectorMagic did lose a couple of joints, overall the detail is clean and compared to the others it’s rather elegant.
The traces in Inkscape were done on the “brightness cutoff” setting at thresholds of 0.450, 0.600 and 0.990. Obviously 0.990 captures the highest proportion of the image, but it loses some fine detail. I was surprised by the results, since the original tree was traced by Inkscape. Of course, it’s possible that the “original” tree (above) looked differently from the drawing it was traced from – it just came out well.
Making vectors out of photos is probably less useful than tracing logos. Lower quality vectors of photos are a bit artistic and interesting. The high quality vectors are close to photo quality at certain resolutions, but are obviously not quite photos – kind of like the ink ran while printing or something.
The VectorMagic vectors were made on the photo setting at medium and high quality. It’s hard to compare the VectorMagic and Inkscape results, since I’m sure that Inkscape uses different methods to vectorise. The Inkscape traces used the color setting on 10 or 20 scans – I believe it produces a number of coloured layers, specified by the number of scans. 20 is not the most it can do. Despite all that, I do find the results from VectorMagic more pleasing.
The interface for viewing and editing in VectorMagic was pretty cool. You could zoom and move around with ease and touch up some imperfections. Then you can download the results as an EPS, PNG or SVG.