How to Convert a Bitmap Into a Vector File Online for Free

by Joanna Polisena

Bitmap, or raster, images work great for photographs and images that never need to be resized. However, when you a need a scalable image that won’t lose quality, you need a vector graphic. You can convert, or trace, bitmap images to scalable vector formats using online freeware.

How It Works

Bitmap images consist of a pattern of dots that create the image. Vector images, on the other hand, are made up of mathematical paths of the lines and shapes in the image. When you upload a bitmap image into an online tracing application, it interprets and converts the bitmap dots to mathematical paths. The application can even determine the original image’s format. You may need to adjust some application settings to help it interpret the original image for a higher quality result or different effects. Once the application completes the conversion, you can download the vector for printing, screen printing or other uses.

Image Requirements

The quality of the final vector also depends on the quality of your bitmap image. If you’re scanning the source image, the quality of your scanner matters, too. Look for scanners that capture high color bit depth and resolution. Most bitmap-to-vector conversions work best for illustrations, logos and line art. Tracing photographs with these free applications results in vectors that look like oil paintings or illustrations. If you need a more realistic vector, consider desktop or paid online applications that may provide a higher level of advanced trace settings. Before converting your image, make sure it is in an appropriate bitmap format for the tool you want to use, and also crop it as close to the content you want to trace as possible.


In addition to its desktop application, Vector Magic offers an online version that gives you two free conversions. To ensure you get the best image possible, preview the vector result before completing the free transaction. You can retrace the image as many times as you want. You then use a digital token to download your image. Autotracer is a free online tracing application that has fewer advanced tracing options, but can give quality results for logos and other images. If you're an advanced user and want total control of advanced settings, opt to use RO IT Systems’ Online Raster-to-Vector Conversion System (links in Resources).

Fine-Tuning Results

To tweak your results for a higher quality vector image, look for the advanced tracing settings in the online conversion tool. With Vector Magic, choose the “Hand-pick settings” option when uploading your image to walk through the settings wizard. You can also choose this option on the conversion results screen to retrace the image. On Autotracer, click the “Show advanced options” link, and then enter the number of colors to use in your vector. A higher number results in a higher quality image, but also a bigger file size. The line offset determines when the application traces a line as a curve. If you use a higher number, your resulting image will have smoother edges. Also, the higher the noise reduction, the smoother your resulting vector image. The RO IT Systems’ online tracing application has additional settings options. Clicking the question mark next to each field explains how adjusting each field affects the final image.

About the Author

Joanna Polisena has been writing professionally since obtaining a high school mentorship at her hometown's city newspaper. Her work has appeared in daily newspapers, an employment agency's monthly newsletter and various corporate multimedia productions. She earned an AA in letters, arts and sciences from Pennsylvania State University.

Photo Credits

  • photo_camera Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images