Best/Easiest way to convert line drawings?

Totally new to CNC - forgiveness in advance please. Awaiting my XL and thinking about a future project. I want to take an actual-size drawing, and turn it into a useable file that will reproduce the drawing 1:1. The drawing will be made with lines that closely match that of the end mill - in this case 1/8 inch. The image here is just a sloppy approximation of what I am trying to say here. The green lines would be cut through. The red lines are the material border. What is the simplest way to get from the drawing to the finished pieces?

One of the many reasons I chose Shapeoko - the fantastic community - so thanks for your help and patience!

Use an auto-tracing tool set to centerline (some clean up will be needed, esp. where lines touch) or re-draw the whole thing by hand.

A couple are listed at:

Carbide Create’s drawing tools are basic but you could use them to draw something like your sketch with much more precision and ease than going through the process of scanning a drawing, auto-tracing it to get vectors then cleaning them up. You just have to learn to use the drawing tools in CC. Try drawing some simple things with the program while you’re waiting for your machine to arrive.

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Yep, re-drawing is always better / more accurate.

We do have a tutorial on doing this in Carbide Create — unfortunately, the curve tool for CC has some bizarre limitations which I find make it unworkable for anything but the most basic of work:

  • on-path nodes have to be smooth/continuous
  • off-path nodes have to be equidistant

EDIT: Note that the Curve tool has been updated since this was first written to allow asymmetric off-curve nodes — just hold down the alt key when dragging them.

and I’m a lot faster re-drawing in a tool which has keyboard shortcuts which allow one to:

  • move a just placed node by holding down control
  • constrain the placement of an off-curve node by holding shift
  • toggle whether an off-curve node is symmetric or no by holding alt
  • zoom to the current selection w/ a control alt 0
  • zoom to fit all by control zero

All but the first are pretty standardized commands supported by pretty much every decent drawing tool — Carbide Create having them would be really nice — learning how to use a tool which has them, or similar commands will make your drawing far faster and more fluid.

Alternately, hopefully someone will develop a replacement for FutureWave SmartSketch now that Macromedia Flash is being discontinued (a tool which allows vector drawing and erasing with a stylus in a natural fashion).

Downloading the free vector drawing program Inkscape is probably the best bet. There’ll definitely be a learning curve though for anyone not familiar with vector creation and manipulation programs but it will be worth it. There are lots of online tutorials for it.
Even if a hand drawing was scanned and auto-traced with an online vectorizer the cleaning up process will require the use of a vector drawing program.

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Thanks much everybody for your input here - very appreciated. I think I should say that my use for the XL is likely not one that is ‘normal’ here or elsewhere. For what I am attempting, it is important that the cutting path retain as much of the drawing’s ‘imperfections’ as possible. I don’t really want the precise geometry, which you all require, I want the ‘hand’ of the drawing to come through – so generating it with vectors from the start isn’t going to work for that. When I draw a circle, it is quite imprecise, and translating that imprecision as clearly as possible to the cut is essential. In summary, I am trying to do with the XL, what I have been doing with a bandsaw, jigsaw, and scroll saw to create organic, and often non-geometric sculpture. I hope this is possible.

I will definitely be doing other types of things with the XL. All of the info above is quite useful – thanks for your time, and for accelerating my learning process.

Scanning and vectorizing to an SVG format with the online application should work then. Try it a few times with different hand drawings and load the svg file into CC and assign toolpaths to get a feel for how things will (or won’t) work.

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As a new-by ( less than a years with my shapeoko XL), I have struggled though the initial learning curve and continue to learn tips and tricks.
Speaking of vectors and vector conversion programs I would like to discuss my travels in to vector-land
First I tried InkScape, which I found to be somewhat difficult to work with; I then went to the internet and tried I tried several other vector conversion programs. None seemed to be especially useful, some very expensive and other very marginal. I did run across one that I now use most of the time to convert JPEG, PNG , BMP and other raster files to vectors. I generally search for “Line art” that offers black and white. I use this one called 'Vectorizer" out of Germany ( located at, it offers multiple conversion options, separates colors of a complex graphic into separate vectors, offers background removal and much more. Exports SVG’s, EPS and DFX for use with lasers and other printers. There is a free version as a trial and the fee for hobby use is very reasonable ($4.99 per month). It delivers vectors which then can be easily booleaned and layers modified in the Carbide create program. I also got some great insight as to Vectors vs Raster images form wiki links, just search both. The wiki links return information offered some insight understanding as to images and saved a great amount of time and frustration. Tom

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I vectorized it in Inkscape by using the “Edge Detection” option, and then deleted the inner vectors. I deleted all of the little “noise” spots and removed your text. Here’s a pic with the vectors in magenta:

Here’s the file (hopefully):
Vectorized Drawing

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