Create Vectors from a photo?

Hey everyone! I’m working on a custom piece and they requested (if possible) for me to incorporate their hand-built chopper.

The problem I’m running into is turning their picture into useable vectors! I’ve tried creating vectors by using the trace feature in CC and increasing the threshold. I’ve even attempted using inkscape and all manner of AI tools to try to get clean vectors but every attempt I’ve made has left me with entirely too much detail (lots of noise and artifacts) and simultaneously not enough (its indistinguishable).

I’m at my wits end and about ready to give up entirely on being able to incorporate it. Do any of you have any suggestions or things that have worked for you in the past?

I’ve attached the image I’m trying to convert and also a few of my best digital creations in case someone can work with it!

A frustrated newbie! :slight_smile:

What’s the “custom piece”?
Does the incorporation of the chopper need to be photorealistic or could you just use the flame design in the piece?
I’d think with something like this you’re either going to end up with a stylized version of the bike, in which case you might start with an easier to process image, or you create a design “in the spirit” of the bike and copy some flame elements and colors.
All of this depends on the final piece. Coasters will need different concessions when compared to a 6ft shop sign.


Agree with above.

If you’re up for it and cant find an svg online draw your own pen path around features on the bike. Try inkscape or blender3d if you dont have illustrator. This is the artistic bit and with that comes the licence to interpret the item and create and outline that is machineable (linewidth, details etc). It’s a bigger job but can be enjoyable.

Also try tracing with a pencil on paper, ink up the pencil lines, scan/photo that and trace in carbide create or whatever to create toolpaths


it will be part of a flag similar to this one that I made earlier in the year. So it needs clear vector lines but not necessarily a ton of detail


This is what I was thinking at the end of last night too but I wasn’t sure if I was really loosing my mind with thinking about tracing it the old fashioned way and scanning it in lol

Sounds like it might actually be the simplest and fastest solution! Thanks for the suggestion!

You’re on the right track with reducing the image to black & white.

The problem with photos is the background, lighting, reflections, etc… You, as you mentioned, end up with too much detail in some areas, and not enough in others where the light washes out the colors.

You could ask the customer to paint his whole bike flat black & take the picture in front of a plain white background… :smiley:

Or, I like the idea of getting it as good as you can in an image editor, then printing it & fixing it up with a black pen, then re-scanning it. I would do much better by hand than with a graphics editor.

Good luck with it. The previous one looks great!! :smiley:


Lol! I’m sure he’d love to repaint it! :rofl:

Thanks! I will play with it some more today and see if I can create something by hand. Transferring images from photos is something I’ve encountered a lot of interest in so it’s worth the effort to see if I can find a way to do it! :grinning:

Wanted to post an update quick, in case anyone is looking for suggestions in the future. I ended up printing a high contrast black and white photo, hand tracing, scanning back in, and finally using inkscape’s bitmap tracing to create vectors I think will work well. Hoping to test it on some scrap wood tonight but I have high hopes :slight_smile:
bills motorcycle


Final update and results for those that are curious. After closer inspection of my hand traced design (previously shared), I just wasn’t happy with the quality of vectors created.

So, after more experimenting, I discovered Inkscape’s brightness cutoff feature under bitmap tracing which allowed me to create something almost perfectly using a black and white photo with the background removed. From there, I just had to print and darken a few lines that were washed out due to reflections (much faster than hand tracing the entire image).

After carving I have this! I’m very happy with the results and am confident in my ability to take other photos in the future and create quality carves!