How to vectorize your pen and ink drawing?


Sometimes customers insist on having vector file for printing. Even though I am not a fan of vectorizing your hand drawn pen and ink drawing, because it distorts the image a bit and removes quite a lot of the details as well. Vectorizing your drawing digitizes it in a way that’s not very pleasing to me, but it can work in some cases for a client. In this blog post I will show you the method that I use to vectorize my pen and ink traditionally drawn art.


To do this vectorization process, you need to have Inkscape (Click to download) vector software, which is free, installed on your computer. Then do these steps:

1. Resize your scanned artwork to low resolution, at something like ~1500×1500 px 300 DPI (don’t need to be exact, but close). You can do that with Paint software for fast results, it does not matter. The goal is to degrade the quality of the image. This needs to be done so our computer won’t crash when we try to vectorize the art with Inkscape.

2. Then open your art with Inkscape. Select it and press Path->Trace Bitmap and press OK. You can fiddle with the settings or modes, but default Brightness cutoff works the best most of the time.

3. Now just wait for Inkscape to finish, don’t press anything on the app, so it won’t crash. It is very resource intensive task on the computer and the file can be quite laggy after that process is done, but after it is done, you can just export it to PDF or any other vector format and it won’t be a problem. The bigger and better quality the original image is, the more resource intensive the task is to the point that the Inkscape crashes or you would need to wait for like 5 hours for the process to finish (the file would be so big that it would be pretty much unusable anyway). That’s why we resize and degrade the image quality in the first place – to make the process faster and the file more usable.


Before vectorization:

After vectorization:

In conclusion the art loses a lot of details and that traditional drawing feel is lost too. The only advantage that vectorization gives is that you can print the art at any size that you want, but in most cases, high resolution .TIFF or .PNG is enough and most print companies accept these file formats just fine. Those which are limiting themselves to just vector art I think are loosing customers.

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