What Does Autotracing Mean?

Autotracing is a technique for producing a vector image from a bitmapped image. Bitmapped images, which are represented by dots, could have possible grains, halftone dots or other limitations. This can be resolved by converting them into vector images. Autotracing focuses on copying or converting a printable image into an outlined object.


Techopedia Explains Autotracing

Autotracing is done with the help of software applications. In autotracing, the original bitmapped image is analyzed for separating the different areas to shapes. The shapes are in turn mathematically defined, aiding in the conversion of the image to a vector graphic. Different software packages are available to support autotracing, with most reading the files in bitmapped formats. However, the conversion technique and accuracy of the conversion differs from software to software. In most cases, autotracing is faster than manual vectorization techniques.

In the case of simple bitmapped images, autotracing is highly efficient in converting them to vector graphics. Correct use of autotracing can help in file size reduction and also aid in creating interesting artistic effects. Autotraced files are very useful in Web applications as the smaller size can help to reduce download times. Another application of autotracing is for the manipulation of images produced from optical scanners. Bitmapped images from scanners, which are difficult to manipulate using other tools, can be converted to vector form using autotracing. Eye-catching artistic effects can be added for both color and grayscale photos and pictures.

Autotracing may not be suitable for complex images as there would be many constituent shapes and color shifts involved. In fact, the vector file could be much larger than the original file and may not be able to preserve the appearance of the original picture.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.