How to Convert JPG to Vector

Updated May 21, 2018
watercolor background - converting jpg image file to vector file

To be able to edit your designs in CAD software, you’ll need to ensure that they’re saved as vector files. If you originally created the design in CAD software, then this won’t cause any issues. If your design started life on paper, however, then you may find yourself with a raster file instead. One of the most common raster file formats is JPG—but, unfortunately, JPGs aren’t compatible with CAD software. The solution is to convert JPG to vector.

Converting JPG to vector is a technically complex process. Luckily, though, Scan2CAD is here to simplify things. In this article, we’ll cover the ins and outs of the conversion process, and show you how you can convert JPG to vector in just a few clicks.

About JPG

Even a computing novice would be familiar with the JPG file format. JPG is, after all, the standard image format for digital photography. As such, anyone who’s ever taken a photo on a digital camera or smartphone will have created a JPG.

For our purposes, however, we’ll need to dive in a little deeper. The first fact to be aware of is that JPG is a raster file format. This means that, like other raster formats, JPGs display a map of colored pixels—with each pixel distinct from all the others. As such, there is no structure to a JPG.

Example floorplan

Take the image above, for example. The human eye is able to see that the image portrays a floorplan. The JPG format itself, however, simply stores separate colored pixels—in this case, black, white and gray. It cannot provide information about how these pixels are connected to one another, nor about what the image portrays. This aspect of the nature of JPG files is an important reason as to why they are unsuitable for use with CAD software—and why you would need to convert JPG to vector.

This isn’t the only drawback to using JPG, however. Firstly, as is the case with other raster files, you cannot zoom into or scale a JPG without losing quality. Secondly, you cannot attach information to a JPG—rendering it useless for CAD purposes.

Meanwhile, the JPG file format exhibits some weaknesses even when compared to other raster formats. Key to this is JPG’s use of lossy compression. In a nutshell, this means that, when you save a JPG file, you sacrifice some image quality in exchange for a smaller file size. This works well for JPG’s intended use of digital photography, but makes it completely unsuitable for CAD, where crisp, clear images are necessary.

An additional drawback of lossy compression is the appearance of compression artifacts. You may have noticed these if you’ve ever mistakenly saved an image as a JPG: blurriness, dots or blocks appearing around the edge of a line or shape, making the image appear of low quality.

Tip: JPG files are not the only raster files you may convert to vector using Scan2CAD. If you have other raster images, this guide discusses how Scan2CAD may also be used for vector conversion of these formats. 

With so many disadvantages to the JPG format, you may wish to convert JPG to vector. Let’s take a deeper look at vector files to see what advantages they offer.

About vector files

Vector files stand in stark contrast to JPGs for numerous reasons. Firstly, a vector file is made up of objects, as opposed to a JPG, which is made up of pixels. These objects lie at a fixed relative position within the image, defined by Cartesian coordinates. The result of this is that it is possible to display a vector image at virtually any scale without losing quality.

Additionally, it is possible to edit each of the objects that make up a vector image separately. Deleting an object from the image, for example, takes just a couple of clicks. This distinguishes vector files from JPGs, where any edit will affect the image as a whole.

Another benefit to the use of objects, as opposed to pixels, is the ability to attach information to those objects. This is particularly useful in fields such as architecture, where a designer could, for example, specify the building material of a certain object. As businesses have embraced PLM and adopted more holistic approaches towards design, this feature has become ever more useful.

Vector file formats for CAD

When you convert JPG to vector, you need to make sure that you get the most out of your converted image. The best way to ensure this is by converting to a format that your software supports—in the case of CAD software, this means either DWG or DXF. We’ll run through the differences between these formats and the pros and cons of each.


DWG icon Anyone who’s ever used Autodesk’s flagship CAD software AutoCAD will be familiar with the DWG format. In fact, the history of DWG is intertwined with that of AutoCAD; it serves as the native file format for the CAD application, with new versions of the DWG format released to coincide with new versions of AutoCAD.

With this in mind, DWG is the ideal format for any designer who works with AutoCAD. That’s because, unlike DXF, DWG is able to support the full range of AutoCAD-specific vector entities, such as dynamic blocks. It’s also a more natural fit for 3D design than DXF.

Nonetheless, there are still some drawbacks to DWG. Key to this is that, as a proprietary format, developers must pay to include support for DWG in their software. While some have attempted to find workarounds, others have simply excluded DWG from their software. This means that, if you’re collaborating with designers from other teams, they may not have access to DWG-compatible programs. The safest bet here is to opt instead for DXF.

Converting JPG to DWG? Check out this in-depth article discussing the pros and cons.


DXF icon The raison d’être of the DXF format is to enable designers to collaborate even if they use different CAD programs. Autodesk developed the format as an open standard, meaning that developers were free to build support for DXF into their software.

Today, DXF has become ubiquitous, and virtually every CAD program on the market supports it. However, this means that, to some extent, it must act as a kind of “lowest common denominator” vector format. As such, it lacks support for some program-specific objects. Nonetheless, users looking to convert JPG to vector are unlikely to need such sophisticated features. As such, it stands as one of the best options for vectorization purposes.

Preparing to convert JPG to vector

Having covered the details on JPG and vector files, we’ll now move onto how to convert JPG to vector. Our first piece of advice, unfortunately, might come a little too late for some: avoid JPG where possible.

As we noted above, saving your image as a JPG worsens its quality, and makes it trickier to produce a usable vector file at the end. That’s why, if you’re looking to convert from raster to vector, you should consider saving your image in a different raster format. Here at Scan2CAD, we recommend converting from TIFF to vector instead.

Unfortunately, changing your file format isn’t always possible: a colleague may have sent you a JPG version of a scanned image, for example. And simply saving your JPG as a TIFF later won’t change things—once you’ve saved an image as JPG, the damage is done. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t undo some of this damage later on.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a few helpful tips on how Scan2CAD can help you get the most out of your JPG:

  • Reduce the number of colors in your image. Vectorization works best when your image has as few colors as possible—preferably, only two: black and white. Unfortunately, JPG’s lossy compression has a habit of turning black and white images into grayscale images. Scan2CAD’s Thresholding tool allows you to undo this damage, separating the shades of gray into black and white. For images containing different colors, try out the Segment tool instead.
  • Thicken your lines. This is a particularly useful tip when you scan in an image from a paper copy. In this situation, you may often find that gaps may appear in the lines in your image. Using Scan2CAD’s Thicken tool to reduce these gaps makes it easier to convert JPG to vector.
  • Smooth the image. When you scan an image, you may find that the edges of any shapes in your image are ‘hairy’. Smoothing helps to eliminate these ‘hairs’, making your image crisper.
  • Deskew the image. Try as we might, it’s not always possible to scan in an image at a perfect angle. This means that, when you open the JPG on your computer, you may find that the image is not completely straight. Luckily, Scan2CAD has a deskewing tool, which allows you to shift the image back into place. Be careful with this tool, though, as it can have a negative impact on image quality.

The right (and wrong) way to convert JPG to vector

Once you’ve used the above steps to clean up your JPG, you’re ready to convert your image. But how exactly can you accomplish this? In fact, you have some options.

The first option is to trace over your image manually. This process starts in an image editor which supports both raster and vector images, such as Illustrator or Inkscape. If the quality of your JPG is particularly low, this might be a good option, as you’ll be able to pick out details that a computer program simply wouldn’t be able to discern. However, this is a very time-consuming option—a single JPG could take hours to convert.

Your alternative, then is to use automatic tracing. Provided you have a good quality image to start off with, automatic tracing software can help you to convert JPG to vector in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, not all automatic tracing software is created equal. If you choose to use an online JPG to vector converter, for example, you could find yourself facing problems such as:

  • Poor quality conversion outputs
  • Risking the property of your intellectual property
  • Lack of adequate features for technical conversion
  • Downloading viruses and Trojan horses

With the potential for seriously dire consequences, choosing an online converter simply because it’s free just isn’t worth the risk. Instead, opt for a trustworthy program that specializes in technical raster-to-vector conversion: Scan2CAD.

How to convert JPG to vector in Scan2CAD

It often surprises newcomers, but Scan2CAD makes it refreshingly simple to convert JPG to vector. In fact, as long as you have a good quality JPG, you can actually complete the conversion process itself in just a few clicks! See Scan2CAD in action below:

Animation Converting Image in Scan2CAD

Why choose Scan2CAD?

As you can see, Scan2CAD offers lightning-fast JPG-to-vector conversion. But it isn’t just any software—it’s the ultimate vectorization software. That’s because Scan2CAD contains all the tools you need for every stage of the conversion process. With Scan2CAD, you can clean up and optimize your raster image prior to conversion, vectorize your image, and perform any necessary finishing touches to ensure that you’re ready to open your new vector image in your CAD software of choice.

We could sit here for hours talking about our raster editing features, smart OCR or object recognition—but we’d rather you saw what Scan2CAD can do for yourself. That’s why we offer our users a 14-day, no obligation free trial. There are no watermarks and no restrictions, meaning you can really put Scan2CAD to the test!

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