Scan2CAD: The Ultimate Vectorization Software

Updated Jul 26, 2022
Ultimate Vectorization Software

With the advent of CAD software, vector images have become an integral part of the design process. Nevertheless, you’re unlikely to create a design without working with raster images at some point. The issue comes in with trying to convert from raster to vector—if, for example, you wanted to take a scan of a paper sketch and turn it into an editable CAD drawing.

Raster and vector images are made up of entirely different components. This means that it’s incredibly tricky to convert from raster to vector. Many pieces of vectorization software will promise you the moon—there are even websites which claim to offer free, quick conversion. Remember the old adage: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. How can you be sure you’ll get great resultsfast conversion times, and guarantee privacy and security? Enter Scan2CAD.

Scan2CAD is the ultimate vectorization software. With rapid conversions, a full image editing suite, and tools to optimize your raster image, Scan2CAD can save you time and give you great results. Its range of features make it so much more than just another conversion program—it’s a vital tool for the design process.

Want to find out more? This guide will show you exactly how the vectorization process works, what Scan2CAD can offer you, and what it is that makes Scan2CAD a cut above the rest.

Table of Contents

What is Scan2CAD?

Scan2CAD is a conversion program that also comes with a complete image editing suite. It was first released almost two decades ago, and has been constantly evolving, growing and improving ever since.
Image Conversion - Pixelated raster to vector

So, what does Scan2CAD do? In simple terms, it’s a two-in-one solution that lets you…

  • convert from raster to vector
  • convert from PDF to vector

Once converted, your vector files are ready to be opened and edited in CAD software, just like any other DWG or DXF file.

What are rasters and vectors?
  • Raster images are essentially a grid made up of thousands of tiny squares of color, called pixels. Digital photographs and most computer graphics are commonly stored as raster images. Example file formats include JPEG, GIFPNG, and TIFF.
  • Vector images are popular in graphic design, architecture, and engineering. They are made up of lines, points, polygons and text, and rely on mathematical coordinates. Unlike raster images, they are easily editable and retain their quality at any scale. Example file formats include DWG and DXF.

What is the conversion process?

Taking your image from a drawing on paper to an editable CAD file takes just four steps in Scan2CAD…

  1. Scan your image
  2. Clean and optimize your image using a few simple tools and tricks
  3. Convert your raster image to a vector using Scan2CAD
  4. Make some final edits to finish off

Pretty simple, right? Don’t just take our word for it—check out the step-by-step process below. 

How does this ultimate vectorization process work?

Converting from raster to vector involves a dramatic change in what your image is made up of. The pixels that make up raster images cannot be directly converted to vector lines—the process has to involve some sort of tracing.

In the past, this was done manually—the user would have to literally draw over all the lines in their raster image to produce a vector counterpart. Now, vectorization software is able to detect patterns in the raster image, and ‘trace’ over the lines automatically. This saves designers hours of work, and offers great results.

So, now that you know how Scan2CAD works, you might be wondering—how exactly do you use it? Read on for the full step-by-step process—or, if you want to dive into the technical details, check out our user manual.

Getting started

  • Load your raster image into Scan2CAD. This is much the same as loading a file in any other program—just click FileRasterLoad and select your file.
  • Some raster image formats are more suitable for conversion than others. File types to avoid include the common JPEG and GIF formats. So, before you start, make sure you choose the right raster format. We recommend using TIFF or PNG files for conversion due to their lossless compression.
What is lossy and lossless compression?
  • Files which use lossy compression lose quality when they are edited and saved. Whilst this means that their file sizes are usually small, it means that their quality isn’t good enough for conversion. An example of a file format using lossy compression is JPEG.
  • Files which use lossless compression retain their quality when saved. Their file sizes are larger, but they are much more suitable for vectorization. Examples include TIFF, PNG and BMP.
  • However, if your raster image is already saved as a lossy format, like JPEG or GIF, you should convert it to TIFF or PNG before starting the conversion process. This is because you may need to make edits to your raster image before you convert it, to ensure it is up to scratch. Making edits to a JPEG file would make its quality worse; a TIFF file is a better choice. However, please be aware that converting your file to TIFF won’t undo any previous degradation of your image’s quality.
    Saving your file in a different format is simple. Just click FileRasterSave As
loading and converting in scan2cad software

How to load a raster in Scan2CAD and convert it to a lossless raster format


Optimize your raster

The key to getting a good vector image is to have a good raster image to start off with. But what does “good” mean? In this case, it means few colors, a high resolution, and clean, distinct, solid lines. Some of the most common issues with raster images can be seen in the image below:

Poor image quality for raster to vector conversion

Common problems in raster image quality


Fortunately, Scan2CAD offers a wide selection of features designed specifically to maximize the quality of your raster image. A better quality raster image means that Scan2CAD will be better at detecting the lines and text in your image, meaning better vector outputs.

Please note that the effects used below are just a taster of what Scan2CAD offers. Want to know more? Check out our top 10 raster effects or our raster quality checklist to find out exactly what needs to be done before conversion. 

Raster effects

  • Color reduction: the ideal raster image for conversion is black and white. This is because monochrome images gives the clearest contrast between the background and foreground.
    Click Palette > Reduce Colors Auto > choose 2 to reduce your colors to black and white only
  • Threshold: you can also reduce colors, clean up your background, and prevent distortion with Scan2CAD’s simple and adaptive thresholding tools. Simple Threshold is perfect for greyscale images. Based on your parameters, it divides shades of grey into black and white, helping keep your images crisp and distinct.
    Click Raster Effects > Threshold > Simple.
  • Remove speckles and holes: speckles and holes can appear in or around lines, making it hard for the software to detect a consistent line or shape. To avoid this, use our Remove Speckles/Holes tool.
    Click Raster Effects > Clean > Remove Speckles/Holes.
reduce colour and clean raster image in scan2cad

How to reduce color and clean a raster image in Scan2CAD

  • Thicken lines: you can thicken the lines in your raster image to remove any holes, close gaps, and make broken lines solid. You can also make your lines thinner if they overlap or touch.
    Click Raster Effects > Thicken.
  • Smooth: to remove ‘hairs’ from your image, you can smooth the edges of the lines in your raster image. This means that Scan2CAD will detect and draw solid lines, and will avoid a messy finish.
    Click Raster Effects > Smooth.
thicken and smooth your raster image in scan2cad

How to thicken lines and smooth a raster image in Scan2CAD



  • Type: before beginning the process, it’s important to choose the right image type. This is because different vectorization settings are more suitable for different types of images: for example, an architectural image is likely to be made up of straight lines and right angles, whilst a contour map is more likely to be made up of curves. Scan2CAD offers a number of different pre-programmed image types, to ensure you get the most appropriate results possible. You’ll find all of these settings by clicking on the Type menu.
    The screenshot below made use of the Picture/Photo setting.
  • Run: You can now start the vectorization process. 
    Click Run > Vectorization. You can also press F7 or click  (to vectorize lines, points, and polygons),  (to vectorize text) or  (to vectorize the entire image).
  • Preview: Scan2CAD also gives you a useful preview window, so you can experiment with the numerous settings available.
example of type settings and vectorization preview

How to choose type settings and use the vectorization preview in Scan2CAD


Finally, once you’re happy with the finished vector image, it can be exported to a number of different formats. 

  • Export to a vector format. Scan2CAD supports a number of different vector file types, including DXF, DWG and PDF.
    Just click File > Vector > Save As
how to export a vector in scan2cad

How to export a vector in Scan2CAD

In the past, this process would have taken hours to complete. Using Scan2CAD, it took just a few minutes.

So now you know how to vectorize a raster image—but what if that image contains text? Read on to find out more about Scan2CAD’s secret weapon to deal with text…

How is raster text vectorized?

So, now you’re familiar with how raster lines and polygons are turned into vectors. But what about text? You can’t simply convert raster text into a series of lines—it wouldn’t display correctly on screen, and it would be next-to-impossible to edit. You need a tool that can determine which parts of your image are made up of characters, like letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. It then has to convert them into strings of vector text. Finally, it has to be able to arrange that text into logical patterns, rather than breaking every character up individually.

Sounds pretty difficult, right? Not for Scan2CAD. That’s because Scan2CAD comes equipped with OCR (Optical Character Recognition). OCR is able to detect text within a raster image and convert it into editable vector text. It does this by recognising the lines, curves and angles which form each letter.

Whilst other file converters may include forms of OCR, Scan2CAD is miles ahead of its competitors. This is because Scan2CAD can arrange fonts into logical strings and even be trained to detect unusual fonts and handwritten text thanks to its neural networks, which work like the human brain.

In the image below, you can see a raster image with text loaded into Scan2CAD:

example of ocr text in scan2cad Other converters may struggle to convert this due to the coarse, pixelated, and undefined edges around the raster text. These problems become even clearer when you zoom into the image:

Zoomed-in OCR text

Scan2CAD’s optical character recognition is well-equipped to deal with these kinds of images. You can simply convert the raster text by clicking on the  button, pressing F6, or by navigating to OCR in the run menu.

Tip: You can also vectorize text and images at the same time by hitting , pressing F8, or clicking on Run > All.

When we look at the finished vector, we can see that the OCR tool has been effective in vectorizing the text:

example of ocr vector

Not only is the text rendered perfectly, but it is also arranged logically into text strings:

OCR text extents

Other converters may convert each character separately, making it extremely hard to edit. Scan2CAD, meanwhile, ensures that all text is arranged logically into strings—you can view the extents of these text strings simply by pressing T. The effects we’ve covered here are only the basics—there are endless possibilities at your fingertips.

What extra features does Scan2CAD's OCR have?
Features involved in OCR include: 

  • Character rotation and set. 
  • Split touching characters to improve text recognition. 
  • Convert text with or without a raster image. 
  • Scan2CAD Pro also allows users to train OCR to recognize fonts including non-standard e.g. hand-drawn and stencilled fonts.

What else does Scan2CAD offer?

Scan2CAD is more than just a vectorization program. Just take a look at its extensive list of features:

  • File Type Support: Scan2CAD supports no fewer than 33 different file types. Users can load images directly into Scan2CAD, cut and paste from another application, or scan their image from a TWAIN-compliant scanner. 
  • Extensive Compatibility: Scan2CAD converts images ready for use in CAD, CNC, GIS, and CAM programs. Why use a range of different conversion programs when Scan2CAD can do it all?
  • Flexible Licensing: With Scan2CAD, you can choose between a USB, Network or PC license (depending on which package you choose).
  • Smart OCRConvert the text in your raster image into editable vector text. You can even train Scan2CAD to recognize specific fonts, including handwritten text. Many converters don’t offer this feature, but Scan2CAD’s neural networks make the impossible possible.
  • Vector Recognition: Scan2CAD can identify numerous features, including dot/dash lines, arrow lines, Bezier curves and text. All in all, it has one of the highest feature recognition capabilities out there. Users can also choose from eleven conversion types, helping to produce the most accurate possible vectorized images.
  • Batch Processing: If you opt for the Professional or Business package, you can save time by automating tasks on thousands of files at once. You can also use pre-conversion clean-up features before converting your images. 
  • Raster Editing Tools: As you saw earlier, Scan2CAD offers a wide range of cleaning and editing tools allowing users to optimize their raster images prior to conversion.

What Kind of Raster Editing Tools are Available?

Cleaning and Editing Tools:

    • Remove speckles and fill holes
    • Thin and thicken lines or pixels
    • Smooth and outline rasters
    • Clean up your background and image using simple and adaptive thresholding
    • Negate, mirror and crop

      Draw and Erase Tools: 

    • Pen and eraser
    • Three cursor options: graphic, pointer or guide line
    • Flood fill
    • TrueType font raster text
    • Cut, copy and paste

      Color Palette Editing Tools:

    • Reduce number of colors automatically or manually
    • Decrease and increase color depth
    • Change the palette so it can match the palette of your CAD program

      Color Segmentation and Picture Vectorization: 

    • Users can group together pixels of similar colors, to best represent the original image 
    • Use Picture/Photo vectorization settings for raster images containing solid regions of color
  • Vector Editing Tools: Scan2CAD also offers a wide range of vector editing tools, that we didn’t make much use of in the step-by-step. These extensive features can help you perfect your vector before using it, whether you’re creating an image for a laser-etched plaque, or game making.

What Kind of Vector Editing Tools are Available?

Draw and Erase Vectors:

    • Draw on a new layer or trace over, a raster image
    • Drawing tools include pointlineortho linepolylinecirclearcBezier curve and text
    • Erase vectors individually or in a block

      Save Vectors:

    • Users can save vectors in various formats, such as DWGDXF or PDF
    • DXF can be saved at the same size or scale as the original image, with coordinates assigned to a known point
    • You can even attach raster images to your DXF file

      Vector Editing:

    • Stretch, snap and extend vectors
    • Convert vectors from one type to another—e.g., convert arcs to lines, or hatch lines to continuous, dashed, or dash-dot lines

      Vector Text:

    • Users can create vector TrueType font outlines—text can be converted to outlines that can then be exported to your CAD/CNC program as a DXF
    • Text can be edited and spell-checked

How is Scan2CAD different to other software?

Scan2CAD is Image File Types the complete package. Not only does it offer market-leading conversion tools, but its image editing suite gives you the ability to optimize your raster images before conversion, and make finishing touches to your vector output.

Scan2CAD also sets itself apart through its wide range of supported file types. In fact, it can handle no fewer than 33 different file types, making it one of the most versatile converters on the market. With support for PDFDXFDWG and SVG, using Scan2CAD means you can be sure of creating a file you can really use.

Users of all levels can find a wealth of information through the Scan2CAD website. Our detailed, exhaustive user manual covers everything you need to know about our software. You can also get in contact with us 24/7 via our contact form, email, or live chat on the Scan2CAD website. To discover the latest news from the world of CAD, plus some handy tips and tricks on how to make the most of Scan2CAD, you can also check out our blog. Here, you’ll also be able to discover our Ultimate Guide series—helping you become a conversion pro in no time.

From landscape architects to engineers to sculptors and emergency services, Scan2CAD is being adopted across a range of fields—and it’s not hard to see why. Scan2CAD offers more for less.

Using Scan2CAD means keeping your files 100% secure. Other conversion methods could put your computer at risk. Learn more about the risks of using online converters or cracked software.

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