Ultimate Guide: GIF-to-DXF Conversion

Updated Apr 11, 2017
Convert GIF to DXF

GIFs are a popular file format, commonly used to exchange simple web graphics—you’ve probably received or sent a funny GIF or two to people you know at some point or another. They’re easy to send and they come with wide support. Despite this, GIFs have many limitations: they’re difficult to edit, and they can suffer from resolution dependency. To combat these issues, users can convert their GIFs to a vector format like DXF.

This guide covers everything you could possible want to know about the GIF to DXF conversion process—from what conversion is, to how you can get the best results. Plus, we’ll show you how you can get Scan2CAD free for 14 days—letting you convert as many files as you want.

Table of Contents

What is a GIF file?

image of a gif icon GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, is a bitmap image format that was developed in 1987. It was created to provide a color image format, and has since become widespread. The format is popular for use with simple web graphics due to its wide support and portability.

GIFs have an 8-bit color depth—that’s 256 colors. This is a rather limited color palette compared to other formats such as JPG which has a 24-bit color depth (16 million colors). This limitation makes the GIF file format rather unsuitable for image types like photographs, but it does suffice for simpler images like graphics or logos. Whilst GIFs do make use of lossless compression, their resolution is still too low for most complex images. In fact, the quality of a GIF can be so low that the noise can cause problems when it comes to vectorization.

Fun fact: did you know that the pronunciation of GIF has caused a lot of confusion? The creator, Steve Wilhite, intended it to be pronounced with a soft ‘j‘ sound like ‘jail’. However, many other people have adopted the pronunciation with a harsh ‘g‘ sound, like ‘gift’. 

Example of animated gif

What is a DXF file?

DXF icon DXF, or Drawing eXchange Format, is a vector file format which was created by Autodesk with the intention of becoming an exchange medium between different CAD programs. Unlike the DWG file format, DXF is not a proprietary file format. It’s an open standard, so it’s supported by practically every CAD program on the market. You can view DXF files using a wide variety of programs, including AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator and, of course, Scan2CAD. This wide compatibility and support has made the DXF format the de facto format for collaboration and sharing in the CAD industry.

DXF images are smaller than their raster counterparts, as they don’t need to store color information for every single pixel. However, they are larger than the DWGs, as the DWG file format is binary whereas DXFs are made up of ASCII text

Want to know more about the DXF file format? Check out our DXF FAQs and the DXF file specification

Why convert from GIF to DXF?

  • For scaling an image. Rasters are made up of pixels, so they become blurry and undefined when you rescale or zoom in. Vectors, however, are infinitely scalable. This means you can rescale or zoom in to a vector image without any loss in quality. For more information, check out our article on the differences between rasters and vectors.
  • For sharing. DXFs can be shared across a multitude of programs which means that you’re not limited in any way. Since practically every CAD program on the market comes with support for DXF, you can collaborate with any designer, with no hassle.
  • To edit a drawing. Trying to edit a raster image is like painting. You can’t edit specific elements of the image; any changes you make will affect the image as a whole. Vector file types, however, are easy to edit because they’re made up of individual vector paths. You can even take individual elements from a DXF file to reuse in another!

editing a raster image versus a vector image

How does the conversion process work?

The process of converting a raster to a vector is otherwise known as vectorization. This process involves tracing over the raster image with vector lines. This can be completed manually or automatically.

Manual Tracing

Traditionally, manual tracing was the only way you could create a vector representation of a raster image. This would involve creating a vector layer on top of the raster, and then tracing over it with vector lines—this could be done with a mouse or a graphics pen. 

There are advantages to this method. It has the benefit of human understanding—only a human would be able to fully understand what the image represents. If you have an old, faded electrical diagram, you’d know exactly where the lines were. In comparison, a computer would falter, as it can only work off of lines it can detect. Essentially, this means that it’s possible to manually trace an image of any quality. However, this method is not without its disadvantages—it can be a very time-consuming process, particularly for more complex images. Consequently, many designers opt for the more time-efficient method of automatic tracing.

Automatic Tracing

This process involves using a raster-to-vector conversion program to instantly convert your raster image. Your chosen software will detect the lines and edges present in your GIF. It will then redraw them as vector lines, curves, polygons and other vector entities. You simply have to load your image into the program, and you can produce a vector in a few mere clicks. Some advanced programs, such as Scan2CAD, even have the capability of recognizing raster text within an image using OCR (Optical Character Recognition) tools—it can then redraw the raster text as vector text.

Of course, automatic conversion can have setbacks. The program you use won’t have the same level of understanding of the raster as you do. The image you want to convert will have to be very clear and of high quality. Even then, you usually need to complete a lot of pre- and post-processing work. Still, it is a very cost-effective method—saving hours of work and cutting conversion time to mere seconds. Don’t believe us? Check out the process below!

For more information, check out our article covering the differences between manual and automatic tracing. You can also get a more in-depth look at the conversion process by learning how to automatically trace an image

Why you should avoid online conversion tools

It can be very tempting to pick the first online conversion tool that you come across. After all, there are dozens of online conversion tools available—and they all promise to convert your file quickly, with no downloads necessary. 

There are many limitations to these types of tools, however. Firstly, you can only convert a small number of files. And don’t even think about attempting to convert anything with a large file size. Not to mention that you won’t be able to get a high-quality result. Plus, if your image contains any text, it probably won’t be converted into editable vector text—and even if it is, it probably won’t even be arranged into logical strings. 

OCR text conversion using Scan2CAD (left) and other software (right)

The text on the left was converted using Scan2CAD. The text on the right was converted using a different CAD program, and hasn’t been correctly reassembled into strings.

Worse still, online converters can be unsafe and have a number of security risks. There’s the danger of someone stealing your work, and you have to think about the probability of a virus or trojan infecting your system. Check out the 5 pitfalls of online file converters for more information.

In the long run, it really isn’t worth taking the risk. Software like Scan2CAD, however, keeps your files and your system safe and secure. It runs locally, and it can offer effective and precise conversions. 

Problems with GIF to DXF conversion

Firstly it should be noted that animations aren’t useful when creating CAD designs. Therefore if you’re converting an animated GIF to DXF the conversion software will pick the first frame of the animation and ignore all subsequent frames.

It’s not possible to merely convert your image to a vector straight away—you have to prepare the image before you convert it. You have to have a high-quality image for vectorization to work successfully. However, GIFs, as with many other raster file types, suffer from a variety of ‘common problems‘ that can affect your chances of gaining optimal vectorization results. 

Poor image quality for raster to vector conversion

Don’t bother converting any raster image that sports any of these problems…

Failure to address these types of issues before vectorization means that your resulting vector image won’t be of a high standard. Don’t worry—Scan2CAD has some top tips to help you optimize your raster and the get the best possible vector output.

How to get the best results

  • Use a different file format than GIF. GIFs suffer from a range of issues. They’re typically low in quality, so the noise will cause problems for vectorization. For optimal conversion results, Scan2CAD recommends saving your image as a TIFF. TIFFs use lossless compression and are of high resolution—they’re the perfect file format for vectorization. Of course, it’s not always possible to use a different file format. In this case, you can take other measures to optimize your GIF before vectorization.
  • Thresholding. This tool enables you to divide your image cleanly into black and white pixels—eliminating the issues caused by grayscale images or compression artifacts. There are two types: 
    • Simple thresholding: this applies to the whole image.
    • Adaptive thresholding: this applies to different parts of your GIF file.
  • Cleaning tools: Scan2CAD comes with a range of cleaning tools that can help you eradicate most of the issues affecting GIFs. 
    • Thicken lines: this will fix broken or dithered lines.
    • Remove holes or speckles.
    • Smooth: this will remove ‘hairy’ edges surrounding your image.

Advanced cleaning Tools

These tools are just a small example of the many cleaning features that Scan2CAD offers. Take a look at our raster quality checklist to see how you can fix any issues. You can also check out our top 10 raster effects to optimize your raster before the conversion process. 

Using Scan2CAD to convert GIF to DXF

Scan2CAD can convert your GIF to a DXF in mere seconds—it boasts of the fastest conversion process out there. And it couldn’t be simpler!

  • Load your GIF in Scan2CAD. This is like loading a file in any other program. Click File > Raster > Load and select your GIF.
  • Choose the settings. Scan2CAD comes with vectorization settings, each of which are individually tailored to produce optimal results for a specific type of image. Select the type menu, and choose the appropriate setting.
    Tip: check out Scan2CAD’s handy guide for all vectorization settings
  • Convert your image. To vectorize your image you can click:
    • vectorization button screenshot : which converts lines, curves and shapes to vectors.
    • OCR button screenshot : to convert raster text to vector text. 
    • All button screenshot : which converts the entire image (lines and text) to vectors.
  • Save your vector as a DXF. Click File > Vector > Save As

Features offered by Scan2CAD

Scan2CAD is a two-in-one solution. It’s a raster to vector converter, and a PDF to vector converter. Its primary focus is the conversion of technical drawings—ranging from engineering drawings, to architectural drawings and even site plans—to usable and editable vector images. 

It comes with a wide variety of market-leading innovative features and capabilities. It has an extensive raster and vector editing suite, to help you optimize your image before and after vectorization. That’s not all. Scan2CAD has batch processing capabilities, so you can automatically convert hundreds of files—in one click! Plus, its Smart OCR feature allows you to train the software to recognize unusual fonts—and even handwritten fonts.

With Scan2CAD, you can rest assured knowing that you’re using a safe and secure program. It comes with flexible licensing, 24/7 support and it supports no fewer than 33 file types—so you can convert more than just GIFs! You won’t be able to find such capabilities anywhere else.

Don’t believe us? Read up on why Scan2CAD is the ultimate vectorization software.

Interested in converting from GIF to DXF? Try out Scan2CAD’s free 14-day trial and make use of its full range of professional features with no limitations—no watermarks and no obligations. You can also convert using a wide range of different file types—check out how to convert BMP to DXF.

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