Converting from TIFF to DXF — Your ultimate guide

Updated Mar 7, 2020
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In the graphic design, photography, and publishing industries, TIFF is the image format of choice. TIFF is a file format used to store raster images, and TIFF images can be saved as .tiff or .tif files.

TIFF stands for Tagged Image File Format, and is seen as the go-to format for high-quality graphics. Despite its high quality, however, TIFFs have some limitations. Like all raster image files, they are hard to edit and lose quality when scaled. In order to avert these issues, users can convert their TIFF to a vector image format such as DXF.

This guide aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the TIFF to DXF conversion process.

Table of Contents

What is a TIFF file?TIFF file icon

TIFF was created in 1986 as an attempt to create a common image file format for use with desktop scanners. Over time, TIFF evolved from a monochrome format to one which supports true color. To be technical, this means they have a 32-bit color depth, and support over 16 million colors and transparency. While the format is owned by Adobe, it is not proprietary. This means that its specification is publicly available, and the format can be used by everyone without the need to purchase a license.

TIFF is a raster graphics format. This means that it is made up of individually-colored pixels. The format is lossless, which means that a TIFF file can be edited or compressed without losing quality. For this reason, it is often used for storing large, high-quality images. For applications where image quality is of the utmost importance, TIFF is therefore the file format of choice. Meanwhile, you’re likely to run into issues when converting GIF to DXF due to that format’s low resolution. 

Despite the many advantages of using TIFFs, there are also some downsides. The high quality of the image comes with a file size to match: the file size of a compressed TIFF may be over 50 times larger than an equivalent JPEG. In addition, most web browsers do not support TIFFs.

What is a DXF file?DXF icon

DXF is a vector graphics format primarily used in computer-aided design. It was created by Autodesk to serve as an exchange medium between different CAD programs – DXF stands for Drawing Exchange Format.

Unlike DWG, which was also created by Autodesk, DXF is not a proprietary file format. As a result, it is supported by almost all CAD programs on the market. You can view DXF files using a range of programs, including AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, and, of course, Scan2CAD. This wide support means that DXF is the industry’s format of choice for collaborative editing.

While raster images have to store color information for every single pixel, a DXF only stores the necessary information to produce the lines and text in the image. This means that the file size of a DXF image will usually be much smaller than its raster equivalent. DXFs are, however, usually larger than DWGs. This is because DWGs are binary files, whereas DXFs are made up of ASCII text.

Why convert from TIFF to DXF?

Whilst TIFF is the gold standard for storing high-quality images, it still has some drawbacks. As a raster image format, TIFF faces the some of the same issues as other formats, such as PNG or JPEG. A TIFF file is made up of pixels, which means that entities within the image cannot be easily edited. Raster images have no structure, so it is impossible to separate out an individual line or piece of text. Any edits you make will therefore affect the entire image. It is also difficult to zoom into or scale the image without it becoming pixelated.

raster image example of letter 's' raster example image of letter 's'

Vector graphics formats like DXF avoid these problems. One of the key reasons to convert to DXF is that vector files are easily editable and endlessly scalable. Entities within a DXF can be edited individually, and the image can be scaled without loss of fidelity. In addition, DXF also has advantages over other vector formats. Using DXF means that you can be sure that your file will be supported by whichever CAD package you use. This stands in contrast to DWG, which is unsupported by some CAD programs. As DXF is so widely supported, it’s the perfect format for editing and collaboration.

Interested in converting to DWG instead? Learn how to convert from TIFF to DWG in our ultimate guide.

When would TIFF to DXF conversion be used?

TIFF images are widely used in the graphic design, engineering and publishing industries thanks to their high quality and lossless compression. However, TIFF is unsuitable for some design purposes, notably those involving printing.

Printers generally use a much higher resolution than computer screens. A printer typically uses 600 dots per inch whereas computer screens use around 72 dots per inch. Therefore, an image that looks fine on screen may have too low a resolution for printing. As a result, it may end up looking grainy or pixelated when printed. With vector images, this problem is eliminated, because there are no pixels to worry about. When you print a vector image, it will appear crisp at any size.

Some of the most common graphic design applications for vector images include:

  • Sign making
  • Fabric printing
  • Embroidery
  • Animations
  • General graphic design (e.g. magazines)
Airport signage

Vector graphics are commonly used for signs, such as these airport signs, as they retain their quality at any scale and are easily replicable

Even outside of these fields, Scan2CAD recommends saving your raster images as TIFF files for optimal results. This is because TIFF preserves image quality, whereas JPEGs degrade upon compression, leaving the image with artifacts.

Case study: Facilities management

One example of TIFF to DXF conversion comes from the field of facilities management. A leading US insurance company was initially attracted to Scan2CAD for its editing prowess, rather than its vectorization capabilities. However, the usefulness of being able to convert from TIFF to DXF soon became apparent for the company. The company regularly handles paper drawings, which can be scanned and saved as TIFF files. Some parts of these drawings – such as fire equipment, sprinkler systems, power points, and hazards – must be converted into a vector format so that they can be edited in the company’s in-house CAD program. Scan2CAD enables the scanned TIFFs to be converted to DXF quickly and simply.

The company’s CAD supervisor writes: “I received a color PDF from a client. As it was PDF’d directly from CAD it was of very good quality. When I saved it as TIFF within Acrobat it resulted in a 363 Mb file at 200 dpi. Scan2CAD was able to open the TIFF and reduce the colors from 16.7 million to 8 in a few minutes. I then used the View/Edit Palette feature to ensure that some of the lighter colors that needed to be saved were converted to black. Then I reduced the color depth to 1-bit. I selected the Site Plan option under Type, tweaked a couple of settings, hit the VEC button and had a near perfect vector translation in a few seconds. My guess is that we reduced the total project time by nearly a day on something that would normally take about 32 hours to create from scratch“.

You can read the full case study here, or visit our user testimony section for more examples of how conversion helps businesses.

Should I use an online converter?

The short answer here is no.

When comparing an online TIFF to DXF converter to a local application that runs on your PC, such as Scan2CAD, there’s simply no competition. Scan2CAD is faster, more efficient and more accurate than any online conversion tool on the market.

Vectorization is an incredibly complex process from a technical standpoint. This means that it requires plenty of computer processing power to complete a conversion from raster to vector.

For a local application, this isn’t a problem—but online converters have stretched resources, and can’t devote the same amount of computing power. So, they cut corners, and convert your image in a simplistic manner. They are unlikely to properly capture the detail in your TIFF file, leaving you with a DXF file that’s useless for editing purposes.

Unfortunately, the risks of online conversion don’t end there. Online converters come with a host of security and privacy risks, potentially putting your intellectual property in danger, and leaving your system open to being compromised. Choosing Scan2CAD, meanwhile, means you’re choosing a program that keeps your files 100% secure.

Keeping your files and system secure is vital. Downloading a crack could put them in danger. Find out why downloading a cracked copy of Scan2CAD could harm your computer and business.

How do I convert from TIFF to DXF using Scan2CAD?

Converting from TIFF to DXF is an incredibly simple process. In just a few minutes, you can transform your TIFF into an editable vector following these easy steps:

  • Load your TIFF in Scan2CAD. This is much the same as opening a file in any program. Just click File > Raster > Load, and select your image.


  • Choose your settings. Scan2CAD comes loaded with a range of vectorization settings, each of which produces optimal results for a specific type of image. Using the Type menu, select the settings most appropriate for your desired results.


  • Convert your image. To vectorize your image, you can either click:
    • , which converts lines, curves, and shapes to vectors,


    • , which converts raster text to vector text, or


    • , which converts the entire image (both lines and text) to vectors.


  • Save your vector as a DXF file. Just click FileVectorSave As.



How does the conversion work?

While raster and vector files both display graphics, they work in completely different ways. Raster images (like TIFFs) are composed of pixels, and have no structure. A vector image (like a DXF), on the other hand, is made up of paths. You can think of this like a set of instructions, that tells the software what to display. Since these formats are so different, the only way to convert from raster to vector is by image tracing.

Tracing an image can be done by hand, but this is an extremely time-consuming process. This is where Scan2CAD comes in. Scan2CAD works to automatically detect lines, curves, and text within the image. It then traces over them with vector lines and text. This process is much quicker than tracing the image manually. However, there are limits to what automatic tracing software can achieve. As such, it’s important to be realistic about what can be achieved with vectorization. Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure you get the best possible results with your image.

How to get the best results

One of the most common problems in vectorization is poor image quality. The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” is never more true than in image conversion. So, make sure your image is up to scratch before you try to convert it. Even if you think your image looks ready to convert, there may be problems with it that aren’t so easy to see. Some common issues with raster images include:

Poor image quality for raster to vector conversion

Scan2CAD’s Raster Quality Checklist can help you avoid or fix many of these problems. You can also check out our full rundown of the top 10 raster effects to optimize your vector conversion.

This article forms part of our Ultimate Guide series. You can also check out our articles on how to convert to DXF from PNG, PDF, or DWG.

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