17 – Creating a Vector File from a Bitmap (17:55)

The Lightblade Learning Lab with Russ Sadler

The Lightblade Learning Lab is a series of videos that Russ did for Thinklaser Limited based on using the Lightblade 4060 Laser Cutting and Engraving Machine. Thinklasers Lightblade 4060 has a 400 x 600mm bed size and was supplied with a 60W EFR laser tube. In This Session, Russ will show us how to convert a bitmap to a vector file and suggests some software packages you can use.

How to convert a bitmap to a vector file
How to convert a bitmap to a vector file

Contents

  • Looking at the creative side of making a gift box
  • Searching for designs on the Internet (first using the example of a butterfly)
  • Taking a screengrab
  • Using Photoshop
    • Editor’s Note: you could try GIMP as a free alternative
  • How to convert the bitmap into a vector drawing
  • Using ‘Posterize’ and ‘Discard Color Information’
  • Using the Adobe Illustrator ‘Trace’ function
  • Export to DXF
  • Opening the file with a CAD program
  • Showing that some of the lines may actually be double lines because the trace function has traced both the black and the white colours
  • Converting from splines to lines and arcs
  • Measuring and correcting angular errors
  • Trimming one half of an object and then mirroring it to produce a symmetrical version
  • Using the offset function to strengthen parts of the object
  • Looking for an idea for a box on the Internet
  • Types of paper used for cardboard engineering
  • Cutting the model
  • Folding and slotting together the model

My thanks go out to Tom at Thinklaser for giving permission to embed these videos on this site. If you are looking for a new laser machine from a quality supplier, then I would suggest you check out their website: www.thinklaser.com.

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Butterfly Box – DXF File

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Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file

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00:15

Welcome to another Lightblade learning lab

00:17

if you cast your mind back to the

00:20

previous session and we made a little

00:23

box, i promised you then that we would make a

00:27

slightly different version of a gift box

00:29

and what I plan to do is to show you the

00:32

creative or perhaps it’s the non-creative

00:36

process that i go through to make one of

00:40

these boxes my artistic creative skills

00:43

are pretty close to zero so i have to

00:46

rely on borrowing other people’s skills

00:49

to make my designs and i’m going to show

00:53

you that process today and along the way

00:56

I should be showing you how we’re going

00:58

to convert a bitmap file into a vector

01:02

file so that it can be cut on here as

01:04

opposed to engraved. Well to show you how

01:07

i go about producing some of my designs

01:10

as i mentioned to you i’m no artist so I

01:14

have to go and look for other people’s

01:16

artistic talent and bolt things together

01:19

that i can find on the interweb but

01:21

today we’re going to start off by

01:22

hunting for a butterfly to use in this

01:26

project now it’s not a real butterfly, what

01:30

I want to find and i’m going to put this in

01:32

a search for butterfly graphics

01:38

that’s always a good term to use

01:40

“graphics” because it will get you to

01:42

pictures like this and then we’ve got

01:47

images of butterfly graphics now i can

01:50

already see one there that i think is

01:52

quite nice

01:53

we are eventually going to have to make

01:55

this black-and-white so we could either

01:58

choose something like this one

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

02:01

I mean they are loads to choose from as

02:03

you can see and we’ve got a nice clear

02:04

picture there and we will now do a

02:09

screen grab of it so we should just do a…..

02:12

and then we should go to photoshop now

02:18

you may not have photoshop you may have

02:20

something else

02:21

photoshop is something that I prefer and

02:24

i use but i’m going to show you how I do

02:27

it and then you can adapt this method to

02:29

suit your your software. We’re trying to

02:32

convert this now into a DXF file which

02:36

basically is a vector format file what

02:39

we have here at the moment is a bitmap

02:41

file with all sorts of shades and colors

02:43

in it but what we are trying to do is to get a

02:45

skeletal drawing that we can cut rather

02:50

than engrave and to do that what I’m

02:52

going to do is go to image adjustments

02:56

and down at the bottom I’ve got

02:57

something called Posterise, now i can set

03:01

the posterised levels to different

03:02

levels and really where after

03:06

black-and-white and if black-and-white is

03:08

what we’re after

03:09

then we’re after only two levels and

03:13

there we are, we’ve got rid of the shadow

03:14

around the outside and we’ve got the

03:18

basic shape still the only problem is we

03:21

still got some yellow in this and colour

03:23

so we can get rid of that as well by

03:25

going somewhere else

03:26

ok now we can go to image we can go to

03:32

mode then we can go to grayscale, discard

03:38

the colour information. In two simple steps

03:41

we’ve got ourselves a nice black and

03:43

white image crisp black and white image

03:45

now we need to save that…. PNG is a good

03:49

format

03:49

ok now I’m going to go and work in Adobe

03:53

Illustrator so we will open this PNG

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

04:02

here

04:04

and we’ll use the object trace

04:07

live trace make

04:11

and then we’ll do edit sorry object

04:15

again live trace

04:18

and the option that we want is show the

04:20

tracing results show outlines

04:24

and there we go so we know we’ve got the

04:26

outlines i can either take it as an

04:29

autocad drawing which I can deal with or

04:31

we can do

04:32

dxf file we’ll try the dxf file and now

04:35

we’re going to my cad program butterfly

04:37

dxf and there we go we’ve got the

04:40

butterfly dxf now as a CAD file

04:48

Now the only problem is the chances are that

04:51

if we look at this closely we shall

04:53

probably find that there are two lines

04:55

we find a corner somewhere we might find

04:59

it there are two tracings here look can

05:03

you see that we’ve got a tracing of the

05:05

black outline and a tracing of the white

05:07

outline that’s one of the problems with

05:11

doing a tracing so we’ve got two lots of

05:15

data there overlapped on top of each

05:17

other and so first of all we convert

05:19

this from splines as they call them, which

05:21

is that Brown shape and convert to lines and arcs //

05:24

lines and circles lines and arcs

05:26

that’s all we’ve got to play with and so

05:28

that’s how this drawing will get

05:30

converted even though it looks like all

05:32

sorts of funny shapes it will get

05:33

converted into just those two features

05:35

delete the original ok

05:42

there we go, that’s turned nice and green

05:44

which tells me it’s now been converted

05:45

into something called geometry what

05:48

we’re really interested in is a

05:50

butterfly

05:52

we’re not interested in a wonky

05:53

butterfly so what we should do as we

05:56

will draw a line approximately through

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

06:02

the middle of this butterfly here like

06:07

that

06:11

and then we’ll see how far off of

06:13

vertical it is by drawing a vertical

06:15

line F6, no F3 sorry and then we’ll go up

06:20

here will measure the angle

06:26

and the angle between that line and that

06:29

line is 3.618 so we can pick up this

06:35

whole drawing and rotate it, rotate

06:44

about any point 3.618 enter, enter and

06:51

there we go we’ve now got a butterfly

06:54

that’s vertical now we can choose either

06:59

half for our master and i’ll tell you what

07:03

we should do

07:06

we’ll just delete that because we don’t need it any

07:08

more, we’ll delete that because we

07:10

don’t need it anymore and this piece

07:12

here

07:13

well this is quite important because

07:14

what we’re going to do now, is there’s a feature here

07:17

called trim, trim

07:22

trim

07:24

and now everything else are separate

07:26

features and so now i should be able to do

07:28

delete just come in here like this and delete them

07:35

and there we go so now we’ve got half a

07:37

butterfly we’re gonna finish up with a

07:38

whole butterfly but what we’re going to

07:41

do is we are going to have to think about this

07:43

because some of this stuff is going to

07:46

be very delicate between these wings by

07:48

the time, by the time we cut these

07:51

out so what we need to do is to rework

07:56

this, I mean for instance here look we’ve

07:58

got a join here we can’t have that what we

08:01

can do we can put an offset in and let’s

08:03

just see what we’ve got

08:04

offset of, we’ll offset geometry and we’ll

08:07

offset it by just say one millimeter and

08:11

see how much that is

08:19

yeah that looks quite nice

08:22

maybe we can just do it the simple way

08:24

like this

08:28

we’ll offset all of these by one mill

08:34

bear in mind as I said to you there are double

08:37

shapes on here so i have to delete them

08:39

twice

08:42

ok now the gaps between those shapes now

08:45

are probably more realistic so I’ll go around and

08:50

take all the double images off

08:57

right, so there’s our basic butterfly, well there it’s a

09:00

bit um, it’s a little bit tight just here isn’t it

09:04

it’s getting close to this, this gap here

09:06

is going to be very small so i think

09:09

what we might do is just change that

09:11

slightly, we’ll delete that and then we will

09:17

just put this tangent to line or arc on

09:20

here and we join it onto the end of there

09:23

like that

09:25

there we go that’s better right, so now

09:27

we’ve got a much stronger antenna and we

09:31

might need the body stretched a little

09:33

bit so what I might do is to

09:40

put something like a two-millimeter

09:42

offset on this to start with so we’ll

09:44

put two millimeter offset on here like

09:48

that

09:50

we’ll delete this, basically what we’ve done is we’ve

09:53

changed the centre line and we’re gonna make

09:55

this moth, we’re going to make this

09:56

butterfly fatter nobody will notice that

09:59

so now we shall mirror

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

10:05

this

10:07

keep the original

10:11

and then we will do an

10:13

extend

10:16

to that line, like that

10:22

and then we’ll do one of these tangent to arc

10:25

things

10:27

from here

10:31

to here well there’s our beautiful vector

10:35

butterfly now courtesy of some no skill

10:41

on my part so that’s part one of this

10:45

project and it’s taken, taken the best part of ah….

10:51

three-quarters of an hour to do that so

10:53

we’ve got our basic graphic idea we’ve

10:55

got a butterfly now I want to try and

10:58

find a little box or I want to find

11:01

inspiration from somewhere for a box

11:04

design so I’m going to nick somebody

11:06

else’s idea now, let’s go and have a look

11:09

at wedding favor boxes, here we go… images

11:16

this is what we want

11:25

I’m just looking for something that’s a

11:28

little bit different, oh look

11:29

there’s an interesting box

11:32

could have done something like that

11:33

couldn’t I

11:38

now I see something like this and think

11:40

triangular, oh look that’s an interesting

11:42

one as well I saw something here look

11:44

these boxes here it’s not what I want

11:48

but I’ve just seen something in my mind

11:51

that that I can see working so okay

11:55

you’ve seen me pinch a butterfly you’ve

11:59

seen me pinch a basic idea for a box

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

12:02

this is the way that I go about my

12:04

cardboard engineering so I should go

12:06

back to my cad system now and I’m not

12:08

going to drag you through the pain of

12:10

design so i’ll present you with my

12:12

design when it’s finished now this is

12:14

the paper that i tend to use for my

12:17

cards and for most of my cardboard

12:20

engineering it’s it’s a nice white art

12:23

paper i’ll take the red stuff out

12:27

because that’s something slightly

12:28

different but this is a hundred sheets

12:32

which come in a pad and it’s basically a

12:34

watercolor paper as you can see but it’s

12:38

200 grams and it’s got a very nice sort

12:40

of a texture to it now what I’ve got to

12:46

do is take a quick look at my pin bed

12:48

underneath here because we need to make

12:52

sure we’ve got support down the middle

12:54

we will just check we’ve got our focus set to

12:56

6.5

13:02

we need air but not too much of it

14:09

you can see that some of the detail on

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

14:11

here there’s a little bit on the

14:13

delicate side

14:16

ok let’s see what the end result is

14:18

going to be like shall we?

14:20

so that’s the outside so we need to

14:24

tuck these little tabs down

14:28

we need to fold these back

14:40

and that’s in essence what the box is

14:43

about

14:47

but what I got to do now is if we look

14:50

carefully you’ll see that I’ve left a

14:51

little slot at the bottom here and a

14:54

little slot at the top there so we’ve

14:57

got to do is very carefully engage these

15:00

two butterflies together like that

15:08

so they sit neatly on the corner

15:09

crossed over like that look just like a

15:12

little butterfly sitting there on the

15:13

corner and they hold the edges of the

15:16

box together so we’ve got to do that for

15:18

all four corners carefully

15:23

folding to each other like this

15:46

there we go

15:50

and then

15:57

we’re going to put this pair across the top here

15:58

we’re going to engage those two little teeth

Transcript for how to convert a bitmap to a vector file (Cont…)

16:02

like that

16:07

and then we can do the same thing with

16:09

these two butterflies but the opposite

16:11

so we’re going to have to pull these very gently

16:14

apart to get them past each other

16:20

and there we go we’ve got a very delicate

16:22

little gift box

16:26

something any young lady would be very

16:28

pleased to receive that especially if it’s

16:31

got diamond rings or diamond earrings or

16:36

an airline ticket to New York or

16:41

the possibilities are endless

16:44

there is one other possibility for this

16:46

which if you’re in business rather than

16:49

trying to impress your young lady

16:52

you could quite easily cut or etch names on

16:58

these

16:59

and these could be wedding favors and

17:02

place positions, seating positions both

17:06

at the same time

17:09

so maybe there’s some business there for

17:12

somebody this design will be available

17:14

from the Thinklaser website the same

17:16

as the other boxes will be as well so

17:19

feel free to use it

17:21

adapt it, modify it, well I hope that i’ve

17:24

demonstrated that there’s a lot of

17:26

potential in cardboard engineering

17:29

both to enjoy yourself and maybe to make

17:32

some money as well

17:34

so what I can say to you is thank you

17:36

very much for your patience

17:38

we shall return to cardboard engineering

17:40

later on in the series when we’re

17:41

probably do some birthday cards

17:43

Christmas cards Easter cards depends on

17:47

the time of the year but for now thank

17:49

you very much for your time and I shall

17:51

see you in the next session

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