This is a tutorial for how to convert PNG and JPG to SVG for Cricut and Other cutting machines.
One of the first hurdles that come up with new crafters is how to make your own SVG files.
Before we get started, if you are interested in these farm animals to use in your own designs, they are included for free in my resource library.
How to Convert PNGs to SVGs for the Cricut?
First things first, I’d like to provide a mini technical lesson on image formats to understand why you need a special file for your cutting machine.
Most images you see on your phone or computer are bitmap images. This means the computer stores the image information as a pixel, little dots of color. Common file formats include PNG and JPEG. You can tell the type of file it is by looking at the extension on the file name or by right-clicking and selecting properties.
The cutting machine has no use for pixel information, it needs directional information so the blade knows which way to cut.
An SVG file (also known as a cut file, vector image, vectorized image) is a set of directional information describing how to cut the shapes in the image.
You may have also come across DXF files. This is another vector format used by older Silhouette machines.
Technicalities in converting images to SVGs
I’ve seen a lot of tutorials and advice on how to turn an image into a cut file online, frequently written by non-technical people that do not mention anything about the quality of the file conversion.
Vector image conversion is a technically complicated thing. It requires A LOT of math and expertise to do. To put things into perspective, I have a Masters in Electrical Engineering from MIT. I’ve had my fair share of math in the process. I do not have the technical chops to design a vectorization algorithm.
What does bad file conversion mean for you? It means the SVG version of the image does not look like the original. Goofy is going to look a little goofy.
How to make cut files for free
I went on this tangent about the quality of the image for a reason. There are a lot of free software out there that will convert your image for free.
They are totally fine for simple shapes but will likely be bad at even slightly more complicated shapes and completely fail for photographs.
This tutorial will be centered around one of those free pieces of software but one that has a lot of editorial functionality so you can correct the mistakes to your liking manually.
At the end of the course, I will explain what paid service I use to do all of this in a few clicks.
How to Download Inkspace
As you may have guessed, that free software is Inkspace. You can download it here.
Install the software once you’ve downloaded it and open it up from your desktop.
Using Inkscape to convert PNG to SVG
I have no idea why the default settings are so inconvenience but the tool bar is super tiny and the page is really zoomed out.
You can make the tool bar bigger by playing with the resolution of your screen. I almost immediately zoom to page, see image below for instruction.
Upload the Image to Inkscape
I have a bunch of farm animals silhouettes in this image. Aren’t they cute? I made them myself. To import this image, select “Import” from the drop-down menu under File in the upper left corner.
After importing, the image should show up on your page.
Tracing the Image in Inkscape
Make sure your cursor is on the Arrow. Select the image if it hasn’t been done. The image should look like this when selected:
After the image has been selected, select the “Trace Bitmap” function under “Path” in the toolbar
After this function has been selected, you should see this pop-up box in the upper right corner.
For this particular image, I have selected the selections you see in the image above, you may need to adjust this if it is another image.
If you click and drag the image, you should see a duplicate. The image on the bottom is the bitmap image and the top layer is the vectorized image. An easy way to see the difference is to select the image and look at the note on the bottom left corner. If it says something about “nodes” it is the vector image.
Delete the bitmap version of the image to reduce confusion.
Save the SVG File
To save the image as a cut file, select “Save As” under “File” in the toolbar. When prompted, name your file and save it as “Plain SVG” under Save As Type.
Editing the SVG in Inkscape
If you want to manually change the vector image, simply double click on the vector image and you should see a bunch of nodes. You can drag the node and move the levers to create the edits as you please.
Cropping a shape in Inkscape
Say you only wanted the cow in this image. There are many ways to accomplish this task. This is the easiest method and equivalent to “crop” in more editors.
Select one of the shape tools in the left bar. I used the Rectangle.
Select both the rectangle and the vector image. (shortcut “Ctrl” + “A” on the PC, or just press “Shift” while clicking both images)
Select “Set” under “Clip under “Object” in the toolbar.
Only the cow should be left.
Easiest tool for making SVG cut files
Most people eventually just pay for an Adobe product when they need to do a lot of editing.
I find Adobe really hard to use. Yes, this is after getting multiple technical degrees. It is just not very intuitive.
Instead, I use a fully automated tool called Vector Magic.
Sometimes, I am so lazy, I just take a screenshot of the image, (Ctrl+Alt+PrintScreen), paste it to Vector Magic (Ctrl + V) and it AUTOMATES the vectorization!
I don’t even have to select a button to do start the process.
It takes me 5 seconds to turn ANYTHING I can see on my screen into a cut file for my Cricut.
Just saying…how much is your time worth?
This isn’t even an affiliate link. I do not get a cut of sales from promoting their software. I recommend it because it brings me that much JOY to use their product.
Remember, making crafts is supposed to be fun.
I hope you found this tutorial useful.
But if you’re looking for more…
Want to learn how to make your own SVGs for FREE?
Check out my quick reference Crafty Designs: Inkscape for Crafting.
Inkscape for Crafting an image filled 60+ page binder to help you make SVG cut files using a free editing software called Inkscape.