Image Considerations when using SOLIDWORKS AutoTrace to Create Sketches

Article by Ben Crisostomo, CSWE updated July 9, 2019


Adding a logo to your design is an excellent way to creating brand awareness and reaping the benefits of product placement, whether laser cutting it into a Muskoka chair, or punching it into a piece of sheet metal. The SOLIDWORKS AutoTrace feature can be used to detect the shapes in an image and creates sketch lines out of it that you can use to cut & extrude material.  The SOLIDWORKS AutoTrace Add-In article provides an excellent guide to getting started, so I will be supplementing that with additional options to consider when creating a vector and a few added features since the article’s publication.

Using Vector Images

Before starting SOLIDWORKS, you need a picture. Ideally, this would be a vector image because you would be able to play around with the size of the image when saving out to an image format. In this case, the graphics are designed in Adobe Illustrator, so when saving out, I could define the size of the image in pixels. In other words, the ability to determine the dots per inch (DPI) allows for a more successful trace. The following are a few points to consider.

  • When adding a picture to SOLIDWORKS, 1 pixel = 1mm, regardless of the units you use for the document.
  • A picture with high DPI provides a better AutoTrace output.
  • Work with images with few colours, and stay away from photos.

The images that will be used are the logos for my cousin’s birthday. This year we made custom baseball jerseys and wanted to create a commemorative picture frame with the logo on it. The image on the left is ideal for AutoTrace while the one on the right is can be a bit tricky as we will see down the line.

Vector Image Logos made in Adobe Illustrator

Vector Image Logos made in Adobe Illustrator

When using the AutoTrace tool, it is possible to run it several times to capture the lines that you want. Below is the result of running the tool four times to capture all the relevant regions in the image. Keep in mind that there may be overlapping & open lines so there is a bit of line trimming & extending to get the sketch working.

Resultant sketches from 4 AutoTrace passes

From here I was able to use the regions to create an engraved logo in a piece of wood.

Resultant Model from sketch

AutoTrace Limitations

Regardless of how good your image is, there are limitations. When I was trying to get the palm trees from the second logo, the best I could come up with after toggling the settings can be seen below.

Original Image vs. Line output using LiveTrace

Although there is a way to import the vector data into SOLIDWORKS.

The AutoTrace tool is a great way to add decals to your design. Having a better understanding of how images are inserted into a part can better improve your workflow, and will help graphic designers make considerations when developing graphics that will be used in SOLIDWORKS.

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Ben Crisostomo

Ben is a SOLIDWORKS Technical Support Application Expert based in the Javelin Oakville head office