Working with the Autotrace Feature in SOLIDWORKS

Article by TriMech Solutions, LLC updated December 8, 2021


The Autotrace feature allows you to automatically trace around a sketch picture that has been imported into SOLIDWORKS. This is a great way to quickly recreate a logo or organic shape.

Check out the video below for a more in-depth look at this intuitive tool!

Using SOLIDWORKS Autotrace

An imported image can be used in features such as extrudes and sweeps. Let’s take a look at how to enable this tool and how to apply it to an image within your project. To activate the Autotrace functionality, navigate to Tools > Add-ins and check the box that activates Autotrace. By not checking the box, the option in your Sketch toolbar won’t appear. Autotrace is then accessible when the Sketch tab is activated.

SOLIDWORKS Autotrace Add-in

SOLIDWORKS Autotrace Add-in

Resizing the Imported Image

In this example, we’ll be using the TriMech logo.

  1. Insert a new sketch on a plane i.e. front plane
  2. Insert a new sketch picture from Tools > Sketch Tools > Sketch Picture
  3. Select your bitmap file, in this case I’ll select the TriMech logo PNG file

After importing the logo, the first adjustment to make is resizing the logo. The new and intuitive resizing arrow makes this task easy to execute. Simply add the dimension to the dialog box and click ENTER – the entire logo is resized according to the specs entered.

Autotrace TriMech logo

Autotrace TriMech logo

Standard Properties hasn’t changed, but now you’ll notice a NEXT arrow in the top-right corner of your left sidebar. This reveals settings for Autotrace behavior such as image brightness, contrast, and recognition tolerance.

Tracing the Sketch Picture

When using Autotrace, it’s best to zoom in as much as possible. In this example of the TriMech logo, we started with creating a window around the “R”. This will automatically create a trace around the “R”. It’s not always perfect, but you can clean up the trace with the settings found in the toolset. Next, create a window around each letter and each object you want to trace in the image.

  1. In the Sketch Picture Property Manager select the right arrow in the upper-right corner
  2. Then under Trace Settings pick a selection tool, in this example I selected the Use to select colour (dropper icon) and then selected the background of the image
  3. Select the Begin Trace button and you’ll see an outline of the image as sketch entities
  4. Use the sliders to adjust colour and recognition tolerance and repeat steps 7 and 8 until you are happy with the outline
  5. Then select Apply
Trace Logo

Trace Logo

Once you’re happy with the results of the Autotrace, you can use a boss extrude feature to add dimension to your image. You can now produce an extrusion or an extruded cut to make a profile in a sheet metal part for example.

TriMech Logo Traced

TriMech Logo Traced

Learn more about Sketching

Attend a live online SOLIDWORKS training course to learn more about sketching and manipulating images.

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TriMech Solutions, LLC

TriMech provides thousands of engineering teams with 3D design and rapid prototyping solutions that work hand-in-hand, from sketch to manufacturing. Javelin became a subsidiary of TriMech Solutions LLC in 2021.