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Converting a Bitmap Logo to Vector in CorelDRAW

© 1998 by Foster D. Coburn III. All Rights Reserved.

One of the most common questions asked by CorelDRAW users is how to use the Corel OCR-TRACE utility to convert bitmap artwork into vector artwork. The simple answer is to avoid OCR-TRACE. This article will teach you the easiest way even though you might think it is not. These instructions should work in CorelDRAW 3 through CorelDRAW X4.

Part of the problem with tracing bitmaps is the quality of the original artwork. Our clients don't seem to understand that the quality of the finished product is highly dependent on the quality of the artwork that we receive. So it is your job as the artist to explain this to the client. Show them examples of good artwork and bad artwork. Explain how good artwork can save you time and thus save money for the client. And while they are saving money, they will also receive higher quality. This applies no matter what method you will be using to convert their artwork from a bitmap to a vector.

But we all know that clients just love to hand us a business card from which we are to extract their logo. So I looked over my desk and found a business card with a logo that was quite small and scanned it in so that I'm working with something similar to what you might have. In my case, it is an ARA business card and we'll recreate the ARA logo.

Note: For those who aren't familiar with the ARA, they are an organization that deals with the awards and promotional products. A large majority of their members are also CorelDRAW users.

If the artwork is 2-color (black and white), make sure to scan in black and white. This keeps the file size smaller and the extra grayscale or color data would provide no benefit. Scan at the highest optical resolution of your scanner. For most desktop scanners this is between 300 and 600 dpi. Don't use interpolated resolutions as they won't help you gain any quality. I've purposely scanned the ARA logo at a fairly low resolution so that the quality isn't that great. An example of my scan is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1


Now you need to import the bitmap into CorelDRAW. Those of you using CorelDRAW 3 through 7 will need to create a new layer and place the bitmap onto this new layer. With the bitmap selected, right-click on a lighter color in the color palette. I've used Red. Now anything that was Black in the logo will be Red. This makes it much easier to see what you will be creating. Users of CorelDRAW 8 can lock the object so that it won't be accidentally moved while users of older versions will need to lock the layer that you created for the bitmap and then switch to a different layer. In CorelDRAW 8, right-click on the bitmap and select Lock Object from the pop-up menu. Your screen should now look similar to Figure 2.

Figure 2


Now we're ready to start recreating. Since this logo is primarily text, I'd start by trying to find a font that matches. The letters ARA initially appear to be a font called Revue so I loaded that font and typed the letters AR. The last A is simply a reversal of the first so I'll add that later. My guess at a font was close, but not perfect as you can see in Figure 3. I've switched to wireframe view so that I can see the outlines of the text in relation to the bitmap.

Figure 3


Since this font is close, I'd probably convert it to curves and shape the curves until they were just right. But I'm going to recreate it from scratch as that is the more difficult method for recreating artwork. Before I start the actual creation, I want to add guidelines anywhere where there are straight lines in our artwork. This will help me to make sure that lines will be straight in these areas and that they align across the whole logo. Figure 4 shows the file after I've brought in several guidelines.

Figure 4


Now the last part is the part where most users give up. Choose the Bezier tool (it is the second tool on the Freehand tool flyout). This will allow you to create a node at each point you click. If you simply click, a straight line will be created between the previous node and the current node. But you can also click and drag to shape the curve as you draw. If you've never used this tool before, it will take you some time before you are comfortable using it. For a half an hour, do nothing but draw shapes with the Bezier tool. At that point, you should feel much better about using it.

Now it is just a case of redrawing the character shapes using the Bezier tool. While this may seem time consuming, it is much quicker and more accurate in the long run. Tracing the logo automically will create a bunch of extra nodes that will need to be cleaned up. This clean up process will take much longer than recreation if you have a good grasp of the Bezier tool. After the initial drawing of the logo, there will undoubtedly be a few mistakes. So switch to the Shape tool and make any necessary changes. It took me about 10 minutes to recreate the main part of the logo.

Then I needed to recreate the small text that spells out "Awards and Recognition Association". A quick look at the text and I guessed that it was Times Roman Bold Italic. I typed in the text and tried various sizes until it matched exactly. I then adjusted the line spacing until it matched. This took another 2-3 minutes total. My finished logo is shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5


Obviously you'll run into logos and other artwork that are much more complex that this one. But the process is always the same and the time savings over the auto-trace method will always be there.

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Last Updated Wednesday, June 04, 2014

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