How to vectorize an image with GIMP: Reading my guide on how to vectorize an image in Photoshop, you have the urge to turn a photo into a vector image, so that it can be zoomed in and / or out potentially infinitely without any loss of quality. Instead of Photoshop, however, you would like to resort to some free solution, more precisely a GIMPwhich you already profitably use for numerous graphics jobs.
Well, GIMP is not vector software and does not support exporting images in SVG format, however it can be used without too much trouble to “simplify” an image and then translate it into vector format with the help of third-party tools, for example online services. So yes, if you want, I can help you out and explain how to vectorize an image with GIMP.
The only care you must have is to choose a photo that is not “confusing” and with well-defined outlines, so as not to have problems in completing your work. Clear? Well, then make yourself comfortable, take all the time you need to concentrate on reading the next paragraphs and, more importantly, try to implement the “tips” that I will give you. If you do, vectorizing an image using GIMP will be as simple as drinking a glass of water. Now there is nothing left for me to do, except wish you good reading and, above all, have fun!
Before guiding you in the procedure by which vectorizing an image with GIMPyou need to explain how to install the program on your computer, in case you haven’t already.
For starters, connect to the GIMP websitepresses the red button Download x.xx.x and then click the orange button Download GIMP x.xx.x directly located on the right side of the page, immediately under the heading GIMP for Windows or GIMP for macOSdepending on your computer’s operating system.
Once the download is complete, open the program installation file and follow the instructions that appear on the screen to complete the setup. If, for example, you are acting from a PC Windowsopen the .exe file obtained and presses on the buttons Yup, OK, Install And end.
If you use a Macinstead, you have to drag GIMP in the folder Applications macOS, right-click on the software icon and select the item You open from the context menu (twice), so as to bypass the restrictions imposed by Apple on programs from non-certified sources (this obviously must be done only at the first start).
In case you are using a Mac and cannot download the GIMP installation package because you will see the message “There is no macOS package yet, sorry. Please check back later“Under the heading GIMP for macOS, the latest version of GIMP has probably not yet been released for macOS. While waiting for this to happen in the coming weeks, consult the page with the previous releases of the program to install an older version among those available.
Vectorizing an image with GIMP
Now you can take action. The first step you need to take for vectorizing an image using the GIMP is to open the photo you want to convert into vector format using the famous photo editing software.
After installing and launching GIMP on your computer, then, open the menu File (top left), select the item You open… from the latter and choose the photo you want to import into the program. Alternatively, you can succeed in your intent simply by dragging the image in the central window of GIMP (the one where part of the program logo is represented).
As I mentioned in the introduction of the article, to vectorize an image you have to posterize it, in such a way as to “simplify” it and reduce its colors to black and white. Before doing this, however, you need to remove the background from the photo and crop only the subject that is in the foreground. How can you do it? I’ll explain it to you right away.
For starters, turn it on Foreground Selection Tool from the GIMP toolbar located on the left (the icon of thelittle man located within a dashed square) and trace the contours of the subject of the photo trying to be as precise and accurate as possible.
Once the selection is complete, use the mouse cursor to “color” the body of the subject in the foreground and press the button Enter on the computer keyboard to activate the selection.
At this point, right-click on the subject of the photo and select the items Select> Invert from the menu that appears. Then press the button Del / Backspace on the keyboard and the background of the image will be erased leaving only the person or object in the foreground visible (i.e. the one you outlined earlier in the selection).
Now you have to remove the colors from the photo and “posterize” it: two basic steps to be able to vectorize an image with GIMP. To do this, go to the menu Colors of the program and click on the items Desature> Desature … to convert the photo to grayscale.
After that, always from the menu Colorsselect the item Posterize and, in the window that opens, move the indicator Posterization level on a very low value (say 2). If you like the preview, click on the button OK to reduce the image to two colors: black and white, simplifying its strokes.
At this point, it will seem like you already have a vector format image, but in reality it is not. To get a real vector format file you must first export the photo in a standard format (I recommend the PNG) by going to the menu File> Export As and then convert the final result to SVG using a free online service (as specified below). This is because, as I told you in the introduction of the post, GIMP does not support direct export to vector formats.
Convert image to SVG format
After saving your image in PNG format (via the File> Export As of GIMP), linked to the Online Convert websitea “universal” online converter that allows you to convert many types of files for free without installing programs on your PC.
Press the button Choose file to select the photo to transform into SVG, put the check mark next to the item Monochrome (present in the form below) and click the button Start conversion to convert the photo into monochrome version and download it to your PC in SVG.
Mission accomplished! Even with the help of an external service, you managed to vectorize a photo with GIMP, obtaining a more than decent result. Do not forget, however, that there are programs that are much more suitable for the purpose and also easier to use, such as the free one Inkscapewhich I have already told you extensively in my guide on how to vectorize an image, and commercial software Adobe Illustratorwhich I told you about in my article on how to vectorize an image with Illustrator.