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In Vectornator, you can add images to your documents to aid in your design process. You can do a lot with these images, including color filling, blending, or vectorizing them into new and exciting forms.

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✨ New Auto Trace Features ~ic-auto-trace~~ic-auto-trace~ Since our latest 4.8.2 update, we have introduced three brand new Auto Trace toggles that help you improve your workflow and obtain optimal tracing results.

Inserting Images

To insert an image, open the Library Tab (1) using the right-most icon in the Inspector Bar and navigate to the Photos (A) or the Unsplash (B) Tab.

Selecting the Photos Tab (A) will bring up a window showing your device's camera roll and all the different Albums and Folders you have stored in your Photos App. Simply tap your desired image (1) to insert it into the document or drag and drop it onto the canvas.

You can also insert an image directly from the Unsplash service by navigating to the Unsplash Tab (B).
Learn more about this integration in the Import section ->

Background Removal

The Background Removal Tool from Vectornator uses AI to automatically detect and separate the foreground of an image from the background with one tap.

With incredible precision, the feature can cut out even tricky areas such as fur and hair. The isolated foreground can be combined with new design elements to create stunning new illustrations.

The Background Removal Tool will appear in the context-aware Image Section of the Style Tab ~ic-style-tab~~ic-style-tab~ when you import a raster image onto the Canvas or into an Artboard ~ic-artboard~~ic-artboard~ and select it. The Remove Background Button is located below the Crop Button ~ic-crop-tool~~ic-crop-tool~.

Select the imported raster image and tap Remove Background. The image background will be removed within seconds.

Note: On iPhone & iPad, the Background Removal feature does not generate images with a resolution higher than 4 Mpx. Images up to 4 Mpx retain the resolution quality of the original image. Vectornator for Mac is not affected by the image size limitation.

Drag & Drop with Split View

You can also use the Split View feature on your iPad to insert an image into your document.

To enter Split View mode:

  1. Open the Photos App, Safari, or your Files, depending on where you want to pick the images from.
  2. Swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Dock.
  3. In the Dock, touch and hold the second app that you want to open while using Vectornator, then drag it off the dock to the left or right edge of the screen.

You can also adjust the Split View to give the apps equal or different space on the screen by dragging the app divider bar horizontally. To close Split View, drag the app divider bar over the app that you want to close.

Once in Split View, select your desired photo and drag it straight from your second view into your Vectornator Document.

how to insert an image with Split View on iPad

Resizing an Image

With any image, you can hold and drag one of the four corners to resize it. Hold a second finger on the canvas or press ~key~⇧~key~ to keep the proportions the same. You can also resize an image by using the Scale Mode inside the Toolbar.

Cropping an Image

As soon as you import a raster image onto the canvas or into an Artboard, the content-aware ~ic-photos-app-tab~~ic-photos-app-tab~ Image Section will appear in the Inspector on the right side of the screen, directly below the Location Menu. You can tap and drag the Cropping Handles, framing the imported image to your desired x and y values. When satisfied with the image cutout, tap the Crop Button.

As soon as the image has been cropped, the Cropping Handles freeze on their position and the Crop Button displays the word Done.

If you wish to continue cropping, tap Done, and the button switches to Crop again, and you can continue cropping as the Cropping Handles become movable again.

Another option to reactivate the cropping operation is to double-tap on the cropped image; the original image is then fully displayed, and the previously frozen Cropping Handles are movable again.

Note: Cropping a raster image is - contrary to cropping with masking - a destructive operation. If you want to reverse the cropping operation, tap Undo ~ic-undo~~ic-undo~.

Blend Modes

Blend modes influence how an image's pixels are affected by a painting or editing tool. The image below showcases how two different images interact when the top circle has different blend modes applied.

blend modes for images on iPad

Here are a few examples of blend modes that you'll be able to use on your images in Vectornator:


The ‘normal’ blend mode is default in most applications. It obscures the lower layer by covering it with whatever is present in the top layer.


This blend mode shows the darkest values of the base and the blend images. It will not change anything if the colors are the same or the overlapped layer is lighter than the original.


This blend mode multiplies the base color by the blend image. This option is great to use for shading. If you want to quickly apply an asset with a white background to your comp without bothering to manually remove it, you can easily do that with multiply!


It creates a result color with the luminance and saturation of the base color and the hue of the blend color. Essentially, the top blend shape, set to Hue, will “color” the shapes below with whatever color you put on the blend shape, and adjust the color to take on the brightness and saturation of the layers beneath.

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Learn how to create your next design by using this Vectornator sample document.

Auto Trace

The updated Vectornator Auto Trace feature enables you to convert any raster image (JPEG or PNG) into vector artwork. With this feature, you can create a completely new image based on an existing piece of artwork or a reference photo without having to draw the vector shapes by hand. You can trace a sketch that you have drawn on paper into vector artwork and scale it as much as you like it.

The Vectornator Auto Trace feature can be used to convert your photos into beautiful, painting-like vector images or to turn your favorite logos into vectors.

Our latest update implemented a new tracing option, the Illustration Mode.

Each of our tracing modes will display specific parameters for optimal results.

auto trace sketch, photography and illustration in vectornator

How to Access the Auto Trace Panel

The Auto Trace Panel is a content-aware menu, which means that it will be only visible when an image is selected. As soon as an image on the canvas is selected, the panel will appear automatically at the top of the Inspector in the Style Tab  (1).

In the Auto Trace Panel, you have three Auto Trace modes available

  • A – The Photography Mode, for turning your photos into painting-like portraits.
  • B – The Sketch Mode to convert your sketches into vectors in seconds.
  • C - The Illustration Mode to vectorize your illustrations.

Press the Mode Button (2) to select which Auto Trace mode you want to use to trace your image.

auto trace panel in vectornator

The content-aware Auto Trace ~ic-auto-trace~~ic-auto-trace~ menu (3) pops up inside the Quick Actions Bar, as soon as you select an image.

auto trace illustration mode in vectornator
Auto Trace analyzes your image with the aid of the CoreML Machine Learning.

The Sketch Mode Parameters

When the Sketch Mode is selected (1), you will have two sliders available that will set the following parameters:

  • A – Complexity. A lower value will group smaller areas and vice versa.
  • B – Contrast This slider defines a threshold at which numeric value a color will be converted into black or white. Higher slider values will interpret more colors as black and lower slider values will interpret more colors as white.

Once you have adjusted these two settings, tap the Auto Trace Button and wait a few seconds until the process is finished.

auto trace vectornator sketch mode

Below, you can see examples of different parameter settings:

The Sketch Mode generates only a black and white vector output.

If you want to trace a low contrast image with the Sketch Mode, the contrast setting plays a crucial role in the quality of the final result.

auto trace tiger vector sketch

The Illustration Mode Parameters

When the Illustration Mode is selected (1), you will have a menu with a slider, three buttons, and two toggles available that control the following parameters:

  • A – Min Path Size. Here you can define the threshold for your path size. The higher the set value, the longer the path between points will be. The lower the set value, the shorter the distance between points will be. The shorter the path distance between points, the higher the resulting level of detail will be. The Min Path Size of the Illustration Mode is set to 10 by default.
  • B – Level of Details. This slider defines the level of detail that will be kept in the resulting traced vector image. You can choose between the levels Low, Regular and High. Low will reproduce a traced image with significantly less detail, whereas regular to high will include more detail from the original image in the final tracing result.
  • C – Simplify Path → If you activate Simplify Path, fewer nodes will be created. The mode is best suited for tracing motifs with simple and uncomplicated lines. If the mode is activated, the tracing process will take less time.
  • D – Keep Source Image. If you activate Keep Source Image, the original raster image will be kept and organized below the traced vector image in the layer hierarchy. The original raster image will be grouped with the traced vector image in the Layers Tab.

Once you have adjusted the settings mentioned above, tap the Auto Trace Button and wait a few seconds until the tracing process is finished.

Example of how Autotrace works
The Illustration Mode is only applicable on an A12 processor or its corresponding devices, such as the iPhone XR / iPad Air 3rd gen and newer, and M1 MacBooks or higher.

Below, you can see examples of different parameter settings:

  1. For complex illustrations, we recommend you set the Min Path Size values around 10-20% and set the Level of Detail to High. (For the example below we set the Min Path Size to 12%)
Artwork by Kelly Llanos
  1. You can use the Illustration Mode for flat illustrations. In this case, we recommend you to reduce the Min Path Size values to 0% and set the Level of Detail to Low.
Example of how Autotrace works with flat illustrations
  1. You can use the Illustration Mode for your painting illustrations too, as the example below. In this case, we set the Min Path Size value to 10% and the Level of Detail to High as the artwork contains several details. If there’s any gradient, the Auto Trace will merge all gradient into one color. You can check the results by activating the Outline Mode.
If you want to learn more about the development process behind the new Illustration Mode feature, read the Interview with our developer Marko

How to Optimize Auto Trace Results

Since our latest 4.8.2 update, we have introduced three brand new Auto Trace toggles that help you improve your workflow and obtain optimal tracing results. These new toggles are Simplify (1),  Ignore White (2), and Keep Source Image (3). Below, we’ll give you a brief overview of their attributes and functions. The Auto Trace button is now colored in blue for better user orientation.

convert image into vector shapes

Auto Trace will create vector shapes with fewer nodes if you activate the toggle ~ic-toggle-on~~ic-toggle-on~ Simplify. This mode is optimal for tracing an image with simple, uncomplicated shapes. If you activate the simplify mode, the time required for the tracing process will be significantly reduced.

simplify comparison of image as vector shapes

When you activate the Sketch Mode in Auto Trace, you then have the option to toggle the Ignore White feature on and off.  With the new Ignore White feature, you can define if Auto Trace creates vector shapes out of white image areas or not.  When Ignore White is turned on while in Sketch Mode, all the white areas of the source image will be erased.

If you trace an image with the Ignore White toggle turned on ~ic-toggle-on~~ic-toggle-on~, the tracing process results are shapes organized as compound paths. This means that any path-related editing will affect the entire compound path structure. You can create a compound path from two or more open or closed paths. When you create a compound path, all of the originally selected paths are converted to subpaths of a new compound path. The selected paths inherit the stroke and fill settings of the object the farthest back in the stacking order. If you want to separate the compound paths, select the paths and tap the Separate icon button in the Path Tab.

When Ignore White is turned off ~ic-toggle-off~~ic-toggle-off~, the resulting paths from the tracing process will be organized as a group, visible inside the Layers Tab.

comparison of auto trace results in Vectornator without white

If you activate Keep Source Image ~ic-toggle-on~~ic-toggle-on~, the original image will be kept after the tracing process is finished. The original image is organized below the newly traced image in the layer hierarchy. Both layers, the traced image, and the original image are grouped in the Layers Tab ~ic-layers-tab~~ic-layers-tab~.

The Photography Mode Parameters

The Photography Panel contains two sliders, which allow you to set the number of paths and the path size:

  • A – Complexity. This slider adjusts how many paths your vectorized image will have. By moving your finger along the slider, you can adjust the percentage of paths your vectorized image will contain. A lower value will give you a more abstract result, and a higher value will result in a more detailed path.
  • B – Minimum Path Size.  This slider sets the threshold for your path size. A higher value creates longer paths between points, resulting in a less detailed image, a lower value will generate shorter paths between points, producing a greater level of detail.

Once you have adjusted these two settings, tap the Auto Trace Button (2) and wait a few seconds.

⚠️  Please take note that the Auto Trace feature does not support RGBA images that contain an 8-bit Alpha Channel.  Auto Trace interprets 8-bit Alpha Channel pixels as black instead of white.

How to Edit the Vectorized Image

Once your image has been transformed into vector shapes, you can edit the paths afterward.

⚠️   The Auto Trace feature is a destructive operation, meaning that once you have converted the image into vectors, you can no longer access or adjust the tracing options. The only option to revert the changes is by undoing the operation.

To edit your traced image, you can either add or remove nodes using the Node Tool, or you can go to the Path Tab and adjust the vectorized shapes by tapping the Delete Nodes button.

Video Recap | Auto Trace

The power of vectors has now been taken further. The Vectornator Auto Trace feature uses a custom algorithm to turn your sketches and photos into endlessly editable vector graphics. Rather than spend hours tracing over complex designs with the Pen Tool, Auto Trace does the hard work for you. Spend your time refining the details by creating or deleting paths, editing nodes, changing colors, and much more.

Auto Trace works great with black and white sketches thanks to our Sketch Mode. In the video, we show you different examples to better adjust the Complexity and Contrast parameters to get the perfect level of detail in your vectorized sketch.

Download the PDF version here.
Last Updated on Feb 09, 2023
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