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Vectornator allows you to import images into your document that can be used as an inspiration or as an additional design element while creating your own masterpieces.

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Importing Images

You can import images directly into the Vectornator document.  We will show you further along how to import them and which tools you can use to modify these imported images.

To import an image, open the Library Popover (1) by using the icon to the far right in the Inspector Bar and then navigate to the Photos (A) or the Unsplash (B) Tab.

Importing Images unsplash window

When you select the Photos Tab (A), a Window displays the camera roll of your device and all the albums and folders you have previously stored in your Photos App. Simply click on your desired image (1) to import it into your document or drag and drop it directly onto the canvas.

Importing Image of a dog in raincoat

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 click.

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

When you import a raster image onto the Canvas or into an Artboard ~ic-artboard~~ic-artboard~ and then select it, the  Background Removal Tool will appear in the context-aware Image Section of the Inspector.

The Remove Background Button is located below the Crop Button ~ic-crop-tool~~ic-crop-tool~. Select the imported raster image and click Remove Background. The image background will be removed within seconds.

Drag & Drop

You have the option in Vectornator to drag & drop your images directly onto your canvas. Choose the image that you would like to import from any folder on your Mac, and then drag the image directly onto your canvas. Done! Now you can start to make adjustments to your imported image.

Importing Images from folder

Resizing an Image

You can resize any imported image by dragging on one of its corner handles. If you want to keep the aspect ratio of your image intact while resizing it, hold ~key~ ⇧ ~key~ while dragging on one of the handles.

Resizing an Image of a dog in raincoat
If you want to rotate your image, activate the Rotate Mode and then drag one of the Corner Handles clockwise or counterclockwise.

Editing Images

Vectornator is a vector-based editing software and offers only a small selection of raster-editing tools. Below you’ll find some of the alternative methods for cropping and removing background by using some vector functionalities as Masking.

Cropping an Image

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

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, click 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-click 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 the pixels of an image are affected by a painting or editing tool. The image below showcases how two different images interact when the circle shape as the top layer has different blend modes applied.

The overlying layer is the Blending Layer, the underlying layer is the Base Layer.

In our example below the circle is the Blending Layer, the dog is the Base Layer.

Blend Modes examples on a image of a puppy

Here are a few examples of blend modes that you can use on your images in Vectornator:


The ‘normal’ blend mode is the default setting in most software applications. It obscures the underlying base layer by covering it with the content from the overlying blend layer.

In the Normal Blend Mode, the color of the blending layer is simply placed on top of the color of the base layer. No special blending takes place, only a change in opacity affects the layers. In this mode, the Opacity Slider controls the blend between the layers.


This blend mode shows the darkest values of the underlying base layer and the overlaying blend layer. It will not change anything if the colors on both layers are the same or if the overlying layer is lighter than the original.

The Darken Blending Mode compares the colors of the Blending Layer and the Base Layer and keeps the darker colors. If the colors of the blending layer and base layer are identical,  nothing will change visually.  White is completely invisible on the Blending Layer when you have activated the Darken Layer Mode.


The Multiply Blending Mode multiplies the colors of the blending layer and the base layers, resulting in a darker color. This mode is very useful for darkening shadows.

If you want to quickly import an image with a white background as the Blending Layer of your composition you can use the Multiply Blending Mode to remove the white background without having to do it manually. White is completely invisible on the Blending Layer when you have activated the Multiply Layer Mode.

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

Auto Trace

The Vectornator Auto Trace feature allows you to convert images into vector shapes. With Auto Trace, you can create amazing illustrations from a reference photo without having to trace the vector shapes by hand.

With our recent 4.9.0 update, you can trace images using the newly implemented Illustration mode. Each mode contains different parameters that are specifically designed for each image type. This approach will give you optimal results when tracing an image.

Auto Trace examples of the same image in different modes
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.

How to Access the Auto Trace Panel

The Auto Trace Panel is a context-aware menu. It is only visible when you select an image. The panel will appear automatically at the top of the Inspector (1) and inside the Top Toolbar (2). Inside the Auto Trace Panel, you can select one of the three following modes:

  • A – Photography
  • B – Sketch
  • C – Illustration

The Auto Trace Button inside the Top Toolbar (2) will enable as soon as you select an image.

Auto Trace Panel Vectornator for Mac

The Sketch Mode Parameters

When you’re in Sketch Mode (1), you have two sliders available that enable you to adjust the following properties:

  • A – Complexity. A lower value will group smaller areas and vice versa. Images with a simple composition of shapes (a foreground and a simple monochromatic background, f.ex.) need a lower complexity value. Images with a complex composition of shapes (a foreground with a complex city panorama as a background, f.ex.) require a higher complexity value.
  • B – Contrast. The slider defines a threshold at which numeric value a color is considered black or white.

Concerning the contrast slider, a lower value will define more colors as white and a higher value will define more colors as black.

To start tracing your image, click the Auto Trace Button (2).

Sketch Mode Parameters of an horse illustration

Below you can see examples of different parameter settings

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

trace of an horse illustration
⚠️ The Auto Trace feature is a destructive operation, which means that once you convert the image into vectors, you can no longer access and adjust the tracing options. If you want to revert the changes, your only option is to undo the operation.

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 will control the following parameters:

  • A – Min Path Size →  This slider controls the threshold for your path size. The higher the set value, the longer the path between points will be, and vice versa. The shorter the set path distance between points, the higher the level of detail of the traced image will be. The Min Path Size, for the Illustration Mode, is set to 10 by default.
  • B – Level of Details →  With this slider, you define the detail level displayed in the resulting traced image. You have the option to choose between 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 vector image.
  • 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.
Illustration mode parameterspanel

As soon as you have adjusted the previously mentioned settings, click the Auto Trace Button, and a few seconds later, the resulting vector image will be displayed.

Illustration Mode Examples

Below, you can see examples of how the Min Path Size and the Level of Details parameters play an important role for the final result:

Examples of different parameters in Auto Trace
  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%)
Example of High level of Details
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.
Auto Trae example of Low level of detail on a flat illustration
  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.
Auto Trace Example of high level of detail
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

We have introduced three brand new Auto Trace toggles with our latest 4.8.2 update, allowing you to improve your workflow and generate optimal tracing results. The newly introduced toggles are Simplify (1),  Ignore White (2), and Keep Source Image (3).

We’ll give you a brief overview below of the attributes and functions. For a better user orientation, the Auto Trace button is now colored in blue.

Interface design app

Auto Trace will create vector shapes with fewer nodes if you toggle on Simplify ~ic-toggle-on~~ic-toggle-on~ . If you want to trace an image with simple shapes, this mode is optimal. Activating the simplify mode will significantly reduce the tracing process notably.

Interface design app

Once the Sketch Mode in Auto Trace is activated, you can toggle the Ignore White feature on and off.  The new Ignore White feature defines if Auto Trace converts white image areas to vector shapes or not.  All the white areas of the source image will be erased when Ignore White is turned on ~ic-toggle-on~~ic-toggle-on~ while in Sketch Mode.

If you keep the Ignore White toggle turned on ~ic-toggle-on~~ic-toggle-on~ , the results of the tracing process are shapes consisting of compound paths. The consequence is that the entire compound path structure will be affected by any path-related editing.

A compound path can be created from two or more open or closed paths. When you create a compound path, all selected paths get organized as subpaths of a new compound path. The selected paths adopt the stroke and fill properties of the object the farthest back in the stacking order.

If you wish to separate the compound paths, select the paths and click the Separate ~ic-separate-path~~ic-separate-path~ button in the Path section of the Inspector.

If you turn Ignore White off ~ic-toggle-off~~ic-toggle-off~ , the paths resulting from the tracing process will be arranged as a group visible in the Layers Panel.

Three images of a woman

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

The Photography Mode Parameters

In this panel (1), you have two sliders available that enable you to set the number of paths and the path size:

  • A – Complexity. This slider defines how many paths your vectorized image will contain. By moving your finger along the slider, you can adjust how many paths your vectorized image will have. A lower number on the slider will result in a more abstract result, and a higher number will produce more detailed paths.
  • B – Minimum Path Size. This slider manages the threshold for the path size. A higher value will create longer paths between points and a less detailed image. A lower value will generate shorter paths between points and a higher level of detail.

Once you have adjusted these two settings, click the Auto Trace Button (2) and wait a few seconds for the process to finish.

A testing example of the Auto Trace parameters when using the Photography Mode.

astronaut image auto traced
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 you have converted the image into vector shapes, you can edit the paths afterward.

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

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