Tracing Your Way to Perfection: a Step-by-step Guide to Image Tracing in Solidworks

22 July 2023. Article by Madison Baker. Estimated time to become a better version of yourself: 5 minutes.

Understand the Basics of Image Tracing in Solidworks

If you want to bring an image file into Solidworks and create a 3D model from it, you will need to use the software’s image trace feature. This process involves tracing over the various shapes and lines in the image to create a vectorized version that can be turned into a 3D model. To get started, open Solidworks and create a new part file. In the sketch tab, select the option to insert an image file. Choose the image you want to trace and crop it to the desired size.


Once you have your image loaded into Solidworks, you can begin using the software’s image trace tools to outline the various shapes and lines in the image. The tracing tools can be found in the sketch tab under the “sketch tools” dropdown menu. There are several tracing options available, including “autotrace”, which will automatically trace the outlines of the shapes in the image, and “outline trace”, which allows you to manually trace over the shapes in the image. Experiment with the different tracing tools to find the option that works best for your particular image.


To learn more about image tracing in Solidworks and how to create 3D models from your images, check out this beginner’s guide to image tracing in SketchUp.

Preparing Your Image File for Tracing

Before you can begin tracing your image in Solidworks, you will need to prepare the file to ensure that it will be properly recognized by the software. Start by converting your image file to a bitmap format such as BMP, PNG, or JPG. You can do this using a free online converter or an image editing program like Photoshop or GIMP.


Once you have your image converted to the correct format, you will need to adjust the contrast and brightness levels to make the shapes and lines more distinct. You can do this using the Brightness/Contrast tool in most image editing programs. Be sure to save your edited image file with a new file name so you don’t overwrite your original.


When it comes to image tracing in Solidworks, the key is to have a high-quality image that is free of distractions and has clearly defined shapes and lines. Take some time to adjust your image before importing it into Solidworks and experimenting with the tracing tools to get the best results.

Understanding the Tracing Process in Solidworks

Tracing an image in Solidworks can seem daunting, but with a bit of practice, you can create some truly amazing 3D models. To get started, import the image you want to trace into a new part file. Crop the image to the desired size and adjust the brightness and contrast to bring out the shapes and lines. Once you’ve done that, head over to the sketch tab and under sketch tools, you will find the different tracing options. Experiment with them to find the one that suits best for your image.


One thing to remember when tracing is to be accurate with the shapes and lines in the image. Try not to make any mistakes while tracing over the image. Once you’ve traced over the image, convert it to a spline and manipulate it using the different Solidworks tools. If you’re finding it difficult to trace an image or want to experiment with different software, we highly recommend checking out this guide on how to trace an image in DraftSight.

Tips and Tricks for Successful Image Tracing

The key to successful tracing in Solidworks is to have a high-quality image to work with. Make sure the image is clear and the shapes and lines are well defined. If the image is blurry or has too many distractions, it will be difficult to trace and create a 3D model from.


Another helpful tip is to use the zoom feature in Solidworks. By zooming in on the area you’re tracing, you can get clearer lines and shapes. In addition, it’s important to be patient and take your time while tracing. Rushing through the process can lead to mistakes and inaccuracies that will affect the final 3D model.


Lastly, don’t be afraid to experiment with different tracing tools and techniques. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to image tracing, so try different methods until you find the one that works best for your particular image. With a bit of practice and patience, you’ll be a tracing pro in no time!

Troubleshooting Common Issues during Image Tracing

Image tracing in Solidworks may encounter a few issues, but it’s easy to overcome them. One common issue is that the traced lines are not perfectly aligned, resulting in gaps or overlaps. To fix this, use the Edit Sketch tool to adjust the lines manually until they are correctly aligned. The tool can be found in the sketch tab and allows you to move, delete, or add new lines. If you find the traced lines too intricate, use the Simplify Spline tool to smoothen the edges. Avoid cluttering the design with too many curves, click on the curve and then select Simplify Spline.


Another issue faced during image tracing is sketch validation failure. This happens when there are overlaps or contradictions in the traced lines resulting in errors in the sketching process. To solve this, manually verify the traced sketch lines and correct any errors. Also, check the direction of the traced lines as the direction of the sketch lines matters. It’s always helpful to draw the traced image with a few lines and arcs to ensure that the traced lines are accurate, then proceed to trace the entire image. For further information, take a look at this guide to tracing an image in Onshape.

Utilizing Your Traced Image for 3D Modeling and Design Purposes

After completing the image trace, it’s now time to utilize the traced image for 3D modeling and design purposes. Switch to the solid modeling workspace and use the convert entity tool, which can be found by right-clicking on the traced sketch entities, to convert the sketch lines into 3D lines. Ensure that the endpoints of the 3D lines are correctly positioned in space. Once you have the 3D lines, extrude them to create a 3D model.


Explode each entity if you have the vector image file format, a file format that saves the outlines and fills of an image as lines and shapes, for more control over the color and shape of each part. This allows you to manipulate each part’s color and texture independently. Use Solidworks’ surface modeling tools to refine the 3D model further. The image trace feature in Solidworks proves to be an efficient tool for creating geometric models of 2D sketches, logos, and raster images.

Madison Baker is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She is passionate about writing about travel, culture, and adventure.

2 thoughts on “Tracing Your Way to Perfection: a Step-by-step Guide to Image Tracing in Solidworks

    1. While Solidworks’ image tracing feature is undoubtedly useful for certain industries like product design and engineering, I struggle to see its practicality in other applications or industries. It seems more of a specialized tool rather than a widespread solution. Industries like fashion or graphic design, for instance, would likely find more value in dedicated software specifically designed for their needs. Furthermore, the image tracing feature may not offer the level of precision and control required in fields such as medical or architectural design. While it’s always good to explore new possibilities, I believe it’s essential to evaluate the practicality and necessity of implementing such features in different industries before assuming they would universally benefit from them.

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