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Sketch - Tracing images

Wednesday October 1, 2014 at 11:44am
The Autotrace feature within SOLIDWORKS allows you too quickly and easily create complex sketches from an imported image which can subsequently be used in features such as extrudes and sweeps or exported as DXF/DWG files. This can be a great way to quickly replicate a logo or organic shape.
Sketch - Tracing images
The Autotrace feature within SOLIDWORKS allows you too quickly and easily create complex sketches from an imported image which can subsequently be used in features such as extrudes and sweeps or exported as DXF/DWG files. This can be a great way to quickly replicate a logo or organic shape. 

To activate the Autotrace functionality within SOLIDWORKS go to tools>add-ins. Tick the check box next to “Autotrace” (if this feature is something you might use regularly, you can also check the box to the right which will activate the Autotrace add-in on start-up).

add in Manager

From within a sketch, use the “sketch picture” command (tools>sketch tools>sketch picture) to insert an image into the sketch environment. For this example we will use a simple panda image

Panda

Use the “properties” controls to scale and position the image on the sketch plane as required. Once positioned click the “next” arrow to begin tracing your image.

Sketch

Choose one of the four tracing tools (rectangular, free hand, polygonal, colour). In this instance we use the colour tool for tracing (For best results with this tool try to use images with sharp colour contrast)

With the colour trace tool selected, click on an area of the image you want to trace around, then push the begin trace button. A sketched line is traced around the selected region (SOLIDWORKS identifies the contrast in colour from the image to define this region). You can fine-tune the sketch profile by adjusting the “colour tolerance” and “Recognition tolerance” sliders. 

Once you are happy with the traced sketch, hit “Apply”. You can repeat the process, selecting several regions from the image to complete the tracing. Click “OK” once you’re tracing is complete. If required you can edit the profile of the traced sketch using the standard sketch tools. We now have a traced sketch around the silhouette of the image.

Panda

Using a boss extrude feature we can extrude the sketch profile away from the sketch to give our 3D model (for this example select each region from the sketch in the selected contours box). 

Panda

We could also use the sketch to produce an extruded cut to make a profile in a sheet metal part.

Panda

There are times where autotrace does not provide an accurate enough outline, particularly when more complicated images are involved. If this is the case then the best option is usually to trace the image using splines and other sketch elements, this short video demonstrates the process.


Written: October 2014, Nick Jones    Updated: June 2021, Aaron Moore

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