Letters to single path vector in one click

One-click method to turn letters into cut path

A few month ago, I found a way to turn letters into single-path vectors using Hershey’s font. This allows me to “carve” letters onto metal plate with ease.

Fore more details, please see this post.


However, Hershey’s fonts are not readily available, and it takes several steps to get the best results.

I recently found a one-click method to turn letters into single path vectors. More importantly, this method works with pictures. So if you have a screen shot of some writing, you can quickly turn the lines into single path vectors.

The method involves using the “centerline tracing (autotrace)” function in “bitmap tracking” of the latest version of Inkscape


Anyone who ever used the bitmap tracing in old version Inkscape will tell you it is not very user friendly. Sometime you needed up with double lines and had to manually clearing the redundant lines. But the latest Inkscape version has this “centerline tracing” which will only trace one feature down in the center, so no more double line on the edge.

Moreover, that means it will trace letters as you are writing them .

For example, I found a interesting extract from “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams. I took a screen shot, and use the centerline tracing. The result is every respectable for the a quick effort.

More amazingly, it can trace non-Latin characters with acceptable results as well. This is the first paragraph of “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Cao Xueqin. You can see some of the characters start to have curvy corners after the conversion. Some adjustment with the “smooth corners” in the centerline tracing parameter is needed.

Overall, the centerline tracing is a amazing tool to use in Inkscape. I will keep playing with it and update with more insights.


@Shuhuan, Thanks for the heads up on this. I’m loving the newer version of Inkscape as well for the centerline tracing for my work. Makes it a lot easier and I’m not getting any double lines now too.

I can’t wait to see what this looks like in glass now that I have a little time on my hands in the new year.

Hi Char,

Yes, I tried tracing some JPEG using centerline tracing today, and it turned out amazing. Much better than the boundary tracing or the brightness cut-off in previous version Inkscape.

I am working on a “Coffee Brain” piece for my coworker based on the print designed by James Hoffmann.

You can see how good the centerline tracing turned out to be.

Of course, I still need to do some cleaning with the dots. But compared to previous attempts, the workload is drastically decreased.