How to Make SVG Files: A Guide to the Basics

SVGs are an essential file type for many graphic designers and handcrafters. SVGs provide simple vector-based images that can be easily worked with for crafters. Artists use SVGs to create complex, multi-layered vector artwork more easily edited than any raster graphic. But it all starts with your first SVG file. Not sure how to make an SVG? Not sure if an SVG maker tool is right for you? You're in the right place.

What is an SVG file?

SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic. An SVG is a type of image file made with vector objects instead of a collage of pixels. In a standard (PNG or JPG) bitmap image, each pixel is a color. In a vector graphic, each object has a color and the size/shape of that object is determined by vectors - points on the perimeter that define the edges, curves, and angles of the color-shape.

A simple vector is often a single shape silhouette, ideal for cut-out printing and crafting. Complex vectors are made from layered vector objects that, together, can create beautiful, highly detailed, and easy to edit images. SVGs save in layers, have transparency, and lose no detail when scaled up or down. They are also very lightweight files that load quickly and take up minimal hard drive space.

How to make SVG files from existing images

If you need to turn an existing image into an SVG file, you will want to "trace" it using a bitmap tracer or an SVG Maker tool that does the same thing in the background. A bitmap tracer identifies shapes, lines, and figures among the pixels and 'traces' the image into a clean SVG for you. The number of scans will determine the final number of layers and color/shade detail you get from the final SVG.

  • Bitmap-Trace Images In an SVG Editor Program
    • Start with an SVG editing program with a Bitmap Tracing feature like CorelDRAW. Load in your original image and select it for bitmap-tracing. Select the number of scans and the color settings you want.
  • Increase or Decrease Scans to Satisfaction
    • Adjust the settings until you get the shape you are looking for. Sometimes it takes a few tries to get your image to trace to your satisfaction, especially if there was already some pixelization.
  • Select the Layers You Want
    • Identify the shape you want in the vector layers created. Often, you can sort out flaws from the bitmap image by removing or editing specific layers of your vector scan.
  • If Desired, Isolate Your Silhouette or Outline
    • If you are going for a simple outline for crafts, select the vector layers that create the silhouette or shape you're looking for. You can then combine the "path" of the vectors to make your selected layers into one unified vector object.
  • Save or Export as an SVG File
    • Last but not least, export your file to the SVG file format and save your document.

How to make original SVG designs

If you are a graphic artist looking to create an original SVG, you can draw your first shape and begin your layers of precise editing in graphic design software that is SVG-capable like CorelDRAW. From there, you can begin sculpting and layering to create original SVG artwork.

  • Start with SVG Editor Design Software
    • To make your own vector graphic artwork, you will need a capable SVG editing program, or a graphic design program that can handle SVGs. Select your software and get to know the controls.
  • Draw Your First Shape
    • You can start with any shape for your first vector. You can draw a geometric using the editor tools, swipe a paintbrush stroke, or start with an existing vector shape that you begin to morph and make your own.
  • Sculpt and Add Vectors
    • Move the vectors to "sculpt" your graphics. You can trim, nudge, and pull vectors. You can change the curve and angle by pulling the vector "handles" or remove unwanted details by deleting intermediate vectors.
  • Begin Creating Layers and Let Your Art Emerge
    • Now you can start layering shapes, colors, and transparency to create your original artwork.
  • Save or Export as an SVG File
    • When you're ready to save your first round of work, export the image to an SVG file and save your editor document.


Making your own vectors is fun and easy to do with the right graphic design software at your fingertips. Whether you are making templates for crafting or sculpting your own original artwork, vectors are the easiest image file to work with because you can so easily edit and alter the files without loss of detail.

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