Trouble tracing a .jpeg image of text for laser cutting project


Hey folks, newbie here. I have uploaded a basic jpeg of some graphically designed text and am trying to trace it to then export to DFX for a laser cutting project I am working on. I find it impossible to use the free hand tool as it is constantly glitching out and grabbing onto inference points on the jpeg text image. The text has very rough edges and so is pretty noisy. Is there a way to get sketchup to ignore the image while keeping it visible so I can trace over it? Thanks!

Transfering png blueprint into sketchup

That’s probably not correct. A jpg image has no inference points except the four corners. Inferencing works with vectors, which have two endpoints and a midpoint apiece. The only kind of inferencing that would occur while tracing an image would be axial inferencing–that is, the inability to click a point just off axis because axial inferencing interferes.

There is a technique for avoiding getting sucked onto points while trracing a vector object, but that’s not relevant to a “text image,” which I presume is just an image depicting text.



Gully, thanks for the reply and pardon my lack of accurate terminology. So it is that the cause is not due to inference points and I follow your explanation here. Perhaps you can help me understand what is contributing to this lack of usability on the drawing tool. It seems that the drawing tip is snapping to various points on the jpeg and is being overloaded with input. The message that appears at the tip of the drawing point as it is pulled to these points on the jpeg is “on face on image”. The sense that I get is that sketchup is reading this type and its messy edges as a very complex piece of geometry. Any further input as to what the technically correct characterization of the cause might be and potential solutions?



“On Face” is good. In the absense of any actual points (endpoints or midpoints), SU is sensing points (locations) on the face of the image in preference to just dropping points in space completely unconstrained. It’s not overloaded; it’s just trying to stay on face. That means that you’ll end up with a tracing that is coplanar and will therefore support its own face. You want to see an On Face each time you click the mouse.


Edit: Basically what Steve said…


No, that inference engine tooltip is just telling you that it thinks you want to draw on the plane of the image face, not somewhere out in 3D space. The face plane and corners are all the geometry the image has; SketchUp does not understand anything inside the image itself.

I don’t know whether you have done so, but it will help if you orbit the view so that you are looking directly down on the image. This will eliminate any ambiguity about whether you meant your points to be off the surface.

[edit] basically the same as what Gully said…


Huh, well that makes sense. And yes, I am using a “Top” view so I am in a single plane. However, I still can;t use the tool. It completely locks up for multiple seconds as I make the tracing motions. All my other modeling seems to move pretty smoothly. Any other ideas as to why the tracing tool would be so sticky?

Thanks guys!


Are you using the Freehand tool? Don’t. Use the Arc tool and Line tool and fit the curve in small pieces (turn down the number of segments on arcs to perhaps 6).

If you want, upload the image and I’ll give you a demo.



Sorry, but that’s meaningless. You’re “in” 3D all the time. You may find it convenient to look at your model from the top, or possibly not. In any event, On Face inferencing works whether you’re using an orthographic view or not. Indeed, it’s exactly because inferencing works pretty much independly of your view that you no longer need to use conventional third angle projection views, making your way of seeing and interacting with objects in space much more like a real world experience.




Here you go Gully, and yes, as stated in my original question, I am using free hand in an attempt to capture the rough lines of this typography. I suppose that I could use the arc tool.


Awk. I look at that and I see my life slip away.

Here’s another approach. I brought the image into CorelDraw and used its auto trace feature, then exported it in dxf and brought it into SU. It looks like this:

Still needs some cleaning up, but not bad. And it took an insignificant fraction of my remaining time on Earth.

Here’s the dxf:

logos.dxf (1.2 MB)



Gully to the rescue (again)!


Another try with Inkscape -> DXF-> SketchUp, not finished… (see @Gully_Foyle’s explanation) (1.3 MB)


@Cotty, I was sitting here looking at your image, and I was saying to myself, “Akle akle ak. What in the world is that?”

Then my brain flipped around in my skull and I saw it correctly.

Don’t forget: I’m old.



Just to add my 2 cents worth in here, there are so many ways to get those edges to send to a laser cutter and Sketchup is way way way down the list.


Wow, amazing guys. Thanks! Its gonna take me a minute to process all of this and respond properly.

Box, I appreciate progress through subtraction but perhaps you could expound in the positive direction ie; what methods are you referring to?


Outstanding. Only problem is I can’t seem to open that dfx with my sketchup. My import file option in file menu is not active, but export is. Is that possibly because I am still using the trial version? Could you fellas most kindly upload the .skp version of those files? Sometimes what I don’t know really kills me!

**Edit; oh snap, that was weird. i was able to activate the import function through “help” search even though it was greyed out on my file menu. hmm…Gully file successfully uploaded. Success!


Yeah sorry that didn’t come across as very helpful. I was just trying to reiterate that an image editor was a better way to go than trying to draw it in sketchup.
There are quite a few programs around that will find edges and convert them into dxf. My personal choice is Coreldraw.
I’m surprised your laser cutter doesn’t have the software to do this for you. My vinyl cutter/plotter came with a signwriting add on to corel which takes an image and lets you tell it what to cut. Can’t tell you the name of it as that computer and cutter are somewhere on the high seas in a container at the moment.


alternatively go for WinTopo Free, it’s specialized on raster to vector conversion:


There are DXF importer plugins