How to easily convert a PNG or JPG file into a Silhouette cut file

Have you ever looked at an image and thought how great it would be if you could make something out of it?  Turn it into a design for a tee shirt, sign, or other application? Good news, you can, and it takes just minutes!

Did you know you can take your own file–PNG, JPG, GIF–and convert it into a Silhouette cut file, so you can use it in a multitude of different projects on your Silhouette Cameo or Portrait? It’s true!! It really is very simple to do, and since I was just working on a project this week using this method, I thought I would share it with you. Knowing how to utilize your own images will greatly enhance your creative options.

Think of all the possibilities! Turn those image files into cut files for vinyl, heat transfer, and more. I love the Silhouette Design Store, and utilize it often, but it is nice to be able to use custom and personalized designs as well. Sometimes I just haven’t been able to find what I’m looking for, and I loving have the option to take my own image or design and turn it into a useable Silhouette cut file. If you’re brand new to Silhouette, or even if you’ve had your machine for awhile, this is definitely a trick you want to learn!

How to Convert a JPG into a Silhouette Cut File

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How to Easily Turn A JPG or PNG File Into a Silhouette Cut File!

You’re going to utilize the trace function, and if you’ve never used it before, it could very well become your new best friend after this tutorial. Really. It opens up SO many possibilities!! You’ll also love how easy it is, and definitely something anyone from beginner to advanced can do. Don’t worry, it’s not complex, it’s actually very easy! I’ll walk you through it from start to finish. I quickly drew an arrow in Photoshop and saved it as an image so I could show you what the process looks like, and give you a simple example.


Open up your Silhouette Studio Design Edition software, click File > Import > Import to Library. Browse your hard drive to find the image and file type you want to use and upload.

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

There’s my arrow!

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

Find the trace function icon at the top of the page–it’s the yellow one with the blue butterfly in the middle–click it, and it will give you a list of options in your right sidebar.

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

Click on “Select Trace Area”, then draw a box around your image, and it will turn yellow. Click on “Trace Outer Edge” if you only want the very outside lines to be cut, or “Trace” if you want everything cut. For example–if you had a pumpkin with stripes, and you only wanted the outline of the pumpkin and not the stripes, you would select the outer edge option. If you wanted the pumpkin and the stripes, you would select trace. I chose the outer edge option here, because of all the inner arrow details I didn’t want.

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

You can see that there is a red outline around the black arrow. Click on the black part, and it will move–you can separate the two from each other.

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

Once you’ve separated them, delete the black original image–you don’t need it any more!

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

Now, let’s say that I selected “trace”, because there were details that I wanted, but I didn’t want ALL of them. You can see in this image if I chose “trace”, so that all the inside bits and pieces are showing. If you want to remove some of the details, it’s easy to do!  Click on your image, then go up to the top an select Object > Release Compound Path.  Then you can click and delete little “bits” you don’t want.

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |
How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

Once you’re finished, use your mouse to select all of your desired image parts, then click on Object > Make Compound Path. It’s once again a complete image! Make sure you save it as a studio file, so you’ll always have it in your library! They will show up under “My Own Designs”, and you can see here that both my original PNG file and the cut file are there.

How to convert png and jpg files into Silhouette cut files |

Now that the image is in your Silhouette library, you can use it anytime you need it! This arrow is a perfect example of a design that can be (and will be used over and over again). Sometimes it might be an image like this arrow that’s reusable, and sometimes it might be an image used once for a special project. Either way, it’s a valuable resource that’s worth learning how to do! I suggest practicing it a few times so you can get a feel for how it works, and what the steps are. The first time I went through the process I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, but the more practiced, the easier it got. I’m excited for you to see how many things you can create! 

For even more Silhouette tutorials and projects, check out my Silhouette collection. I’ve got ideas for organization, gifts, home decor, holiday projects, and more. Head to the Silhouette America website and Silhouette design store to check out all of their awesome machines, software, and more.

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  1. I have always stayed away from tracing as I thought you actually had to trace around the object with your mouse!! This is SO helpful, and just in time for some pumpkin projects I need to do! Thank you! Once again you saved the day! :)

    1. Yay. I’m so glad I could help! You will love the trace function–just one click and you’re set! :) Let me know what you make, and what you think!! xoxo

  2. I did not know what the trace function was for. This is amazing!! I love that I can take an image I already have and trace it to cut in the Silhouette. Thanks so much for the tutorial!!! Can’t wait to try it!!

      1. Thank you for the fast answer.
        Do you know another softwere to convert jpeg to ngc or ncn or nc files ?
        Preferable a free softwrer.


  3. Hi! I know I’m doing something wrong, but…here’s my question! I went to the File > Import to Library to get my PNG. The image I want is in my Downloads file. However, it’s part of a zipped folder, and when I double click the folder to try to open it (to select the image), Silhouette tries to open the zip file instead of just one element. Does that make sense?? PS I’m also choosing the “All Files” option at the bottom of that window. Help! Thanks, Kierste

    1. Hi, Ann! You’ll need to unzip the file first–you can only upload a single image into Silhouette. I’m not sure what kind of computer you have, or what operating system, but you can always google “how to unzip files” for the kind you have, and you should be able to find out how to do it fairly easily. Once the file is unzipped, you can upload them into Silhouette. Let me know how it goes! Good luck!

  4. Hi! What happens when it won’t register that my image is even there? I did everything that you said do and it worked perfectly, but when I send it to cut it doesn’t do anything. It acts like it is sending and my silhouette says its cutting and then says job complete but it didn’t do anything.. Help!

  5. Hi Kierste! You simplified this process making it understandable to me. On a lot of tutorial videos the instructors over-talk leaving me lost. LOL. I know they give it their all and I’m so grateful for the information. Just want you to know I like your style and hope to find more tutorials by you! Thank you very much!

    1. Oh, I’m so glad!! I’m not a huge fan of videos myself–I usually like a step-by-step tutorial I can go back and look at as many times as necessary. :) And you are so welcome!!! xoxo

      1. I have had my Curio since Christmas 2015 and STILL cannot figure out how to do a basic cutting of vinyl for wine glasses. I even purchased a booklet on beginners projects and the screenshots were too small to see and she used a cut file. Thank you for filling in the blanks and giving such great instructions!
        I am also having a problem of the software not recognizing Registration Marks. It’s so frustrating! Do you have any tips? Does the vinyl need to be placed within the grid on mat or does it need to be moved down to past where the software registration marks would be on the mat? Uggh!
        I promised a friend two wine glasses in 7 days. So close, so far away. Yikes!

        1. I’m so sorry you’re so frustrated, Susanne! The vinyl does not go on a cutting mat–it goes in by itself, with the vinyl side facing up. Load it just like you would the cutting mat. Try that and let me know how it goes!!

    1. It comes with the Silhouette machines, that they work in coordination with. You can find all the different Silhouette machines and products at

      I have the Silhouette Cameo, and it cuts paper, vinyl, fabric, heat transfer, and so much more! The basic software comes with the purchase of the machine, but you can also purchase the Designer Edition software, which is what I use. This tutorial will work with both versions.

      Let me know if you have any more questions!! xoxo

  6. Yay, thanks for the help! I love my Silhouette and have been using it for making signs. My co-worker wanted me to make a sign with a particular image, and I knew there had to be an easy way to convert the image to a file I could cut. I punched up “Silhouette tutorials” on Pinterest, found yours first thing, read it, and was like, “hooray!!!” Thanks again!!

  7. Every time I have used the trace function (outline), it not only does the outside of the line, it also traces the inside of the line, so I am left with two lines (and they are sort of jaggedy – not really smooth), one inside the other. What am I doing wrong? Is there a way to JUST trace the very outside edge? I did the steps just like you said, but it left two lines, not one.

      1. I’m having this same problem too. Any tips? It’s like it’s making a double trace line, even though I choose only the outside line.

        1. Actually, I found a fix for this by clicking around to a few other tutorials. You have to choose “low pass filter” instead of “high pass filter” before you make your trace.

          1. Trace area, draw box, while still in high pass filter slide it all the way up to 299, then click off high pass filter to low pass, adjust threshold and change the last one from 4 to 1 by highlighting and typing 1.
            These machines need to be more user friendly.

  8. i did everything step by step and when I send the project to the silhouette, the machine is not reading it. I hit the start button and then it tells me the job is complete without even doing anything. Do you have any advice on what I’m doing wrong?

  9. I know how to trace and got that part down but I didn’t know you could save the traced image to the library. How do I save it?

    1. Good question! When you save it, scroll down to “save to library”, instead. There you can name your file, and it will become a part of your library! xo

      1. Hi, Kierste–I just got my Cameo–LOVE IT! And was so excited to find this post, but my version doesn’t have the “Import” function, either. I’m on SilhouetteStudio V3–I had down loaded it before purchasing my Cameo. The included software disc is labeled, SilhouetteStudio V3.3, which I haven’t bothered to install because the downloaded version is working well thus far. I’m not sure if one or the other (or neither) version is design software or the basic version. Do you think the lack of the Import function has something to do with the availability of PixScan? Thanks for your insight!

        1. The import function comes with the design software, which you need to purchase separately. The downloaded version is the same as the version on the disc–and as long as you update it when prompted, you have the latest version. You may want to consider upgrading to the designer version, if that’s a function you want to use!

  10. Thanks so much for this tutorial. It was so helpful. I’m greatful for it. Thanks again!!! Annette

  11. I have a jpg and png file that I’m loading into silhouette. The file is two big letters with a design in the background. The trace feature won’t recognize the design in the background. I’ve spent hours trying to get this right. Any tips?

    Thank you!


    1. Hmmmm…I’m going to have to think about that one! I’ve never tried anything with a design in the background, so I don’t have any personal experience. Let me see what I can figure out!

  12. I have done the steps as you indicated but there is a double cut line and that won’t do for the project I am working on….Any suggestions?

  13. Thanks for your clear and concise tutorial Kierste! I downloaded the Designer Edition software today literally to be able to do this. I followed your step by step and had traced an image in two minutes flat! THANKS SO MUCH!

    1. Oh, I’m so glad!! Isn’t the designer software the best? Just this one feature makes it worth it! xoxo

  14. I downloaded an image and it says low resolution and t may print grainy. How do i fix this?

    1. You can still try and import it into Silhouette, and see how it looks once you get it in there. You just need it to be a clear enough image to accurately trace. If it doesn’t look right, then you’ll need to select another image, one that has a higher resolution. Good luck!!

  15. I was so excited to find this! Everything worked great except for when i went in to “make compound path” it won’t let me. Not sure what I’m doing wrong. Any suggestions?

  16. Hi, thanks so much for this! My image is 3 different colors and when I select “Trace” it is only picking the darkest color to trace. It won’t pick up the lighter 2 colors? Should I recolor everything to be the same color?

    1. Hi, Kim! Are you choosing “Trace” or “Trace Outer Edges”? If you do the outer edges option, it won’t trace all of the lines. Why is your image 3 different colors? If you’re cutting it out, you don’t need the different colors, so I would also try making them all the same color and seeing what happens. Let me know how it works out!

  17. Hi
    I have just traced and detached a image but I want to keep the colours on the image, what do I do, Do I group the traced image with the original image so that it cuts around the original image. I hope this makes sense.

    1. Hi, Lynn! Can I ask why you need the colors on the image? Are you doing print & cut? I have a tutorial for the print and cut, if that helps.

      If you’re cutting anything else–vinyl, heat transfer–you don’t need the colors to print. Let me know if I’m totally off base, or if I’m not understanding your question, so I can help!

    1. It looks like a little butterfly with a square around it Each version is a little different, but it may be turquoise with a yellow box around it. When you hover over it, it should tell you what button it is. If you still can’t find it, let me know!

  18. I have just found your tutorial but seem to be having a different problem from the others. I cannot get silhouette to recognize my file it keeps saying file type not supported. I purchased a few designs off of etsy that I am trying to use. I even converted one into corral draw thinking that would help but I am not having much luck. Can you help?

    1. Hi, Kristin! What type of file are you trying to open? Is it a Silhouette Studio file? Or an SVG? If you have the Designer Edition software, you should be able to drag and drop an SVG file, but if it’s the basic edition, it’s possible–you just need a couple of extra steps. Here’s a link to a post that gives you a tutorial of some options…

      Let me know if that helps!! xoxo

  19. Thanks so much! Your instructions were so clear and easy to follow. It is always nice to learn new techniques!!!


    I’m new to all of this and your tutorial was heaven sent. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge. And in such a thorough and charming way :)

    1. Jessica, you are SO welcome!! I’m so glad it helped you, and I so appreciate the kind words!! xoxo

  21. Thank you! I was struggling for an hour on how to do this! And your instructions made it so easy I was done in less than 5 minutes!!! <3

  22. I have to say, this is the best and I mean best Tutorial I have ever read!! I’m sure a Monkey can do it…so I guess I can too!! Thanks so much for making it easier for me!

    1. YAY! I’m so happy to hear that helped you so much!!! Thank you for letting me know!! xoxo

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