Canvas Workspace Image Tracing

Basic Image Tracing in Brother Canvas Workspace

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Click HERE to download Brother Canvas Workspace – It’s FREE!

I recently had a request to do a tutorial on basic image tracing in Brother Canvas Workspace, so here it is. Yay!

You may already know this, but Brother offers two versions of image tracing with Canvas Workspace. There is the basic version that comes with the free software and then you can purchase an upgrade to Enhanced Image Tracing if you so desire ($32 – $38 usually).

I don’t own the Enhanced Image Tracing upgrade but I may consider getting it if that’s something I hear people would like to see (let me know in the comments below if you do).

Anyway, below I walk you through beginner-friendly image tracing. It can get a lot more complicated if you’re image has a a lot of colors or shading and you want many, many layers in a design.

But, even more complicated images can often be traced using the same beginner-friendly steps I cover below.

You may also want to check out my tutorial on Group vs. Weld in Canvas Workspace.

Please check out the video tutorial below or scroll down for instructions with photos:

Types of Images You Can Trace

Canvas Workspace will allow you to trace any .JPG, .PNG, .GIF or .BMP image file. However, if you’re not familiar with image file types I’m going to give you a very brief run down here because they are not all  equal when it comes to tracing.

Chances are what you want to trace will be a .JPG or .PNG fie and that’s good. .PNG files are generally the highest resolution images with the least loss (in terms of pixel compression) but .JPGs that are high resolution also work well.

.BMP and .GIF files tend to be lower resolution and have a tendency to pixelate out badly when enlarged. .GIF files are now more commonly associated with animations and it’s pretty rare to even find a .BMP image anymore. I do not recommend trying to trace either of these types of files.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind when selecting an image to trace:

Low Resolution Sticker Example
Pixelating image example. Click to enlarge.

Sometimes the image is too small to trace and if you try to resize it, it’s blurry/pixelated.

This happens because the image is not at a high enough resolution to trace clearly even at a larger size. This can happen if you download an image from the Internet and the image is too small, say under about 500 x 500 pixels (sometimes less, sometimes more).

Web resolution is 72 dpi (dots per inch) which is very low resolution; print resolution is 300 dpi (sometimes 600 dpi) which is a lot higher. The way around this is to only download larger (aka higher resolution) images from the Internet. My advice is that they need to be at least 800 – 1000 pixels x the same amount or higher. The higher the better if you plan to trace the image. But don’t exceed 5 MB in file size because that is the trace limit in Canvas Workspace; chances are anything downloaded is not that large a file.

The image is licensed like a Disney character, a corporate logo (eg Starbucks), or a cute design from an Etsy store or someone’s website.
Unless you paid for a commercial use license when you downloaded the image, you can only use these images to make projects FOR PERSONAL USE. This is true 99.9% of the time if you downloaded it for free.

That means you can make projects with it that you are going to use yourself or give to others. But, you cannot trace these kinds of images and then make things with them to sell.

Doing so is a violation of copyright law not to mention, a violation of an artist’s intellectual property rights. Please DO NOT do this. It is a large problem within the craft industry. If you don’t think it’s that big a deal, please check out this great post from an artist in the Netherlands whose craft designs were illegally used. It’s not just large, popular corporations whose images are being ripped off. I’ll get off my high horse now…

Step One: Use the Image Tracing Tool to Open the Image

To get started, click on the Image Tracing tool on the left hand tool bar. It kind of looks like a spade.

Image Tracing Tool in Canvas Workspace

A window will open that asks if you want to trace an image from your computer or one you have scanned with your machine.

I think it’s really cool that you could hand draw something, scan it with your ScanNCut and then trace it to make projects. So awesome! But today, I’m going to use an image from my computer, so I click on that choice.

Image Tracing Source Choices

A navigation window for your computer will open. Find the file you want to trace and click on it to open it in the Trace tool.

Step Two: Tracing By Color

Once opened, the default choice is to “Trace Outer Edge only”.

Default Trace Outline Setting

Right now, the letters and heart are traced but the loops inside the letters aren’t being traced. We don’t want that. So click the arrow next to the default choice to open the drop down menu and select Trace Areas By Color.

Trace By Areas of Color

The software will now trace by color rather than just the outline. In my example, you’ll see that the inside loops in the letters are now outlined.

Inside Loops in Letters Now Traced

Step Three: Other Tracing Considerations/Troubleshooting

There are a few additional options on the tracing window you might want to consider.

First, under the file name on the right of the tracing tool box there is a checkbox that says “Paste the image on the Drawing Area.”  I will check this if I want the original image file to be added to the canvas along with the traced image.

I do this when there are a lot of elements in a image that I want to make different colors and since the trace won’t have any fill at first, the image helps me add the right color fills to the right elements. I hope that makes sense.

The image I’m using today is pretty simple, so I will uncheck that box.

Select to Paste Image on Drawing Area

Another thing to take a look at, especially if all parts of your image aren’t scanning correctly, is the size. I have run into problems when the image has some detailed areas and it’s under 6″ or more wide.

Unfortunately, many images from the Internet may fall into that category so you may need to manually enlarge it using a photo editing program like Paint (on PCs) or

But, enlarging it is also when it may start to pixelate out so be aware of that limitation as it may mean Canvas Workspace isn’t able to trace it without either upgrading to the Enhanced Image Tracing capability for the software or finding a way to download it at a higher resolution.

If you are fairly tech savvy, you can try printing it out and then scanning it into your computer at a high resolution and resizing it that way. But that would be last resort only and still may not work if the image is really small.

Check Image Size When Tracing

If parts of your image aren’t tracing correctly, you could try increasing the number of colors  in the Number of Colors menu. Sometimes that can help the program see more detail especially when your image has a lot of colors and/or shading.

Change Number of Colors When Tracing

Finally, you may have a checkbox with “Include Background Outline.” This will allow you to have the outer edge of the image file, in my case the square, included in the Trace. I will check it since I would like to have the square as well as the heart and word.

Include Background Outline When Tracing

Step Four: Do the Image Trace

Once the preview of the traced image looks good to you, click OK.

Click OK to Trace

The traced image will appear on the mat. If you’ve elected to put the image on the mat along with the scan, it will be hard to see the traced image.

Go to the Layers panel on the right hand  toolbar by clicking on the icon that looks like a stack of papers to take a look at all of the Layers now on the mat.

If the original image is making it hard to see the trace, turn off that layer by clicking on the eye icon on its layer to temporarily hide it.

Too Many Layers After Tracing

Step Five: Clean Up the Traced Image

Unfortunately, I can’t think of a time where I traced an image in Canvas Workspace and didn’t have some weird extra layers added.

I’m not sure if that is just a limitation of the basic Image Trace tool or what but I’ve learned to clean up the now traced image once it’s on the mat.

With my image, I have a bunch of extra layers including one that is of the entire image and then ones that are for just the inside loops on the letters. I also have the ones I want – the ‘Love’ word and the heart.

If I’m not sure which layers to keep and which to delete, I toggle the visibility of each layer off and on to see if I really need it or not by clicking on the eye icon on each layer. When the eye disappears, the layer is not visible and vice versa.

Toggle Layer Visibility

For the layers I don’t need, I right click on each layer and then click Delete to get rid of it.

Delete Unwanted Layers

Now I have a two layer traced image. Since I wanted to have the original rectangle as well that I lost when deleting a layer (no layer had just the rectangle), I added that in by going to the Shapes tool on the left hand tool bar.

Traced Design Before Adding Fill Colors

Step Six: Add Fill Colors to Layers As Desired

You can also add different Fill colors to the layers to help you keep track of which is which. This helps me quite a bit so I always do it.

Select the layer you want to color, go to the top tool bar and click on the Fill color box. It will be set on transparent which is a gray and white checkerboard pattern. Once clicked, a box will appear with a variety of fill colors to choose from.

Fill Color Tool and Menu

Click on the color you want the layer to be (or as close as you can get with the choices) and the element will change and now be filled with that color. Repeat for all layers as needed.

Final Traced Image with Fill Colors

I used my traced image to create these cards:

Valentine Love Card from Traced Image

Love Card with Glitter

That’s it. That’s the way you do basic image tracing in Brother Canvas Workspace. If you’d like the image I created for this tutorial in order to practice, download it by clicking here (it’s an automatic download so if it seems like nothing happened, please check the Downloads folder on your computer or mobile device).

I hope this helps you start tracing images and making your own fun multi-layered, multi-colored projects with them.

If you’re interested in learning about Enhanced Image Tracing, please let me know in the comments below.

Questions or Comments?

If you have any questions, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you soon. Want to just tell me how much you loved this tutorial? Please leave me a comment below – lol!


I would also appreciate any ideas you may have for topics to cover related to the software for Cricut (Design Space), Silhouette (Studio) or Brother (Canvas Workspace) and any suggestions you may have on projects to create with the Cricut Maker, Cricut Joy, Silhouette Cameo 4 or the Brother Scan N Cut DX. Please leave any requests you have in the comments. I appreciate you taking the time to visit and read my blog. Thanks!

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