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Making your own tooling patterns from any photograph on your computer.

I am not going to include a warning here that you should not abuse copyrighted stuff - if you are idiot enough to do that, live with the consequences :^)

The Inkscape program can be found at and downloaded from:  It is very easy and very free to install on you computer.  When you open the program, you will see a window as shown in the first image.  [Remember: You can click on any of the pictures on this page to look at a bigger size image.]
Go to the top left and click on "Files" and pick "Open".  Go ahead and open the picture you want to turn into a line drawing and leather carving.
You can zoom in and out with the + and - keys on your numeric keypad.  
In this example the original photo was not a very high resolution image, so as you zoom in, you will see the individual pixels - not to worry - you can work along that fuzzy edge.   The tool to use for doing the outline is accessed by clicking on the icon shown in this image at the bottom - the one below the pencil.  After you clicked on it, your cursor should look like the one you see there on the blue background.
When you click on the image, a small square is placed there and this becomes the starting point of your line.  If that was the wrong spot, just press Esc.  Now click all along the edge of the item you want the outline of - in this case if you look carefully, you will see the green line laid down as I clicked along the edge of the petal - the last little piece of the line is still red, because I have not clicked to put that line segment down yet.
As soon as you get back to the starting point and click on that little square, your line is complete and will turn black.  If you do not want to complete a loop, but just want to have a line, just press Enter wherever you want to end the line - it will also turn black at that point.
I do not try to do the whole design in one continuous line - I make small little loops and lines.  And I keep the image zoomed in as large as possible so that my lines will be as accurate as possible.  NOTE: If there is a line you do not like and it was the last one you did, just press Ctl Z and the last line you did will disappear.  
Zoom out with the '-' to make sure you have covered all the edges you are interested in. 
When you are happy with the lines, click on the icon top left that looks like an arrow - you are done with the pen-like thingy now.  The first thing you can do now, is click on any line to highlight just that line alone (there will be a box around it with the corners marked) and press Delete to get rid of it (if it was off the edge or just wrong).
Now click on the background which will be part of the original photo.  You will see the corner markers appear.
Simply press Delete and the photo goes away.  If you see lines that you missed, just press Ctl Z and the photo will come back again (Ctl Z is a shortcut for "Undo" in most good programs).
Click way up in the top left corner and hold the mouse button down to drag a box around everything - you will see all you lines now highlighted.
Select Objects and Group as shown in this image.
All the lines will now form a single image.   Pick Document Options on the File menu and set the page size that you want to print.
As in this case, your drawing might be very small (or it might be much bigger that the page size.  This is where the magic of vector drawings come in their own.   You can stretch or shrink them any way you like and the line thickness will stay in proportion.  To do this you can pull on any of those eight markers around your drawing and just pull or push.  To keep the aspect ratio of the drawing intact (same relative height to width proportion), keep the control key in while moving one of the corner markers.
While a drawing is highlighted, you can use Ctl C to copy the image and then click somewhere else on the page (this also un-hgighlights the first drawing) - then press Ctl V and a copy of the image is created where your cursor was.  You can move the drawings around and resize them - play around and get yourself familiar with the 'toys'.
I put various sizes of the drawing on the page - then I have a drawing hopefully the size I want for my project.
When you are done, just print out the page and maybe save it on your computer for later use.  You will find the printed version of this design below this page as a downloadable .PDF file.

Please give me feedback if you have any questions about these instructions - there is likely to be something I take for granted that might not be that clear to someone who have not used this program before.  You can email me at  leatherworker    at   gmail  dot  com

Here are some additional help from other people:

From Kate in Kansas:  If Inkscape has a feature that allows you to select and move individual anchor points, you don't have to start a line over if you don't get the anchors exactly where you want them. Just finish the line with the mis-placed anchors, then go back later and nudge them around where you need them. That might save you some time.

Inkscape has a feature similar to Illustrator's "Live Trace" feature. Sometimes, I've been able to take an image and use it to extract the line art in one action. It doesn't always work perfectly, so in those cases I fall back on the technique you have documented in your tutorial. But when you can use it, it saves you a TON of time. Here is a link to a tutorial on that feature:

There is also a feature that is becoming more common in photo editing programs. It's a filter which highlights the edges of non-vector images. (In PhotoShop, it's called the "Find Edges" filter.) You can then load them into your vector imaging software and convert them to vector paths.

Johan Potgieter,
May 25, 2009, 9:09 PM