Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) files are fantastic options when it comes to web development or design. This type of image doesn’t pixelate if you scale it up or down, and it’s usually more lightweight than options such as JPEGs. However, opening and editing SVGs files can be a challenge without the right tools.

Learning how to open an SVG file is essential if you want to edit one before uploading it to WordPress. Some tools will enable you to both open and edit SVG files, which means you’ll be able to create the graphics you need for your website.

In this article, we’ll briefly discuss what SVG files are. We’ll go over why they’re so popular and talk about when you should use them. Then we’ll show you how to convert files to SVG and how to open them. Let’s get to it!

What Is an SVG File?

A vector is an object that’s defined by one or more points connected together. When you combine enough vectors, you can create pretty much any type of graphic that you want.

An SVG file is a collection of vector data put together in XML format. Take this Kinsta logo, for example.

The Kinsta logo
The Kinsta logo

Unlike a PNG or a JPEG, that image is all vectors instead of pixels. Here’s what that same file looks like if you open it using a text editor.

An svg file in a text editor
An SVG file in a text editor

Most of the data within that file lies inside of the path element. This element helps define vectors in any direction. We added a little color to the lines using CSS.

If you try to open a JPEG or a PNG file using a text editor, all you’d see is gibberish. However, you can take another image format and convert it to SVG by translating those pixels into paths or vectors. We’ll show you how that works in a minute, but for now, let’s discuss why and when to use SVG files.

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Why Use an SVG File

An SVG file is used for any type of graphics that you might need to scale. Usually, if you try to modify different image sizes, you’ll run into pixelation issues. SVG files, on the other hand, are infinitely scalable because you’re working with vectors instead of pixels.

A scalable svg file
SVG files are scalable

As you can see, the image doesn’t distort or pixelate whatsoever as you resize it. That makes SVG files perfect for logos, illustrations, featured images, inline graphics, and more. It also means that you can reduce the image file size to speed up your WordPress site, without compromising on quality.

Here’s a quick look at some of the SVG files that we use on our website, so you have a reference for the types of graphics that we’re talking about.

SVG files on Kinsta
Some SVG files on Kinsta

On top of being infinitely scalable, SVG files also offer a host of other benefits, which include:

  • They’re indexed by Google. SVG files appear in Google image searches, which means they don’t pose any downsides from a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) perspective.
  • They’re relatively small in file size. If you take a simple image or illustration and save it in SVG, JPEG, and PNG formats, the first will usually be much smaller in file size than the rest. However, that only works for “simple” images, which we’ll discuss in a moment.
  • You can animate SVG files. Since you’re dealing with XML files or code, you can style and animate SVG files using CSS.

Although SVG files are incredibly versatile, they’re not suitable for every situation. When you compare SVG vs JPEG vs PNG, you’ll quickly realize that the two latter options are much better when it comes to complex graphics and photographs.

Take this JPEG file, for example. It’s not a high-resolution image, but it’s more than large enough to make out distinct details.

A JPEG file example
JPEG file example

When you convert that JPEG file to SVG using any of the tools available online, you’ll end up with a lot less detail.

A JPEG converted to SVG
JPEG converted to SVG

Not only does that image lack detail and color, but it’s also bigger in file size than the original. That’s because vector data quickly adds up when it comes to photographs or other types of complex graphics.

To sum it up, SVGs should be your go-to format of choice for images with fewer lines, such as logos and illustrations. However, when it comes to photographs, you’re better off sticking with high-resolution JPEGs and PNGs (as long as you optimize them).

How To Convert an SVG File

Your photo editing software of choice should enable you to take other types of image files and convert them to SVG format and vice versa. Here’s a quick example using one of our favorite free photo editing tools, called Photopea.

Convert files to SVG using Photopea
Convert files to SVG using Photopea

If you don’t have access to photo editing software, there are plenty of free online tools that can take images in nearly any format and export them to SVG or vice versa. The downside of using these free tools is that the results are often not as detailed as you’d like.

In our experience, using free image conversion software often results in SVG files without color or files that hardly resemble the original image. However, converting SVG files to other image formats is much more straightforward and it hardly ever results in any noticeable quality loss, regardless of which tool you use.

How To Open SVG Files (3 Ways)

There are several ways to open SVG files depending on what you want to do with them. Let’s start by talking about browsers.

1. Using a Browser

Unlike other graphics files, when you open an SVG, it’ll launch in your default browser. That’s because your computer recognizes SVGs not as graphics, but as XML files.

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You can use a browser to open an SVG file
Open an SVG file with a browser

SVG files have been around for a while and around 33 percent of all websites use them in one form or another. That’s to say that most modern browsers support SVG files, including Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and pretty much any other option you can think of.

Unless you’re using a very obscure or outdated browser (which you shouldn’t be), you’ll be able to launch SVG files with a couple of clicks. However, you can’t edit SVG files from within your browser. For that, you’ll need to use a text editor or image editing software.

2. Opening SVG Files Using a Text Editor

Since SVG files are XML-based images, you can open and modify them using a text editor. Earlier, we showed you what the Kinsta logo looks like as an SVG. We also looked at its code.

The Kinsta logo as an SVG in a text editor
The Kinsta logo as an SVG in a text editor

In theory, you can modify or create an SVG file using a text editor. However, that only works for very simple images with few vectors. For a file like the one above, modifying each vector by hand is nearly impossible.

What you can do is add CSS using a text editor, which is fairly simple. In that example, you can see we filled the vector lines with the trademark Kinsta purple. You can use CSS to add any type of styling you want to the vector file, including animations. That is something you can’t do with traditional image formats.

3. Using a Photo or Image Editor

Most modern photo editing software includes support for SVG files. That means you can open, edit them, and then save the changes or export the image to other formats.

When working with an SVG file using photo editing software, you’ll get access to all of the same tools that you can use to customize other image types. This enables you to edit the SVG, add more details, delete parts of it, and basically do anything else you want.

Editing an SVG in an image editor
You can use an image editor to open an SVG

Image or photo editing software also offers the simplest way to create SVG files from scratch. You can use vector or line tools to design images and save them in SVG format. Once your SVG files are ready to go, you can go ahead and upload them to WordPress so visitors can see them.

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Summary

SVGs are perfect for illustrations and simple graphics such as logos. Fortunately, there are plenty of tools you can use to manage this type of content. Moreover, SVG files are supported by most internet browsers.

As for how to open an SVG file, there are three ways you can go about it:

  1. Use a browser
  2. Open SVG files with a text editor
  3. Use a photo or image editor

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