Windows 10 - Paint.NET - edit SVG vector image

If you work in design, you’ve likely seen an SVG file, but for regular folk, the image file format can cause a bit of confusion. Most commonly seen when trying to download a company logo, an SVG document is not openable by Windows 10 by default.

What is an SVG file?

SVG stands for Vector Scalable Graphics and is technically an XML-based text format that describes how an image will appear. This method has a major advantage over “raster-based” image formats like JPG or PNG – an SVG file can be scaled up as much as you like with no quality loss.

As a result, designers have been switching from PNG to SVG files for printed and scale-heavy work for some time. Raster (bitmap) images feature individual dots of color known as pixels. This makes them great for photography and nuanced shading, but it also means that the editing software has to try and guess data that isn’t there when it’s scaled up. Though a sufficiently high-quality raster image (such as 8K) will look crisp on any modern monitor, it may start to break down on billboards, for example.

Rather than being made up of individual pixels, scalable vector graphics are made up of paths. Each line has a mathematical format attached to it that tells the computer how it’s shaped and its color regardless of the number of pixels on the screen. This means SVG files will always have sharp lines no matter how much you zoom in or how much you scale them, unlike bitmaps, where you’ll start to see the individual squares.

Raster
Vector
Comprised of pixels, arranged to form an image Comprised of paths, dictated by mathematical formulas
Constrained by resolution and dimensions Infinitely scalable
Capable of rich, complex color blends Difficult to blend colors without rasterizing
Large file sizes (but can be compressed) Small file sizes
File types include .jpg, .gif, .png, .tif, .bmp, .psd; plus .eps and .pdf when created by raster programs File types include .ai, .cdr, .svg; plus .eps and .pdf when created by vector programs
Raster software includes Photoshop and GIMP Vector software includes Illustrator, CorelDraw, and InkScape
Perfect for “painting” Perfect for “drawing”
Capable of detailed editing Less detailed, but offers precise paths


With all that said, you’re probably wondering how you can open an SVG file or edit them. We’re going to show you how to open SVG files in Windows 10 without the need for industry software like Adobe Illustrator. We’ll also show you how to convert SVG to JPG and other formats, as well as edit them.

Viewing SVG Files in a Web-Browser

Though there are various online SVG viewers that let you read SVG files on the web, they aren’t strictly necessary. Most modern browsers, including Microsoft’s new Edge browser, support the file format by default. Here’s how to open SVG files in your browser:

  1. Navigate to your downloaded SVG file


    You should be able to view online files in the SVG file format with no additional action – after all, some companies use them for their website logos. However, if you want use your web browser as an offline SVG viewer, you’ll first need to navigate to the folder it downloaded to. You may see it displayed with your browser icon already, or it could simply be blank.

    Windows 10 - SVG vector image files

  2. Open SVG files with your browser of choice


    Right-click the file and choose “Open with”. Click on your favorite browser. Every modern browser should have SVG support, including Internet Explorer.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - open SVG vector image file

  3. View your SVG document


    Your scalable vector graphics image will open in your browser. You can see that the browser’s URL bar points to the file in your local documents, rather than a webpage.

    Windows 10 - Microsoft Edge - SVG vector image file

How to View SVG Files in File Explorer directly

Though your browser can act as a good enough SVG reader in a pinch, it’s not ideal if you’re going to be working with multiple vector files. For that, it’s useful to have an SVG viewer built into File Explorer. Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t offer this feature by default, but you can download an open-source third-party extension called SVG See that does it for you.

  1. Go to the SVG See webpage


    Navigate to the SVG Explorer GitHub page and make sure you’re in the “Releases” section. Find the title of the latest release (v1.1.0 at the time of writing).

    Windows 10 - Edge - GitHub - svg explorer extension

  2. Download the SVG viewer


    Scroll down to the “Assets” section and click “svg_see_x64.exe” to download the SVG Explorer installer.

    Windows 10 - Edge - GitHub - download svg explorer extension

  3. Choose to keep the file


    If you’re using Microsoft Edge, you may get a warning at this point telling you that the download was blocked because it could harm your device. This is normal for GitHub releases and not a cause for concern if you trust the application. Click the three dots, then press “Keep”.

    Windows 10 - Edge - GitHub - confirm download svg explorer extension

  4. Run SVG See anyway


    Double-click the file to open the installer. Windows will give you a pop-up saying that it protected your PC from an unrecognized app. This is simply because the app was not produced by a major publisher and therefore didn’t come with a certificate. You can click “More info”, then “Run anyway” to continue.

    Windows 10 - SmartScreen - allow run svg explorer extension

  5. Install SVG see and view your SVG file in File Explorer


    Follow the steps in the installer to install SVG See. Then, open File Explorer and navigate to the folder your SVG files are stored in. In the “View” tab of File Explorer, click “Preview Pane” or “Large icons” to view your SVG files.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - SVG vector image files - thumbnails and preview

How to Open and Edit SVG Vector Images in Paint.NET Raster Image Editor

Alternatively, if you already have Paint.NET installed you can download an extension for it and use that as your SVG viewer.

  1. Go to the Paint.NET Scalable Vector Graphics plugin page


    In the releases section, find the latest version (in our case v.0.3-alpha).

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - SVG Plugin for Paint.NET

  2. Download the Paint.NET SVG viewer extension


    Under the “Assets” heading, click “SvgFileType.dll” to download it. Your browser may warn you the file was blocked because it may harm your device. We know its safe, so just click “Keep”.

    Windows 10 - Edge - GitHub - svg explorer extension - download dll - keep

  3. Accept the SmartScreen prompt


    If you’re using the latest version of Microsoft Edge, a prompt may now show in your download page warning that the app might harm your device. Click “Show more”.

    Windows 10 - Edge - GitHub - svg explorer extension - download dll - Smartscreen Show more

  4. Keep the SVG viewer anyway


    Again, this file is open source and has been vetted, so we know it’s okay to keep the file. Click “Keep anyway”.

    Windows 10 - Edge - GitHub - svg explorer extension - download dll - Smartscreen Keep

  5. Copy the .dll file to your Paint.NET file types folder


    To get the SVG viewer to work with Paint.NET, you need to copy the .dll file to the correct subdirectory in the application’s folder.

    By default, this is C:\Program Files\paint.net\FileType. However, Microsoft Store users will instead find Paint.NET in %userprofile%\documents\paint.net App Files\FileTypes. Drag the .dll file into the relevant folder.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - copy svg explorer extension to Paint.NET folder

  6. Accept the UAC prompt


    If you’re transferring the .dll file to your root directory, Windows 10 will ask for administrator permissions for security reasons. Click “Continue” on the “Destination Folder Access Denied” prompt.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - copy svg explorer extension to Paint.NET folder - grant access

  7. How to open SVG files with the Paint.NET SVG viewer


    Open the folder where you downloaded your SVG image format file and right-click one. Click “Open with > paint.net” to open it with the paint.NET SVG viewer.

    Windows 10 - File Explorer - open SVG in Pain.NET

  8. Select a canvas size


    As mentioned earlier, SVG files can scale to as large as you like, and as a result Paint.NET asks what size you’d like to make the SVG document. This is entirely up to you, but bear in mind that larger documents take more of your PC’s resources to view and process. Once you’re done, press “OK”.

    Windows 10 - Paint.NET - open SVG vector image - set size and dpi

  9. View your Scalable Vector Graphics file


    Paint.NET will open a regular canvas with your .svg file in, with the ability to zoom at will and make a few other adjustments. You can now open any SVG file you download via this route.

    Windows 10 - Paint.NET - edit SVG vector image

Editing SVG files with Inkscape Vector Graphics Editor

Oftentimes you’ll be sent an SVG file only to realize that it has a mistake in it or needs correction. In these cases, a simple SVG viewer won’t suffice, but commercial software like Adobe InDesign is very expensive. Instead, we recommend Inkscape, a very capable free SVG editor that’s available through the Microsoft Store.

  1. Open the Microsoft Store


    Press the “Start” button and type “Store”. Click the “Microsoft Store” entry at the top of the list.

    Windows 10 - Open Microsoft Store

  2. Download the Inkscape SVG file editor


    Type “Inkscape” in the Store search bar and click on the app, then click “Get” to download and install it.

    Windows 10 - Microsoft Store - Inkscape

  3. Edit SVG files with Inkscape


    You can now open Inkscape and press “File > Open” to open your SVG file. There are several great tutorials on how to use the SVG editor here.

    Windows 10 - SVG-File in Inkscape

How to Convert SVG Vector Graphics to JPG, PNG and other Raster Image Formats with One Click

Editing SVG files is all well and good, but problems can arise if you want to share them with someone who doesn’t have an SVG viewer. In such situations, you can convert SVG to JPG, but you’ll need third-party software to do so. Our software of choice is File Converter, a free, open-source, and lightweight tool that lets you convert SVG to JPG with one click.

  1. Download File Converter


    Head to the File Converter webpage and click the “Download” button.

    Download File Converter

  2. Choose convert from SVG to JPG


    Right-click your SVG file, hover over File Converter, and select “File Converter > To Jpg”. You can also select any other image format you wish or PDF.

    Windows 10 - SVG File - File-Converter - Convert to raster image or open settings

  3. Select your image options and confirm the conversion


    The next screen will let you choose the quality, scale rotation, and name of the converted file. Once you’ve customized it to your liking, press “Save”.

    Windows 10 - File Converter - JPG Conversion Settings - Quality and Scale

  4. Open your SVG to JPG file with a compatible app


    You can now open the JPG file with any image editor without needing an SVG viewer. Simply right-click it and choose the application you want to open it with.

    Windows 10 - Open SVG to JPG vonverted image with compatible apps

If you liked this tutorial, you may find our one on viewing and converting HEIC files useful, as well as our guide to restoring the old photo viewer.