Illustrator image trace

by Design Workshop Sydney

Image Trace in Adobe Illustrator is a quick and easy function to perform when you want to create vector artwork from a bitmap or pixel based image, and can be used to clean up low resolution images or logos. It is one of the many functions we explore in our Illustrator courses.Illustrator-image-trace
Image Trace was first introduced into Adobe Illustrator as Auto Trace back in the original CS, then was renamed Live Trace in Cs3. Now, it’s called Image Trace – the panel looks a little bit different, but not much. And the functionality hasn’t changed at all. The main thing is that it’s a very easy function to master and control.
First create a new document. Then File > Place your bitmap image (usually a JPEG) – this could be either a photograph or a scanned image like a drawing. The example here is 2D render of a model created in SketchUp, which is a very user-friendly 3D modeling program we teach. Incidentally, for the difference between bitmap and vector images, see our blog post Illustrator vs Photoshop. In fact low resolution images are actually easier to work with, as Illustrator will perform the conversion calculations much faster.
Whenever you place an image into an Illustrator file the Image Trace button appears on your Control panel at the top.  Click this button to convert the pixel information into vector format, that is, it takes the individual pixel values and redraws the image mathematically. The initial conversion is into a black and white image, and probably not exactly what you want. An options panel also opens. Choose a Preset setting from the drop-down list – it’s best to choose one which fits your original, eg. a hand-drawn sketch, or how you want it to end up, eg. 9 colors. You can also tweak the effect further in the panel options.
You could now Expand this image and use either the Direct Selection tool or the Magic Wand tool to select and change areas of colour. Also use the Knife tool to break up sections of colour. And as with all vector images, it can now be scaled without losing any resolution.
Whether you’re a complete beginner or self-taught, our courses will help you gain self-confidence in your Illustrator workflow, as well as adding to your professional skill-set. See many examples of our Illustrator clients’ work on our Facebook page.
Other related Illustrator Blog Posts:
Illustrator workspace
Illustrator basics
Illustrator clipping masks
Illustrator live trace
Illustrator brushes