Illustrator live trace

by Design Workshop Sydney

Illustrator Live Trace is a quick and easy function to perform when you want to convert a bitmap image to vector format, and can be used to clean up low resolution images or logos. It is one of the many features we explore in our one or two-day Illustrator classes.Illustrator-live-trace
First of all, create a new document. Then Place your bitmap image (usually a JPEG) – this could also be a photograph or scanned image. For the difference between bitmaps and vector images, see our blog post Illustrator vs Photoshop. Low resolution images are actually easier to work with, as Illustrator will do the conversion calculations much faster.
When you place an image a new set of buttons appears in your control panel, one of which is Live Trace. This feature has been around for a long time, but was known as Auto Trace in older versions of the program (CS2 and earlier) and is now known as Image Trace (CS6 and CC). Note that the options haven’t changed much at all since CS2. Click this button and your image will be vectorized automatically to a black and white image. Probably not exactly what you want. Note there is also a Live Trace Options button, which will open a dialog box. In the CS6 and CC versions a panel with options opens as soon as you hit Image Trace – looks a bit different, but it’s actually the same old options.
Choose a Preset from the drop-down list – it’s best to choose one according to the appearance of your original, eg. a photograph, or how you want it to end up, eg. 16 colors. You can also tweak the effect further. When happy, hit Trace (not necessary in CS6 and CC).
To adjust the image further you can use the Live Paint function. If paint is leaking through gaps in the artwork, use the Gap Options button > tick Gap Detection and Choose Paint Stops at: Medium Gaps > OK.
Alternatively, Expand the 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 areas of colour.
As with all vector images, it can now be scaled without any loss of resolution.
See many examples of our Illustrator clients’ work on our Facebook site.
Other related Illustrator Blog Posts:
Illustrator workspace
Illustrator basics
Illustrator clipping masks
Illustrator brushes