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Using Shapes to Create Artwork for a Postcard


  1. Starting the lesson
  2. Creating a new document
  3. Working with basic shapes
  4. Converting raster images to editable vector using Image Trace
  5. Working with drawing modes

Chapter Description

In this sample chapter from Adobe Illustrator Classroom in a Book (2020 release), author Brian Wood will teach you how to use shapes to create artwork. You'll learn the tools and commands needed to create a variety of shapes, understand live shapes, and work with drawing modes.

Converting raster images to editable vector using Image Trace

In this part of the lesson, you’ll learn how to work with the Image Trace command. Image Trace converts a raster image, like a picture from Adobe Photoshop, into editable vector artwork. This can be useful for turning something you drew on paper, for instance, into vector art, or tracing raster logos, tracing a pattern or texture, and much more. In this section, you’ll trace a picture of a lemon to get shapes you could then edit.

  1. Choose File > Place. In the Place dialog box, select the lemon.jpg file in the Lessons > Lesson03 folder on your hard disk, leave all options at their defaults, and click Place.

  2. Click in an empty part of the artboard to place the image.

  3. To center the selected image in the Document window (since it’s large), choose View > Zoom Out.

  4. With the image selected, click the Image Trace button in the Properties panel to the right of the document, and choose Low Fidelity Photo.

    This converts the image into an image tracing object. That means you can’t edit the vector content yet, but you can change the tracing settings or even the original placed image and then see the updates.

  5. Choose Silhouettes from the Preset menu that’s showing in the Properties panel.

    The Silhouettes preset will trace the image, forcing the resulting vector content to turn black. An image tracing object is made up of the original source image and the tracing result, which is the vector artwork. By default, only the tracing result is visible. However, you can change the display of both the original image and the tracing result to best suit your needs.

  6. Click the Open The Image Trace Panel button (image_trace_button.jpg) in the Properties panel.

    The buttons along the top of the Image Trace panel are saved settings for converting the image to grayscale, black and white, and more. Below the buttons at the top of the Image Trace panel, you will see the Preset menu. This is the same menu as in the Properties panel. The Mode menu allows you to change the color mode of resulting artwork (color, grayscale, or black and white). The Palette menu is also useful for limiting the color palette or for assigning colors from a color group.

  7. In the Image Trace panel, click the triangle to the left of the Advanced options to reveal them. Change the following options in the Image Trace panel, using the values as a starting point:

    • Threshold: 206

    • Paths: 20%

    • Corners: 50% (the default setting)

    • Noise: 100 px

  8. Close the Image Trace panel.

  9. With the lemon tracing object still selected, click the Expand button in the Properties panel.

    The lemon is no longer an image tracing object but is composed of shapes and paths that are grouped together.

Cleaning up traced artwork

Since the lemon image has been converted to shapes using the Image Trace command, you can now refine the shapes to make the lemon look better.

  1. With the lemon artwork selected, click the Ungroup button in the Properties panel to break apart the different shapes and edit them separately.

  2. Deselect the artwork by choosing Select > Deselect.

  3. Click the extra shape that was traced. Use the figure as a guide. Press Delete or Backspace to remove it.

  4. Click in the lemon shape to select it. To change the color, click the Fill color box in the Properties panel on the right. In the panel that opens, make sure that the Swatches option (swatches_option.jpg) is selected at the top. Select a yellow color to fill the lemon.

    To make the edges a little bit smoother, you’ll apply the Simplify command. The Simplify command reduces the number of anchor points that the path is made of without affecting the overall shape too much.

  5. With the lemon selected, choose Object > Path > Simplify.

  6. In the Simplify options that appear, by default, the Reduce Anchor Point slider is set to an auto-simplified value. Drag the slider to the right to add a few more points.

    You can drag the slider to reduce the anchor points and further simplify the path. The position and value of the slider specifies how closely the simplified path matches the curves of the original path. The closer the slider is to the minimum value on the left, the fewer the anchor points there are, but the path will most likely start to look different. The closer the slider is to the maximum value on the right, the closer the precision to the original curve is.

  7. Click More Options (more_tools.jpg) to open a dialog box with more options.

  8. In the dialog box that opens, make sure Preview is selected to see the changes happen. You can see the original number of anchor points (Original) of the lemon and the number of anchor points after applying the Simplify command (New). Drag the Simplify Curve slider all the way to the right (Maximum). This is a great starting point and the artwork will look like it did before you applied the Simplify command. Drag the slider to the left until you see New: 5. You’ll need to drag a little, and release to see the New value change.

    For the Angle Threshold, if the angle of a corner point is less than the angle threshold, the corner point is not changed. This option helps keep corners sharp, even if the value for Curve Precision is low.

  9. Click OK.

  10. To scale the lemon, pressing the Shift key, drag a corner to make it smaller. When you see a width of the approximately 1.2 inches in the tool tip, release the mouse button and then the key.

  11. Drag the lemon into an empty area of the artboard.

5. Working with drawing modes | Next Section Previous Section

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