Using Image Trace to convert raster images into editable vector art
In this part of the lesson, you’ll learn how to work with the Image Trace command, which converts a raster image, like a JPEG, into editable vector artwork. Tracing can help turn something you drew on paper—for instance, a logo, a pattern or texture, or hand-drawn type—into editable vector art. In this section, you’ll give the bird a stick to perch on. You’ll trace a picture of a stick to get shapes.
Choose File > Place. In the Place dialog box, select the stick.jpg file in the Lessons > Lesson03 folder on your hard disk, leave all options at their defaults, and click Place.
Click in an empty part of the artboard to place the image. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fit on the artboard.
To center the image in the Document window, choose View > Zoom In a few times.
With the image selected, click the Image Trace button in the Properties panel to the right of the document, and choose Low Fidelity Photo from the menu.
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. You could even edit the image in Photoshop, and you’ll see the changes to the tracing if the image is linked to the Illustrator file.
Choose Silhouettes from the Preset menu in the Properties panel.
The Silhouettes preset will trace the image, forcing the resulting vector content to turn black. This setting is useful when you want to get the main shape from the tracing. An image tracing object comprises the 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 in the View menu you will see in the Image Trace panel.
Click the Open The Image Trace Panel button () in the Properties panel.
The buttons at the top of the Image Trace panel are for converting the image to grayscale, black and white, and more. Below the buttons at the top, you’ll see the Preset menu. This menu is the same as in the Properties panel. The Mode menu allows you to change the color mode of the resulting artwork (color, grayscale, or black and white). The Palette menu is also helpful in limiting the color palette or assigning colors from a color group.
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 these values as a starting point:
Threshold: 230 (The default setting—any pixels that are darker than the threshold value are converted to black.)
Paths: 95% (For path fitting. A higher value means a tighter fit.)
Corners: 80% (A higher value means more corners.)
Noise: 90 px (The default setting—reduce noise by ignoring areas of a set pixel size. A higher value means less noise.)
Close the Image Trace panel.
With the stick tracing object still selected, click the Expand button in the Properties panel.
The stick is no longer an image tracing object but is composed of shapes and paths that are grouped together.
Cleaning up traced artwork
Since the stick image has been converted to shapes using the Image Trace command, you can now refine the shapes to make the stick look better.
With the stick artwork selected, click the Ungroup button in the Properties panel to break apart the different shapes and edit them separately.
Deselect the artwork by choosing Select > Deselect.
With the Selection tool () selected, click the extra stick at the top of the image that was traced. Use the figure as a guide. Press Delete or Backspace to remove it.
Click the stick shape to select it. To change the color, click the Fill color box in the Properties panel. In the panel that opens, make sure that the Swatches option () is selected at the top. Select a brown color to fill the stick shape.
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.
With the stick selected, choose Object > Path > Simplify.
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 left to remove a few more points.
Dragging the slider to the left reduces the anchor points and simplifies the 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 look different. The closer the slider is to the maximum value, the more it will look like it did before you applied the Simplify command.
Click More Options () in the Simplify options to open a dialog box with more options (circled in the previous figure). 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 stick 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: 20 pts (an arrow is pointing to it). You’ll need to drag a little and then release to see the New value change. Click OK.
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.
Finishing the logo
For the last part, you’ll move the stick artwork into place, group the bird logo, and move everything into place.
Choose View > Fit Artboard In Window.
Drag the stick over the feet of the bird.
To put it behind the bird, click the Arrange button in the Properties panel, and choose Send To Back.
Click the Arrange button again and choose Bring Forward until it is in front of the gray square but behind the bird.
Drag across the gray square, bird, and stick to select them.
Click the Group button in the Properties panel.
Drag the logo into position so it looks like the figure.
Choose File > Save and then choose File > Close as many times as necessary to close all open files.