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Deke's Techniques is a collection of short Photoshop and Illustrator projects and creative effects that can be completed in ten minutes or less. The series is taught by computer graphics guru Deke McClelland, and presented in his signature step-by-step style. The intent is to reveal how various Photoshop and Illustrator features can be combined and leveraged in real-world examples so that they can be applied to creative projects right away.
Over the course of the next few videos, I'll be showing you how to draw this 2D video game character. Now, to expedite the process, we will be working with a tracing template. So, in this movie, I want to show you how to take an existing illustration, and save it off as a pixel-based tracing template, that you can then introduce into a different illustration so that you can trace it. And I'll also show you how to make that tracing template look its absolute best here inside Illustrator. So, I'm going to start things off in the final version of the illustration, and we need to turn off all the objects that aren't going to help us where the template is concerned.
Starting with here inside the Body layer, if you twirl it open, you'll see this top item. It's called My Sig, go ahead, and turn it off. We don't need the signature. Now, I'll twirl that layer closed. We also don't need the text, so turn off the top layer, and we don't need the purple background, so turn off the bottom layer. Now that we have just the objects we need, go up to the File menu, and choose the Export command. By default, you'll probably see that Save as type is set to AutoCAD Drawing. You want to switch it to Photoshop.
Now, you can see I've already created this Tracing template file in advance. So, I'll go ahead and click on it to lift its name. You also want, and this is very important, to turn on the Use Artboards checkbox. That way, Illustrator will go ahead and respect the physical size of this illustration, which is going to make the alignment process a lot easier. Then click on the Save button in order to bring up these Export options. Now, you want the Color model to be set to RGB as it will be by default.
You'll probably see the Resolution set to High [300 PPI]. That's not what we want. We'll come back to that in a moment. Options should be set to Flat Image. You don't need to write all these independent layers. And because there is no text, Anti-aliasing is best set to Art Optimized (Super Sampling). And finally, you'll want to turn on the Embed ICC Profile checkbox. Now, let's go back to Resolution. This determines how good the image is going to look inside Illustrator at various zoom ratios.
So, the idea is this. I'm going to switch over to Other. And if you think you're going to usually be tracing your image at the 100% zoom ratio, you should set the Resolution to 72 PPI. If you think you'll be tracing at 200%, then you would multiply that number by 2, and you'd get 144 PPI. I'm imagining that we'll want to be tracing this image at the 300% ratio. In that case, we need to multiply 72�3 which gives me 216 PPI.
Then, go ahead and click OK to create that template. Now, I've already made it in advance, so I'm just going to click on the Cancel button. And then I'm going to switch over to this file which contained some primitive path outlines that I've created in advance including a full rendering of the body. I'm going to click on the back layer to make it active, and then I'll Alt+Click or Option+Click on little Page Icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to bring up the Layer Options dialog box. And I'll call this new layer Template, and I'll change its color to light gray; just something generic to set it apart.
Now, I'll go ahead and click OK in order to create that new layer. Now, I will go up to the File menu and choose the Place command. Navigate your way to the folder in which you save the PSD file. Then, go ahead and select it as well. You want the Link checkbox to be turned on, do not turn on Template at this point in time. Just go ahead and click the Place button in order to place that image into the illustration. Now, it's not coming in at the proper location. If you turn off this body layer, you'll see a shift happen on screen.
And when I turn the Body layer back on, we see that shift again. And that's because as in the previous movie, things are not aligning properly to the bleed, and here's how we correct that problem. You want to go up to the Control panel, and make sure that Align is set to Align to Artboard, and then click on Horizontal Align Left, and then click on Vertical Align Top in order to produce this effect here. Now, double-click on the Black Arrow tool at the top of the toolbox, or you can just press the Enter key on the PC or the Return key on the Mac.
And because our bleed measures 18 points, you want to set the Horizontal value to -18 points and the Vertical value to -18 points as well. And that will go ahead and scoot the image to the left as well as upward. Now go ahead and click OK, and you end up with this effect here. And now, if I zoom back in a little bit, and I turn off the body layer, and then turn it back on, you can see that we're not seeing that shift on screen. I'm going to turn the Body layer off so I can focus on the template here.
We've got a little bit of chop happening inside the template at the 150% zoom ratio. If I zoom in a little further to 200%, we've still got some choppy transitions. But notice, as soon as I zoom in to 300%, we have an extremely smooth image on screen, and that's because we set the Resolution to 72 PPI times 3, which is 216 PPI, and that makes it a template that's ideal for tracing at the 300% zoom ratio.
I'm going to go ahead and zoom back out to 150%. Let's go ahead and convert this layer to a template in a couple of steps. First of all, go ahead and click on this circular target, the so-called meatball for the template layer in order to target it. And then go up to the Control panel, click on the word Opacity, and change the Blend mode from Normal to Multiply in order to burn that image into the purple background. Now, double-click on the Template layer to bring up the Layer Options dialog box, and turn on the Template checkbox.
You can adjust this Dim Images value if you want to, but 50% is going to work just fine. Then, click OK, and you'll end up with this effect here. Now, the final thing we need to do is create a layer on which to trace our vector-based artwork. So, click on the Body layer to make it active, and then Alt+Click or Option+Click on the little Page Icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. I'm going to name this layer head because we'll primarily be focusing on how to trace the head. And then I'll change the Color from Cyan to Gold, and then I'll click OK.
We now have a layer that's ready to contain our traced artwork. And that's how you generate a pixel-based tracing template from an existing illustration, and then introduce it into another drawing here inside Illustrator.
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