Easy-to-follow video tutorials help you learn software, creative, and business skills.Become a member
Hey gang, this is Dick McClellen. Welcome to Dick's Techniques. We're in Adobe Illustrator, and we're going to take this whimsical pencil sketch, that I created one Sunday morning with my youngest son, Sam, for what's that work. And we're going to apply the image trace feature, not to convert it to closed path outlines, which is the way things work by default, but instead we're going to trace it with open path outlines. All of which have uniform strokes in order to create this impeccable piece of vector based artwork.
Here, let me show you exactly how it works. Alright here is the original pencil sketch. Now it wasn't really this light, but the HP laser printer here in the office makes for a pretty poor scanner, and yet it is going to be good enough for our purposes. All we need to do is start things off by adding contrast to the image here inside Photoshop. So, I'll drop down to the black white icon down here at the bottom of the Layers panel. And, I'll press the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac and choose the Levels command. And, that way I can name the layer as I create it.
And, I'll call it contrast and click OK. And now I'm going to take this black point value up to 230, so that I'm turning those pencil lines black. But you can see that ends up bringing out a ton of JPEG artifacts, that were created by the printer when it scanned the artwork. And to help get rid of those, I'll take the white point value down to 245, but we've still got these random pixels here and there. And to get rid of those, we need to apply a couple of filters.
So, go ahead and double-click on the Background. And let's name this new layer, sketch. And click OK. And then, right-click inside the Image window with your rectangular Marquee tool, and choose Convert to Smart Object. Next, go up to the Filter menu choose Blur and then choose Gaussian Blur. And we want to enter the smallest value we can that still gets rid of those dots. So, I'm going to take the radius value down to a half a pixel. So, 0.5 pixel like so. And then click OK. And now I want to make the lines thinner, because thinner lines are going to work better inside of Illustrator.
And you do that by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Other and choosing Maximum. And the reasoning behind this filter, is that it expands the maximum luminous level which is white. So, I'll go ahead and choose the command. Now, notice by default we apply 1 pixel and that's way too much. So, that really makes the lines much, much thinner. And that's because preserve is set to squareness. Now, this is a new setting inside Photoshop CC. It's not available to you in CS6 and earlier. But if you have it, go ahead and change it to Roundness, and then take the radius value down to 0.5 pixel, like so.
And we end up with these thinner lines here. So, just to give you a sense of what we've been able to accomplish, I'll click OK, and then I'll turn off the eye in front of Smart Filters. And notice that we have a lot more junk inside the image. And we have thicker lines as well. And then, if I press Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on a Mac to reapply the filters, we have much smoother thinner lines. Now, I'll go ahead and zoom out, so we can take in more of the image at a time. And at this point, you'd want to go up to the File menu and choose the Save As, command.
And you can see that I've already saved this composition in advance as Alien Potentate Drawing, so I'll go and cancel out and switch over to Illustrator. Now the easiest way to get to the image from Illustrator, is to just go up to the File menu and choose the Open command. And then find the file called Alien Potentate Drawing.psd and click on the Open button. If you like, you can turn on the Show Preview checkbox, but you don't have to. You do want to make sure to set options to flatten layers into a single image. Because, there's no sense in trying to keep those layers.
Then, click OK. And you'll see the image here on screen. Alright, I'm going to go ahead and zoom In to the top portion of the image like so. And I also want larger thumbnails in my Layers panel, so I'll go and click on the Fly Out Menu icon and I'll choose Panel Options at the bottom of the list. Then select Other and change it to let's say 70 pixels and click OK. And I'll change the name of this layer to Tracing. And I'll go ahead and twirl it open like so. And we can see the image right there.
So, to select it, just go ahead and click on its circular, so-called meatball. And then notice, up here, in the Control panel, you'll see an Image Trace button. I want you to go ahead and click on it. The moment you do, Illustrator will give you an alert message, that's telling you that its very slow at tracing high resolution images. Which is fine. Thing is if you restorize to a lower resolution as it's suggesting, then you will end up with greatly diminished results. So, I don't suggest you do that at all. Just go ahead and suffer through the slowness by clicking OK, and a moment or two later you'll see a Progress bar or even two go by on screen.
You'll be met with this path rendering. So in other words, Illustrator is tracing around each and every black stroke, with black and white filled paths. That's not what we want however, we want uniform strokes and to make that happen, we want to go up here to the Control Panel and click on the Image Trace Panel icon. And then I'll bring up the Image Trace panel, as you can see here. Here's where things get really painful, so I'm just warning you up front. It's nothing to worry about. It's just going to take maybe a few minutes to pull this off.
But what you want to do is click on this final icon up here at the top, that says Outline. And that will go ahead and retrace the image. Now at first, it's going to seem as if nothing's happened. It's almost as if you've crashed the program. That's not what's really happening. You may even see some various scary stuff on screen. Your screen may turn black or things may just go haywire. Just wait through it. And in the fullness of time, we're going to fast forward, of course. You will end up seeing this uniform stroke version of the drawing.
Now what I'd like you to do, is click on the triangle in front of the word Advanced in order to expand this area. Now, notice now we no longer have any fills. The Fills checkbox is turned off. And Strokes is turned on. I don't want you to click on anything yet, because if you do, you'll have a big slow down once again. Now you may think that the thickness of these strokes have something to do with the stroke value being set to 50 pixels. In fact what that's really doing is setting the maximum width in pixels that will be recognized and converted to stroked paths. And, I'm telling you from experience, you want to leave this thing alone.
If you reduce the value, as you might think you should, then you'll end up tracing fewer lines inside of your artwork. These two values paths and corners don't have any effect when you're stroking paths, so the only thing we're going to change is the noise value, and I want you to take it down to five pixels. And then press the Enter key. And once again, it's going to take Illustrator quite a bit of time in order to pull this off. So what I'd recommend you do, is just take your hands off the keyboard, and wait for a few minutes. And the way you'll know that the program is done, is that the path value down here next to the little Info icon, will change from 750 to 754.
Now at this point we're done with the Image Trace panel, so just go ahead and close it. The next step is to expand our artwork, and modify the strokes and also simplify the lines. And you do that by expanding the trace. But what I recommend you do, is that you keep the original image trace just in case you need to come back to it. So, press Ctrl+C or Cmd+C on a Mac in order to copy it. Then go ahead and turn it off and press Ctrl+F or Cmd+F on a Mac in order to paste the copy at the front of the layer.
Now go up to the Control panel and click on the word Expand, and you'll see a bunch of static path outlines, complete with anchor points on screen. Now go ahead and click on the word Stroke, just to ensure that we have a round cap, and a round joint, which is the way it should be. And then, let's go ahead and change the line weight value to one point. Now, go up to the Object menu. Choose Path and choose Simplify. And the job of the simplified command is to automatically remove anchor points and smooth out your path outlines. But, you want to take it easy.
Notice that the curve precision value is set to 50% by default, which just makes an absolute mess of the art work. There's no way, I want my son looking like that in the Moon is totally unrecognizable at this point. This guy's face is melted. And so forth. So, what you want to do when you use this command, good way to work, is to start by setting it to 100%. Now, that's going to kick up the number of anchor points from 4400, in our case to 4600. Obviously, that's not what we want. So, click inside this value and press the down arrow key, until the image starts to look wrong, which in our case happens at 97%.
I end up making this guy's eyes sag too much. So, I'll press the up arrow key to make the curve precision value 98%, which ends up reducing the number of anchor points from 4,400 to just 3,100. So, we're doing a lot of simplification here without damaging the image. Then, go ahead and click OK. And, I'll call this new group here Simplified, let's just say so I can keep track of it. There's one more change I want to make, and that's to the color of the strokes.
And right now they're set to what's known as a weak black. That is to say, we've got 100% black, but no cyan, magenta or yellowing to back it up. So to switch it out for rich black, go ahead and switch to the Color panel. Make sure that the stroke is active. Then, I want you to click on the Fly Out Menu icon and choose CMYK. And now, change the cyan, magenta and yellow values to 50% a piece. Black should still be 100%. Now return to the Swatches panel, click on the little Page icon right there, and go ahead and call this New Swatch, rich black like so.
And that way, you'll get the most robust blacks you can possibly have. And that friends, is how convert hand-drawn line art, even a very light pencil sketch, to uniform strokes, here inside Illustrator. Now if I were you I'd take one look at what we've got so far and I'd say what this art work needs is color. Which is why if you're a member of the lynda.com training library, I'm going to show you how to color this artwork. Using the live paint bucket inside of Illustrator and as a result we'll come up with this cheerful piece of vector based artwork.
Bare in mind, it started as a pencil sketch and now it's totally a pro-quality vector based quality, because Illustrator is so awesome. In next weeks free movie, it's Thanksgiving. Normally, I show you how to draw a turkey, next week I'm going to show you how to make a ham. And, it's so simple that a child could do it. His tail, right here, is made up of a bunch of cursive Es for easy. Don't you know? These techniques, each and every week. Keep watching.
Get unlimited access to all courses for just $25/month.Become a member
117 Video lessons · 42975 Viewers
119 Video lessons · 54296 Viewers
65 Video lessons · 14540 Viewers
113 Video lessons · 82907 Viewers
Access exercise files from a button right under the course name.
Search within course videos and transcripts, and jump right to the results.
Remove icons showing you already watched videos if you want to start over.
Make the video wide, narrow, full-screen, or pop the player out of the page into its own window.
Click on text in the transcript to jump to that spot in the video. As the video plays, the relevant spot in the transcript will be highlighted.
Your file was successfully uploaded.