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In Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques , author and industry expert Deke McClelland teaches users how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic effects in Illustrator CS3. He demonstrates how to apply these effects to live, editable text to create custom logos and headlines. The training also covers Live Trace, Live Paint, and Live Color, as well as symbols, printing, exporting, and working with Adobe Flash files.
All right. Over the course of the next three exercises, we are going to be examining every single one of the Live Trace settings that Illustrator makes available to us, because, believe it or not, to some extent or other they are all important to the outcome of our traced outwork. In this exercise, we are going to be visiting the two most important options, which are these guys here inside the Control palette, Threshold and Minimum Area. In the next exercise, we will bring up the Tracing Options dialog box and we will review the options on the left- hand side of the dialog box which control the image adjustments.
And then, in the third of this group of three exercises, we will be visiting the options on the right side of the Tracing Options dialog box, which determine the outcome of the Live Trace operation. All right, so if you are just joining me, open this illustration. It's called Default tracing.ai, so- called because it exhibits the default Trace settings, and we have gone ahead and traced a black and white version of those letters that I drew inside Photoshop with the Wacom Tablet. Go into your Layers palette. Twirl open the Image layer and meatball the tracing object to make sure that it's selected as mine is. All right.
We are looking at a handful of the big capital letters and a few other smaller capital letters as well. So in order to see what's going on with Threshold, I want you, for a moment, to go ahead and turn off your Tracing Result. So set this option here to No Tracing Result and then go over to the choppy pyramid and set it to Adjusted Image so we can see what Illustrator is doing to the image in order to figure out what the tracing should look like. Notice that it's converting the image to black and white, every pixel is either black or white.
This Threshold option determines the border between black and white pixels. And in order to understand how this value works, 128, you need to understand Luminance levels. They work like this. In the world of imagery, a luminance level of 0 means black and 255 means white. So right now, we are looking at 128, which is right down the middle. It's medium gray. So we are saying anything that's lighter than medium gray make it white. Anything that's darker than medium gray make it black. If you want to make your characters thinner, then you would reduce this value to make more of the background white.
So, in this case, if I press the Tab key to advance to the next option, which is something you need to do in order to invoke that setting and preview it on screen, you need to press the Tab key. Then you will see that the white pixels have encroached on the letters. They are taking over the gray pixels that exist along the edges of these character outlines. If we want to thicken up the characters, then you want to raise the Threshold value. I am going to take it up to 220 pixels and then press the Tab key, and you will see that these characters do indeed get thicker because we are saying more of the pixels ought to be black.
In fact, we are saying everything that has a Luminance level of 220 or darker becomes black, and that means only 220-255 are white. So, just a few of those gray pixels are left as white. Now, to see how that effects your tracing result, go ahead and turn on the Tracing Result option here from the smooth pyramid and you will see those thicker letters. Just again, so that you can see it in the vector world, this is the Threshold setting of one which is the lowest threshold that you can apply and the thinnest letters you can achieve, compared with 220, which are pretty darn thick letters, not quite the thickest, but thick enough for our purposes.
Now Minimum Area. Minimum Area, you are only going to see the results of this option when this item right here is set to Tracing Result. So make sure that it is. Minimum Area controls the smallest details that will get traced. So right now, we are saying 10 pixels, which means 3 pixels wide by 3 pixels tall plus an additional pixel, essentially. That would be the minimum area that would get traced, and that would basically rule out Noise inside of your digital image, noise being weird little particles. So things like dust and scratches would get ruled out.
Well, this image doesn't have any dust or scratches in it for the simple reason that I drew it directly inside Photoshop. I didn't scan it. I just drew it inside of Photoshop, so it's ultra-clean. But just to give you a sense of what this means, if I were to take this value up, let's say I raise it to 1000 pixels and press the Tab key and we are going to see how a lot stuff drops out of it, a ton of little letters drop out, a bunch of interiors of letters drop out as well because the area of those interiors is less than 1000 pixels. Somehow, when you take the width and height, they are less than 1000 pixels.
But really, you don't need to know that so much just as you are ruling out areas when you drag this value around. So you can always preview the effects here inside of the illustration window. So as I take that value down to even a pretty high value, 324, I bring back all my letters. I am still missing a few interiors. Fine. What I really want to do for this specific image, because it has no noise whatsoever, take this value down to 0 pixels, which means you are telling the Illustrator to trace everything inside of this document. And that's it.
Those are the values I want you to apply. We have now seen how Threshold and Minimum Area work. In the next exercise, we are going to take on the wider range of tracing options inside the Tracing Options dialog box.
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