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Illustrator CS4 Essential Training

Converting images to vectors with Live Trace


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Illustrator CS4 Essential Training

with Mordy Golding

Video: Converting images to vectors with Live Trace

One of my favorite features inside of Illustrator is something called Live Trace. It basically allows you to take a photographic image and convert it into vector art with one click of a button. Not only is it fun to use, it can be great as far as experimenting with different types of artwork. Let's take a look at a few examples. I'm going to start with just a regular blank document and I'm not going to place a photograph onto my page. I'll choose File, Place, navigate to Chapter 15 of the exercise files and I'll choose this image here called surf_walk.psd. I'll leave it as a linked image and I'll choose Place.
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  1. 59s
    1. Welcome
      59s
  2. 33m 17s
    1. Why use Illustrator?
      2m 22s
    2. What are vector graphics?
      8m 4s
    3. Understanding paths
      4m 13s
    4. Fill and Stroke attributes
      5m 32s
    5. Selections and stacking order
      8m 31s
    6. Isolation mode
      4m 35s
  3. 23m 43s
    1. The Welcome screen
      1m 11s
    2. New Document Profiles
      4m 36s
    3. Using multiple artboards
      7m 17s
    4. Libraries and content
      3m 52s
    5. Illustrator templates
      2m 56s
    6. Adding XMP metadata
      3m 51s
  4. 43m 55s
    1. Exploring panels
      4m 18s
    2. Using the Control panel
      5m 25s
    3. Navigating within a document
      5m 27s
    4. Using rulers and guides
      5m 23s
    5. Using grids
      2m 12s
    6. Utilizing the bounding box
      3m 3s
    7. Using Smart Guides
      4m 59s
    8. The Hide Edges command
      3m 31s
    9. Preview and Outline modes
      2m 18s
    10. Using workspaces
      7m 19s
  5. 38m 3s
    1. The importance of modifier keys
      1m 9s
    2. Drawing closed-path primitives
      7m 15s
    3. Drawing open-path primitives
      5m 5s
    4. Simple drawing with the Pen tool
      7m 28s
    5. Advanced drawing with the Pen tool
      10m 33s
    6. Drawing with the Pencil tool
      6m 33s
  6. 46m 37s
    1. Editing anchor points
      13m 7s
    2. Creating compound shapes
      5m 55s
    3. Utilizing Pathfinder functions
      5m 11s
    4. Joining and averaging paths
      5m 37s
    5. Outlining strokes
      3m 24s
    6. Simplifying paths
      5m 41s
    7. Using Offset Path
      2m 43s
    8. Dividing an object into a grid
      1m 41s
    9. Cleaning up errant paths
      3m 18s
  7. 35m 23s
    1. Creating point text
      4m 4s
    2. Creating area text
      4m 19s
    3. Applying basic character settings
      6m 27s
    4. Applying basic paragraph settings
      4m 4s
    5. Creating text threads
      5m 28s
    6. Creating text on open paths
      5m 18s
    7. Creating text on closed paths
      3m 57s
    8. Converting text to outlines
      1m 46s
  8. 20m 15s
    1. Using the basic selection tools
      7m 53s
    2. Using the Magic Wand and Lasso tools
      6m 34s
    3. Selecting objects by attribute
      2m 38s
    4. Saving and reusing selections
      3m 10s
  9. 40m 35s
    1. Using the Appearance panel
      6m 48s
    2. Targeting object attributes
      3m 26s
    3. Adding multiple attributes
      7m 6s
    4. Applying Live Effects
      8m 9s
    5. Expanding appearances
      4m 48s
    6. Appearance panel settings
      6m 51s
    7. Copying appearances
      3m 27s
  10. 37m 15s
    1. Defining groups
      7m 2s
    2. Editing groups
      5m 28s
    3. Working with layers
      8m 10s
    4. Layer and object hierarchy
      6m 57s
    5. Creating template layers
      2m 3s
    6. Object, group, and layer attributes
      7m 35s
  11. 44m 4s
    1. Applying colors
      3m 18s
    2. Creating solid color swatches
      4m 48s
    3. Creating global process swatches
      5m 1s
    4. Using spot color swatches
      4m 27s
    5. Creating swatch groups and libraries
      6m 50s
    6. Working with linear gradient fills
      6m 34s
    7. Working with radial gradient fills
      2m 19s
    8. Applying and manipulating pattern fills
      4m 51s
    9. Defining simple patterns
      5m 56s
  12. 22m 43s
    1. Moving and copying objects
      2m 1s
    2. Scaling objects
      4m 49s
    3. Rotating objects
      3m 14s
    4. Reflecting and skewing objects
      2m 27s
    5. Using the Free Transform tool
      2m 9s
    6. Aligning objects
      5m 15s
    7. Distributing objects
      2m 48s
  13. 25m 13s
    1. Using a pressure-sensitive tablet
      1m 38s
    2. Using the Calligraphic brush
      6m 10s
    3. Using the Scatter brush
      4m 0s
    4. Using the Art brush
      2m 26s
    5. Using the Pattern brush
      3m 21s
    6. Using the Paintbrush tool
      1m 41s
    7. Using the Blob Brush tool
      3m 42s
    8. Using the Eraser tool
      2m 15s
  14. 16m 36s
    1. Using symbols
      3m 9s
    2. Defining your own symbols
      2m 1s
    3. Editing symbols
      4m 4s
    4. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      2m 32s
    5. Using the Symbolism toolset
      4m 50s
  15. 35m 37s
    1. Minding your resolution settings
      6m 15s
    2. Applying basic 3D extrusions
      6m 43s
    3. Applying basic 3D revolves
      2m 31s
    4. Basic artwork mapping
      5m 9s
    5. Using the Stylize effects
      5m 35s
    6. Using the Scribble effect
      5m 43s
    7. Using the Warp effect
      3m 41s
  16. 21m 37s
    1. Placing images
      4m 51s
    2. Using the Links panel
      2m 47s
    3. The Edit Original workflow
      2m 0s
    4. Converting images to vectors with Live Trace
      5m 29s
    5. Rasterizing artwork
      1m 55s
    6. Cropping images with a mask
      4m 35s
  17. 10m 35s
    1. Saving your Illustrator document
      8m 18s
    2. Printing your Illustrator document
      2m 17s
  18. 6m 25s
    1. Exporting files for use in QuarkXPress
      1m 8s
    2. Exporting files for use in InDesign
      39s
    3. Exporting files for use in Word/Excel/PowerPoint
      45s
    4. Exporting files for use in Photoshop
      1m 25s
    5. Exporting files for use in Flash
      1m 15s
    6. Exporting files for use in After Effects
      19s
    7. Migrating from FreeHand
      54s
  19. 2m 23s
    1. Finding additional help
      2m 0s
    2. Goodbye
      23s

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Illustrator CS4 Essential Training
8h 25m Beginner Oct 13, 2008

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Illustrator can be used to accomplish many different design tasks. For this reason, Illustrator CS4 Essential Training teaches core concepts and techniques that can be applied to any workflow for print, the web, or assets that will find their way into other applications. Mordy Golding explains the elements that make up vector graphics—paths, strokes, and fills—and shows how to use each of Illustrator's drawing tools. He demonstrates how to combine and clean up paths, and organize them into groups and layers. Mordy also covers text editing, working with color, expressive brush drawing, effects, and much more. Exercise files accompany the course.

Topics include:
  • Making efficient use of the Illustrator interface
  • Creating text on a path
  • Using the Magic Wand and Lasso selection tools
  • Working with a pressure-sensitive tablet
  • Applying 3D extrusions and resolves
  • Converting images to vectors with Live Trace
  • Exporting files for use in Photoshop, Flash, and other applications
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Mordy Golding

Converting images to vectors with Live Trace

One of my favorite features inside of Illustrator is something called Live Trace. It basically allows you to take a photographic image and convert it into vector art with one click of a button. Not only is it fun to use, it can be great as far as experimenting with different types of artwork. Let's take a look at a few examples. I'm going to start with just a regular blank document and I'm not going to place a photograph onto my page. I'll choose File, Place, navigate to Chapter 15 of the exercise files and I'll choose this image here called surf_walk.psd. I'll leave it as a linked image and I'll choose Place.

Notice that whenever you have any kind of raster based or image content selected inside of Illustrator, the Live Trace button is now available to you in the Control panel. I'll click Live Trace and literally just like that, Illustrator converts it now into vectors. Now it's important to realize that the feature is called Live Trace because Illustrator has not thrown away the image. In fact, you can see the X that I have here to the image, the image is still here in my file, which allows me to continue to tweak or adjust that trace to get it just the way that I like it. I can't actually edit the vector path themselves until I go over here to the Expand button and click that. Now I have the ability to use my Direct Selection tool or any other editing tool inside of Illustrator to work with those vectors. But once I do so, I'll lose that live capability. I can no longer adjust the trace itself. I'm going to press Undo to go back to that live state right now.

I want to show you a few settings that you could do to adjust that particular trace. For example, take a look at the Threshold settings that's here. The Threshold setting allows me to determine how much detail is revealed in the trace. I can go ahead and I can increase that number and add more and more detail to that particular image or less detail. In fact, using the word detail probably doesn't make the most sense because detail is relative. Do you want there to be more pixels inside of your file that are black or more that are white? That's up to you based on the image itself but you can adjust the Threshold setting as necessary. Let's go over here to where it says Preset.

Currently Illustrator ships with a whole bunch of different presets. Choosing between these presets let you really choose different options for how that trace should look. By default, Illustrator uses something called Simple Trace. Simple Trace just turns your image using black and white. However, you may decide that you want this to be traced using colors. How many colors, let's choose this one here called Color 6. This now traces your image using up to 6 colors. Illustrator actually analyzes the images first to determine which colors are used in the file, and then it goes ahead and adjusts that color accordingly.

For more detail, I could use more colors. I'll choose now Color 16 for example and that will give me an image that looks even more closer to the original of the photograph. In fact, there's a setting here called Photo High Fidelity. If I choose that option, Illustrator will try to create as many paths as possible with as many colors to make it look as close to the original photograph as it can. Now even though this may look like a photograph, if I zoom in really closer, you can see that this is all made up of vector art. Let me zoom out for a second here, I'll warn you though that if you expand this, you will get a whole lot of anchor points over here. So this could be very complex, fun, could take some time to print out.

Let me go ahead and press Undo again to go back to our Live Trace. You can definitely experiment with some of the other presets that are here, but you can also go directly to this button called Tracing Options. This will give you the ability to specify on a step-by-step basis, several different settings that affect how the quality of the trace is created and not only can you go ahead and choose from the preset that ship with Illustrator, for example let me go back to the Color 6 option, you also have the ability to make your own settings here and then choose Save Preset and create your own preset of settings. This will allow you to apply the same type of trace to several different images that you might be using within an overall campaign for example. One thing that's pretty cool though about working with the Live Trace option, is that right over here there's an option here called Output to Swatches. If I choose that option right here, it will take the six colors that are being used in the trace and if I click on the Trace option here, it will also go ahead and add those colors directly to my Swatches panel.

These are added as global colors, which means that if I want to change some of these colors, for example this darker color, if I want that to change it to something else, maybe something with a little bit more blue inside of it, by updating it I can now see that I can make that change directly in the artwork even without expanding the artwork. Let's take a look at one other example. I'm going to go ahead and delete this right now. I'm going to choose File, Place, and let's choose another option here. Let's choose this photograph called palm_tree. I actually use this method a lot inside of Illustrator, let me zoom -out a little bit over here. There are many times when you could actually work with a photograph to create really interesting content that could be vector for using a logo for example.

Here, if I go ahead and I click on Live Trace, I may want to keep it as black and white, even though right now all of the rest of the file with the sky was there, that disappears as I'm turning it all into just black and white pixels. One thing that's interesting though when you work inside of Illustrator is that if I wanted to overlay this particular tree on a background, if I send this to the back right now, I'll see that the white is kind of blocking out that area. To prevent that problem, I can use a really simple setting inside of the Live Trace options. I'm going to click on this image right now, which has a Live Trace applied to it. I'll go to this dialog box called Tracing Options and I'll click on this option here called Ignore White. In doing so, the white actually gets filled with None. So now I can apply a lovely image here that I can pull out from any photograph into any design composition that I'm working with. What's great about Live Trace is that my possibilities are literally endless. I can sketch something on a piece of paper, scan it into Photoshop, bring that into Illustrator and then do a live trace on it.

I can go take my digital camera outside somewhere and take some really cool pictures, bring them into Illustrator, and then go ahead and do a Live Trace on them as well. And I could use them as direct traces or I can start to incorporate parts of them as design elements. If there's one feature that you really want to play around with and see what you can do, Live Trace is that feature.

Find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Illustrator CS4 Essential Training.


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Q: I cannot get the new brush dropdown to allow me to create either a New Scatter Brush or a New Art Brush; the only ones I can click on are New Calligraphic Brush and New Pattern Brush. When I go to Windows > Brush Library and choose New Brush, again the only ones I can click on are New Calligraphic Brush and New Pattern Brush. How do I make these work like they should?
A: In order to create a new Scatter or Art brush, you must first have artwork selected on the artboard.
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