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Customizing settings for Live Trace

From: Animated Character Design with Illustrator

Video: Customizing settings for Live Trace

Illustrator's got some fantastic tools to help you draw your characters by hand, but it also has the most amazing tool which will allow you to automatically trace drawings that you've done. Now, here I have a drawing that I did for a BBC series called The Inventors. And this is a character that I want to animate in After Effects. Now, I've spent a lot of time getting the weight of the lines right. And instead of having to recreate all of that manually in Illustrator, what I can do is automatically trace it using a feature called Live Trace. Now, unlike manual tracing, you don't use a Template Layer. So, what I'm going to do is double-click the Template Layer here and switch off Template, and that's going to remove the lock and remove the dimming on the image. Now, if you have place an image into Illustrator, you want to make sure it's on a regular layer, not a Template Layer.

Customizing settings for Live Trace

Illustrator's got some fantastic tools to help you draw your characters by hand, but it also has the most amazing tool which will allow you to automatically trace drawings that you've done. Now, here I have a drawing that I did for a BBC series called The Inventors. And this is a character that I want to animate in After Effects. Now, I've spent a lot of time getting the weight of the lines right. And instead of having to recreate all of that manually in Illustrator, what I can do is automatically trace it using a feature called Live Trace. Now, unlike manual tracing, you don't use a Template Layer. So, what I'm going to do is double-click the Template Layer here and switch off Template, and that's going to remove the lock and remove the dimming on the image. Now, if you have place an image into Illustrator, you want to make sure it's on a regular layer, not a Template Layer.

Now, this is called Template Layer, but I'm going to rename it and call it Live Trace Layer, just to save from any confusion. And then, what I'm going to do is choose a Selection tool and select the Artwork. And I'm going to go up to Live Trace. Now, I can just click on Live Trace and that will trace it. But the standard settings aren't quite right for me, so what I'm going to do is customize it a little bit. So, I'm going to go down here and go to my Tracing options. There are lots of other presets by the way, that you can choose here.

So, something like a detailed illustration would work really well for this drawing. But it's still not quite right. It's still a little bit too fat in places for me. So, I'm going to go into that menu, and instead of choosing a Default, I'm going to go to Tracing Options, which will open up a dialog box. At now, you can also get to the same dialog box by going through the Objects menu, to Live Trace, and you can get the Tracing Options through there as well. Now, the first thing that you need to do is decide, do you want it to trace fills or strokes, or both? So, I'm going to show you the difference it makes. If we chose fills, basically what it's going to do is every single line will have a path at either side of it, okay? And it will create the line by creating a fill between those two paths.

If I take that off and instead chose Strokes, basically it's going to create a stroke per path. Now, you could use that technique, but you're going to get pretty even strokes. It's going to Default to using the regular standard one pixel brush. Now, if you wanted to do that, you could go ahead and do it. And then, you could use brushes in Illustrator to fatten them up and change the texture. But really, the whole point for me for using this is to get the nice fills I've used. Now, you can use a combination of fills and strokes, but I really prefer to use fills so that I get the integrity of the lines remaining constant.

Now, you can choose black or white or, gray scale. If you got a gray scale image, you might want to pick up some of the grays from it, or you can choose color. But we're going to stick with black and white, and I'm going to adjust the Threshold Settings. If I put Threshold Settings up higher, it's going to choose more of the grey areas and make them black. If I make it lower, it's going to choose more of the gray areas and make them white. So you see, I have to try and get the right balance so that the lines are not too dark but not too light. Now, I find the Default of 128 seems to be a little bit on the light side so I'm just going to make that a few pixels darker.

Now, every time I change a setting, it's having to update. So, if you want to adjust a setting, you can always turn Preview, Off while you do it. And just type in a value, and then hit Preview again to update it. And you'll see that that's looking much more like the original. It's getting there, okay? Now, the other thing is you'll notice it kind of smooths out the lines a little bit too much for me. It tends to automatically smooth them and the Path Fitting settings will help with that. Now, if I put Path settings up quite high to volume 7, you'll see it's really smoothing them out a little bit too much. Now you might like that, you might like a more stylized look to your drawing. And like I said, more integrity of line.

Now, if I bring it down to 0, you'll see it takes a lot longer to calculate and it's actually too detailed there. You can see it's picking up all the pixels as well. So, setting of about 1 usually does it for me. Again, I'm going to try and experiment a little bit. Let's try 0.5. See if we can get away with that. Now, I think a setting of 1 is where I'm going to be going. And I usually find a setting of 1 is nice because it keeps the integrity of the lines. You get the odd mistake coming through, which I quite like. But it's not too detailed. Okay, so once I've set up the settings the way I want them, I can actually save that as a preset.

So, I could call this The Inventors BBC Preset. So now, when I bring in the other characters, I can just automatically apply that preset to them, without having to go through that whole process again.

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Animated Character Design with Illustrator

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Angie Taylor
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