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Discover how to trace artwork in Adobe Illustrator and convert raster graphics into vector form. This course shows how to perform auto tracing with the Image Trace panel as well as create artwork from scratch using the Shape Builder and the Pen tool. Author Justin Seeley shares several real-world tracing scenarios, which will help you learn how to assess artwork, determine its traceability, and then convert it into vector form in a variety of different ways.
Now that we've got the basics of the terminology and operations of the Image Trace feature all under our belts, it's time to explore the actual Image Trace panel. This is, after all, where we are going to be doing a majority of our legwork inside of Illustrator. So, in order to bring this up, the first you need to do is have a document open, and then you also need to have an image placed with in that document. Now, I've gone ahead and done that for you, but if you don't have this, you can go ahead and just create a new document, and then place some sort of JPEG file in here, so that you can get a reference of exactly what's going on. And so, I'm going to go to the Window menu, and choose Image Trace, and once that's open, I'm just gong to move my document over to the left, and zoom out just a little bit, just so we can have them both of them onscreen at the same time.
And so, when you first open up the Image Trace panel, it's going to look something like this. There's a whole lot more to it than what meets the eye here at the very beginning, but let's just talk about it from the top, and work our way down. So, at the very top, you're going to notice a row of icons across the top, and this is just the basic shortcuts for various preset workflows that the Illustrator team thought was the most popular. And so, if you really want just the most minimal interaction with this tool as possible, you simply click on one of these icons that uses the workflow closest to that of what you are looking for.
So, you can hover over these to see exactly what each of them does. And so this one is Auto-Color. And so, basically, this creates a posterized image from a photo, or a piece of artwork. So, if I were to click this, you would see that it gives me sort of a stylized representation of this guy's photo. It's not necessarily photorealistic, but it does give it a pretty decent little rendering of what the guy looked like, so not too bad. I can hit Command+Z or Ctrl+Z to undo that. The second one is something called High Color, which is supposed to create a photorealistic representation of the artwork in a high fidelity way.
So, if I click on this, it's going to take a little bit longer to render, but once it's finished, you should see some decent results. And so, once that render is out, you're going to be hard pressed to even notice the difference. But if you zoom in quite a bit on this, you will start to see some of the vector edges that it has created. As you can see here, it's not as photorealistic as it appeared on the surface, but it does do a really, really good job at turning this photo into a vector piece of artwork, so I really think that is a great preset. The third preset -- and let me undo that one; as you can see, not much difference.
The third preset is something called Low Color, and Low color is supposed to create a simplified photrealistic piece of artwork. So, this should be almost like the other one, but just a little bit simpler; not as many colors being used. So, let's click that one, and see how it reacts. And when that finishes, you can see that it does a little bit better job than the Auto Color, but not quite as good as the High Color. So, it's sort of an in between those two. It picks up a lot more tones than Auto Color, but not quite as many as the High Color, and so you are left with some banding issues, and things like that around the edges.
Not exactly what I'm looking for either. So, let's undo that, and let's take a look at the fourth one here. The fourth one is Grayscale, and so basically, this just traces the artwork with shades of gray. It's basically like going up the Image menu and choosing Adjustments > Desaturate in Photoshop. That's essentially what you're doing here. You're just desaturating the image, and then converting it into a vectorized version of that grayscale image. So, when I click this, it's going to suck out all the color, and then it's going to convert it to a vector. And so, once that finishes there, you can see it, it's a pretty decent representation.
And again, if I zoom in, though, you can start to see some of the vector edges around there, so it's not as photorealistic as you might want it to be, but it still does a pretty decent job of converting that over to grayscale, and also vectorizing it as well. So, let's undo that, take it back to the original, and let's take a look at the fifth one. This is the Black and White preset. The Black and White preset simplifies the image into simple black and white artwork. That means anything north of 50% gray is going to become completely white; anything south of 50% gray is gong to become completely black. And so, if I click this, it's going to be a pretty quick operation. It's just going to go through, and boom! There you go.
So, everything that was lighter than 50 % gray is now white, everything that was darker is now black, and we get this sort of poster stamp kind of image, which is pretty decent for what it does. And a lot of people go for looks like these for different things; posters, and all that kind of stfuf. So, it's our pretty quick and easy way to get that sort of stylized look that people really start to go for. And so let's undo that, and let's take a look at the very last one here. This is something called Outline. This is best for just creating strokes for line or curve elements in a piece of artwork. This is black on white only, and so, when I do this, you're going to see it, comes through really quickly, but it doesn't really leave a whole lot there.
This meant for line drawings, logos, hand drawn sketches, things like that to just get a really quick and easy trace of those. So, not a whole lot being picked up here. You could adjust it after the fact using some of the advanced sliders, but again, not the best choice for tracing a photo. Now, directly underneath that, you're going to see a dropdown of presets, and these presets are really a superset of the presets above, and these are seemingly the ones that are not as popular as the ones that are above in these icon forms. There's a lot more to choose from, and I really like some of these, and so you can go through and check them out yourself.
I'm not going to go through each one individually, but there are some that are really great, like High Fidelity Photo is really good; Shades of Gray, Black and White Logo, Sketched Art, Silhouettes, Line Art, Technical Drawing; all of these, they aren't necessarily the best for every scenario, but they do give you a great starting off point. Another great thing to note about this panel is that in the Presets menu, as you are going through here, if you were to click on one -- let's say that I clicked on Black and White Logo, for instance -- it goes ahead and it applies the settings for that, and it does the trace for me.
But what if I don't want it to do the trace for me? What if I know, okay, I know Black and White Logo is where I want to start, but it's not at all where I want to finish. I just want to load in the preset values first, and then make my adjustments, and then perform the trace. Well, that's actually pretty easily done. I'll undo that, and go back to the Preset menu. This time when I go down to Black and White Logo, I'm going to hold down the Option key on the Mac, the Alt key on the PC, and I'm going to click right here. And what that's going to do is it's going to load in the values for me, and as you can see it loaded everything in. Mode, Black and White; Threshold, 128; everything like that. It just didn't perform the trace.
So, what I can do is just come in here, if I think, okay, High Fidelity Photo is where I want to start. I'll Option+Click or Alt+Click, and it's going to load in everything into the panel. Notice it didn't do anything here; I didn't have to wait for it to render. And so I can come in and make all of the tweaks I want by holding down that Option or Alt key and clicking, and then come down to the bottom. I can turn on the Preview, or hit the Trace button, and it would perform the trace with those new settings that I create. So, if you know where to start, this is a great way to sort of bypass that initial tracing that you always have to sit through when you're choosing those presets.
Directly underneath that you can choose what you're viewing. So, the viewing options includes Tracing Result, Tracing Result with Outlines, just the Outlines, Outline with a Source Image, or you just want to view the Source Image. Chances are, you're going to review the tracing result, because you want to see exactly what this is doing. You can also choose a mode; either, Color, Gray Scale, or Black and White. That corresponds, of course, to the preset that you've chosen at the top. You can also adjust the palette, we're going to explain in full detail later on exactly what all of these mean and how you would use those. Then you get into Colors. How many colors do you want to use, less or more; depending on where you drag this slider, that's going to adjust the amount of colors that are inside of your image.
The advanced section is just that; it is the advanced section where you go to adjust all of the advanced options of the Image Trace panel. So, you've got things like Paths, Corners, Noise, the Method, where you choose a different tracing method; either a Abutting or Overlapping Paths. You can also choose whether or not to create Fills and Strokes. You can choose the Stroke Width, if you do in fact choose to use Strokes. You can snap your curves to lines, which we talked about in our previous movie. And you can also, if you're scanning in a black and white logo, choose to ignore white, and only keep the black area, which is very helpful.
At the bottom here, you're going to get a big information panel that gives you information about the trace you are performing. It's going to show things like the number of paths, the number of colors, and also the number of anchor points. There's nothing really to this other than the fact that it's good information to know. So you could say, okay, I've made this trace, it's 3,000 paths, or whatever; it's got 2,200 anchor points, and 300 colors. It's totally up to you what you do with this information. It's just there. The Preview button; turning this on and off, of course, adjusts whether or not you see the preview result, and then the Trace button actually performs the trace.
So, the Image Trace panel can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be, and I suggest going in, exploring all of these different options on whatever image you have access to, and trying to learn exactly what each one of these things does. Seeing, okay, if I drag this here, then it does this. If I drag this here, then it does that. As you do that, just putting yourself in a seat, and making yourself learn this by trial and error is the best way to go about it, seriously, because even these little descriptions don't really tell exactly what these things do to each individual image.
Each project is different, each image is different, and that's why exploring this panel is so very important.
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