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Exploring the Image Trace panel

From: Illustrator CS6 Essential Training

Video: Exploring the Image Trace panel

Up until now, we've been working with raster-based graphics inside of Illustrator, and they have just stayed in their raster or bitmap format. But now we are going to explore how we can begin to convert those raster graphics into vector format. Illustrator has a great feature called Image Trace, which is a new version of the old Live Trace feature. And in Illustrator CS6, it's gotten a lot better, and a lot faster. Basically, what this allows you to do is take a bitmap graphic -- a JPEG, a TIFF, a GIF whatever it might be -- and then trace it using an automatic command inside of Illustrator, and convert it into a vector format. Let's take a look; I am going to create a new document by hitting Command+N or Control+N on my keyboard.

Exploring the Image Trace panel

Up until now, we've been working with raster-based graphics inside of Illustrator, and they have just stayed in their raster or bitmap format. But now we are going to explore how we can begin to convert those raster graphics into vector format. Illustrator has a great feature called Image Trace, which is a new version of the old Live Trace feature. And in Illustrator CS6, it's gotten a lot better, and a lot faster. Basically, what this allows you to do is take a bitmap graphic -- a JPEG, a TIFF, a GIF whatever it might be -- and then trace it using an automatic command inside of Illustrator, and convert it into a vector format. Let's take a look; I am going to create a new document by hitting Command+N or Control+N on my keyboard.

And I will just use the Letter Size, and I will make sure it's Horizontal Orientation, and I will hit OK. You can create any size document you want; doesn't really matter. I am going to go up to the File menu now, and I'm going to Place in a graphic. I will go to my Chapter 12 Folder, go into images, and I'll place in the red_paint. Once I place in red_paint, I will just shrink it down a little bit to fit right in the middle of our document, and I'm going to bring up the Image Trace panel. And I am going to do that by go to the Window menu, and choosing Image Trace.

The Image Trace panel has a ton of options in it, but for now, let's just worry about these top few right here. If I hover over these, you are going to see that it gives me several different presets to choose from, like Auto Color, High Color, Low Color, Grayscale, Black and White, and Outline. Let's take a look at how these affect the image, and the tracing results that we get. I am going to pick, right here, Auto Color. If you're using a high-resolution bitmap graphic, Illustrator may come up and tell you that it's going to proceed slowly if it continues to trace this image.

Always go ahead and hit OK to this, because this is just merely a warning that it might go a little slow. Tracing bitmap graphics is never an instantaneous thing. So just hit don't show again, and hit OK. As you can see Illustrator, is going through, and it's actually clustering pixels together, it's analyzing the photo, and it's going through and vectorizing it for you. Once it finishes, you will have a great representation of this, in a vector format. Depending on which preset you click, it's going to look different each and every time, which is kind of interesting.

So now that it's finished with the tracing, you can see that it's done a pretty decent job of tracing it. It doesn't look photo-realistic by any means, but considering what it had to work with, it didn't do such a bad job. Let's try one of the other ones. I'll try High Color. Once the High Color preset is finished rendering, you can see that it's done a pretty decent job of making us look almost photo-realistic. Compared to the original, it's almost the same. Let's take a look at one of these other ones, like Low Color.

When Low Color finishes rendering, it's got almost the same photo-realistic properties as the previous one, only this time, it doesn't go out and get all of this subtle differences between the colors, so it looks a little bit more muted in this case. You also have the ability to choose Grayscale, which is going to give you a complete grayscale rendering of the object that you are tracing. The Grayscale rendering is usually a little bit faster than the previous three, simply because it doesn't have to deal with so many colors; it just has to deal with shades of gray. You also have Black and White; Black and White is going to be one of the faster ones.

Once Black and White renders, you get just exactly what it says; you get black, and you get white. Basically, what Illustrator does here is it goes into the image, and it analyzes things. Anything that is darker than 50% gray automatically becomes black inside the image. Anything that's lighter than 50% gray automatically becomes white in the image. Now, you can adjust the settings underneath here, but just the basic trace here gives you this type of result. If you're going for some sort of silhouette on a person, this is perfect, but for this particular piece of artwork, it doesn't work all that great.

And then finally, we have the Outline mode. Outline mode basically goes through, and attempts to give you an outline representation of your artwork. In this case, since there's no real definition of shapes, or anything like that -- it's just a bunch of swirls of paint -- Illustrator has a hard time dealing with that, and this is the result you end up with. In my opinion, it would probably be best to use the High Color representation of this, but again, for each project, it's going to be different for you. Let's continue to explore the Image Trace panel now. I am going to go ahead and click High Color, so that it re-renders, and then we'll explore the remaining parts of this panel.

Once the High Color preset has finished rendering, I can then go back down through here. You will notice that you have access to the Presets here as well, but inside of Preset dropdown menu, you actually have access to far more presents than you do at the top of this panel. My suggestion would be to take some time, and go through all of these, and see which one fits your project best. It's going to be different for each one, and depending on your needs. Later in this course, when we go through tracing images, and tracing line art, I'll show you some of my favorite presets for each one. Let's collapse this back up, and take a look at the view.

In the View section, you're going to be able to choose what you're actually looking at on screen. You can view the Tracing Result, the Tracing Result with Outlines, which looks like this; very hard to see. You can also choose only the Outlines, which is just going to show you the outlines of all the paths. Basically, what Illustrator has done here is taken the original image, which you don't see anymore, and converted it to these thousands of paths, these vector objects, that are comprising this, and making it look the way it looks. If you look at the bottom of the Image Trace panel, you're going to see exactly how many paths, and how many anchor points you have.

Currently, with this tracing preset, I have 23,364 paths. I also have 210,288 anchor points. Can you imagine trying to draw this by hand? That would be absolutely absurd. So in this case, the Tracing panel is really saving me years of time. Let's go back up to the View menu, and let's see Outlines with Source Image. So if you want to see your original image, with the paths on top of it, you can choose this option. Now, it's kind of to see the original image because of all the paths, but it is there.

And then finally, I can also see just my Source Image. So this is what the original looked like, and this is the tracing result. Not that much difference. Source Image, Tracing Result; it's actually really close. So you can see that the Image Trace panel does a really good job, especially with the High Color preset that we have chosen. The Mode directly underneath here allows you to adjust the color mode that is being used for the trace. You can choose Color, or Grayscale, or Black and White. Of course, we are choosing Color for this, because we want a photo-realistic representation of what's going on on the screen.

You can pick what palette is used. You can use the Full Tone, which means give me every tone possible, you can use a Limited palette, or you can use an Automatic palette. If you choose Limited palette, you can actually come in and limit the amount of colors that you choose. Once it finishes rendering, you are going to notice that the object becomes a little bit more simplified looking. That's because it doesn't have the broad range of tones to choose from that it did before. You'll also notice, under here, you have a slider that controls the amount of colors. So you can set the maximum number of colors anywhere from 2 to 30. Right now, it's using 30 colors.

So in this particular tracing, there are only 30 different colors being represented. That's not a lot, considering the fact that you have a spectrum of 256 normally. Let's go back here and let's choose Full Tone. Once the Full Tone has finished rendering, you will see here that I get a much more photo-realistic representation of my original graphic. Other options that you have here are Document Library, and Basic Graphic_Textures. The Document Library, you can actually pick from a different document library of tones.

So if you have a lot of swatches in a particular document, you can use those of you want to. In my experience, though, if you're dealing with a photograph, it's best to use the Full Tone. If you're dealing with line art, you might want to limit the colors to something like 2, 3, or maybe even 4, but I would keep it under 5 for line art. But we'll discuss that later when we discuss tracing line art. Finally, you have Advanced Options down here at the bottom of this panel. Inside of the Advanced Options, you have the ability to control the way Illustrator traces your artwork, and you get to do that in minute detail.

You can choose the way the paths fit. If you do a higher value here, that means it's going to fit tighter to the original photograph, meaning it's going to go in and analyze all the curves and corners of the raster graphic that is tracing, and try its best to make the paths fit along those curves and corners. If you drag this slider to the left, down to a lower number, the tracing will be faster, but the fitting will be much looser in terms of how closely it represents the overall graphic that you are tracing. Directly under that you can pick Corners; this is called a corner emphasis.

Basically it means, if you drag this slider to the right, you get more sharp corners in your art work. If you drag this slider to the left, you get a much more loose and round appearance to your artwork. Finally, you have the Noise slider; this is going to reduce the Noise in the image, which is just extra little paths and things like that are left over by ignoring areas of a specific pixel size. So basically, if you drag this slider to the left, you will get more noise; if you drag it to the right, you're going to get less noise.

Under here, you can pick the Method. You can choose either Abutting or Overlapping paths. Basically, if you choose Abutting, that means that Illustrator is going to trace each one of these objects individually, and it's going to fit them together, almost like a puzzle. If you choose the Overlap method, Illustrator still traces everything as an individual object, but they have a slight overlap, which helps eliminate gaps, and whitespace. I actually prefer to do the Overlap; it may take a little longer, and the paths might be a little bigger than they normally would be, but this is a safe bet to eliminate those whitespaces and gaps, and I always like to do that.

Depending on what type of artwork you have created, and what type of preset you have chosen, you may get the ability to choose whether or not you create fills or strokes. In this case, I'm doing a photo-realistic representation, so it's basically just telling me, you're stuck with Fills. But when you are tracing a line art, for instance, it may give you the option to choose Strokes. And you can also set the size of the stroke, making it easier to set how thick or thin the lines are that are being traced around your artwork. You can also snap curves to lines. This looks through your image for any lines that are just slightly curved.

If it finds a line that is slightly curved, it then snaps it to a straight line. This can cause gaps and misalignments in your artwork sometimes, so I don't recommend turning this on. However, if you're trying to take something that's been hand-drawn, that is supposed to be straight, you can actually make it look even more straight by turning this on. But for photos, and intricate artwork, I don't think this works well. Finally, you have an Ignore White. If you are tracing a two color logo, meaning it's black with whitespace around it, or something like that, you can choose to ignore that whitespace, and make it transparent.

How many times have you been given a logo by a client; it's a simple logo, it's just black on a white sheet of paper, let's say. You scanned it into the computer, and then you took it into Photoshop, and you tried to remove the white background, and you wound up with all those chunky stuff around the outside of it. Well, you don't have to worry about that in Illustrator. You come in here, and you trace the artwork, you refine your tracing, and then turn on Ignore White; all the whitespace automatically gets removed, and you're left with just that logo standing alone. Finally, at the bottom, you have your Information panel, which we talked about already.

And then you also have the ability to turn your Preview on and off. No matter what you are tracing inside of Illustrator, it's always a great idea to have the Image Trace panel open, so that you can come in and tweak your artwork at a moment's notice, or switch the preset to completely flip the script on what you're doing.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS6 Essential Training
Illustrator CS6 Essential Training

116 video lessons · 75065 viewers

Justin Seeley
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 1m 15s
    1. What is Illustrator?
      1m 15s
  2. 2m 17s
    1. Welcome
      58s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 19s
  3. 41m 25s
    1. Understanding vector graphics
      5m 0s
    2. Setting preferences
      9m 24s
    3. Touring the interface
      9m 41s
    4. Exploring the panels
      6m 54s
    5. Working with the Control panel
      4m 25s
    6. Creating and saving workspaces
      6m 1s
  4. 43m 42s
    1. Creating files for print
      4m 42s
    2. Creating files for the web
      3m 36s
    3. Managing multiple documents
      3m 25s
    4. Navigating within a document
      5m 21s
    5. Using rulers, guides, and grids
      6m 59s
    6. Changing units of measurement
      1m 50s
    7. Using preview modes
      3m 10s
    8. Creating and using custom views
      3m 12s
    9. Locking and hiding artwork
      3m 43s
    10. Creating and using artboards
      7m 44s
  5. 1h 1m
    1. Setting your selection preferences
      5m 57s
    2. Using the Direct Selection and Group Selection tools
      4m 6s
    3. Using the Magic Wand tool
      5m 45s
    4. Using the Lasso tool
      4m 9s
    5. Selecting objects by attribute
      6m 48s
    6. Grouping objects
      3m 7s
    7. Using isolation mode
      4m 48s
    8. Resizing your artwork
      3m 55s
    9. Rotating objects
      2m 10s
    10. Distorting and transforming objects
      6m 26s
    11. Repeating transformations
      5m 6s
    12. Reflecting and skewing objects
      4m 54s
    13. Aligning and distributing objects
      4m 38s
  6. 29m 27s
    1. RGB vs. CMYK
      1m 46s
    2. Adjusting Illustrator color settings
      5m 10s
    3. Process vs. global swatches
      5m 6s
    4. Creating spot colors
      3m 40s
    5. Using the swatch groups
      2m 33s
    6. Working with color libraries
      3m 17s
    7. Importing swatches
      4m 4s
    8. Using the Color Guide panel
      3m 51s
  7. 57m 36s
    1. Understanding fills and strokes
      4m 18s
    2. Working with fills
      4m 58s
    3. Working with strokes
      8m 46s
    4. Creating dashes and arrows
      8m 1s
    5. Creating variable-width strokes
      4m 3s
    6. Using width profiles
      3m 31s
    7. Outlining strokes
      3m 51s
    8. Creating and editing gradients
      5m 45s
    9. Applying gradients to strokes
      3m 8s
    10. Applying and editing pattern fills
      4m 52s
    11. Creating your own pattern fill
      6m 23s
  8. 20m 20s
    1. Understanding paths
      2m 41s
    2. Understanding anchor points
      4m 20s
    3. Working with open and closed paths
      5m 28s
    4. Joining and averaging paths
      4m 9s
    5. Using the Scissors tool and the Knife tool
      3m 42s
  9. 37m 56s
    1. Understanding drawing modes
      4m 23s
    2. Creating compound paths
      5m 15s
    3. Creating compound shapes
      4m 11s
    4. Working with the Shape Builder tool
      6m 32s
    5. Working with the Blob Brush and Eraser tools
      5m 26s
    6. Working with the Paintbrush and Pencil tools
      7m 8s
    7. Smoothing and erasing paths
      5m 1s
  10. 35m 53s
    1. Exploring the Pen tool
      2m 39s
    2. Drawing straight lines
      5m 12s
    3. Drawing simple curves
      5m 23s
    4. Understanding the many faces of the Pen tool
      6m 10s
    5. Converting corners and curves
      1m 46s
    6. Your keyboard is your friend
      2m 14s
    7. Tracing artwork with the Pen tool
      12m 29s
  11. 35m 33s
    1. Adjusting your type settings
      4m 10s
    2. Creating point and area text
      3m 36s
    3. Basic text editing
      2m 14s
    4. Creating threaded text
      4m 59s
    5. Using the type panels
      9m 48s
    6. Creating text on a path
      5m 11s
    7. Converting text into paths
      1m 43s
    8. Saving time with keyboard shortcuts
      3m 52s
  12. 27m 25s
    1. Exploring the Appearance panel
      4m 44s
    2. Explaining attribute stacking order
      1m 40s
    3. Applying multiple fills
      3m 1s
    4. Applying multiple strokes
      4m 20s
    5. Adjusting appearance with live effects
      4m 46s
    6. Saving appearances as graphic styles
      8m 54s
  13. 20m 44s
    1. Exploring the Layers panel
      4m 18s
    2. Creating and editing layers
      3m 27s
    3. Targeting objects in the Layers panel
      3m 3s
    4. Working with sublayers
      3m 0s
    5. Hiding, locking, and deleting layers
      4m 14s
    6. Using the Layers panel menu
      2m 42s
  14. 46m 0s
    1. Placing images into Illustrator
      2m 53s
    2. Working with the Links panel
      6m 5s
    3. Embedding images into Illustrator
      3m 12s
    4. Cropping images with a mask
      5m 8s
    5. Exploring the Image Trace panel
      12m 14s
    6. Tracing photographs
      8m 6s
    7. Tracing line art
      4m 33s
    8. Converting pixels to paths
      3m 49s
  15. 19m 21s
    1. What are symbols?
      2m 45s
    2. Using prebuilt symbols
      3m 3s
    3. Using the Symbol Sprayer tool
      4m 19s
    4. Creating new symbols
      3m 50s
    5. Breaking the symbol link
      3m 19s
    6. Redefining symbols
      2m 5s
  16. 12m 9s
    1. Defining a perspective grid
      4m 29s
    2. Drawing artwork in perspective
      3m 49s
    3. Applying artwork to the grid
      3m 51s
  17. 35m 7s
    1. Printing your artwork
      6m 16s
    2. Saving your artwork
      2m 2s
    3. Saving in legacy formats
      3m 0s
    4. Saving templates
      4m 18s
    5. Creating PDF files
      5m 23s
    6. Saving for the web
      4m 46s
    7. Creating high-res bitmap images
      3m 58s
    8. Using Illustrator files in Photoshop and InDesign
      5m 24s
  18. 56s
    1. Next steps
      56s

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