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In Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced, author and industry expert Deke McClelland teaches how to take advantage of the wide array of dynamic features in Illustrator CS5. This course demonstrates how to apply these features to paths, groups, and editable text to create professional-quality artwork. The course covers Live Trace, Live Paint, and Live Color, as well as symbols, gradients, exporting, and integration with Photoshop. Exercise files accompany the course.
I've saved my changes as Comic Art characters.ai. In this exercise I'm going to review the three numerical options that might appear up here in the Control panel, and they include Threshold, we've already seen a preview of that one. Threshold is applicable just to black- and-white tracings and nothing more. Then we have Min Area, which determines the minimum area that Illustrator will trace. And if you're tracing an image in color, then instead of Threshold you'll see Max Colors. All right! So let's start things off by selecting the traced object, which I have, and adjusting the Threshold option.
The lowest Threshold value you can assign is 1, and if you assign a Threshold value of 1, and you just have to remember that 0 is black and 255 is white, then you're saying, just those portions of the original image that are less than that Threshold value, that are absolutely black, will get traced, nothing else will get traced. Whereas, if you raise this value to its maximum, 255, then you say, trace absolutely everything, and by the way, you have to change the value and then press the Tab or Enter or Return key in order to apply your setting to the traced artwork.
Now, notice in this case that I'm saying trace absolutely everything that's not white, in which case I trace all of the letters and I also trace that yellow area down there at the bottom of the image. I also thicken up all the letters. So notice how much thicker all the letters are at Threshold value of 255 than they are at say 100. If I go ahead and change that value to a 100 and press the Tab key, not only do I lose the orange line of type, but all of my other text becomes thinner as well. So what I want to do is I want to set this Threshold value to the absolute maximum I can without revealing yellow, which turns out to be, I just figured this out through trial and error, turns out to be 222.
And then I'll press the Tab key, and that thickens up the letters as much as possible, leaves the yellow out in the background. Notice if I were to click inside that value and press the Up Arrow key and then press the Tab key, then I get yellow back. So I go ahead and trace that yellow area at a Threshold of 223. Anyway, that's why I want 222. Then we have this Min Area value, that when I'm working with the Comic Art preset, which I was, then the Min Area is set to 4 pixels; that's saying that any little spec in the artwork that takes up 4 pixels or more will get traced.
If you have a lot of dust in your original image, if you scanned it and brought it directly over into Illustrator without modifying the image in Photoshop, which is a rotten idea by the way, you should go ahead and clean up the image inside Photoshop first, and I'll show you what I mean by that in a later exercise. But I actually drew this particular image inside of Photoshop, so it doesn't have any dust particles, it doesn't have any noise. But if you're trying to watch out for the noise, you can raise that Min Area value, as high as 3000. I'm going to go ahead and take it to 1000 pixels and then press the Tab key, and you can see that that rules out all kinds of letters that don't take up 1000 pixels inside of my original image.
Where this image is concerned, I think I'm better off setting the Min Area value to about 2 pixels. So very tiny indeed, and that way I preserve all the little holes inside of the various letters. Now let's say I'd prefer to go ahead and trace this image in color, why then I'd change my Preset to one of the Color Presets such as, let's go ahead and switch it to Color 6 for now, and then I could go ahead and change that Min Area value back to 2 pixels again, if I want to. Notice that Threshold has been replaced with Max Colors, and right now it's set to 6, because that's what I chose, I chose to trace with 6 colors.
But I could lower this value to 3. And by the way, you have to include black -and-white when you're working this way. I'll show you how to rule out white in a later exercise, but right now we've got to include black-and-white, and then 3 would say one other color. So 1 for black, 2 for white, 3 for, let's check it out. I'll go ahead and press the Return key or the Enter key here in the PC, in order to change that Max Colors value to 3, and the third color becomes yellow, because that's the most plentiful sort of compromise color inside of the image.
Now I am going to go ahead and zoom in so that we can see our artwork more closely. And notice how weird the line just above the orange line appears here. I'm not sure what color that line was originally. Let's go ahead and switch that smooth pyramid options to Outlines, and I'll change the jagged pyramid to Original Image, and that's the green text. So the green text gets converted to black with some yellow around it, which is a little bit weird. So let's see how to fix that. I'll change the smooth pyramid back to Tracing Result, so that we can see the Tracing Result.
Notice I didn't bother to change the jagged pyramid back to No Image, because the Original Image is currently being covered up by the vector preview, so that's fine. We end up seeing the vector preview by itself that way. Now I'm going to increase the Min Area value from 2 to let's try 20, and I'll press the Tab key in order to apply that value, and we get much smoother results when we're tracing in color. So that's how those values work. Just remember that you have access up here in the Control panel to Threshold, when you're tracing a black and white image, or Max Colors, when you're tracing in color.
You also have Min Area, whether you're tracing black and white or color images. In the next exercise, I will begin to tour you through the many additional settings that are available to you inside the Tracing Options dialog box.
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