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Tracing artwork with the Pen tool

From: Illustrator CS6 Essential Training

Video: Tracing artwork with the Pen tool

Now we have come to a point where we are ready to start putting what we've learned into a practical application. And in this movie, we are going to be drawing a simple cartoon character utilizing the Pen tool inside of Illustrator. As you can see, I have got this document open called tracing_bear. And inside of this document, I actually have two layers, and I realize we haven't talked about layers yet, but let me bring this out, so you can see what I have got going on. The idea here is that you have received artwork from a client, and the artwork from the client is in a raster-based format of some kind. It might be a JPEG, or a TIFF; either way, it's not suitable for use in Illustrator, and you need to be able to trace that artwork for use in your projects.

Tracing artwork with the Pen tool

Now we have come to a point where we are ready to start putting what we've learned into a practical application. And in this movie, we are going to be drawing a simple cartoon character utilizing the Pen tool inside of Illustrator. As you can see, I have got this document open called tracing_bear. And inside of this document, I actually have two layers, and I realize we haven't talked about layers yet, but let me bring this out, so you can see what I have got going on. The idea here is that you have received artwork from a client, and the artwork from the client is in a raster-based format of some kind. It might be a JPEG, or a TIFF; either way, it's not suitable for use in Illustrator, and you need to be able to trace that artwork for use in your projects.

This is how I start any tracing that I'm about to do inside of Illustrator. I put the artwork that I'm going to be tracing on a layer called Background, and then I lock that layer. That way, I cannot alter that layer in any way, and I can't make any changes to that layer either. I then create a new layer called Tracing. This way, I have a layer on top of the background, which I can then trace with. So I want to make sure that I'm working on this layer, so you need to target the Tracing layer by clicking on it, like so. Once you have the Tracing layer targeted, you're ready to start your tracing.

Now, this bear can actually be re-created by utilizing some basic shapes, but you also need utilize the Pen tool to create various things, like the goatee, maybe even the mouth part, and some other parts, like the hat. So I am going to go through, and I am going to create some of the basic shapes, and then we will finish it off with the Pen tool. So I am going to go ahead and dock the Layers panel back down where it's supposed to be, and let's get started. The objects that are in the back, I am going to draw those first, and build on top of them.

So the first thing I need to do is draw the ears. Those are the parts that are farthest away from me. So I am going to come over here, and I am just going to grab the Ellipse tool, and I am going to start to draw out an ellipse. When you are drawing shapes inside of Illustrator, you can actually reposition them on the fly, before you let go of your mouse, by temporarily holding down the Spacebar key. So I am going to do this, and just position it fairly close to there. Once I get that done, I will release my mouse, and there's one ear.

I am going to fill this with no fill; that way I can see back behind it, and then I am going to grab my Selection tool. I'm then going to Command+C or Control+C to copy it, and Command+V or Control+V to paste it, and I will move that right over here. After all, we want the ears to match up as much as possible. So extend that out; something kind of like that. If they don't match exactly, you can rearrange them, and resize them to fit. Once I have got that done, I've pretty much got my ears intact.

Now let's draw the inner ears, and the face. I will draw the inner ears first. I can do that simply by selecting the circle that I had before, Command+C or Control+C on my keyboard to copy it, and then I'm going to use another keyboard shortcut that I haven't showed you yet. It's Command+F or Control+F, which means paste in front. Once I do that, you are not going to see it paste anywhere onscreen; that's because it pasted directly in front of the object that you just copied it from. I can then resize it, like so. Here is the inner ear, and I'll copy that, and paste it, and then move it over here to draw that portion of the inner ear.

Now I will draw the face. Another circle; again this is a pretty simple character to draw. Hold down my Spacebar to reposition, then I will adjust, let go, grab my Selection tool; I can sort of position this to fill a little bit more like the face. There we go. Now I have got the basic parts of my bear down. The rest of these, I can utilize the Pen tool to draw, and that's what I'm going to do. I am going to create a new layer, and I am going to call this Pen tool.

And I did that simply by double-clicking on the layer name, and typing in Pen tool. I am then going to temporarily hide the layer called Tracing. That's going to hide all the artwork that I just created. Working on this Pen tool layer, I'm then going to go out and start drawing the pieces that I need use the Pen tool for, the first of which is the hat. I am going to grab the Pen tool; zoom in a little bit closer, so you can actually see what I am doing. I am going to start somewhere here; I usually start in a simple place, like a corner. And this point tells me that I'm intersecting with it, so that's good.

I will go ahead click to add my first point. There is a little bit of a curve here, so I am going to click, and then I'll draw upward to follow that curve. Like I said, it doesn't matter if you don't follow it perfectly; no big deal, and I will go there. I am going to come over here, and try to make my next point. When I do that, I can adjust the curve to fit. I will come down here, and try the next point. When I do that, you're going to notice that the Pen tool doesn't exactly behave like I want it to. The curve just doesn't quite match up.

Remember what I said; if you run into this problem, undo -- Command+Z or Control+Z -- go back to your original point, hold down the Option key on Mac, the Alt key on PC, and click. That other control handle will go away, and you have essentially told the Pen tool, reset yourself. I will come back down here, click, and now I can draw out a more simple curve. If you find that your curve doesn't quite match up with what you're trying to draw, chances are, you've tried to put too much space between the first point, and the second point. So in this case, I've got a little bit of a gap here, so I am going to undo this one more time.

And I'll come back a little bit closer to the original point, click, and draw. And now I can line that up pretty much perfectly. There we go. I will go over here, and try to do another point. There we go. You will notice that I am going very slow while I am drawing this, and when you are drawing something for the first time, I recommend you go slow as well. That's going to get you acclimated to using the Pen tool. Eventually you can get faster, but for now, we are going at a snail's pace to make sure we get it right. Let's go right up here, and attempt this curve.

That lines up pretty good, but it's still little off. So let's undo that, and I am going to try to reset this point; Option+Click or Alt+Click. There we go. I will back that down a little bit, and I'm able to create a point that pretty much follows the flow of the hat. Come back up, follow along; go right here in the corner. There's a little bit of a curve downward right here, so I will do that. Come right here; here's where I get that weird whipping that I talked about. The whipping is very annoying.

So I'll undo that, again, Option+Click or Alt+Click the point to reset it, click, adjust the curve, and go. Same thing here; I'll make my curve. There we go. Option+Click or Alt+Click, because here, I don't want to curve at all; I want it to be relatively straight. There we go. And then finally, I can complete my path by coming right here, and adjusting it. There we go; our first item is drawn with the Pen tool. Let's see how we did. I am going to fill this with black, so you can actually see it. Not bad! Looks almost exactly like the original hat.

I am pretty satisfied with that, so let's move down. Grab my Pen tool again. I want to make sure that I'm working on a Fill that is set to None. That way I can actually see inside of this as I draw around. So I am going to start right here; it's a little difficult to draw right here around this eye, because there's no real straight edge to start on. But that's okay; I am going to start right here at the top. I am just going to click, and I will click to set another point, and I will draw right there. Notice I get the whip again. I will undo, Option+Click or Alt+Click to reset, and then draw around, just like this.

I am going to continue around this eye, and I am just Option+Clicking or Alt+Clicking to reset the Pen tool as I draw around. There we go. And finally, I will come back here to this curve, and finish it off. Let's see how we did there. Fill it with black; looks pretty good. Now here's the cool part about this: I can just take this, copy it, and then I can paste it, and then I can rearrange it to fit this other eye. Because theoretically they are supposed to be same, right? So we will move it, get it into place, and there we go.

The nose; that can probably be accomplished with a circle, but in this case, I am going to practice with the Pen tool a little bit. So I will click here, and I am going to draw out a line, just like this. I will come down here, and draw out another line, like that. Then I will complete the curve, like that; pretty quick. If you want to keep using the Pen tool, but you don't want to add to the path you are currently working on, temporarily hold down the Control key on your keyboard, and click somewhere on your canvas. That will deactivate the Pen tool momentarily.

Now let's try this one. Go ahead here, and then draw around. There we go. Notice, here it's filling it with black; I don't want that to happen, so I will just come over here, and fill that with None. I can attempt to keep going around; something like that. I will go ahead and click, get in the middle there; try something right around here. Now, you notice here I am going to get that S curve, the whip, so I'll come right back, Option+Click or Alt+Click, fit it perfectly around the mouth, let's go right down here; there we go.

And then I will round that off, just like that. Doesn't look too bad. I am going to select the nose, right-click on it, choose Arrange > Bring to Front; puts the nose right over the top of that little mouthpiece that I just drew. This mouthpiece can be accomplished with a circle, I think, so I am just going to do this: draw it out, just like so, and then I'll take this, right-click, Arrange > Bring Forward, and I need to fill that with white. Right-click on it, choose Arrange > Bring to Front.

The nose may have gotten lost in the shuffle, so I'll have to bring that to the front again as well. Let's zoom out a little bit. We have got the eyes, the nose, and the mouth completed. The last piece I need is the goatee. So let's zoom in on that. This is probably going to be the most challenging, because it has got these little spikes, and that's okay. I 'll grab the Pen tool, and I will start with spikes. So I will start right here. Now, I am just clicking points as I go. If this black fill is throwing you off, just come over here; set it to None.

There's a little bit of a curve here, so I will curve it in, and I will come around. You have just seen something happen that happens a lot; any time you make a corner handle drag off, and you go off the side of the screen, you may experience this sudden rush, where Illustrator zooms you automatically to another point on screen. All you have to do is hit Command+Z or Control+Z on your keyboard to undo the point you just did, temporarily hold down the Spacebar key, click, and drag back to the point where you just were.

Then you can continue working. Come back, and I will finish drawing that curve, just like that. And I will come over, draw that point, and I'll finish right there. Now, let's get rid of the stroke on that, fill it with black; there we go. Now let's zoom out. So there is my bear. Let me turn on my Tracing layer again, and I will also hide the original Background layer. Now let's start filling this with color and see exactly what we came up with.

Select this, and I'll flip-flop that, so it's filled with dark gray. Select both the ears, flip-flop those; select the inner ears, and I'll flip-flop those, and then fill them with white, and there we go. So as you can see, we've drawn a pretty simple character, in not too much time, by utilizing some shapes, and also utilizing what we've learned about the Pen tool so far. To give you some extra practice, I've also included another piece of artwork in your exercise files called tracing_flowers.

This is a great real-world example of artwork that we as designers have to deal with on a daily basis. So the next time your client comes in with a hand-drawn sketch, or a 72 dpi JPEG, hopefully you'll be well equipped to trace it, using the methods that we've covered in this chapter.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS6 Essential Training
Illustrator CS6 Essential Training

116 video lessons · 71278 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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