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Tracing a black-and-white image

From: Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques

Video: Tracing a black-and-white image

All right. As promised, I am going to show you the best way to trace these hand drawn characters here inside of Illustrator. Now, if you have been following along with me and you have made a mess of graphic the way that I have, then join me as I go to the File menu and choose the Revert command in order to revert to the previous appearance of this illustration. I am going to loose my changes so I have to confirm with Illustrator that I really want to do this. I will go ahead and click the Revert button to make it so. Now, if you haven't been following along with me, then all you need to do is open this graphic right here.

Tracing a black-and-white image

All right. As promised, I am going to show you the best way to trace these hand drawn characters here inside of Illustrator. Now, if you have been following along with me and you have made a mess of graphic the way that I have, then join me as I go to the File menu and choose the Revert command in order to revert to the previous appearance of this illustration. I am going to loose my changes so I have to confirm with Illustrator that I really want to do this. I will go ahead and click the Revert button to make it so. Now, if you haven't been following along with me, then all you need to do is open this graphic right here.

It's called Hand-drawn characters.ai and it's found inside of the 18 Live Trace folder. Then go to your Layers palette, twirl open the Image layer and meatball the Alphabet item right here, which is the imported image. Now, I should tell you where these letters come from. I didn't actually write these letters on a piece of paper and then scann them in. Instead, I drew every single one of these letters directy inside Photoshop using a Wacom Intuos3 tablet, just so you know.

So we have a very clean black and white graphic. A few little gray edges, so called anti-aliased edges around the outside, but that's it, mostly just black and white. And that's great, because Illustrator's default application of the Live Trace function is black and white. So once you have gone ahead and selected your imported image, then go up to the Control palette and click on the Live Trace button. You don't have to Opt+ click or Alt+Click on a PC. You don't have to do anything special. A moment later, Illustrator goes ahead and traces all of the letter.

Just as you can see, there was a slight change made. This is before and then this is after, so just a slight change on screen. Now the change becomes more obvious if you zoom in on a portion of your illustration. I am going to go ahead and zoom in on the letter G, for example, and notice as I zoom in on that G, it gets more and more clear. So we have the super sharp edges going. Now you may disagree with the contour of those edges, but they are crisp vector-based edges inside of Illustrator.

And to give you a sense of what the difference is, this is before. I will press Ctrl+Z to show you the before version of the image. So it's a pixel-based image at this point and I will press Ctrl+Z, or Command+Z on the Mac in order to restore the original pixel-based image. You can see that it is made up of pixels. We have got black interiors on our letters, white exteriors, a white background and then these gray pixels that represent that anti-aliasing that I was talking about, just they keep the letter form soft. But it's very chunky and we have a very low resolution image, just 72 pixel per inch, as we can see up here on the Control palette.

So we are not going to get a very good print out of it. Compare that to Ctrl+Shift+Z, or Command+Shift+Z in order to reapply the Live Trace function and you can see how super smooth that art work is. All right. Another way, another thing you should know about comparing your pixel-based image, your original pixel-based image to your trace version of the image is that you can do it at any time by taking advantage of these two pyramid options, up here in the control palette. So the first pyramid, notice that it's kind of chunky, that it's got little jaggies, that controls the image whether or not you see the image and the other one, the smooth version of the pyramid, controls whether or not your seeing vector.

Currently, we are seeing just the vector art, so we're just the tracing result, because it has a check mark next to it and we are not seeing, if I were to click on the chunky pyramid, we are not seeing the image. Let's say we want to see the image. I will go ahead and show the original image and it's covered up now by the tracing so we can't see it. We will have to go over to the Tracing menu there and change it to Outlines and we will just see the outlines. Notice those cyan outlines are a little difficult to see, those cyan outlines that are tracing around the contours of the graphic.

And now you might be able to get a sense of why Illustrator made some of the decisions, some of the tracing decisions that it made. An even better way to check out the tracing decisions, if you want to, is to go up here to this Pixel menu, right there, and change it to Adjusted Image. Adjusted Image means what did Illustrator see when it was making its tracing? And what Illustrator does by default is it gets rid of all that anti-aliasing around the edge. It just wants to see either black pixels or white pixels, once again, by default.

So if you choose Adjusted Image, you are going to see a very jagged graphic. That's actually what Illustrator traced. Again, this is by default. You can modify this later if you want to, but it helps to once in while to see what it is Illustrator is actually seeing. And then, of course, you can also see a transparent version of the image just so you can see through the image to other things. Anyway, probably the best way to work is either Adjusted Image or original image along with outlines, or once you want to see your tracing results again, then you can go ahead and switch over to Tracing Result like so.

So that's how you create a default black and white tracing of an imported, one would think, black and white image, like this one here, and how you modify your viewing settings so that you can see both the image and the vector art, or one or the other at a time. In the next exercise, we will see how we go about modifying our tracing settings in order to get absolutely the best results possible.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques
Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques

99 video lessons · 27145 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
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  1. 1h 4m
    1. Welcome to Illustrator CS3 One-on-One: Advanced Techniques
      1m 25s
    2. Applying Live Effects to groups and layers
      6m 11s
    3. Making beveled text with offset strokes
      5m 51s
    4. Bending letterforms with Pucker & Bloat
      4m 30s
    5. Selecting text by its baseline
      2m 55s
    6. Warping text without an envelope
      5m 12s
    7. Adding dynamic attributes to type objects
      6m 25s
    8. Creating terraced beveled edges
      3m 30s
    9. Applying Pathfinders as Live Effects
      5m 30s
    10. The double drop shadow
      2m 59s
    11. Prioritizing Live Effects
      4m 32s
    12. Adding and adjusting live type attributes
      6m 31s
    13. Where live type breaks down
      3m 45s
    14. Copying effects from one object to another
      5m 20s
  2. 1h 11m
    1. Whatever happened to Streamline?
      2m 7s
    2. Working with a linked image
      6m 24s
    3. Four ways to trace
      4m 35s
    4. Tracing a black-and-white image
      5m 27s
    5. Adjusting Threshold and Min Area
      5m 19s
    6. Tracing options pt. 1: The Raster functions
      4m 59s
    7. Tracing options pt. 2: The vector functions
      8m 13s
    8. Expanding and editing traced artwork
      3m 48s
    9. Applying and amending a Live Trace preset
      4m 41s
    10. Tracing full-color artwork
      4m 45s
    11. Editing a traced color swatch
      3m 48s
    12. Recoloring traced details in Live Paint
      3m 59s
    13. Tracing portrait photography
      5m 48s
    14. Preparing a Live Trace color palette
      7m 15s
  3. 1h 6m
    1. Another way to fill, stroke, and color
      1m 51s
    2. Creating interactions with blend modes
      4m 14s
    3. Creating interactions with Live Paint
      5m 11s
    4. Stroking with the Live Paint Bucket
      5m 33s
    5. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      5m 52s
    6. Adding a path to a Live Paint group
      5m 41s
    7. Drawing inside a Live Paint group
      4m 52s
    8. Combining Live Paint with a Live Effect
      6m 19s
    9. Coloring traced line art
      5m 55s
    10. Using automatic Gap Detection
      6m 43s
    11. Closing gaps manually
      6m 4s
    12. Filling multiple areas at one time
      3m 0s
    13. Selecting areas of similar color
      5m 8s
  4. 1h 5m
    1. The best new feature since transparency
      1m 58s
    2. Introducing Adobe Kuler
      9m 17s
    3. Accessing Kuler from inside Illustrator
      4m 46s
    4. Working with color groups
      6m 3s
    5. Using the Color Guide palette
      7m 9s
    6. Creating a custom harmony rule
      3m 43s
    7. Adding and deleting swatches in a group
      3m 28s
    8. Using the Live Color dialog box
      7m 34s
    9. Limiting Live Color to spot colors
      3m 8s
    10. Recoloring selected artwork
      7m 42s
    11. Reassigning colors in an illustration
      6m 47s
    12. Distilling the perfect two-color print job
      4m 21s
  5. 52m 9s
    1. Repeat, amend, amass
      1m 55s
    2. The power of symbols
      3m 28s
    3. Acquiring and previewing symbols
      5m 9s
    4. Replicating, editing, and updating symbols
      6m 56s
    5. Replacing instances with a different symbol
      2m 24s
    6. Exporting custom shapes from Photoshop
      7m 21s
    7. Making lots of symbols
      7m 12s
    8. Loading an illustration as a symbol library
      6m 32s
    9. Laying down a symbol set
      4m 7s
    10. Painting with the Symbolism tools
      7m 5s
  6. 1h 0m
    1. Probing the depths of 3D
      59s
    2. Introducing 3D in Illustrator
      5m 39s
    3. Applying the Extrude & Bevel effect
      7m 27s
    4. Adjusting lighting and shading
      8m 33s
    5. Creating symbols for mapped art
      5m 26s
    6. Mapping symbols onto a 3D object
      7m 44s
    7. Modifying mapped artwork
      6m 55s
    8. Establishing base objects for 3D Revolve
      4m 46s
    9. Applying the 3D Revolve effect
      6m 51s
    10. Roughing up your 3D art in Photoshop
      5m 56s
  7. 1h 14m
    1. Setting your illustration free
      1m 15s
    2. Type outlines and the CS3 format
      4m 9s
    3. Setting trim size and bleed
      4m 36s
    4. Imageable area and crop boundary
      5m 16s
    5. Setting the General Print options
      4m 12s
    6. The Setup, Marks, and Bleed options
      5m 49s
    7. PostScript-only output and graphics
      7m 20s
    8. Color Management, Advanced, and Summary panels
      7m 35s
    9. Setting the Raster Effects resolution
      4m 14s
    10. Conveying a graphic via the Clipboard
      8m 58s
    11. The Save As formats
      3m 46s
    12. Exporting a layered PSD image
      7m 46s
    13. Exporting for Microsoft Office
      1m 32s
    14. Working with Device Central
      7m 36s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Illustrator's hidden animation feature
      1m 24s
    2. Animating dynamic type effects
      4m 21s
    3. Establishing animation-friendly effects
      5m 36s
    4. Blending and looping live text
      4m 39s
    5. Exporting a Flash SWF animation
      6m 8s
    6. Switching the color scheme and adding frames
      9m 9s
    7. Animating with symbols
      3m 21s
    8. Rotating symbols and releasing to layers
      7m 18s
    9. Exporting layers as SWF frames
      3m 50s
    10. Animating 3D Extrude & Bevel
      7m 11s
    11. Exporting the 3rd and 4th dimensions
      3m 22s
  9. 2m 34s
    1. See ya
      2m 34s

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