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Tracing an imported image

From: Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced

Video: Tracing an imported image

The topic of Chapter 13 is Live Trace, and Illustrator's Live Trace feature allows you to automatically convert pixel-based imagery into vector-based artwork. There are a couple of different approaches you might take. You might start with a continuous tone photograph. You can trace digital photographs if you like. That's not the common approach, and that's not an approach we are going to see in this chapter. Rather, we'll take a look at how you can trace Photoshop artwork, like these letters right here, and I'll come back to this illustration in just a moment. Or, how you can start with traditional tools such as pen and paper, go ahead and scan in your artwork, and then develop it inside of Illustrator, as in the case of this artwork right here.

Tracing an imported image

The topic of Chapter 13 is Live Trace, and Illustrator's Live Trace feature allows you to automatically convert pixel-based imagery into vector-based artwork. There are a couple of different approaches you might take. You might start with a continuous tone photograph. You can trace digital photographs if you like. That's not the common approach, and that's not an approach we are going to see in this chapter. Rather, we'll take a look at how you can trace Photoshop artwork, like these letters right here, and I'll come back to this illustration in just a moment. Or, how you can start with traditional tools such as pen and paper, go ahead and scan in your artwork, and then develop it inside of Illustrator, as in the case of this artwork right here.

It's called Very large flag.ai. And this illustration, it's huge, by the way. It's 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall so that we could actually output an enormous flag. It's a piece of vector-based artwork, but it started off looking like this. I worked together this initial sketch using a ballpoint pen and a piece of paper, and then I ultimately scanned it into Photoshop. We will see how that entire process worked. Finally, I was able to develop this artwork into this flag art right there. So you can make some amazing progress using this Live Trace feature.

Now, a lot of teachers, very early on when they're teaching Illustrator, they will start off with Live Trace, because it is a highly automated feature and it does create path outlines for you and eliminates a lot of that manual labor associated with the Pen tool and the other tools that we looked at in the Fundamentals portion of this series. The reason I don't start with Live Trace is that it's not applicable to most of the artwork you create inside of Illustrator. For example, I've got this guy open here, Pen tool creature.ai. Remember this is the final piece of artwork that we created back in Chapter 9 in the Fundamentals series.

And there is just no way that you're going to create this artwork using Live Trace. For one thing, we have these incredibly smooth path outlines, so some very precise curves. We also have these uniform strokes, we have these differently colored areas. This is absolutely a piece of Pen tool art. You're not going to get anything like this using the Live Trace feature. However, for a piece of artwork like this where we are trying to simulate real-world tools and we are not interested in creating a lot of different path outlines, that is, we are not trying to distinguish different areas of color using strokes and the like, we just have a few different fill colors going on.

This kind of artwork is absolutely ideally suited to Live Trace. I need to tell you though, even though this is an automated feature, and you'll see how splendidly it works in just a moment, that does not mean it creates automatic artwork. This piece of art that we are looking at right now took me several hours to create. So I don't want you to think that Live Trace creates absolute pieces of art lickety-split, that's not the way it works. Anyways, we will see this one shortly. Let's go back to the letters, for starters here, and the name of this file is Hand-drawn characters.ai and these are a series of brushstrokes that I created inside Photoshop, once again using a Wacom Tablet.

Then I went ahead and placed the image into Illustrator by going up to the File menu and choosing the Place command, or if you loaded dekeKeys, you've got a keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+Alt+D, Cmd+Option+D on the Mac. However, I've already done this in advance inside of this file. So if you go over to the layers panel you'll see a layer called Image. If you twirl it open therein is the linked image which is called Alphabet.psd. I am going to go ahead and meatball it to select it, and then in order to trace these characters, and you may very well wonder, well, why didn't I draw these characters inside of Illustrator in the first place? Why did I create them in Photoshop and now I am going to trace them in Illustrator? For the simple reason that I drew these characters years ago and I'm too lazy to go back in Illustrator and redraw them right now, because that will take an awful lot of time, whereas as you will see, tracing them happens very quickly.

Now I will go out to the Live Trace button, which is now available to me in the Control panel, and I should also show you, by the way, that here in the Control panel you can see not only the name of the linked file, but you can also see its resolution. So in this case the resolution is 72 pixels per inch; a very low resolution file. It's actually a fairly large file though. This illustration measures about 22 inches wide, about 16 inches tall. So we've got a lot of pixels available to us. It's just that the resolution is set quite low. And Illustrator likes this, Illustrator rewards you when you work with low resolution files by not bugging you.

Basically, it gives you very fast results and it doesn't deliver any alert messages. As you'll see you will get a warning if you work with high-resolution art. However, you're going to get better results with high-resolution art as well, but for now we are going to start low. Then I will go over to this Live Trace button and all I have to do is click on it, and bang! Illustrator goes ahead and traces the artwork, and it's done. It's actually converted the image to a Live Trace object, so that I can edit my tracing settings anytime I like. Now I want you to see that by default Illustrator goes ahead and generates a black-and-white tracing.

So we don't have any of the colors we had a moment ago. And, I've lost a line of type. So I will go ahead and Ctrl+Z or Cmd+Z on the Mac, so you can see what I am talking about. That will reinstate my original multicolor image here. You can see that this orange line of type went away as did this yellow background. That's because those colors are closer to white than they are to black. But you can change that. You can force Illustrator to trace those elements. I will press Ctrl+Shift+Z or Cmd+ Shift+Z to redo the tracing and then notice up here inside the Control panel there is this Threshold value and if you hover over it, it says this is the value used to separate black from white.

All pixels lighter are converted to white, all pixels darker are converted to black. Well, a Threshold setting of 128 is medium gray. So 0 is black, 255 is White. This is the world of luminance inside of Photoshop. So if you want to trace lighter colors with black, then you need to increase that Threshold value. I am going to go ahead and set the Threshold to 200 and then press the Enter key or the Return key on the Mac. That goes ahead and traces the orange text without tracing the yellow background behind the numbers.

And we get this nice black-and-white rendering. So that's the simplest way to trace inside of Illustrator. I will show you three more ways to apply the Live Trace feature in the next exercise.

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This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced
Illustrator CS5 One-on-One: Advanced

153 video lessons · 28120 viewers

Deke McClelland
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 38m 35s
    1. Welcome
      1m 48s
    2. Linking AI and EPS files to Illustrator
      6m 48s
    3. Installing the dekeKeys keyboard shortcuts
      7m 43s
    4. Remapping Mac OS shortcuts
      6m 56s
    5. Installing the Best Workflow color settings
      4m 54s
    6. The color settings explained
      7m 4s
    7. Preserve Numbers vs. embedded profiles
      3m 22s
  2. 1h 40m
    1. Converting pixels to vectors
      1m 2s
    2. Tracing an imported image
      6m 17s
    3. Other ways to trace
      3m 17s
    4. Raster and vector previews
      7m 2s
    5. Threshold, Min Area, and Max Colors
      5m 27s
    6. Tracing options: The raster functions
      8m 2s
    7. Using the Ignore White option
      5m 3s
    8. Tracing options: The vector functions
      6m 40s
    9. Expanding traced artwork
      5m 6s
    10. Sketching and drawing for Illustrator
      6m 24s
    11. Editing scanned line art
      9m 23s
    12. Adding contrast and color
      10m 32s
    13. Live Trace and resolution
      9m 8s
    14. Expanding and separating paths
      8m 43s
    15. Scaling and editing traced art
      8m 4s
  3. 1h 8m
    1. Gradients are good
      1m 15s
    2. Assigning a gradient fill
      6m 9s
    3. Using the gradient annotator
      7m 31s
    4. Editing multiple gradients
      4m 37s
    5. Establishing symmetrical gradients
      5m 28s
    6. Creating a radial gradient
      5m 46s
    7. Adjusting the midpoint skew
      3m 23s
    8. Mixing gradients with blend modes
      6m 11s
    9. Making a transparent gradient
      6m 42s
    10. Drop shadows and dynamic effects
      5m 58s
    11. Assigning a gradient to editable text
      5m 42s
    12. Editing text that includes dynamic effects
      2m 56s
    13. Assigning a gradient to a stroke
      6m 46s
  4. 1h 37m
    1. The earliest dynamic functions
      1m 10s
    2. The gradient-intensive illustration
      5m 26s
    3. Creating a multi-color blend
      7m 39s
    4. Establishing a clipping mask
      3m 34s
    5. Reinstating the mask colors
      9m 7s
    6. Editing blended paths
      6m 50s
    7. Adjusting the number of blended steps
      6m 49s
    8. Using the Blend tool
      4m 33s
    9. Blending between levels of opacity
      7m 32s
    10. Editing the path of the blend
      6m 22s
    11. Adding a custom path of the blend
      5m 4s
    12. Placing one mask inside another
      8m 33s
    13. Blending groups and adjusting the speed
      6m 1s
    14. Rotating objects in 3D space
      10m 21s
    15. Creating custom perspective guides
      8m 31s
  5. 1h 37m
    1. What was old is new again
      39s
    2. Introducing tile patterns
      6m 11s
    3. Determining the points of intersection
      6m 51s
    4. Extending paths from the intersections
      5m 40s
    5. Crafting symmetrical subpaths
      5m 38s
    6. The final flawed subpaths
      5m 52s
    7. Reconciling misaligned paths
      5m 34s
    8. Completing the core path outline
      6m 14s
    9. Making a symmetrical modification
      6m 47s
    10. Adjusting the interior elements
      8m 26s
    11. Coloring paths and testing the interlock
      9m 29s
    12. Establishing a rectangular tile
      6m 22s
    13. Defining a tile pattern
      3m 43s
    14. Creating a few color variations
      8m 50s
    15. Protecting patterns from transformations
      6m 9s
    16. Transforming patterns without paths
      5m 30s
  6. 1h 12m
    1. Filling and stroking virtual areas
      44s
    2. Introducing Live Paint
      7m 57s
    3. Stroking with the Live Paint Bucket tool
      5m 30s
    4. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      7m 18s
    5. Adding a path to a Live Paint group
      4m 33s
    6. Building a classic Celtic knot
      8m 28s
    7. Constructing the base objects
      5m 31s
    8. Weaving one object into another
      6m 13s
    9. Creating a path that overlaps itself
      7m 15s
    10. Painting a path that overlaps itself
      5m 34s
    11. Creating knots inside knots
      5m 2s
    12. Adding gradients and depth
      8m 22s
  7. 1h 4m
    1. Dynamic effects and OpenType
      1m 12s
    2. Applying a dynamic effect to type
      5m 43s
    3. Creating a basic bevel effect
      4m 12s
    4. Building up a multi-stroke effect
      4m 49s
    5. Best practices for 3D type
      6m 34s
    6. Applying a "path wiggler" to type
      6m 14s
    7. Drop shadows and Raster Effects settings
      4m 52s
    8. Duplicating attributes and effects
      7m 8s
    9. Editing type with dynamic effects
      7m 27s
    10. Ligatures, swashes, ordinals, and fractions
      5m 45s
    11. Small caps and the Glyphs panel
      4m 25s
    12. Warping text and increasing resolution
      6m 9s
  8. 1h 44m
    1. A world of colors at your beck and call
      1m 32s
    2. Customizing a letterform to make a logo
      8m 37s
    3. Creating a custom drop shadow effect
      6m 26s
    4. Introducing the Color Guide panel
      9m 3s
    5. Harmonies and Color Guide settings
      5m 39s
    6. Lifting harmony rules from color groups
      7m 21s
    7. Harmony layouts and the Lab color wheel
      8m 15s
    8. Working inside the Edit Color dialog box
      6m 36s
    9. Limiting a color group to spot colors
      5m 47s
    10. Recoloring selected artwork
      5m 50s
    11. Recoloring with custom color groups
      6m 1s
    12. Swapping colors with the Color Bars feature
      5m 18s
    13. Using the options in the Assign panel
      8m 41s
    14. Moving color groups between documents
      7m 17s
    15. Distilling your artwork to one spot-color ink
      7m 45s
    16. Recoloring artwork that contains gradients
      4m 17s
  9. 1h 21m
    1. How symbols work
      1m 2s
    2. The power of symbols
      5m 1s
    3. Creating new symbols
      6m 0s
    4. Enabling the new 9-slice scaling
      4m 24s
    5. Adjusting your 9-slice scaling guides
      6m 54s
    6. Previewing and acquiring symbols
      4m 12s
    7. Finding a symbol and creating an instance
      4m 13s
    8. Duplicating and replacing instances
      4m 19s
    9. Breaking a symbol link and envelope fidelity
      5m 26s
    10. Distorting and expanding a symbol
      4m 54s
    11. Updating an existing symbol definition
      3m 40s
    12. Recoloring a symbol definition
      4m 13s
    13. Applying a basic "local" color adjustment
      5m 20s
    14. Applying a more elaborate local color adjustment
      5m 4s
    15. Laying down a random symbol set
      5m 35s
    16. The eight symbolism tools
      6m 55s
    17. Editing selected instances
      4m 11s
  10. 1h 32m
    1. Illustrator needs Photoshop
      1m 1s
    2. Two ways to place a pixel-based image
      6m 6s
    3. Working with linked images
      6m 6s
    4. Linking versus embedding
      9m 38s
    5. Stroking and blending an image
      6m 16s
    6. Adding a clipping mask and page curl
      6m 51s
    7. Creating a blended border effect
      7m 10s
    8. Rasterizing your artwork in Photoshop
      8m 0s
    9. Saving a flat raster file from Photoshop
      4m 58s
    10. Restoring cropped border elements
      5m 39s
    11. Copying and pasting into Photoshop
      6m 27s
    12. Working with Photoshop Smart Objects
      5m 26s
    13. Adding a pixel-based layer effect
      4m 12s
    14. Editing a Vector Smart Object in Illustrator
      7m 20s
    15. Creating and placing a transparent image
      7m 1s
  11. 1h 15m
    1. The many forms of transparency
      1m 29s
    2. Real-world blending modes
      7m 57s
    3. Exporting transparency from Illustrator
      6m 24s
    4. Opacity and blending modes
      6m 18s
    5. The Darken and Lighten modes
      7m 17s
    6. The Contrast, Inversion, and HSL modes
      6m 12s
    7. Blending modes in action
      5m 11s
    8. Creating a knockout group
      6m 14s
    9. Confirming the viability of your artwork
      6m 8s
    10. Introducing the opacity mask
      4m 6s
    11. Making an opacity mask
      5m 25s
    12. Drawing inside an opacity mask
      3m 34s
    13. Creating a gradient opacity mask
      5m 29s
    14. Adding an opacity mask to a single object
      3m 22s
  12. 1m 13s
    1. Until next time
      1m 13s

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