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Once you have familiarized yourself with all of the options inside of the Image Trace panel, it's time to put those skills to use by tracing different objects inside of Illustrator. In this movie, I'll walk you through tracing photographs inside of Illustrator, and give you an insight into my basic workflow when I try to do this. So I am going to first create a new document, just with Command+N or Control+N on my keyboard. It doesn't really matter how big the document is in this case, but I am going to do just a standard 8.5 by 11. Once I have that document open, I am then going to place a file into it.
I am going to go up to File > Place, and I am going to select girl_trace inside of my Chapter 12 images folder. Once I click Place, she's going to pop into the screen, and I'll zoom out a little bit, so we can see it, and then I am going to shrink it down, just like so. Then we'll zoom back in, and I am going to perform a trace. The thing you have to do right off the bat is you have to determine what type of tracing you want to perform here. Am I tracing this because I need it to be photo-realistic? Am I tracing this because it needs to look like a cartoon? What exactly am I looking for here? Once you have determined the purpose for tracing, you can then focus on the result.
So in this case, I think I want to do a photo-realistic representation on this girl. I am going to go up to the Window menu, and I'm going to choose Image Trace. That's going to bring up the Image Trace panel. With the Image Trace panel open, I am also going to zoom in, because I'm not really concerned about the details in the backpack, or the books, but I am concerned about the details in her face. So let's zoom in right there on her face. This is going to be my reference point for how photo-realistic it actually looks. Once I have my objects selected on screen, and I have got my Image Trace panel open, I then come up, and I dive into the preset menu.
The preset menu should get you 50% to 75% of the way there, and the rest of the panel should help you refine that until you get exactly what you are looking for. It should be noted that the Image Trace panel is not necessarily a silver bullet. That means that you're not going to get the perfect result each and every time out of the Image Trace panel, but with some work inside of the Image Trace panel, you can get really close, and give yourself a good jumping off point for then manually manipulating your images later. Let's take a look at the presets now. I am going to drop this down, and remember, I said I wanted this to be photorealistic, right? The ideal situation here would just be to pick High Fidelity Photo.
When I choose that, Illustrator is then going to go through and render it. Once Illustrator has finished rendering this, I can now see just how good, or in this case, how not so good it did. What I am going to do is adjust some of these settings in here. I think my colors are a little low, so I am actually going to crank this up. By cranking the colors up, I get a little bit more of the detail back into the image. It's still not perfect, but it's better than it was.
Now I'll come down here to the Advanced options, because up here, I can only adjust basic things like color and tonality. I've pretty much got the color and tones that I need; now I need accuracy. Let's take a look here. First of all, there's Path fitting. A higher value means a tighter fit. Let's crank that all the way up, and see what it does. When it finishes rendering, you see here that it does indeed snap very closely to the edges. The problem here is that it snapped a little too close to the edges. It's actually gone in, and it sees individual pixels, like right around in here, around the ear; look how chunky that looks? So I need to actually back that down, because I want the edges to be smooth.
So I'll back that down, and let's try something like maybe 35%, and see what that looks like. Once that's done rendering, you can see that it's smoothed out some of the areas, but again, I'm still getting some of those chunks on the outside. So you may even drag that down a little more. Let's try something like 4%. Now that that's finished rendering, you can see that I have significantly smoothed out the ear, and also the jaw line. There are still some areas that need refinement, but this is probably as close as I'm going to get with this particular setting.
Now let's focus on Corners. The corner emphasis section controls how many corners there are in your image. So if you drag this to the right, it means you have more corners. Well, there are not a whole lot of corners going on in this image. In fact, everything is curvy: the face, the scarf, the backpack, everything, so I am actually going to drag this down a little bit. Maybe something like 15%. You might not see a big visual change right off the bat, but it has definitely smoothed out some of those pointy areas that I had going on here in the scarf, and right here on the edge of the backpack.
If you want to see that even more, drag that further to the left. But for now I am going to move on. The Noise section is going to help me clean up the artwork. There are several little areas of straight paths that I might want to clean up. In this case, if I drag this all the way over to the right, we should clean up most of those areas. Did you see it change? Let's undo that, and show you before and after. Here is before, and watch right down here on the edge of the sleeve. You'll also see a significant change in the face as well. Once I hit Undo, you can see that all these little stray pieces come back in.
However, when I did that, it cleaned up the areas I needed it to, but it also simplified this region in the face; not necessarily something I want to do. So let's take that to the left, and see what it does. I'll take that down to something like 5 pixels. Once I take that down, I actually get a little bit more detail back in the face, and that's exactly what I'm looking for. These little stray things that are all throughout the backpack area here -- like this little white dot, and then these little dots on the sleeve -- I can manually remove those later. The main thing I am concerned about, remember, is the face.
At this point, I'm pretty much at the end of the road in terms of what I can refine here inside of this panel. So let's zoom out a little bit and see how we did. When I zoom out, it doesn't look half bad, and I could actually use this in certain projects, depending on the scale of the image. I couldn't print it on a 20 foot banner, because it would look a little chunky, but using this in a Web site graphic, I would be very confident that nobody could tell the difference between this and a regular photograph. You can see that it also caught some of the texture in her jeans, and in her shoes. So it's done a pretty good job.
Like I said, it's not perfect, but we are close. Once we're finished with this, we can pretty much close up the Image Trace panel. From now on out, it's what we call a tracing object. You can resize and manipulate this image, just like you could anything else inside of Illustrator. The problem is, each time you do that, you're going to have to re-render it. So for instance, if I were to take this and scale it down, watch what happens; once it finishes rendering, you can see that it's got the same photo-realistic representation, only smaller. The problem is that render time.
Although it's faster in CS6, it still takes a little bit of time. So if you're in a rush, my suggestion is to not worry about resizing right off the bat, but just getting your tracing result exactly like you like it. You also need to go ahead and inspect the object after you've resized it, because resizing it changes the way the image is rendered. So let's zoom in here on the face, and make sure that I am still going okay. You can see here, I've got some clumps around the eyes that I didn't have before. I have also got some areas around the mouth that are sort of running together, and I don't necessarily like that.
So what I am going to do is zoom back out, and I'll undo the resizing that I just did, and I did that with Command+Z or Control+Z. Once it finishes rendering, I'll zoom back into the face one last time, and you can see, I don't have near as many clumps around the eyes, this is a little bit better right around the mouth, so it's right back to the way it was. I'll zoom back out, and I can save my project from here. So the next time you need to take a bitmap photo, like the one I had here, and convert it to vector, for whatever reason -- maybe it needs to go on a banner, maybe it needs to go on a billboard; who knows -- bring it into Illustrator, work inside of the Image Trace panel, and do your best to get yourself about 75% of the way there.
The rest of it is going to depend on you, and your ability to manipulate the paths that are generated from the image.
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