Tracing Artwork with Illustrator
Illustration by John Hersey

Tracing Artwork with Illustrator

with Justin Seeley

Video: Tracing text by hand

When it comes to tracing text, you have two basic options here inside of Adobe Illustrator, the first of which is to try and trace the text by hand, because chances are, when you're using the Image Trace feature, you're not going to get a decent result on the text itself. So, tracing text by hand is probably one of the best ways to recreate text, especially text that has been custom built, like the text you see here. You can also choose to identify the font that is being used in the artwork that you're tracing, and then reset the text yourself. I'm going to cover that in a separate movie. For this movie, I'm only going to be focusing on tracing text by hand.
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  1. 1m 37s
    1. Welcome
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      34s
  2. 29m 4s
    1. Setting your expectations
      5m 6s
    2. Exploring common tracing scenarios
      3m 9s
    3. Analyzing existing artwork
      4m 1s
    4. Scanning original artwork
      5m 22s
    5. Cleaning up raster artwork
      6m 47s
    6. Understanding tracing terminology
      4m 39s
  3. 17m 34s
    1. Autotracing vs. manual creation
      4m 7s
    2. Developing a tracing plan
      3m 58s
    3. Setting up your artwork for autotracing
      5m 54s
    4. Setting up your artwork for manual creation
      3m 35s
  4. 22m 36s
    1. Exploring the three steps of tracing
      6m 55s
    2. Exploring the Image Trace panel
      8m 53s
    3. Quick tracing with presets
      6m 48s
  5. 59m 38s
    1. Adjusting the tracing palette
      14m 1s
    2. Adjusting pixel assignment
      4m 11s
    3. Adjusting the curve fitting
      12m 18s
    4. Basic tracing: Photos
      7m 15s
    5. Basic tracing: Line art
      8m 2s
    6. Expanding your artwork
      4m 10s
    7. Cleaning up stray pixels
      3m 5s
    8. Removing unwanted anchor points
      6m 36s
  6. 29m 1s
    1. Creating with shapes
      4m 31s
    2. Using the Pathfinder panel
      5m 51s
    3. Exploring the Shape Builder tool
      7m 12s
    4. Re-creating basic structures
      7m 44s
    5. Creating complex shapes
      3m 43s
  7. 37m 44s
    1. Creating with the Pen tool
      5m 45s
    2. Basic Pen tool operations
      8m 22s
    3. Tracing basic lines and shapes
      10m 23s
    4. Tracing curves and complex areas
      8m 14s
    5. Combining paths into shapes
      5m 0s
  8. 17m 34s
    1. Tracing text by hand
      5m 26s
    2. Finding fonts on the web
      7m 20s
    3. Setting type yourself
      4m 48s
  9. 10m 59s
    1. Creating a color palette
      2m 32s
    2. Applying colors to your artwork
      2m 55s
    3. Creating color groups from your tracing
      5m 32s
  10. 18m 36s
    1. Turning a photo into a logo component
      8m 11s
    2. Vectorizing a technical drawing
      10m 25s
  11. 1m 11s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 11s

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Watch the Online Video Course Tracing Artwork with Illustrator
4h 5m Intermediate Mar 21, 2013

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

Discover how to trace artwork in Adobe Illustrator and convert raster graphics into vector form. This course shows how to perform auto tracing with the Image Trace panel as well as create artwork from scratch using the Shape Builder and the Pen tool. Author Justin Seeley shares several real-world tracing scenarios, which will help you learn how to assess artwork, determine its traceability, and then convert it into vector form in a variety of different ways.

Topics include:
  • Analyzing the existing artwork
  • Developing a tracing plan
  • Setting up your artwork
  • Exploring the three steps of tracing
  • Adjusting the curve fitting
  • Combining paths into shapes
  • Tracing text by hand
  • Applying colors to your artwork
Subject:
Design
Software:
Illustrator
Author:
Justin Seeley

Tracing text by hand

When it comes to tracing text, you have two basic options here inside of Adobe Illustrator, the first of which is to try and trace the text by hand, because chances are, when you're using the Image Trace feature, you're not going to get a decent result on the text itself. So, tracing text by hand is probably one of the best ways to recreate text, especially text that has been custom built, like the text you see here. You can also choose to identify the font that is being used in the artwork that you're tracing, and then reset the text yourself. I'm going to cover that in a separate movie. For this movie, I'm only going to be focusing on tracing text by hand.

So, let's zoom in on this text here, and let's take a look at exactly what we're working with. Now, lucky for me, this sketch is actually really well done to the point where I can actually see guidelines and things like that that I can set up in order to make it easier for me to trace the text. So, the first thing I do is I turn on my rulers with Command+R or Ctrl+R, and then I just start to drag out guides that match the top and sides of the text areas, so wherever the text starts and wherever it stops, just like this. And then you can drag out individual guides for each character if you want to as well, and that's going to help you along the way. There we go.

Just drag that out; helps me with my spacing, helps me with my alignment, and all that good stuff. So let's drag another one right here; something kind of like that. Alright. So, now that I've got that all set up, I'm ready to start tracing my first character. So, in order to do that, I'm going to grab my Pen tool. I'm going to make sure that my fill color is set to none, I'm going to make sure that my stroke color is set to black, and then I'm going to give it a one point stroke, and then I'm going to zoom in, and once I zoom in, I'm just going to start somewhere right here, at the intersect point, most likely, and another thing that would be good is if you locked your guides right now.

So, just go to View, go down to Guides, choose Lock Guides; that way those are not in any way in your way. So, here we go; we're going to go right here, and just click, hold down the Shift key to draw straight lines, and then I'm just going to click, and go around here. And as I'm going around, I'm just making sure that I'm holding down my Shift key, and I'm just careful to go all the way around the shape. There we go. Now, when I'm doing the diagonal pieces, like this area here, and this area here, I am not holding down the Shift key. I will go across, and once I get back up to the top, I'll just hold down the Shift key to go back up, and then over, and once I see that little circle, that means I'm about to close the path, and so there we go.

Now, what I'm going to do is temporarily turn off the Text layer underneath, and I can take a look at the character that I just drew. So, it looks okay. It doesn't look as good as the font could, or should, and in most cases, what I'll need to do is make some refinements to this, because after all, this is kind of snapping to the pixel grid, and some things are misaligned, so I might actually have to turn the snapping off, and rearrange it a little bit, but all in all, not too bad, and if you're not real concerned with what the text looks like, then it's not that big of a deal, but if you're recreating a logo, or something like that, then you would need to spend an ample of time on this.

Now, for other pieces of text, like for instance, over here, let's say we've got the O, we can just use shapes for this. So, I can drag out something that comes out to right here, and then we've already got our baseline there, so I'll just grab my Ellipse tool, and I'll just drag out a Circle; something kind of like this. There we go. And then I'm just going to Command+C or Ctrl+C that, and then Command+F or Ctrl+F to paste it in front, and then I'll just shrink it down until it fits, just like so.

So, there's the O, so I can recreate that with just regular shapes, and then I could turn that into an O by actually using the Shape Builder tool. Now, if you just got something that has no diagonals, like this E right here, that's easily recreated with nothing but rectangles, so we can just come right here, and create a big rectangle, just like that. Come here, create another rectangle that goes out like that, and then I can just copy this rectangle, Command+C or Ctrl+C, Command+F or Ctrl+F to paste it in front, and then we'll just send it down until it meets the bottom, like that. And then we can do another one, Command+C or Ctrl+C, Command+F or Ctrl+F, and we'll move it back up to the middle, because that should be the same height, but then we just shrink it back, like so.

So there's my E, and so you can go through, and you can do this over and over again. The same thing for the O right here. Watch this; the O, I'll take this O, Command+C or Ctrl+C, Command+F or Ctrl+F, and let's move it over. See how it lines up really nice with that? And now watch this; all I have to do here is take the Eraser tool, and just follow those guidelines to turn it into a C, so pretty easy to do that, right? All in all, it's not that difficult to trace text by hand. There are areas that might give you some trouble, like the curved areas around the end, and maybe the E, and things like that, but otherwise, it's not that difficult to re-create this, and if you don't know the font, and you can't figure out the font, this is a great way to sort of get around that, and still create a live vector object that loosk really nice and clean.

So, the next time you have a project that you bring in that you actually have to have the text, but you just can't figure it out, or the font doesn't match, or whatever, try tracing the font yourself, and see what you can come up with. If you take your time, you should be able to get pretty darn close, and it's a whole lot better than just letting the Image Trace feature take over, because that creates a big old mess.

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