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Understanding how Live Trace works

From: Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

Video: Understanding how Live Trace works

If you want to get the most out of Live Trace, it's important to realize exactly how Live Trace works, what makes it tick. Well, let's take a closer look. I have this document open. I'm simply going to click on this photograph. I'm going to click on the Live Trace button, great! I have now taken my photograph, and I have turned it into vectors. But you'll notice now that if I go ahead and I look at the image itself, I can't actually select the vector artwork, until I go ahead and I click on the Expand button. And when I do so, notice that there were not that many anchor points on here. You may have used other tools in the past, like maybe Adobe Streamline, and you know that when you've traced images using that software, you ended up with lots like millions of anchor points.

Understanding how Live Trace works

If you want to get the most out of Live Trace, it's important to realize exactly how Live Trace works, what makes it tick. Well, let's take a closer look. I have this document open. I'm simply going to click on this photograph. I'm going to click on the Live Trace button, great! I have now taken my photograph, and I have turned it into vectors. But you'll notice now that if I go ahead and I look at the image itself, I can't actually select the vector artwork, until I go ahead and I click on the Expand button. And when I do so, notice that there were not that many anchor points on here. You may have used other tools in the past, like maybe Adobe Streamline, and you know that when you've traced images using that software, you ended up with lots like millions of anchor points.

So I'm going to press Undo to go back to my Live Trace object here, and let's take a look at some of the other things that you could do with Live Trace. You'll also know that we can choose a Preset, for example, change for the color 6 preset. Well, if I already traced my artwork first into black and white, how did Illustrator know where all these colors come from? Well, to answer that question we go to the very core of why the feature is called Live Trace? It's live, because Illustrator stores to copy that image inside of the file. Now when I go ahead and I trace the artwork, and I've converted from pixels into vectors, Illustrator doesn't get rid of the image, it keeps the image, and that allows me to make changes. So it's called Live Trace, because the photograph and the vectors are tied together which really allows me to go ahead and make change this to either of them. Either the pixel based artwork, or the vector based artwork. In fact, you can see a lot of this happening directly here inside of Illustrator. You'll notice that as you've traced the object, and you have that Live Trace applied, if you look at your control panel there are these two triangles that appear here.

The one on the left is a triangle with these jagged edges, and the one on the right is basically a triangle made up of these anchor points. Both of these buttons actually control what you see on your screen. For example, a few moments ago I had a photograph on my page. I clicked the Live Trace button and chose the Color 6 preset, and now I see what that artwork looks like when converted into vector artwork, and I see that because of the settings that are contained inside of these two buttons. The button on the left, the one with jagged edges, controls the preview setting for the pixel-based artwork. The button on the right controls the preview settings for the vector based artwork.

In other words, the trace. So let's take a look at what we have here. If I click on the Preview settings for the image, I see that right now it would set to No image. Obviously, once I go ahead and I actually apply the Live Trace, Illustrator doesn't want to show me what the image looks like any more, it wants to show me what the trace looks like. So it turns the preview of the image off. Likewise, if I click now on the preview for the vector artwork, I see that it sets a tracing result. Let me go ahead and change that to No tracing result. So what I see right now on my screen is nothing. I don't see the original image, nor do I see the trace result. So let's go back over here to the image settings, and let's change that to original image. Remember, Illustrator never got rid of the photograph. It's still here inside of my file, and Illustrator is using this image in order to trace it. Now if you think about it, I have a preset set here that's set to Color 6. That means it's using 6 different colors to convert this photograph, which has millions of colors into it, into vector artwork.

Now how does Illustrator reduce the number of colors from millions to just 6? The answer is that Illustrator uses a color reduction algorithm. If you have ever tried saving a GIF file out of Illustrator, or even Photoshop, you may be familiar with something called the selective color method, which is commonly used when trying to reduce an image that has lots of colors into, for example, a GIF image that can only contain a maximum of 256 colors. Basically, Photoshop or Illustrator performs an analysis of the image, and finds the colors that are used most often and uses that information to reduce the number of colors in the file.

But let's take a step back here for a minute, and think about how this reduction happens here inside of Illustrator? I'm telling Illustrator that by the end of the day, I want 6 colors in this artwork. But the photograph has a million colors inside of it. So does Illustrator go ahead and convert this now into vector artwork using a million colors, and then try to find ways to reduce that to 6 colors? Well, that would take a lot of processing. Instead it's a whole lot easier for Illustrator to actually perform this color reduction while the photograph is still a photograph that hasn't been traced yet. Not only can Illustrator perform that calculation faster, the tracing result that it gets at the end of the day will be much better. In fact, you can actually see this happening inside of Illustrator. If I go to the Image Preview button again, I'm going to choose something here called Adjusted Image.

Adjusted Image is actually the photograph itself that has been reduced in colors before it was traced. In fact, you can even see some pixels here on the screen. By optimizing the image, or you can even say by conditioning the image in advance before tracing it, Illustrator can get much better results. We'll talk more about this concept in detail, when we learn more about the tracing option settings. But for now, let's explore some of the other preview options that you have. I'm going to back over to the Image Preview, and I can choose something called a Transparent Image. This can be helpful if I want to overlay the traced image on top of the actual photograph. This way I can compare the photograph to the result. I'll come now to the tracing options, and I'll go ahead and I'll choose Outlines.

So now I can see the photograph beneath, and I can see exactly where Illustrator is going to be drawing the path. Likewise, they can choose an option here called Outlines As Tracing that fills in those settings. So I now have a photograph behind it, the filled object that are there, and the paths as well. Now as long as the object itself remains a Live Traced object, I can easily change any of the traced settings, and the artwork will update accordingly. And when we actually click on the Expand button, thus Illustrator convert the artwork to path, but which can no longer be edited any more as a Live Traced object. So as we learn more and more about the Live Trace feature inside of Illustrator, it's important to get this concept clear.

Live Trace keeps your photograph and your vector artwork in the same file. You can make change this to either the vector part of the file, or the raster part of the file, and these two files are linked. So when you make a change to one of them, the other automatically updates. At this point you are ready to actually learn what those settings are.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics
Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics

137 video lessons · 29138 viewers

Mordy Golding
Author

 
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  1. 2m 4s
    1. Welcome
      1m 41s
    2. Using the exercise files
      23s
  2. 33m 20s
    1. Introducing Live Paint
      38s
    2. Drawing in Illustrator
      4m 21s
    3. Creating a Live Paint group
      2m 54s
    4. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool
      3m 17s
    5. Using Live Paint with open paths
      2m 29s
    6. Detecting gaps in Live Paint groups
      4m 17s
    7. Adding paths to a Live Paint group
      3m 41s
    8. Using the Live Paint Selection tool
      5m 44s
    9. Releasing and expanding Live Paint groups
      2m 55s
    10. Understanding how Live Paint groups work
      3m 4s
  3. 49m 36s
    1. Introducing the trace options
      39s
    2. Setting expectations: Live Trace
      2m 26s
    3. Using the Live Trace feature
      1m 51s
    4. Understanding how Live Trace works
      5m 41s
    5. Making raster-based adjustments
      5m 52s
    6. Tracing with fills, strokes, or both
      2m 55s
    7. Making vector-based adjustments
      6m 12s
    8. Adjusting colors in Live Trace
      4m 39s
    9. Using Photoshop with Live Trace
      5m 22s
    10. Releasing and expanding Live Trace artwork
      2m 58s
    11. Saving and exporting Live Trace presets
      2m 36s
    12. Tracing in Batch mode with Adobe Bridge
      1m 35s
    13. Turning an image into mosaic tiles
      2m 28s
    14. Tracing an image manually
      4m 22s
  4. 1h 24m
    1. Introducing 3D
      33s
    2. Setting expectations: 3D in Illustrator
      2m 53s
    3. How fills and strokes affect 3D artwork
      4m 43s
    4. Applying the 3D Extrude & Bevel effect
      6m 25s
    5. Applying a bevel
      5m 40s
    6. Showing the hidden faces of a 3D object
      4m 49s
    7. Applying the 3D Revolve effect
      5m 22s
    8. Visualizing the revolve axis
      3m 5s
    9. Applying the 3D Rotate effect
      1m 35s
    10. Adjusting surface settings
      9m 33s
    11. Understanding the importance of 3D and groups
      3m 24s
    12. Preparing art for mapping
      10m 19s
    13. Mapping artwork to a 3D surface
      14m 21s
    14. Hiding geometry with 3D artwork mapping
      4m 0s
    15. Extending the use of 3D in Illustrator
      8m 7s
  5. 44m 37s
    1. Introducing transformations and effects
      32s
    2. Using the Transform panel
      12m 37s
    3. Repeating transformations
      5m 23s
    4. Using the Transform Each function
      3m 48s
    5. Using the Convert to Shape effects
      5m 49s
    6. Using the Distort & Transform effects
      5m 12s
    7. Using the Path effects
      6m 58s
    8. Using the Pathfinder effects
      4m 18s
  6. 28m 23s
    1. Introducing graphic styles
      33s
    2. Applying graphic styles
      10m 8s
    3. Defining graphic styles
      8m 46s
    4. Previewing graphic styles
      2m 10s
    5. Modifying graphic styles
      3m 30s
    6. Understanding graphic styles for text
      3m 16s
  7. 22m 49s
    1. Introducing advanced masking techniques
      32s
    2. Understanding clipping masks
      7m 15s
    3. Using layer clipping masks
      6m 30s
    4. Creating opacity masks
      8m 32s
  8. 1h 6m
    1. Introducing color
      40s
    2. Considering three types of color swatches
      7m 7s
    3. Managing color groups
      2m 58s
    4. Understanding the HSB color wheel
      3m 57s
    5. Understanding color harmonies
      2m 57s
    6. Using the color guide
      3m 54s
    7. Limiting the color guide
      3m 17s
    8. Modifying color with the Recolor Artwork feature
      6m 25s
    9. Using the Edit tab to adjust color
      5m 44s
    10. Using the Assign tab to replace colors
      8m 37s
    11. Making global color adjustments
      2m 17s
    12. Using Recolor options
      7m 3s
    13. Converting artwork to grayscale
      3m 23s
    14. Simulating artwork on different devices
      3m 18s
    15. Accessing Kuler directly from Illustrator
      2m 7s
    16. Ensuring high contrast for color-blind people
      2m 42s
  9. 53m 19s
    1. Introducing transparency
      40s
    2. Understanding transparency flattening
      2m 31s
    3. Exercising the two rules of transparency flattening
      10m 53s
    4. Understanding complex regions in transparency flattening
      4m 50s
    5. Exploring the transparency flattener settings
      8m 37s
    6. Using transparency flattening and object stacking order
      6m 39s
    7. Using the Flattener Preview panel
      6m 31s
    8. Creating and sharing Transparency Flattener presets
      2m 25s
    9. Working within an EPS workflow
      5m 3s
    10. Understanding the Illustrator and InDesign workflow
      5m 10s
  10. 50m 1s
    1. Introducing prepress and output
      23s
    2. Understanding resolutions
      8m 27s
    3. Discovering RGB and CMYK "gotchas"
      5m 42s
    4. Using Overprints and Overprint Preview
      7m 43s
    5. Understanding "book color" and proofing spot colors
      8m 1s
    6. Collecting vital information with Document Info
      2m 28s
    7. Previewing color separations onscreen
      1m 12s
    8. Making 3D artwork look good
      2m 16s
    9. Seeing white lines and knowing what to do about them
      2m 41s
    10. Creating "bulletproof" press-ready PDF files
      3m 45s
    11. Protecting content with secure PDFs
      2m 48s
    12. Using PDF presets
      2m 47s
    13. Moving forward: The Adobe PDF Print Engine
      1m 48s
  11. 35m 43s
    1. Introducing distortions
      27s
    2. Using the Warp effect
      4m 20s
    3. The Warp effect vs. envelope distortion
      3m 48s
    4. Applying the Make with Warp envelope distortion
      2m 45s
    5. Applying the Make with Mesh envelope distortion
      2m 41s
    6. Applying the Make with Top Object envelope distortion
      3m 45s
    7. Editing envelopes
      5m 0s
    8. Adjusting envelope settings
      4m 2s
    9. Releasing and expanding envelope distortions
      1m 44s
    10. Applying envelope distortions to text
      1m 27s
    11. Using the liquify distortion tools
      3m 5s
    12. Customizing the liquify tools
      2m 39s
  12. 28m 56s
    1. Introducing blends
      32s
    2. Blending two objects
      6m 18s
    3. Adjusting blend options
      5m 47s
    4. Blending anchor points
      5m 36s
    5. Blending three or more objects
      2m 9s
    6. Replacing the spine of a blend
      4m 32s
    7. Reversing the direction of a blend
      2m 15s
    8. Releasing and expanding a blend
      1m 47s
  13. 46m 54s
    1. Introducing charts and graphs
      35s
    2. Setting expectations: Graphs in Illustrator
      3m 19s
    3. Creating a chart
      8m 2s
    4. Importing data
      3m 34s
    5. Formatting data
      5m 1s
    6. Customizing a chart
      10m 21s
    7. Combining chart types
      2m 40s
    8. Creating graph designs
      6m 0s
    9. Styling and updating graphs
      5m 33s
    10. Ungrouping graphs
      1m 49s
  14. 26m 36s
    1. Introducing Gradient Mesh
      23s
    2. Understanding the Gradient Mesh feature
      9m 34s
    3. Using Gradient Mesh to add contoured shading
      6m 14s
    4. Using Gradient Mesh to create photorealistic effects
      10m 25s
  15. 8m 18s
    1. Introducing flare effects
      25s
    2. Drawing a lens flare
      3m 28s
    3. Modifying a lens flare
      1m 27s
    4. Using a mask with lens flares
      2m 58s
  16. 29s
    1. Goodbye
      29s

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