Join Mordy Golding for an in-depth discussion in this video Setting expectations: Live Trace, part of Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics.
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Live Trace is a feature inside of Illustrator that allows you to trace pixel-based content and convert it automatically into vector paths. Before we get started tracing images, it's important to set the right expectations upfront. Making the transition from a pixel-based image to vector-based artwork is not absolute. It's a translation and as such that translation is open to interpretation. Every image that you work on is going to be somewhat different and therefore the settings for that trace will also be different. Likewise, you'll find that Live Trace excels at certain types of task, but maybe not at others.
For the most part though, it's important to realize that Live Trace was created by Adobe as more of a creative type of tool. We'll go through many of the settings, but as you'll soon see, you can't always expect to get the perfect results from every type of image. For example, let's take this Lynda.com logo that's right over here. This is actually an image that I have taken right off the lynda.com website. You can even see here that it's a GIF file that's 72 pixels per inch. I can't tell you how many times I've received logos or artwork from clients that are simply taken right off from their websites. These clients of course expect that this artwork should print perfectly on their high quality print brochure. The reality is as a designer you may be faced with having to recreate such artwork. Let me zoom in here on the artwork over here and I'll apply the Live Trace and you'll see that I don't really get the best results. We can talk about how to make the trace better, but I'll also tell you that if you are trying to replicate something exactly or perfectly, Live Trace may not be the best way to go. But don't worry.
Throughout this chapter we'll learn all types of techniques to get just the kind of results that you want. Let me move over here to this next image. This is actually a 2D bar code used in mobile applications and again, by just clicking on the Live Trace button here, I see that I really don't get the results that I may be looking for. Because it's a simple and straightforward image though, I can use some of the settings inside of Live Trace to get better results. Finally, I move over here to this image as well and I'll click on it. Here I'll kind of open up more some of the interpretation of what this artwork actually is. It was sketched or drawn either on paper and then scanned into Photoshop, or maybe was drawn directly inside of Photoshop. But here by clicking Live Trace, I do seem to get the results that seem to be more along the lines that I'm looking for. Finally, let me zoom out over here and I'll actually click on the photograph.
This is really where I believe that Live Trace excels. Again, more as a creative tool. I can work with so many photographic in nature like this and with one click of button get more of a stylized results. Now that we have a better understanding of what to expect out of Live Trace, we can begin to explore all of its settings to get just the results that we want.
- Tracing artwork both automatically and manually
- Mapping artwork to complex 3D surfaces
- Using pressure-sensitive distortion tools
- Recoloring artwork across a document
- Using Excel data to create charts and graphs
- Understanding how transparency really works
- Creating high-quality, press-ready PDFs
- Building efficient files with graphic styles