Join Mordy Golding for an in-depth discussion in this video Tracing with fills, strokes, or both, part of Illustrator CS4 Beyond the Basics.
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As we know Illustrator objects are made up of vector path, and we can control the appearance of a path by applying fill and stroke attributes. Now with Live Trace we are taking a photograph, and we are converting that to vector artwork, but do those paths have fill or stroke attributes applied to them? The answer is that it's up to you. Let's take a look at the example over here. This is an image that I brought in here into Illustrator. We'll go ahead and zoom in just on that so we can see it a little better. I'm going to go ahead and click on the Live Trace option. We will just use a regular default, Black and White trace, and I'll click on this button over here to open up the trace options dialog box. Now you can see over here that by the Trace settings options, remember these are the vector settings, or the settings that are basically applied to how Illustrator traces the object, I can see two check boxes here, fills and strokes, and currently the fills option is chosen. What that means is that Illustrator actually draws paths around the parameter, and the interior of the objects here, and then fills them with, in this case with black.
In fact, when you choose some of other options like Gray scale or Color, you'll notice that the strokes and fills option that turned off, because then in that particular case, Illustrator always uses fills. However, when you work with the Black and White option, you have more options available. To see exactly what I mean here, I'm actually going to go ahead and accept the trace here. I'm going to click on the Expand button. As you can see the paths here are created along the outside of the object, and then it's filled with that color. If I go into Outline modem you'll see exactly how that's build. Let me go back to the Preview mode. I'm going to click Undo to go back to my Live Trace. Now let's see what happens when I use the strokes option. I'm going to go ahead and again open up the dialog box here to see my tracing option, and instead of fills, I'm actually going to choose the stroke option. Let's turn off fills here. I'll click on the Preview button, and now you'll see a different result. Notice that Illustrator now used paths with a stroke attribute on them to draw the objects. Notice the consistent weight here amongst these paths.
Now if I choose trace for example, and then expand it, again, going to Outline mode, I'll see that these are simply drawn with a regular path that has a stroke applied to it. Let's go back into regular preview mode, let me zoom out for a second, so we can see this photograph. You can also apply the stroke attribute to photos as well. Again, I'll choose Live Trace here. I'll go over here to the Tracing option setting, and then instead of going and choosing the fills options, I'll choose strokes. Notice that right now, by the way I'm going to click on the Preview button here, is that I have both fills and strokes checked on it. That's because Illustrator now has the ability to, on choice, choose to actually trace objects using filled objects or strokes. For example, you can see that in certain areas like here for example, the mouth, this part over here on the upper lip, maybe on the neck over here, are all drawn using strokes, instead of filled path.
You can get some wild results by only using strokes on photographs as well. I'll click Cancel here to go back to the original trace. Now at the end of the day it all comes down to what you need to get out of your trace. If you just want to work with strokes, you can easily do that, but you might lose those thick and thins of the small nuances that appearance that are redesigned. If you want to pick up all the elements that appear inside of the photograph, obviously the fills option is the way to go.
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