Join Justin Seeley for an in-depth discussion in this video Turning a photo into a logo component, part of Illustrator: Tracing Artwork (2013).
Throughout this course, we've been working on various ways to refine and enhance tracings that you do inside of Illustrator, but we haven't really put that into a real world scenario yet, so I developed a couple of little exercises here, where we're going to actually walk through some things that I would encounter in a real world experience, and see exactly how we can deal with it. So, let's assume that we're working on a logo for a new reality TV show. It's called The League, and it's going to be a reality TV show about basketball. And so what we have been told is, that we need a logo for this TV show and they want to incorporate this shield right here, but they also want to add some basketball component to it.
And somebody comes to me, and they're like, okay, we need a picture, or a representation of a basketball player inside of this shield. Now, I could spend a couple of hours drawing this myself, or I could simply go out and find a basketball player to stick in there, but chances are they don't want a photograph. They want some sort of stylistic representation. After all, this is sort of a vector kind of a flat looking artwork. It's not photorealistic, so they're going to want something that's inside of here that almost probably looks like it's embossed into the shield. And that's okay; that's easy enough to do. What I'm going to do is create a new file.
Size is really irrelevant at this point; 1024 by 768 is what I'm going to go with. And so what we want to do is find a picture of a basketball player, because a lot of people ask me, you know, why would I ever want to trace a photo in Adobe Illustrator? And that's a very good question, because on the surface, it looks as if you know it's not really that big of a deal that you're able to turn a photo into a piece of vector art. But if you wanted to just take the overall shape of something in the photo, and covert it into a vector piece of art, like a basketball player, for instance. That's what we're going for here.
So, if I go up to the File menu, and choose Place. I have a JPEG file called basketman, and I'm going to place that in, and once I get that in, I'm going to bring up the Image Trace panel. Go to the Window menu, and choose Image Trace. And so, when I start off making a logo component out of a photo, the first thing I always do is tryout the Black and White Logo Preset. So, I'm just going to try Black and White Logo. It's going to go through to be a pretty quick conversion, unlike some of the other ones. And so once that renders out, I'm going to see exactly what type of result it gives me, and it's not too bad. Not bad at all.
I'm going to go ahead and go down here and click on Ignore White. What that's going to do is just exclude white from the colors, and you'll notice when it does that the top here becomes transparent, showing me all of that, which is good. Okay. And so now what I want to do is make some adjustments to this; so I think the Paths here, I'm going to take that up somewhere around 65%. I want it to be kind of a tight fit, and so I'm also going to take the corners down a little bit. I want it to be stylized quite a bit, so about 25% on the corners. And then the last thing we're going to do is we're going to go down and adjust the Noise value, and remember, when you're dealing with noise, the higher the value the less noise there is; the lower the value, the more noise there is.
And so I'm going to drag this down to something like 2 pixels, and I'm doing that because I want some of the finer details to come back in around this image. And so once that happens, I'll be ready to go, and so I get some of the details back around the face, and some areas around the highlight of his arm, and things like that. And so now I've gotten pretty much as far as I'm going to go with this, because there's really not much else that I can control inside of this panel. So what I'm going to do is expand this out, and then I'm going to start working on it outside of the Image Trace panel.
So, we can go and close this up, I'm going to expand it out using the control panel, and that turns it into a live path, and then once I have that done, I'm now going to double-click on it to enter isolation mode, so I can work within it. Because when you expand artwork inside of Illustrator, it's automatically grouped together all of it. And so what I want to do is first remove -- there should be an invisible frame around this thing, so I'm just going to click and drag a selection like this, and there you see the frame is selected. I'll just delete that, and then what I'm going to do is come up here, and let's work on the ball first.
So, the ball is actually nothing more than a circle, right? So, what I'm going to do here is just draw out a circle. So I'm going to go right here to the intersection point, and draw out a circle; something kind of like this. And if you need to move this around while you're drawing it, or if you want to just draw a perfect circle, hold down Shift, and then if you want to move it, temporarily hold down the Spacebar, and then move it into place, like so. So I'm going to get that about the size of the ball, let it go, and let's make that black. There we go. Now, I might even fill in this little area with the hand right here, and that's easy enough to do.
Just grab the Blob brush, and I'll increase the size of the brush with my right bracket key on my keyboard, and just brush that in. It adds a little bit there. There we go. Now I come down here with my Blob brush, and I'm just going to start filling in some of these highlight areas, because I don't need them. I want a little bit of definition in here, but not much. I'm just going to draw right around here. I'm going to follow the contour of his shoulder as best as I can. Remember, I can always clean that up later; no big deal. I'm just going to fill in, being very careful.
This is a lot easier to do if you have a Wacom tablet, or drawing tablet. But from there not too hard; there we go. Fill these in. There we go. Now, I'm not too concerned about anything down at the bottom. I don't really have to be, because I'm not going to use the rest of that, and I'm going to get rid of these little highlights here; there we go. And I'm also going to paint out his ear. I don't need the ear at all. There you go. So, there we go, and I'll zoom out a little bit, so you can see exactly what I've got there, and then, I'm just going to double-click anywhere outside of here, and there's my guy, just like so.
So, now what I'm going to do is I'm going to take this, and I'm going to move it over into the other document. So, I'm just going to copy it, and go over here, and we're going to paste it in, and then I'll zoom back out a little bit, and I'm going to resize it, and move him in, something kind of like this, and we'll zoom in, see how it's looking. So, now you see kind of what I'm going for here? Maybe rotate it a little bit, and just kind of nudge it into place. Once I get it exactly where I want it to go, I'm pretty much done, except for one last thing.
I'm going to select -- and I'll zoom in, so you can see exactly what I'm doing here -- I'm going to select the outer portion of the shield, I'm going to hold down the Shift key, and click on the basketball player. Then what we're going to do is grab the Shape Builder tool, and we're just going to press Shift+M on our keyboard to do that, and then I'm going to hold down the Option key on Mac, the Alt key on PC, and just start clicking on things I want to get rid of. If you want to drag a selection, hold on the Shift key while you're doing that. So again, I'm just holding on the Shift key, holding down the Option or Alt key, and it's removing elements that I don't need.
There we go. For the last part here, I'll zoom in as close as I can to see this, and this time I'm not going to use the Shift key, just the Option or Alt key, click and drag across, and it removes that element for me as well. There we go. And so now, when I zoom out, there is my league logo, with the stylized guy right there in the middle. I could select this now, and I can group that together, Command+G or Ctrl+G, so now that's one solid object, which can be scaled up or down together.
If the client comes back, and says, you know, I need to look at a little bit more of the ball, that's okay. Remember, the underlying image is still there, so I could go in, and I could remove that circle I drew. If they say, they need more definition in the shoulder, I've just covered those up with the blob brush, so no big deal there. I can go in and redo any of that any time I want. Now, as far as this image is concerned, I'm pretty much done with this, but this is a great starter point for another type of image if I ever have to use this image for anything else, so I might save this out as a template file that I can use over and over again in different materials for this particular company, or TV show, or whatever it is that I'm might be working for.
So again, tracing photos does have a place in the world of Adobe Illustrator, and I think this really illustrates that point, and hopefully it gives you a better understanding of why you would want to do it, and how to do it, and hopefully you'll put this to use in one of your future projects as well.
- 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