Trace artwork

If you want to base a new drawing on an existing piece of artwork, you can trace it. For example, you can create a graphic based on a pencil sketch drawn on paper or on a raster image saved in another graphics program by bringing the graphic into Illustrator and tracing over it.

The easiest way to trace artwork is to open or place a file into Illustrator and automatically trace the artwork with the Live Trace command. You can control the level of detail and how the tracing is filled. When you are satisfied with the tracing results, you can convert the tracing to vector paths or a Live Paint object.

Using Image Trace.

Before and after tracing a bitmap image with the Live Trace command
Before and after tracing a bitmap image with the Live Trace command

Automatically trace artwork using Live Trace

  1. Open or place a file to use as the source image for the tracing.

  2. With the source image selected, do one of the following:

    • To trace the image using a tracing preset, click the Tracing Presets and Options button  in the Control panel, and select a preset.

    • To trace the image using the default tracing options, click Live Trace in the Control panel, or choose Object > Live Trace > Make.

    • To set tracing options before you trace the image, click the Tracing Presets and Options button  in the Control panel, and choose Tracing Options. Alternatively, choose Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. Set tracing options, and then click Trace.

  3. (Optional) Adjust the results of the tracing.

  4. (Optional) Convert the tracing to paths or to a Live Paint object.

Tracing options

Preset

Specifies a tracing preset.

Mode

Specifies a color mode for the tracing result.

Threshold

Specifies a value for generating a black and white tracing result from the original image. All pixels lighter than the Threshold value are converted to white, all pixels darker than the Threshold value are converted to black. (This option is available only when Mode is set to Black and White.)

Palette

Specifies a palette for generating a color or grayscale tracing from the original image. (This option is available only when Mode is set to Color or Grayscale.)

To let Illustrator determine the colors in the tracing, select Automatic. To use a custom palette for the tracing, select a swatch library name. (The swatch library must be open in order for it to appear in the Palette menu.)

Max Colors

Specifies a maximum number of colors to use in a color or grayscale tracing result. (This option is available only when Mode is set to Color or Grayscale and when panel is set to Automatic.)

Output To Swatches

Creates a new swatch in the Swatches panel for each color in the tracing result.

Blur

Blurs the original image before generating the tracing result. Select this option to reduce small artifacts and smooth jagged edges in the tracing result.

Resample

Resamples the original image to the specified resolution before generating the tracing result. This option is useful for speeding up the tracing process for large images but can yield degraded results.

note: The resample resolution is not saved when you create a preset.

Fills

Creates filled regions in the tracing result.

Strokes

Creates stroked paths in the tracing result.

Max Stroke Weight

Specifies the maximum width of features in the original image that can be stroked. Features larger than the maximum width become outlined areas in the tracing result.

Min Stroke Length

Specifies the minimum length of features in the original image that can be stroked. Features smaller than the minimum length are omitted from the tracing result.

Path Fitting

Controls the distance between the traced shape and the original pixel shape. Lower values create a tighter path fitting; higher values create a looser path fitting.

Minimum Area

Specifies the smallest feature in the original image that will be traced. For example, a value of 4 specifies that features smaller than 2 pixels wide by 2 pixels high will be omitted from the tracing result.

Corner Angle

Specifies the sharpness of a turn in the original image that is considered a corner anchor point in the tracing result. For more information on the difference between a corner anchor point and a smooth anchor point, see About paths.

Raster

Specifies how to display the bitmap component of the tracing object. This view setting is not saved as part of the tracing preset.

Vector

Specifies how to display the tracing result. This view setting is not saved as part of the tracing preset.

Note:

Select Preview in the Tracing Options dialog box to preview the result of the current settings.To set the default tracing options, deselect all objects before you open the Tracing Options dialog box. When you’re finished setting options, click Set Default.

For a video on using Live Trace, see www.adobe.com/go/vid0043. For a tutorial on tweaking Live Trace options for the best possible results, see www.adobe.com/go/learn_ai_tutorials_livetrace_en.

Change the display of a tracing object

A tracing object is made up of two components: the original source image and the tracing result (which is the vector artwork). By default, only the tracing result is visible. However, you can change the display of both the original image and the tracing result to best suit your needs.

  1. Select the tracing object.

    Note:

    By default, all tracing objects are named “Tracing” in the Layers panel.

  2. Do any of the following:

    • To change the display of the tracing result, click the Vector View button  in the Control panel or choose Object > Live Trace, and select a display option: No Tracing Result, Tracing Result, Outlines, or Outlines With Tracing.

    • To change the display of the source image, click the Raster View button  in the Control panel or choose Object > Live Trace, and select a display option: No Image, Original Image, Adjusted Image (which displays the image with any adjustments that are applied during tracing), or Transparent Image.

      note: In order to view the source image, you must first change the Vector View to No Tracing Result or Outlines.

Adjust the results of a tracing object

Once you create a tracing object, you can adjust the results at any time.

  1. Select the tracing object.

  2. Do any of the following:

    • Set basic options in the Control panel.

    • Click the Tracing Options Dialog button  in the Control panel to view all tracing options. Alternatively, choose Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. Adjust the options, and click Trace.

    Note:

    Use tracing presets to quickly change the results of a tracing.

Specify the colors used for tracing

  1. Create a swatch library that contains the colors you want to use in the tracing.

  2. Make sure that the swatch library is open, and click the Tracing Options Dialog button  in the Control panel. Alternatively, choose Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options.

  3. Select the swatch library name from the Palette menu, and click Trace.

Use a tracing preset

Tracing presets provide pre-specified tracing options for specific types of artwork. For example, if you’re tracing an image that you plan to use as a technical drawing, choose the Technical Drawing preset. All the tracing options change for optimal tracing of a technical drawing: color is set to black and white, blur is set to 0 px, stroke width is limited to 3 px, and so on.

Specify a preset

  • Choose Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. (Alternatively, select a tracing object, and click the Tracing Options Dialog button  in the Control panel.) Set tracing options for the preset, and click Save Preset. Enter a name for the preset, and click OK.

  • Choose Edit > Tracing Presets. Click New, set tracing options for the preset, and click Done.

    Tip: To base a new preset on an existing preset, select the preset, and click New.

Edit or delete a preset

  1. Choose Edit > Tracing Presets.

  2. Select the preset, and click Edit or Delete.

    Note:

    You can’t edit or delete the default presets (default presets appear in brackets [ ]). However, you can make an editable copy of a default preset by selecting the preset and clicking New.

Share presets with other users

  1. Choose Edit > Tracing Presets.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • Click Export to save your presets to a file.

    • Click Import to load presets from a file.

Convert a tracing object to a Live Paint object

When you are satisfied with the results of a tracing, you can convert the tracing object to paths or to a Live Paint object. This final step allows you to work with the tracing as you do other vector artwork. Once you convert the tracing object, you can no longer adjust the tracing options.

  1. Select the tracing object.

  2. Do one of the following:

    • To convert the tracing to paths, click Expand in the Control panel or choose Object > Live Trace > Expand. Use this method if you want to work with the components of the traced artwork as individual objects. The resulting paths are grouped together.

    • To convert the tracing to paths while preserving the current display options, choose Object > Live Trace > Expand As Viewed. For example, if the display options are set to Outlines for the tracing result, then the expanded paths will be outlines only (rather than filled and stroked). In addition, a snapshot of the tracing with its current display options is preserved and grouped with the expanded paths. Use this method if you want to preserve the tracing image as a guide for the expanded paths.

    • To convert the tracing to a Live Paint object, click Live Paint in the Control panel or choose Object > Live Trace > Convert To Live Paint. Use this method if you want to apply fills and strokes to the traced artwork using the Live Paint Bucket tool.

Note:

To create a tracing and convert the tracing object in one step, choose Object > Live Trace > Make And Expand or Object > Live Trace > Make And Convert To Live Paint.

For a video on tracing, see www.adobe.com/go/vid0043.

Release a tracing object

If you want to discard a tracing but keep the original placed image, you can release the tracing object.

  1. Select the tracing object.

  2. Choose Object > Live Trace > Release.

Manually trace artwork using template layers

Template layers are locked, nonprinting layers that you can use to manually trace images. Template layers are dimmed by 50% so you can easily see any paths you draw in front of the layer. You can create template layers when you place an image or from existing layers.

  1. Do one of the following:

    • To place an image as a template layer for tracing, choose File > Place, select the EPS, PDF, or raster image file you want to trace, select Template, and then click Place. A new template layer appears below the current layer in the panel.

    • To trace an existing image, make sure the image is in its own layer, double-click the layer in the Layers panel, select Template, and click OK; alternatively, select the layer and choose Template from the panel menu.

    The eye icon  is replaced by the template icon , and the layer is locked.

  2. Trace over the file using the Pen tool or the Pencil tool.

  3. To hide the template layer, choose View > Hide Template. Choose View > Show Template to see it again.

  4. To turn a template layer into a regular layer, double-click the template layer in the Layers panel, deselect Template, and click OK.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License  Twitter™ and Facebook posts are not covered under the terms of Creative Commons.

Legal Notices   |   Online Privacy Policy