How to trace an image in Illustrator or how to vectorize

tracing an blurry image in illustrator with the pencil tool

after a long night of adobe illustrator for beginner online webinars, i am still inspired to share what we created working into the late night hours. the above image is an example of how adobe illustrator’s live trace or rather image trace function is quite powerful and creates great and very close to original image renderings as vectors. however the problem comes in when the original image is already pixelated and that the tracing results in color will try and imitate the look of the individual pixels and that it becomes a nightmare to handle as vectors.tracing a blurry image in illustrator with live trace or image trace

sure there are plenty of adjustment options in the presets and the newer image trace panel, but the end result might not always be what you imagined it to be. as i am looking at the image on my blog it actually looks kind of neat with all the details, but trust me the amount of anchor points is really hard to handle.. and reducing the anchor points with simple clean up techniques would alter the result. so what to do? especially if time is of the essence?

tracing an blurry image in illustrator with the pencil tool

well, here are some pointers: i like to use the pencil (not pen tool) and start drawing quick lines around and along the details that i want to keep in my final colored version. since i know that i am going to insert the color with the live paint bucket later on,  i pay attention to the lines being pretty close to one another when a color should be filling in the inside of that are.. exactly like in photoshop and it’s paint bucket.. with the exception that illustrator is a lot more forgiving on gaps.

so there you have it. try it out: use your pencil tool. make sure you double click on the pencil tool and play with the settings so-that drawing with it feels and looks more natural to your hand movements. then select your line. yes all of them. and the use the live paint bucket. make sure you have a fill color. then drop paint in all the enclosed areas. it’s a neat process to watch because illustrator will highlight the possible areas.

scattered brush and pattern brush with incomplete humming bird trace

it’s interesting how during each live session the tracing results that i create differ too. it mainly has to do with the time that i spent on it and that the amount of live interactions and questions from students differs. so sometimes i have more time to complete the entire birdy and sometimes i create only a half of it. yesterday i created only a little and one of my participants asked for a repeat demonstration on brushes.. so i had a little fun with my incomplete hummingbird. ouch that doesn’t sound right, but it’s all digital.

anyone here ever tried the live trace now image trace feature and what did you think of the result?

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