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Illustrator Image Trace Tutorial
In this Illustrator tutorial, we will use a simple reference bitmap image of a cartoon cow, and then use Illustrator to trace it into a simple vector image. Vectors are graphics consisting of lines and curves defined by mathematical formulas. You can resize or modify vector graphics without losing any resolution. In contrast, bitmap images become blurry or pixilated when resizing. This tutorial will image trace (vectorize) the bitmap and convert to a vector image.
Bullet list of the tools you will use:
* Use the Pen tool to draw points and lines.
* Use the Direct Selection tool to move and scale anchor points.
* Use Illustrator Pathfinder tool to combine multiple objects.
* Compare Bitmap to Vector images.
Download the bitmap for the tutorial:
Watch the video on Youtube
Watch the video:
How to trace a vector from a reference image
in Adobe Illustrator
1. Create a new document and import your image that you want to
make vector. To do this tutorial correctly, use the image
that's provided with the tutorial. To import the image, go to File >
Place and select the image then click open.
2. We’re using an image of a cow here. To vectorize this image
we’ll start from the position that is most far in depth. In this image, the body
of the cow is the object that is in the most back position. So make a new layer
and lock the first layer that holds the main picture. To make the body you can
just use the Oval tool and make an oval shape that fits the
body. Select the shape and change fill color to none and stroke color to black.
Don’t worry about overlapping head or legs.
Now copy that
oval shape, make a new
layer, lock the previous layer and paste the shape in the new layer.
Press Ctrl+F to paste in front. This will hold the exact
3. Now select the pen tool and draw lines along the grey
spots. Make sure your lines goes out of the body. Follow the picture
below. Use Direct Selection tool to select, move and scale
4. Now select all shapes and open Pathfinder window from
Window > Pathfinder. Having all of them selected, click
Divide in pathfinder window. This will divide the shapes and
group them. Now ungroup it from Object > Ungroup. This
will delete the over extended path areas that overlap the image.
5. Same way now, make another layer and draw
paths along the head and the mouth (pink area). Use Pathfinder.
Also make sure you copied the
outline of the head to a new layer before using the pathfinder. Do the same
thing with paths for ears of the cow.
6. Now make the nose holes also with the Pen
tool. Draw one and Reflect it. To reflect and copy,
select the shape and go to Object > Transform > Reflect.
Chose vertical and click copy. Same way, also draw the eyes and Reflect.
7. Now make a new layer and make the leg paths. Use the
Pen tool to draw paths and then use the pathfinder same way
as before. In the case of the leg, use reflect and copy.
In the same layer make the paths for the horns.
Ok, Select and move all the paths to an empty space on the
8. Now you’re done with making the base. Now you just have to give
the right colors. Select the body and give it 3px black stroke with no fill. For
the head use 3px black stroke with white fill.
9. Now select the spots, legs and horns, give fill color #4D4D4D
with no stroke. Select the mouth, give 3px black stroke and fill color #FAD4E4.
For nose holes and eyes, just use black fill color with no stroke.
10. Finally, select the areas which represents the shade and fill
them with black color with no stroke and change the opacity to 20%.
That’s all. You’re done!
Now let's contrast the two images zoomed in. Vector on the left,
and bitmap on the right.
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