Chapter Eight

Image Trace

Earlier we learnt about tracing around rasterised images using the pen tool. In this Chapter we are going to learn to use image trace - a tool that is able to do the same thing, in only a few clicks!

Image Trace Overview

Image trace is an incredibly useful feature that can trace and colour any image, turning it from a “rastor” or “flat image” into an editable vector image.


There are many different setting and options available, from tracing just an outline in black and white to a full colour illustration.


I find this most useful for tracing client’s logos when we are awaiting their artwork as a quick fix.


You should note that the finished result is not the actual artwork though, as image trace is not always 100% accurate!

Using Image Trace

1) Open the Tutorial folder and import the JPEG “Red Cat Logo Main” (available to download for free above) into a new Illustrator document. The cross through the logo indicates that this is a flat “Raster Image” as we described in Chapter 5. For this tutorial we are going to assume that we need the logo as a vector.


2) Open the “Window” drop down menu from the top of your
screen, and click to open the “Image Trace” Palette. Attach
this to the Floating Palette as you did previously with the
Pathfinder Palette in Chapter 1.

3) Select the Logo if it is not already selected, and then click on the Image Trace Palette button to open it.


It is here that there are a huge range of options.

Initial Options
Preset Options
View shown on artboard as you edit the settings
Selects how many colours are used
Pixels darker than the threshold changed to black, lower than the threshold converted to white
Indicates how close to the original path the outlines will be
Shows the ratio of corners and curves used
The lower the number the more noise is in the finished vector
Cut out or layered method
Fills and/or outlines
Turns all curves into straight lines
Removes any white from the image, e.g. background

4) To trace our Red Cat Logo, first select the Black and White option at the top of the options box. then, from the “Mode" box, select the “Colour” option. We will need to customise this but it is a good starting point.


Ensure that the “Preview” box at the bottom of the options is ticked, and that the View Mode is set to “Tracing Result” so you can view your changes as you make them.


Then turn the colours down to 2.


When you view your logo it should look similar to the image below.

At first glance the image looks great, but upon closer inspection it is clear that there needs to be some adjustment around the letters, as the corners are not sharp and the lines look as though they are bulging slightly.

5) In the advanced section of the dialogue box, turn the Paths option up to around 80%, the corners option up to around 95% and select “Ignore White” to remove the background.


Leave the “Noise”, “Method”, “Create” options as they are and ensure the “Snap Curves To Lines” option is unticked.


You should now see that your logo is much closer to the original, but if you flick between the “Source Image” and “Tracing Result” by clicking on the eye next to the “View” Rollout you may notice that there are differences between the resulting vector and the original image.

7) Feel free to adjust these settings until you have something you are happy with. When you are finished, simply click the “Expand” Button on the Control Palette at the top of your screen. now you have a fully editable vector that can be exported to other editing or 3D software.

This method does not always work with low-res images, and can result in some vectors that require a lot of editing. When this happens it can be more efficient to use the Pen Tool instead. Try to use the best quality image you can to get the best results.

As an extra challenge, I have included a low-res version of the logo in the download -using the image trace tool, see the difference using a low-res image makes to the quality of your final result.

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