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Image Trace in Adobe© Illustrator©


The convenience of the Image Trace feature found in Adobe© Illustrator© can be put to great use in certain situations. Although gathering entire detail of a picture is usually difficult if not impossible (depending on the detail of the image), Image Trace can dramatically speed up creative processes for graphic designers, web designers and animators alike, just to name a few.

So, Suppose you have a really nice sketch that you’ve composed in preparation for a design or a video/animation. It looks great on paper, and you’ve put a good chunk of time into making sure things are how you want them to be before taking it to the computer. Now, all you need is this wonderful composition to become existent in the digital world.

There are loads of steps you can take to recreate your sketch/idea digitally. And, although the process you choose should follow what you’re going for (realistic, abstract, flat, cartoony, etc.), Image Trace can almost always play a helpful role in your process, whether it just be digitally expanding your idea and getting it started for future development, or adding some nice effects to a digital composition. The style of animation or graphics you need may not exactly be traced how you desire. But, it is always a good option to look into Image Tracing your sketch or idea, because it’s a very minimal amount of time put in for what can be a great outcome.

For example, something I’ve been working on is a fairly simple Adobe© Flash© animation for a school assignment. Well, the project guidelines are very simple, but of course my idea isn’t. Here is my sketch, simply a photo taken from my iPhone.



Now, I originally was planning on taking it into Illustrator and building all the paths (creating lines and shapes) to reflect the sketch. I was essentially trying to make it look more realistic and sharp. I realized, since I’m already going above and beyond, that I didn’t quite have time to do that (if I wanted to sleep this week), and decided to try my luck with Live Trace.



Although it isn’t exactly what I want for my final product, it does the perfect trick. It has taken my lines and digitally recreated them to almost exactly how they were sketched. If my sketch was cleaner, the Trace would look more realistic, but again I was a little crunched for time. So, now that I have something to turn in, I’ve saved myself between 5-10 hours just recreating that in Illustrator and building my scene from practically scratch – not to mention the time it takes to animate.



This is a good example of how, although it might not give you exactly what you want in the end, Illustrator’s Image Trace feature can be of great use in taking what you have on paper and easily giving you something digital to start with. Or, it can be a great way to add those finishing touches to your digital composition. When using Live Trace for hand drawn work, be sure your lines are DARK – pen works best in my opinion, but you’re the artist 😉

Sorry if you wanted this to be a full on tutorial, but I learned this on my own, and in my opinion that’s the best way to figure this stuff out if it’s not extremely difficult. It’s not going to blow up in your face if you do something wrong, so push a few buttons, explore tools, add effects, be a little wreck less even – PLAY with the software. It will come with great patience, young grasshopper.