Tracing an image in Adobe Illustrator can be a useful skill to have if you want to create vector graphics or if you need to modify an existing image. Whether you want to trace an image manually using the Pen tool or use the Image Trace feature to automatically trace an image, Adobe Illustrator offers a range of tools and options to help you achieve the desired result. In this post, we will go over the steps for tracing an image in Adobe Illustrator, as well as some tips and tricks to help you get the best results. So, if you are new to Adobe Illustrator and want to learn how to trace an image, or if you are an experienced user looking to brush up on your tracing skills, this post is for you.

If you want to learn how to trace an image in Affinity Designer, then visit this guide.

What is image tracing?

Image tracing is a feature that allows you to convert a bitmap image into a vector graphic. This can be useful if you want to modify an existing image, or if you want to create a vector version of an image for use in a wide range of applications.

Trace an image in Adobe Illustrator
Trace an image in Adobe Illustrator

When you use the image tracing feature, the software automatically analyzes the image and creates a vector representation of it based on the colors and shapes in the image. You can choose from a variety of preset tracing options, or you can adjust the tracing settings to customize the trace to your liking.

In Adobe Illustrator, you can access the image tracing feature by going to the Object menu and selecting Image Trace. In Affinity Designer, you can access the image tracing feature by going to the Vector menu and selecting Tracing. However, in Affinity Designer it’s not possible to automatically trace an image.

Overall, image tracing is a convenient way to convert bitmap images into vector graphics, and it can save you time and effort compared to tracing the image manually with the Pen tool. However, the results may not be as accurate or precise as tracing the image manually, so it’s important to choose the right tracing settings and to check the results carefully.

Why would you trace an image (or convert a bitmap to vector)?

There are several reasons why you might want to trace an image from bitmap to vector in Adobe Illustrator. One reason is that vector graphics are resolution-independent, which means they can be scaled up or down without losing quality. This makes them ideal for use in a wide range of applications, such as printing, web design, and graphic design. Tracing an image from bitmap to vector allows you to convert the image into a vector format, which can then be edited and manipulated in Adobe Illustrator.

Another reason to trace an image from bitmap to vector is to create a clean and accurate line drawing of the image. When you trace an image manually using the Pen tool, you can create a precise and detailed representation of the image, which can be useful for creating detailed graphics or for making modifications to the image.

Overall, tracing an image from bitmap to vector in Adobe Illustrator can be a useful way to convert an image into a flexible and scalable format, as well as to create a clean and accurate representation of the image.

What is the difference between a bitmap image and a vector image?

It’s important to know that bitmap images and vector images are two different types of graphics that are used in digital media. Here are the three main differences between the two:

  1. Resolution: Bitmap images, also known as raster images, are made up of pixels arranged in a grid. The resolution of a bitmap image is fixed, which means that the quality of the image is determined by the number of pixels it contains.
    Vector images, on the other hand, are made up of mathematical formulas that define the shapes and lines in the image. Vector images are resolution-independent, which means they can be scaled up or down without losing quality.
  2. Editing: Bitmap images are more difficult to edit than vector images because they are made up of pixels, and any changes to the image will affect the pixels directly. Vector images, on the other hand, are easier to edit because they are made up of mathematical formulas, and changes to the image can be made by adjusting the formulas.
  3. File size: Bitmap images tend to have larger file sizes than vector images because they are made up of pixels, and each pixel requires a certain amount of data to store its color and position. Vector images, on the other hand, have smaller file sizes because they are made up of mathematical formulas, which require less data to store.

Bitmap images are best suited for photographs and images with a lot of detail, while vector images are best suited for graphics and logos that need to be scaled up or down without losing quality.

What is the ‘Image Trace’ tool in Adobe Illustrator?

The Image Trace tool in Adobe Illustrator is a feature that allows you to convert a bitmap image into a vector graphic. This can be useful if you want to modify an existing image, or if you want to create a vector version of an image for use in a wide range of applications.

As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of advantaged in converting a bitmap to a vector image.The Image Trace tool has an incredible range of features that allow you to customize the tracing of a bitmap image. Some of the main features of the Image Trace tool include:

  1. Presets: The Image Trace tool offers a range of Preset tracing options, including “Black and White,” “Outline,” and “Photorealistic.” These presets provide a quick and easy way to trace an image, and you can choose the option that best suits your needs.
  2. Paths: The Paths option allows you to adjust the number of paths that are created during the tracing process. Increasing the number of paths can produce a more detailed trace, but it can also result in a larger file size.
  3. Corners: The Corners option allows you to adjust the angle at which corners are traced. This can be useful for creating sharper or smoother corners in the traced image.
  4. Noise: The Noise option allows you to remove small specks or dots from the traced image. This can be useful for cleaning up an image that has a lot of noise or for removing unwanted details from the image.
  5. Ignore White: The Ignore White option allows you to exclude white areas from the traced image. This can be useful for creating a trace of an image with a white background.
  6. Threshold: The Threshold option allows you to adjust the level of detail in the traced image. Increasing the threshold can result in a simpler trace with fewer paths, while decreasing the threshold can produce a more detailed trace.

We will explain how to use the image trace tool later in this post. First, we explain how to trace an image manually. It’s important to know, because with these basics you can easily edit the image once it’s converted to a vector image.

How to trace an image using the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator

The most time consuming option is to vectorize an image using the pen tool. Tracing an image in Adobe Illustrator using the Pen tool involves the following steps:

  1. Open the image you want to trace in Adobe Illustrator.
  2. Select the Pen tool from the toolbar on the left side of the screen.
  3. Begin tracing the outline of the image by clicking on points along the edge of the image to create anchor points. As you trace, the Pen tool will automatically create straight lines between the anchor points.
  4. To create curved lines, click and hold down the mouse button to drag the anchor point in the direction you want to curve. Release the mouse button to set the curve.
  5. Continue tracing the outline of the image until you have traced the entire image. You can add or delete anchor points as needed using the Pen tool.
  6. When you have finished tracing the image, you can adjust the path of the trace by moving the anchor points or adjusting the curves between the anchor points.

It might take some practice to get the hang of tracing with the Pen tool, but with a bit of patience and practice, you should be able to trace an image with a high degree of accuracy.

How to trace an image automatically using ‘Image Trace’ in Adobe Illustrator

The easiest way to trace an image in Adobe Illustrator is to use the ‘image trace’ tool. As we wrote earlier, the Image Trace tool in Adobe Illustrator is a feature that allows you to convert a bitmap image into a vector graphic automatically.

To trace an image using the Image Trace feature in Adobe Illustrator, follow these steps:

  1. Open the image you want to trace in Adobe Illustrator.
  2. Select the image by clicking on it with the Selection tool.
  3. Go to the Object menu and select Image Trace. Alternatively, you can click on the Image Trace button in the Control panel at the top of the screen.
  4. In the Image Trace panel that appears, select a Preset from the dropdown menu. The Preset options include various tracing options such as “Black and White,” “Outline,” and “Photorealistic.”
  5. Experiment with the options in the Image Trace panel to adjust the tracing settings to your liking. Some options you may want to adjust include “Paths,” “Corners,” and “Noise.”
  6. When you are satisfied with the tracing settings, click the “Trace” button to apply the tracing to the image.
  7. The traced image will appear on top of the original image. You can turn off the visibility of the original image by clicking on the eye icon next to the image in the Layers panel.
  8. The last step is important, to be able to work on the traced image. Go to the Object menu and select Image Trace. Then click on expand and you are done and ready to edit the image.

Keep in mind that the Image Trace feature is a quick and easy way to trace an image, but the results may not be as accurate or precise as tracing the image manually with the Pen tool. You can find more information about the process here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, tracing an image in Adobe Illustrator can be a useful if you want to create vector graphics or if you need to modify an existing image. Whether you choose to trace an image manually using the Pen tool or use the Image Trace feature to automatically trace the image, Adobe Illustrator offers a range of tools and options to help you achieve the desired result.

Tracing an image manually with the Pen tool can produce precise and detailed results, but it can be time-consuming and requires a certain level of skill. On the other hand, the Image Trace feature is a quick and easy way to trace an image, but the results may not be as accurate or precise as tracing the image manually. Ultimately, the best approach will depend on your needs and goals, and it’s worth considering both options to see which one works best for you.

Let us know in the comments what method works for you.

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