Learn to Use Live Trace and Boost Your Designs
We know that working with Live Trace isn’t always an easy task, it requires being extremely careful with details and that’s a lot of work. At Freepik, we want you to give your best and create amazing designs, that’s why we’ve prepared this tutorial where we show you how to use Live Trace feature in Illustrator. Get ready to learn!
Before tracing, there are two important steps you need to follow:
1. Scanning: mind the resolution
Fine-tuning the file before tracing is essential to get a quality-traced artwork. First of all, turn your image into a digital file. If you are working with watercolor illustrations or stains, use the scanner. It’s essential you scan it at a high resolution, around 600 ppi.
However, when it comes to textures and charcoal sketches, the best option is to take quality photos to avoid losing details after scanning.
In this post, we will be live-tracing the following image:
2. Photoshop: prepare your image for tracing
Once you scan or photograph your artwork, bring it to Photoshop. Clean the image well and use the image settings to adjust it (levels, saturation, contrast, brightness, sharpness,…). Cleaning up the image is important for getting a properly traced work in Illustrator.
- Brightness and contrast
To get a much whiter background, increase the brightness parameter (pick a value between 0 and 20) and reduce the contrast (between 0 and -30) to give more details to the watercolor.
- Hue and saturation
You can skip this step if your image’s quality is good. However, it’s possible that the scan affects hues, resulting in muted colors. If that happens, we recommend you to improve the quality with some saturation adjustments.
Important info: avoid oversaturating your image, otherwise, hues will overlap and color nuances will disappear.
In this last step, we will modify the levels to make the background as white and clean as possible and get the highest level of detail in the image. Make sure the black and white sliders fit the data in the histogram; otherwise, you will lose information in your image.
This is the ideal time to make any color adjustments in Photoshop. Changing color in Illustrator is tiresome and complicated, so get your file ready before moving on to the next step.
When saving the image, make sure you set quality to 8 (high quality) or 10 (maximum quality) depending on the device you are working with, as your computer may run slow when working with large files.
Illustrator: time to live-trace your image
Once the image is clean and properly adjusted, export it to Illustrator. Bring it to a new artboard and select a suitable size for the tracing process (you can also choose a canvas with a minimum size of A4). Then, go to Object > Image Trace > Make.
We just converted our raster image into vector artwork. At this point, you need to modify different parameters to get an optimal result. We recommend you to choose High Fidelity Photo from the Preset drop-down menu to get a quality composition. Also, make sure you reduce the Noise parameter to its minimum and focus on increasing the Colors value (between 70%-80%) to avoid white spots and infinite anchor points. Be careful not to set Colors to 100% because the more color, the larger your file will become.
When you finish adjusting the Image Trace settings, convert the tracing result into paths. You can do this by clicking on Expand directly from the Control panel or by choosing Object > Live Trace > Expand. After that, right-click and select Ungroup to work with the components of the traced artwork individually.
Make sure to clean up the resulting image properly. To remove the white background without leaving unwanted spots, insert an additional layer below, and use a neutral and contrasting color. This way, you will be able to identify these undesired areas quickly.
Use the Eraser tool to delete edges and irregular paths, or the Pencil tool to smooth edges and imperfections.
Remember that, after tracing your image, you cannot scale it up. If your composition is a stains collection, don’t forget to group each of them separately.
Choose a light background or a texture simulating watercolor paper to make the watercolors stand out and look great.
Things to remember:
Tip 1: Make sure your initial file is suitable for tracing, meaning that it has quality, proper resolution, and adequate size
Tip 2: Too many adjustments in Photoshop will cause the image to lose detail, so, keep it simple
Tip 3: When working in Illustrator, try to use the recommended values and clean up the image properly
We really hope that you found it useful and that you apply it to your personal designs. We’re looking forward to seeing what you can do! Create unique traced images, share them on Freepik and start making money! If you aren’t a Freepik Contributor yet and want to join us, click on the button below and begin your creative journey with us!