Saturday, 18 February 2012

Illustrator Live Trace

A reader raised the question why I don’t use the Live Trace instead of tracing the sketch with the Pen tool. It’s simply because the lines of my sketch aren’t ‘clean’ enough to make it work with Live Trace. The outcome depends a lot on your orignal.Not that you can’t do magic tricks with this tool, of course you can. 
If I traced my pencil drawing first with a thin black marker and scanned this version of the image, it might have been perfect to use Live Trace instead. I simply wanted to show how the Pen tool works and how I draw most of my illustrations, that was the point of the movie.
If you are in the mood for some experimenting with the Live Trace tool then I could give you some info that might help you. In some case (most cases?) you'll get a pretty result already without tweaking too much on the settings. Take for example the picture below. I've just used the 'Photo High Fidelity' Live Trace option which gave this result (in a blink of the eye).

However if you're after more advanced control on how Live Trace will trace your image then this info can come in handy. After selecting your image you go toObject > Live Trace > Tracing Options. This will popup the Tracing Options windows which gives you the possibility to tweak with the settings. When you click the Preview checkbox you'll see the immediate effect on your image, unchecking it brings back the original image. So you'll need this while experimenting.

  • The lower the number you set in the 'Path Fitting' option the tighter the image will be traced. But make sure it's not too low otherwise you could get a jaggy effect. The higher the number the smoother the effect but you might loose detail in the process. So experiment with this setting.
  • The 'Minimum Area' option defines the minimum area that will be traced, which will help to avoid little specs of being traced. For example if you use 12px as minimum area, a 11px or smaller area won't be traced.
  • The 'Corner Angle' option sets the sharpness of corner angles. The lower the number, the sharper the corners.
If you go to Object > Live Trace > Expand the image shows the paths and you can still tweak and edit whatever you like, but don't forget to ungroup the object.
A very extended white paper(PDF) about live tracing can be found on the Adobe website: Creating Vector Content Using Live Trace


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