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How to Use Adobe Illustrator's "Image Trace"

October 26, 2021  |  
How to Use Adobe Illustrator's

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Ever wanted your image to be sharper or had a print shop tell you your image is “too low res”? Well, image tracing can help. The Image Trace feature in Adobe Illustrator can take a raster image (one made of pixels) and convert it into a vector image (one made of paths). A vector image can be printed at any size, and is easy to adjust.

Follow these steps to ensure you transform your raster image into a vector image properly, using the Image Trace tool in Adobe Illustrator

Lesson 1: Preview

Open the Image Trace panel by going to the top bar navigation and selecting “Window” > “Image Trace” and click the “Preview” box so a checkmark appears.

This will trigger Image trace to produce a vector version of your image. If you like how it looks, you could skip to Lesson 4, but if not keep reading along.

Troubleshooting: All the buttons greyed out or unclickable? Make sure the raster image you want to trace is selected.

Lesson 2: Select Your Mode

In the Image Trace panel click the “Mode” drop down menu to select a suitable option. For each option, the slider that appears below will show either: “Color”,”Grays”, or “Threshold” and adjusting the cursor’s position will affect your vector image.

While each option changes a different aspect of the image the overall effect is the same: lower on the scale makes your image more simple, and higher makes it more intricate.

It’s Easy As Pie: When adjusting a color image for print, remember that having too many colors can affect your print quality.

Lesson 3: Advanced

If adjusting the mode slider isn’t enough you can perfect your trace by selecting the "Advanced" extension on the Image Trace panel. This will open up the sliders for "Paths", "Corners", and "Noise". These sliders, much like the mode slider, can affect each image differently - so it’s good to experiment with different settings to achieve the best result.

Let’s explore those options:

A. Paths: Too low a path and your image could become contorted. Too high and it could become jagged.

B. Corners: Less corners will soften your image and round out edges. More corners will sharpen slight curves into points.

C. Noise: A lower number will cause more detail to be pulled into the vector trace. Sometimes this means picking up unintended shapes, and other times it is a welcome addition. A higher number will result in the program focusing on larger shapes and expelling smaller aspects.

Lesson 4: Expand

It’s time to bring your new vector image to life! Go back to the top bar navigation and select "Object" > "Image Trace" > "Expand".

Now you’re ready to make edits, or just save as a .pdf, .svg. ai, or .eps file.

Is your image ready to go? Upload it to our Sticker Maker to transform it into custom products!

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