How To Image Trace In Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator has built-in tools to assist with image tracing for the user. The image tracing feature automatically transforms an image or photograph into a vector format. Vectorizing a pixel-based image in the illustrator makes it scalable, all while preserving quality.

To trace the image, first, open it in illustrator. Once the image appears on the screen, select the object you wish to trace by clicking on the image. You will see small handles appear when it is selected. Go to Window and open Image Trace. That will open up the Image Trace panel. Select the Mode from the drop-down menu and choose the color option. The image would be traced.

The Image tracing tool in Illustrator is used to generate a variety of complicated posters and web drawings.

To know more about the trace feature of illustrator, keep reading.

Preparing An Image

Spend some time refining your images or sketch for tracing so they can be processed faster and better, and so the outcome can be edited more easily after tracing.

It is critical to use an image-editing application to remove anything unnecessary from the image. Remove any particles or scratches present on the canvas. 

Although image trace does not perform well with 1-bit images, it works extremely well with grayscale images. So, when refining sketches, brushstrokes, letterings, or the like, leave some space along the artwork’s edges.

Image Trace is more than capable of handling it and producing smoother curves.

Pre-set Image Trace Feature Settings

The illustrator’s trace feature has some options that are already present in the system. If the need for your project, you just have to open the image, select image trace and the menu with pre-set options would appear.

The Mode has six different options; Auto-color, Grey-scale, Low Color, High Color, Black and White, and Outline. These are the pre-set options. The pre-set that you will use would appear in the preview.  

As the settings are in place, the image will be vectorized using High Fidelity Photo, and it will essentially resemble the original photograph. Low Fidelity Photo makes the picture appear more like a painting while yet being fairly realistic.

You can save your own preset to use again on other images as well. When you have edited the specs to your desire, you can click on the Preset panel menu and select Save as New Preset.

You can change the settings if the effects are not what you desire.

Using The Image Trace feature With Advanced Settings

You start by following the same procedure, by opening the image and selecting the object. There is a variety of features to get the object how you need it. You can edit the colors and color scale that you wish to use.

For example, if you want to create a tracing effect between 6 and 16 colors, you can adjust the color slider to the right to increase the number of colors. It goes up to 30 colors.

You can get the image traced in greyscale as well. Just select Mode, and a drop-down menu will appear. Then select Black and White, and then click Trace on the bottom right.    

The preset threshold of the Black and White Logo tracing result is 128. The image doesn’t have too many details in that setting. If you move the slider to the right, you will see the color get darker and the image more detailed.

You can trace images in Illustrator using the drawing tools as well. This is a longer procedure, but it allows you a lot more creative control over your output.

Tracing Image By Outline

Users can use the pen tool, pencil, brushes, or any shape tool to trace the outline of an image. Open the image in Adobe Illustrator and then embed it. After reducing the opacity to about 60%, lock the image.

Your tracing process will be streamlined by this step. The tracing trail is easier to discern when the opacity is reduced, and locking the image prevents accidental image movement. The tracing trail is easier to discern when the opacity is reduced, and locking the image prevents accidental image movement.

Trace the outline with the Pen Tool (P). The first and last anchor points of a path should be connected if you wish to add color to the path. Use the shape tool, pencil tool, or paintbrush to work on some details of the outline.

You can also make a separate layer before you start drawing the outline.

The Live Trace Tool in Illustrator

The live trace tool is great for linear art and images. Live trace has been improved to create cleaner and more accurate linear art in Illustrator. Just go to the Object > Live trace >Tracing options.

Select Preview and then grey scale in Mode. You can set the settings of the lines to your preference. It can be a little time-consuming as it takes some tries to get the exact look you want. When you are satisfied with the art, go to Object > Live trace > Expand.

The cleaner and smoother traced line art would be the end result. 

Uses Of Image Trace In Illustrator

In Illustrator, you can use the Image Trace feature to convert hand-drawn pictures into vector images as well. The tool is useful for artists and designers in tracing pictures and creating unique shapes, and logos.

When you insert a bitmap image into your document, you can use Image Trace in two ways: through the Control panel’s default presets or through the Image Trace panel.


Illustrator is a design tool with a wide range and various useful features. Image tracing is a transforming feature that allows plenty of creative freedom in different projects. It changes an image to a vector object without losing its quality.

You can easily access the image trace feature in Adobe Illustrator and let your creative prowess out. It does take a few attempts to get an idea of how the tools work and get a clean image trace.  

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