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How to vectorize an image in Adobe Illustrator

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There are two types of digital images: vectors and rasters.

Raster images contain a lot of detail and are composed of individual pixels. You can’t increase their quality without losing some.

A vector image is made up of lines and shapes. These images are usually less detailed but can be made as large as you want without losing any detail.

If you have a raster image that is too small to suit your needs, you can convert it to a vector using Adobe Illustrator. This is a simple and quick process that produces great results. This tutorial will show you how to convert an image into a vector with Adobe Illustrator.

What is a vector image?

A vector picture is a scalable graphic made up of values and not pixels.

The majority of images you will find online are raster images. To convey an image, raster images use square pixels (bits or color). Vector graphics communicate color by using scalable color polygons. Vector images are crisp and clean because they use dynamic color sections rather than static squares.

The geometry which comprises vector images is formulaic, making them resolution-independent. This means that images can be scaled up and down without losing quality, as the vector images’ color polygons will still retain their shape. This is not true for images that are raster, as the color information in these images can be stretched when scaled.

The file formats of the different types of images can be easily distinguished. Common image types such as JPG and GIF are vector images, while vector images usually have the SVG or EPS format.

You’ll be able to scale any image you find to the desired size once you have learned how to convert a JPG to a vector using Adobe Illustrator. Let’s start converting an image to a vector.

Step 1: Select an image to convert to vector

The image you choose won’t be used in the following steps. However, larger images may take longer to edit. Some images work better as vector images than other images.

Editing a single subject is better than editing a landscape or similar. The image should be white or transparent with a low resolution. You will need it in JPG, GIF or PNG.

The image of Ryu, from the Street Fighter series, will be used. This is a great example for many reasons. It’s one subject. Because it is recognizable, it lends itself well to a vector format. This format is often used to create logos, icons, and recognizable images.

Step 2: Choose an Image Trace Preset

You can vectorize images with Illustrator’s special tool. Image Trace is a special tool that allows you to vectorize images. It comes with several presets that automate most of the work.

You should choose the Image Trace preset closest to the image you are converting. Each preset produces different results.

Open your Illustrator image and click on the button to activate the image options. These options should appear at the topmost of your Illustrator window.

To select your Preset, click the dropdown arrow beside Image Trace. We will be using Low Fidelity Photo. To trace, click it.

Step 3: Vectorize your image with Image Trace

Click the button and your image will automatically go through the tracing process. Although you will notice some changes in your image, the overall effect should be the same. The following image shows a closeup of the image before we started the tracing process.

Although the original image has lost much of its detail, the traced version looks much better. No matter how zoomed in, the color shapes don’t pixelate.

The image should be zipped out so that it looks almost identical. This is the final image before any editing.

Although the top image might appear sharper in certain instances, the quality vectorized images are still quite impressive.

Step 4: Fine-tune your traced image

After you have traced the image, you can open the Photo Trace panel in the Windows menu to fine tune the conversion.

To switch between grayscale, color, black and white, select Mode. Drag the Colors slider to simplify your vector image or to add detail.

You can save your settings if you are happy with them and wish to reuse them. To do this, click on the Manage presets link next to the Presets option. Your settings can be saved as a new preset.

Step 5: Ungroup Colors

Now your image is organized into colored shapes that match the original raster. To vectorize your image you will need to divide these color groups and edit them. Select the traced image, then click the Expand link at the top of your window.

This will let you view the combined shapes that make up the vector picture. Each shape is highlighted in blue. Next, right-click on the image and choose Ungroup from the menu. This will allow you to separate your color shapes into their individual parts.

You’ll notice that your color groups are now separated in your Layers panel.

Step 6: Modify your vector image

After you convert a raster file to a vector image, you can edit it as much as you like.

Start by deleting any color groups that you do not want. Click on a shape to select whole color groups. This will select all the groups that have the same color as your Direct selection tool ( a).

To delete the shapes, hit Backspace. You can also modify or expand a specific color group by selecting a layer with the Direct selection tool. Once you have selected a layer, you can fill in any gaps or add color to your design with the Brush or Pen tools.


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