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Adobe Illustrator CS2 Live Trace Tool

One very common task for graphic designers is to convert a preexisting bitmap image into a vector image. There are many ways this can be done. In AdobeR IllustratorR, the new Live Trace Tool makes this a simple task. Let's see how.

1. Our first step in this example is to start a new Illustrator project with the same width and height as the bitmap image.

2. Next, use the Place command to add your bitmap image into the project. Click File, Place from the Menu Bar.

3. Selection Tool. Your image should be selected by default when you use the Place command. If it is not selected, select it with the Selection Tool.

4. In the center of the Control Palette, you will see the Tracing Presets and Option button which looks like a small arrow. Click on this button and choose Tracing Options from the bottom of the drop-down menu.

5. In the Tracing Options dialog box, place a checkmark in the Preview box which will turn on the auto preview. You will notice your image change to black and write.

We could stop here and save our image with the default settings. But, usually you will have a certain project in mind when you do this process and, at this stage, your client will not be certain just what he wants. He might ask you for a few variations to choose from. The default settings for the Tracing Options will give you a good first sample. Click the Trace button to accept the setting.

6. The image should still be selected. Go to the Control Palette and click on the Expand button. You will see the converted image change into individual components which can now be edited. Notice all the blue squares. At this point the black details have the white background. Let's remove this background to make the image ready for production. Deselect the image.

7. Direct Selection Tool. Use the Direct Selection tool to click on the white background of the image. Not all of the white color is selected. We want to remove all of the white. So click Select, Same, Fill Color from the Menu Bar.

8. Now that all the white color is selected, click on your Delete or Backspace key on your keyboard. Only the traced details in the image remain.

Now we will create a few more variations for your client. This is easy and can be done within the Tracing Options dialog box. Repeat Steps 1 - 5.

9. To get our variations, we will use the Threshold Slider to adjust the balance of black and white in our image. A low number, such as 50, will give you thinner lines and less detail. As you can see, at a low number my mouse has thin lines but does not have any hands. On the other end of the scale, a higher number will increase the amount of detail but the lines will become thicker until the image almost disappears in to a solid black blob. By adjusting the Threshold number, you are telling Illustrator to change all the pixels below the Threshold number to white and all pixels higher than the number to black.

10. Repeat Steps 6 - 9 for each variation.

Adobe Illustrator CS2 Workspace



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