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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Drawing in Adobe Illustrator Part I - Live Trace

Live Trace in Adobe Illustrator
Since there are so many great ways to draw in Adobe Illustrator it might be good to explore that further.  It is not uncommon to find a photo that looks similar to what you wish to draw that way you have a realistic basic structure to work with for your own drawing.  One great feature for working with photos is Live Trace.  This allows you to turn a photo into a line drawing.
Some photos will work well in live trace and some will not.  Using a clean image with good contrasts will help you have success with this technique.  So let’s dig in and walk through it.  Launch Adobe Illustrator, and open a new page.
There are a couple ways you can add a photo to your page. 
  • Click “File” from the main navigation menu, from the drop down select “Place” this will launch a screen where you can search on your computer for the photo.  Once you find it highlight the image you wish to add by clicking once on it, then select the “Place” button at the bottom. 
  • Another great way to add an image to your page is to drag the image on to the open window.

Once you see the image on the page click once to select it.  You should see a blue box with handles around the image.  You should also see some options on the control palette.  By default the control palette is horizontal and just under the main navigation.  If you don’t see the control palette go into the main navigation “Window” and select “Control Palette” to add it to the page.

With the image selected there is a button in the control palette called “Live Trace” select it. You will then see a progress bar as it converts your image.  If the newly traced image is still selected you will see a specific menu with more options in the “Control Palette”.

Check out the presets drop down (click the arrow to see the options), it is probably on a default setting but I tend to change things to simple trace or even an inked drawing.  Try a few out and see how it looks, you can always undo if you don’t like it.  After trying several I ended up going with the Grayscale preset.
Directly to the right of the preset button there is a little square box.  Click the mouse once on the box (make sure your image is still selected).  I decided to edit the image to color and the default was at 6 colors so I clicked on it and slid the little slider to 256 colors.  Then I applied it all to see the changes made to my image.

Now with my color image still selected I went all the way over to the right and selected the Expand button.  This has now turned my entire image into vector art.  You will know this by all the blue dots in your image.  You could actually select small pieces of the image now and change colors or delete imperfections. 
Ungroup the image by going into “Object” in the main navigation, and selecting “Ungroup” from the drop down. This will allow you to easily select small pieces of the image to edit.  When it is grouped you have to use the Direct Selection tool or drill down the path.  This is a great tool but can get confusing.  When we ungroup we can select with the “Selection Tool” which for now will make editing much easier.
Click anywhere on the page to deselect the image.  Now click anywhere on the image and you will see that little portion of your image selected.  You can edit colors, delete or move around as you wish.  I decided to make some of the pink flowers red.
It does take some experimenting to get the effects you want but hopefully discovering live trace can help you get going in the right direction all the faster.

Part II of Drawing in Adobe Illustrator will discuss Pen Tools!

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