3 Easy Ways To Vectorize An Image In Illustrator

Do you know there’s more than one way to vectorize an image in Adobe Illustrator? You will get to learn all of them in this guide.

how to vectorize an image in illustrator

Ways To Vectorize An Image In Illustrator

The easiest way to vectorize an image in Illustrator is to select your raster image in Adobe Illustrator. Then, go to the Image Trace panel, choose your desired preset, and click “Trace” to vectorize the image, then finalize by going to Object > Image Trace > Expand.

Here are the various ways to vectorize an image in Illustrator:

Method 1: Using the Image Trace Panel

Step 1: Start a New Document

For the first step, launch the Illustrator software and initiate a new document by selecting the New File button. Or navigate to File > New to start a fresh workspace. This sets the stage for the vectorizing process.

new file button to start new document in illustrator

Step 2: Import Your Original Raster Image

Head to File > Place and bring in the raster file you want to convert to a vector format. Place the image in the new document.

Go to File in the top menu and click Place file to Adobe Illustrator

Step 3: Set Up Optimal Workspace

Adobe Illustrator offers different options to customize your workspace. To get the best results, go to Window > Workspace > Essentials or Essentials Classic.

select window top menu bar to select workspace and essentials classic in adobe illustrator

For more tracing features and options, you may wish to go to the Tracing workspace by going to Window > Workspace > Tracing.

select window workspace and tracing in illustrator

Step 4: Select The Image

Grab the Direct Selection Tool (the white arrow) or simply use the keyboard shortcut A. Click on your original image to select it. You’ll notice a bounding box, indicating it’s selected.

Related: Why Is Illustrator Bounding Box Not Showing

direct selection tool with white arrow from toolbar in Adobe Illustrator

Step 5: Tracing Options

Navigate to Window > Image Trace to bring up the Image Trace Panel. This panel is the control center for all your tracing options and is key to achieving the desired result.

select window from top menu to open image trace panel in illustrator

Step 6: Choose a Preset Option

The Image Trace panel contains preset options to suit different types of images. You can select from “High Fidelity Photo” for high-quality color images or “Low Fidelity Photo” for fewer paths and different results. You can even save your settings as a new preset.

customize image trace panel in illustrator

Step 7: Preview the Tracing Result

Before you go ahead, hit the Preview Box at the bottom of the Image Trace Panel. This will show you a sneak peek of your vectorized image.

enable preview in image trace panel in illustrator

Step 8: Adjust the Tracing Options

If the preview doesn’t quite match your desired result, tweak the settings. Select Advanced and a dropdown with more options appears. Use sliders like “Number of Colors,” “Paths,” “Corners,” and “Noise Slider” for different results.

advanced options in image trace panel in illustrator

Step 9: Execute the Tracing

Satisfied with the preview? The next step is to unselect Preview, then hit the Image Trace Button, finalizing the vectorizing process. Your original raster image will transform into individual elements, which can be further refined.

unselect preview and click trace button in image trace panel in illustrator

Step 10: Expand the Vectorized Image

This is where you hit the Expand Button. This action converts the composite shapes into editable color shapes. Now, your image has successfully been turned into a scalable vector graphic.

expand image trace to vectorize image in Illustrator

Method 2: Pen Tool Manual Tracing

Step 1: Import Your Image

Launch Adobe Illustrator and create a new document by going to File > New. Once the new document opens, import the image you want to vectorize by navigating to File > Place. Place the image on your artboard.

Step 2: Create A New Layer

In the Layers panel, create a new layer by clicking on the Create New Layer button. Lock the layer containing the original image to prevent any accidental changes. Make sure your new layer is selected, as this is where your tracing will be placed.

Step 3: Select The Pen Tool

Select the Pen Tool from the toolbar or simply press the P key. Your cursor will change to a pen icon, indicating that you’re in Pen Tool mode.

Step 4: Start Placing Anchor Points

Click on the artboard to place the first anchor point. A small blue square should appear, indicating the anchor point’s location.

Related: Adobe Illustrator Anchor Points Not Showing

Place additional anchor points along the outline of the shape in your image. Close the path by returning to the first anchor point and clicking on it.

Step 5: Control The Curves With Handles

After placing an anchor point, click and drag to control the curve that connects it to the next point. The further you drag, the longer the handles become, resulting in a smoother curve.

Step 6: Toggle Between Curves And Straight Lines

If you want to switch from creating curves to making straight lines, hold down the Option key on Mac or the Alt key on Windows and click on the last anchor point. This will retract the handles, allowing for a sharp angle.

Step 7: Make Corrections With Direct Selection Tool

Mistakes are inevitable, but that’s okay. If you need to adjust an anchor point or a curve, switch to the Direct Selection Tool by pressing the A key, or clicking its icon in the toolbar. Click on the anchor point you want to adjust and move it as needed.

Step 8: Complete The Tracing

Continue this process of creating and adjusting anchor points and curves until your entire image or desired section is traced. Remember to close all paths by connecting the last anchor point to the first.

Step 9: Fine-Tune Your Tracing

Once your tracing is complete, you may want to fine-tune it. Use the Direct Selection Tool to select individual anchor points and adjust the handles for smoother curves or sharper angles.

Step 10: Fill And Stroke

After you’ve completed the path, you can add fill and stroke colors to make your vector shape stand out. Go to the Color panel and choose your colors.

Method 3: Blob Brush and Eraser Tool

Step 1: Create a New Document

Launch Adobe Illustrator and navigate to File > New to start a new document. Make sure to adjust the settings to fit the type of image you’re working on.

Step 2: Place Your Original Raster Image

Import your original raster image into the new document by navigating to File > Place. Position the raster image in your workspace to prepare for the vectorizing process.

Step 3: Lock The Original Image Layer

To ensure you don’t accidentally move or alter your original raster image during the vectorizing process, lock its layer. Create a new layer for your vector work.

Step 4: Select The Blob Brush Tool

From the toolbar, pick the Blob Brush Tool, which is usually grouped with the Paintbrush Tool. You can also use the keyboard shortcut Shift + B.

Step 5: Customize Blob Brush Settings

Double-click the Blob Brush icon in the toolbar to open its settings. You can adjust the brush size, fidelity, and other options to better suit the type of image you’re working on.

Step 6: Trace with the Blob Brush Tool

With your custom settings ready, start tracing over the original raster image. You’ll notice that, unlike the Pen Tool, the Blob Brush allows you to create solid shapes as you draw.

Step 7: Use Color Groups And Fill Color

While tracing, you can easily switch between different color groups by selecting the desired fill color from the toolbar or the Color Panel. This is especially useful when working on a color image.

Step 8: Refine With The Eraser Tool

Mistakes happen! Thankfully, Illustrator’s Eraser Tool allows you to make modifications to the shapes you create with the Blob Brush. Select the Eraser Tool from the toolbar or hit the keyboard shortcut Shift + E.

Step 9: Erase Unwanted Parts

With the Eraser Tool selected, you can remove any excess areas or fine-tune your work. This tool is handy for ensuring your vectorized image retains only the parts you need.

Once you’re satisfied with your work, hide or delete the original raster image layer. Now you’re left with your brand-new vectorized image.

Final Thoughts: Raster To Vector In Illustrator

There are so many ways to vectorize an image in Illustrator and your choice will depend on the type of image you wish to vectorize and the outcome you wish to have out of the process.

The best way will always be to use the Image Trace function, but this will only work well if your image is of high resolution and sharp quality for accurate tracing.

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