How to Use Image Trace in Illustrator
  • By Design Bundles
  • 12 Jul 2021
  • 8 Mins
  • Illustrator Tutorials

How to Use Image Trace in Illustrator

The Image Trace Tool in Adobe Illustrator is a super quick way of turning any image (raster) into a scalable graphic (vector). The vector file is perfect for high quality printing at any size. When using the Image Trace tool, it will convert your file into paths and points which you could then edit or recolor.

See our Illustrator tutorial section for more great tips!

Step 1 - Open your image in Adobe Illustrator

Drag and drop your image into Illustrator or within Illustrator select File > Open and find your file on your computer. I am using this image of the Zooky Squash Font by Missy Meyer.

image trace illustrator 2020

Step 2 - Open your Image Trace Menu

Quick image trace

To create a quick image trace, select your image using the Selection Tool (the black arrow) and in your sidebar quick actions, you will see Image Trace. You will then be presented with various different options. You can experiment with these as you will achieve different effects depending on the complexity of the image. If you use this setting, you can jump to Step 6. Continue through the steps to have more control over the settings to create more precise results.

image trace illustrator 2020

image trace illustrator 2020

Image trace settings

Open the image trace settings, by selecting Window > Image Trace.

image trace illustrator 2020

Step 3 - Set up your live preview

Select ‘Preview’ in the bottom left for a live view, this will help you when toggling your settings. Within the image trace menu, you can also open the ‘Advanced’ arrow for settings, these all help to get your perfect results. Step 4 will break down these settings for you.

image trace illustrator 2020

Step 4 - Amend your settings

Adjust the Mode

If you have color that you want to retain in the design, you can select Color. If there are shades of grey you want to retain, select Grayscale. For my design, I don’t need any color, so I will select Black and White. 

Adjust the Threshold

You can then use the Threshold slider bar to amend the amount of color/grayscale/black and white you want to retain. This setting will be completely unique to your design and desired outcome.

Adjust the Paths and Corners

Move the Paths slider to set the number of paths within your design. Reducing your amount of paths will create sharp/blunt edges and too many paths can create smaller jagged edges. You can zoom into your design to make sure your edges look perfect. For my design, I have lots of curved edges so I want these to be as smooth as possible, for best results my slider is at 80%.

Move the Corners slider to set the number of corners within your design. Reducing the amount of corners will create softer, more curved corners and creating more corners will create sharper edged corners. Soft, curved edges are important for my design, so my corner slider is set to 80%

Adjust the Noise

The noise slider will determine how much of your design will get recognized within the amount of pixels set. This setting will be more important for more complex designs with various shapes overlapping on a design. Adjusting this slider to higher pixels will eliminate smaller parts of the design. Due to the simplicity of my design, this slider doesn’t change the overall shape of my image trace.

image trace illustrator 2020

Step 5 - Create a Fill or Stroke

Once you are happy with your Image Trace, you can tweak the rest of the settings to create a Fill or a Stroke. You can also toggle whether you would like it to delete off the white background. 

image trace illustrator 2020

Step 6 - Expand your design

In your right toolbar, you will see the Expand button. Select this to create your vector! As you can see, when selecting the Direct Selection Tool (white arrow) my design is now made up of paths and points. 

image trace illustrator 2020

You now have full control and flexibility of this design - you can tweak, add and delete points to change your shapes. Now that you have a vector file, you can also see our tutorial to find out how to create SVGs in Illustrator to enable the design for your cutting machine. 

If you enjoyed this tutorial, we think you’d love to learn how to make a vintage t-shirt design in Adobe Illustrator. 

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