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Vootie's picture
1598 pencils

Converting Rasters to Vectors Using Live Trace in Illustrator

Excerpted from Real World Adobe Illustrator CS5 (Peachpit Press)

By Mordy Golding

Certain Illustrator features, such as Pathfinder, are incredibly useful and, as a result, are used many times a day. Features such as 3D are also extremely cool, but they aren’t used as often. Every once in a while, a feature comes along in Illustrator that is cool and fun to use but that is also practical enough that you use it on a regular basis. Live Trace is such a feature.

The concept is simple enough: Take a raster-based image, and convert it into a vector-based image. You would want to do this to get around the limitations of a raster-based file. For example, if you want to scale artwork up in size or if you want to edit the artwork easily and use spot colors, you want to work with a vector-based file.

Separate applications (such as Adobe Streamline) and Illustrator plug-ins (such as Free Soft’s Silhouette) have the ability to convert raster content into vectors, but Live Trace is a step far above and beyond what those tools are capable of doing. One of the main reasons for this is because of how Live Trace works.

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Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

pokie's picture
1217 pencils

It should be added that it sucks for making stuff that should be vector back to vector. Such as logos. Live trace sucks for that. I always redraw with the pen tool.

Art D. Rector's picture
3164 pencils

Just had a flashback from 1992. Do we still need auto trace? That's something that would never even cross my mind these days.

wgzn's picture
2122 pencils

there are still PLENTY of needs Art. especially in the sign/industrial industries, where this kind of functionality is still important.

the thing about this that pisses me off is that adobe had a dedicated application that did this. it was called streamline. and it did a way better job than the current built in tracer does.

there was also that really cool. KPT "vector effects" that kicked the crap out of illustrators built in 3d tool. corel eventually bought it and killed it. i still keep an old G3 around running like illustrator 8. just for the 3 times a year i need that functionality

Art D. Rector's picture
3164 pencils

Well I know there are still uses for vector graphics, but I usually found the trade-off not worth the effort when it came to auto trace programs like streamline. Even in the best circumstances you ended up with a RIP-choking eps with way too many nodes and weird twisted lines (I still see a lot of that in the examples provided in the above link as well - doesn't look like the program has improved much imho).

Years ago we would charge $10 to streamline a graphic - just drop them in the program and give the client whatever came out on the other end. One huge sports equipment corp came in with something like 500 products they wanted streamlined for clip art purposes - they could have bought a computer and streamline, hired a temp artist and did it themselves for what we charged. I batched the whole lot of them while eating lunch.

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