Using Live Trace in Adobe Illustrator CS3

Adobe Illustrator CS3 includes a tool called “Live Trace” that turns pixels into a vector. A vector can be scaled up or down and it will not lose its quality, so this is a better choice for designs that may be used in a number of different contexts, such as a business logo.

Live Trace is the easiest way to convert a photo or piece of art into a vector, and using the tool’s options will give you a controlled and personalized rendering. Give yourself time to explore all the options, and you’ll find that you have lots of creative new ideas, as well as the technical benefits.

To try out Live Trace, first bring a photo into Adobe Illustrator Cs3. In this case, we’re using a photo of a flower.

When you click on the photo with the selection tool you will notice the Live Trace feature at the top of your screen. To get an idea of what the Live Trace feature does, click on it. As you can see, the result is unclear and doesn’t resemble the original photo. Live Trace will always put out a black and white rendering unless you use the options palette.

Let’s take the photo back to its original state. A shortcut to undo the Live Trace is “control + Z (PC)or Apple + Z (Macs)

Once the photo is in its original state, click on it again with the selection tool. Next to the Live Trace button there is a small drop down arrow. To keep the image photo-like, try modes such as “color 6,” “color 16,” or “photo low fidelity” and “photo high fidelity.” Those options will try to render the graphic in a photo-like fashion.

The “photo high fidelity” option was used to create our flower vector.

But what if you want your flower to look like an illustration?

Within the option bar there are more choices. The very last of the choices is “Tracing Options.” Return your photo to its original state, click on it with the selection tool and click on “Tracing Options.”

A box will pop up with numerous options for you to choose from. Now’s the time to start playing with the different effects! Check the Preview box on the right side so you can see what changes you’re making to your photograph. Play with the different possibilities to see what best suits your taste.

To get the vector flower as shown below, we used the color mode with the number of colors set at 5.

The possibilities are endless with Live Trace. Try the other options and see what cool renderings you can come up with.