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How to Convert a Photograph into Abstract Line Art

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Line Art is an ancient and basic form of generating large graphics. This art is often seen on tiled walls, bamboo stick designs and on your blanket embroidery. In this tutorial, we will cover the same technique to convert a photograph into vector line art. Let’s get started!

Final Image Preview

Below is the final image we will be working towards. Want access to the full Vector Source files and downloadable copies of every tutorial, including this one? Join Vector Plus for just 9$ a month.

Step 1

Create a new document and click on File > Place. Select your image/photograph and hit Place to import the image on stage. (Uncheck the Link box if you want to retain the image file permanently in your document). Next, select the image and lock it using Command + 2.

Step 2

Depending on the complexity of your image, decide on the number of shades that are forming the image. Here, I’ve defined three different shades. i.e. blank for the brightest parts, single lines for medium shade, and intersecting lines for the darkest shade. You may further play with the number of lines to define different shades.

Step 3

Grab the Line Segment Tool (\) from Tools pallet and draw a horizontal line of width approximately larger than your image. Place it on the top most part of your traceable area and stroke it with any contrasting color.

Step 4

Select the line and click on Object > Transform > Transform Each (Alt + Shift + Command + D). Enter -10px for Vertical Move and click on Copy. Next, press Command + D until the lines reach to the bottom most part of your image.
(Note: you may enter any value for the vertical move that is fairly legible in proportion to your image dimensions. I have used -15px here).

Step 5

Select all the lines and Alt + Drag to duplicate. Next, rotate the duplicate set to 90 degrees and place it away from your artboard, as we will use it later.

Step 6: Vertical Tracing

Start from the top most line and resize each line horizontally in such a way that its end points touch the borders of the traceable area. You may do this with the Selection Tool (V). Our aim is to cover the traceable area with horizontal lines.

Step 7

While resizing each line, exclude the bright regions. At some stages, you will find all types of shades falling in the same horizontal path. For that, duplicate and place the lines wherever the dark shades appear.

Step 8

Select all the horizontal lines and lock them by hitting Command + 2. Next, grab the duplicate set that we created in Step 5 and place it on the left most side of the traceable area.

Step 9: Horizontal Tracing

Start from the left most line and follow the same procedure as in Step 6 and Step 7. Resize each line vertically to cover the dark shades. Exclude the brightest parts, cover the medium shades and intersect the darkest shades as shown in the figure. Duplicate the lines if needed. Follow this until you reach the right most side of the image.

Step 10

After the tracing is done, unlock all (Command + Alt + 2) and remove the background image. Select all lines and group them (Command + G). You can play with the stroke color and width to achieve the best result.

Conclusion and Scope

The technique described in this tutorial is a two way tracing technique. i.e. vertical and horizontal. You may further include a diagonal tracing procedure for enhancement. The end result can be used for Kiosks, large posters, and other designs. Thanks for your valuable time. Hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

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