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Quick Tip: How to Use the New Image Trace in Adobe Illustrator CS6


Today we will learn the new features of the tracing engine in Adobe Illustrator CS6 and talk about its new functions. We will trace a photo, a sketch and a texture; then we will compare the results between Adobe Illustrator CS5 and CS6. Let's get started!

In this tutorial I'll use a photo a strawberry (credit to deviantART user StockProject1) ; the sketch was kindly provided by Victoria Vasilyeva and the texture (credit to deviantART user ~kingkool6).

Step 1

In Adobe Illustrator CS6 the settings of the tracing is in the new Image Trace panel (Window > Image Trace).

This allows us to use other panels and tools while tracing. Such features did not exist in Adobe Illustrator CS5 as well as in earlier releases; the setting of the tracing was made in the Tracing Options dialog box, and then it was impossible to access the other objects and interfaces.

Step 2

The presets have also changed between Adobe Illustrator CS5 and CS6

The new preset, "Silhouettes" allows quick creation of vector silhouettes.

After the Expand command we get the vector object with the optimal amount of points.

Step 3

Let us evaluate the quality of the tracing using the same preset High Fidelity Photo in Adobe Illustrator CS5 and Adobe Illustrator CS6.

Note, in Adobe Illustrator CS6 you can set several of the Palette values. This parameter sets while the vector image is been made in color or in greyscale. As you can see, the new tracing engine in Adobe Illustrator CS6 shows better results.

There is a new feature in Adobe Illustrator according to which you can instantly check out your original image. To do so, press and hold the eye icon near the View option.

Step 4

There were some changes in the Colors parameter. This parameter specifies the number of colors which the final vector image will consist of. In Adobe Illustrator CS5 the Max Colors options can be set in the number values, in Adobe Illustrator CS6 the Colors option can be set accurately in percentage.

Step 5

You can get access to additional options of the settings if you press the Advanced key in the Image Trace panel. Now we have an opportunity to choose a tracing method. The Abutting method creates cutout paths. The contours of neighbor objects match.

The overlapping method creates stacked paths, the contours of neighbor objects overlay.

Step 6

The Path Fitting option defines the accuracy of the tracing of the initial raster image. In Adobe Illustrator CS5 the smaller value allows to create a more accurate contour, the bigger- the rough contour. In Adobe Illustrator CS6 it is vice versa, the bigger the value is the more accurate contour we get.

The Minimum Area option corresponds to the Noise option in Adobe Illustrator CS6. This option specifies the size of the smallest areas of the initial image, which will be taken into account while tracing.

The Corner Angle option in Abode Illustrator CS5 corresponds with the Corners option in Adobe Illustrator CS6 and is been set in percentage. The higher value we set, the bigger amount of angles the final image will have.

In Adobe Illustrator CS6 there are no such function of the tracing as the Blur and the Resample. In Adobe Illustrator CS5 the Blur function is for the reducing the number of small artifacts and smoothing the jagged edges in the final image. The Resample option allows speeding up the process of tracing for big size images, losing the quality of the output image.

Step 7

Let's see how the new tracing engine works with sketches. Apply the preset Black & White Logo. The tracing of the sketch in Adobe Illustrator CS5 shows good results.

When we use the same preset in Adobe Illustrator CS6 the majority of small details disappear.

Unfortunately, you need to change the parameters of the tracing manually in order to get the same results in Adobe Illustrator CS6.

Step 8

Let's try to make the tracing of the texture. We will use the same Black&White Logo preset. As we can see, the result of the tracing in Adobe Illustrator CS5 looks better than in Adobe Illustrator CS6

I've used different presets and operated the parameters manually, but I still couldn't get the result which would correspond to the result that can be made in Adobe Illustrator CS5.


The new tracing engine really works well with the photos and allows quick and accurate vector silhouettes. But when you use it for tracing sketches and textures you will need to operate all the tracing processes manually, and that will not always show good result. If you work with the sketches and textures, the Live Trace feature in Adobe Illustrator CS5 shows good results when you use the presets. Have you used the trace features in Adobe CS6 yet? If so, what do you think?

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