Martini Hour 086, In Which We Vectorize Our Rasters

First, new feature, dekeLounge Quote of the Week:

“And by donuts, I mean onion rings.” —Deke

We continue our DekeLounge QuasiOfficial Illustrator Month this week (in honor of Deke’s new book which I swear is very soon to be a reality, we have the sleep deprivation and stress symptoms to prove it. It’s why we do an audio-only podcast) with a discussion of Live Trace. Pixels become paths, as we discuss how this nifty feature allows you to trace your Photoshop file and turn it into vectors. I’ve always been sort of intimidated by this feature; I think it’s the name. And the fact I start out being intimidated by Illustrator in general. Why is it “live?” (Can features hunt you down and swallow you whole?) Well, clearly I overcame my waryness enough in the course of this week’s Martini Hour to make this graphic:

Here are the key things you need to know about Live Trace to try it yourself:

Start by placing a pixel-based image in Illustrator, then click the Live Trace button and you’re done. OK, see you next week! (Just kidding, I’m not that tired.)

It turns out thankfully that “live” is really a synonym for “dynamic,” meaning that you can revisit the trace by clicking on this mysterious icon in the control panel. What would you call this thing?

Some other controls of note:

  • Threshold tells Illustrator which way, black or white, to send the various pixels in your original, based on their luminance value. Even in a “black and white” raster image, there are shades of gray which provide antialiasing. Threshold allows you to tell which ones go in which direction.
  • Minimum Area allows you to tell Illustrator to ignore areas which don’t mean the Minimum Pixel Requirement to exist in your trace. You might want to increase it to delete schnivels in your scan, or you may need to decrease it to make sure the dots over the letters i in Martini survive.
  • Adjusted Image is the basis for Illustrator’s trace. You can see it during the Live Trace process so that you understand what Illustrator is getting at.
  • Ignore White is a good option for black and white projects because you basically only want paths around the black stuff. White can fend for itself on the background.
  • Expand, which I find to be a misleading name, turns your whole trace into editable paths. I propose “give me paths” as an alternate name for this command.

Listen to the show. Try it out yourself and let us know what you think about Live Trace. Here’s the regular-quality audio file. You can stream, or for best results, right-click and choose Download or Save. Here’s the high-res version; you’ll want to download rather than stream. And don’t forget our usual plea to subscribe via iTunes.

Next entry:Martini Hour 087, In Which You Wonder Where the Heck We’ve Been

Previous entry:Photoshop Mastery, Celtic Knots, and Other Mysterious Digressions

  • export to jpeg

    Hi Deke and Colleen- in my spare time I’ve been teaching myself Illustrator and came across a rather odd issue. I am hoping to find the answer in Deke’s forth-coming book (I waited so long for the CS4 edition that Adobe came out with a new version) but perhaps you can address it on Martini Hour in the mean time. Please forgive me if you have already, as I will confess to being a couple of weeks behind in my listening. Despite my not so subtle attempts to get invited to Martini Hour (I posted a picture of my bare feet, taken at the aptly named Barefoot Bar in Maui) to ask in person, I guess I will have to settle for asking here.

    The question is- I begin in Photoshop, adjusting the images to my little hearts content. I then move to Illustrator to finish off the compostion (adding text, vector graphics, and things at which Illustrator excells). I then want to send this masterpiece off to get printed. Unfortunately my photolab, which I use for printing, only accepts files in JPEG format. When using the export to JPEG command, Illustrator resolutely chops off the edges of the document, down to the visible artwork, forsaking the dimensions specified in the Artboard or New Document dialog boxes. Any thoughts on exporting a JPEG image with the “white” space still around it?

  • Yay for secret handshakes!

    Since Illustrator crops the JPEG to wherever there’s art, you just need to have SOMETHING there the size of your whole document to “trick” it, essentially. (Oddly, I’ve noticed Save For Web seems to crop to your artboard regardless, but you probably can’t use that in this case)

    Anyway, if you make a rectangle the size of your artboard with no fill or stroke, and just place it behind all your artwork, you should get the results you want.

  • And apparently I cannot

    And apparently I cannot delete comments when I post them in the wrong place. Whoops!

    Um… so… great show guys! It was nice having you back “live” again after a few weeks. Looking forward to seeing the book!

  • secret indeed

    Thanks, Valkyrie. I’ll give it a go.

  • Zune Marketplace

    Hey Really want to get into Martini Hour as I’ve enjoyed:

    Deke’s new book (Photoshop CS5 one on One - can’t wait for Illustrator) Deke-pod

    & Photoshop Top 40

    However on Zune Marketplace I can’t find the podcast.. Could someone please post the URL for the podcast or. Maybe add it to the marketplace… :)



    Sorry this has nothing to do with the post….

  • I totally Agree with you Chiverito

    We Want the Podcast on Zune..

    Black Seals ... White Reveals…!

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