How to Trace an Image in Adobe Illustrator

Mastering the Image Trace Tool: A Step-by-Step Guide

Adobe Illustrator is a helpful tool for artists and graphic designers. One of its features is image tracing, which lets you turn raster images into editable vector graphics easily.

This feature is great for resizing images without losing quality, changing the shapes within an image, or vectorizing images.

Table of Contents

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1. Preparing the Image for Tracing

Before diving into the tracing process, it's essential to prepare your image. The preparation stage ensures that the image is in the right format and condition for tracing.

Selecting and Placing an Image

  1. Selecting an Image: Choose an image that you want to trace. It could be a logo, icon, or any other graphic.

  2. Placing the Image:

    • Go to File in the menu bar at the top.

    • Click Place.

    • Select the image you want to trace and click Place again.

    • Drag the image to the desired location on the canvas​​.

Discussion on Image Types

It's advisable to use images with clear, high-contrast outlines for better tracing results.

2. Tracing Basics

Once your image is in place, you're ready to start tracing.

Accessing Image Trace

  1. With the placed image selected, go to Object > Image Trace > Make in the menu bar​.

  2. Alternatively, you can click the Image Trace button in the Control or Properties panel​.

3. Setting up the Image Trace Panel

The Image Trace Panel is where you'll adjust the settings for your trace.

Opening the Image Trace Panel

  1. Ensure your image is selected.

  2. Go to Window > Image Trace to open the Image Trace Panel​​.

Selecting the Tracing Mode

In the Image Trace Panel, select Mode > Black and White or Mode > Color depending on your image​​.

4. Adjusting Tracing Parameters

Tweaking the tracing parameters can help achieve a more accurate trace.

Threshold and Colors

  • Adjust the Threshold for black and white tracing or the Colors for color tracing to get the desired effect​.

5. Tracing Execution

Now it's time to execute the trace and see the results.

Executing the Trace

  1. Unselect Preview.

  2. Click the Trace button in the Image Trace Panel​​.

6. Reviewing and Editing the Traced Image

After tracing, you may want to make some adjustments to improve the accuracy or appearance of the traced image.

Editing Vector Paths

Use the Pen (P) or Direct Selection (A) tools to edit vector paths and make necessary adjustments​​.

7. Saving and Exporting the Traced Image

Don’t forget to save your work and export the traced image for use in other projects.

Saving Your Work

  1. Go to File > Save or press ⌘+S on your keyboard to save your Illustrator file​​.

  2. Go to File > Export to create a shareable version of your traced image.


Mastering image tracing in Illustrator can significantly streamline your graphic design workflow. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you'll be well on your way to becoming proficient in tracing images in Illustrator, thereby expanding your design capabilities.

Additional Resources

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