2 Easy Ways How to Trace an Image in Illustrator

In this article, I will show you how to trace an image in Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator comes with an inbuilt live image trace tool. As discussed in our last article on How to vectorize images in Illustrator, the image trace tool will allow you to convert raster images to vectors. 

You have different options that you can choose from such as 16 colors, 6 colors, 3 colors, and many more. Although this will work well with a clean-resolution raster image, it will not work very well with a simple low-resolution image such as a pixelated logo.

For such images, it is more advisable to use the pen tool to draw or trace a high-resolution vector file for printing or that can be stretched without losing quality.

The ability to trace images will help you create and upscale low-quality logos to printing quality.

Method 1: Image trace Option

If you want to vectorize a raster image, you can use the image trace option. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Go to File>Open then navigate to the image you want to trace. 

Step 2: Once open, select the image and the go-to image trace, and choose the color options you want. For example 3 colors, high fidelity trace, or low fidelity trace.

Image trace

If you want to manipulate how the effect applies to the traced image, go to Window>Image trace. A pop-up window comes up with some settings.

Image trace in illustrator

Method 2: Image Trace Using the Pen tool

In this example, we have a pixelated McDonald’s logo in raster format.

how to Image trace in illustrator

Because of the image quality, it is distorted if we try to trace it like in the last image. 

image trace

The best way to trace the logo is by using text, shapes, and a Pen tool. Here is how to do it.

Step 1: Go to File>Open and navigate to the logo you have downloaded.

Step 2: Select the image and lock by clicking Object>lock selection or shortcut Control+2 on PC or Command+2  on MAC.

Step 3: Select the text tool and Type the word MCDONALD’S.

Step 4: Click on the pen tool and start drawing the M shape by clicking and creating points along the edge of the shape. Check out our article on How to use the Pen tool.

Step 5: After joining the edges, click I to choose the eyedropper tool and click once on the gold color on the raster image to choose the color.

How to vectorize image

Step 6: Select the rectangle tool and draw the background red square shape. Click it to choose the eyedropper tool and pick the red color for the background.
Step 7: Click Control+ALT+2 to unlock all then delete the Raster image to remain with a clean vector logo.

denis maina kamau

Written by: Denis Maina

I am an experienced and skilled graphic designer with a strong focus on Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. He specializes in creating a wide range of design materials, such as digital art, business cards, stationery, logos, flyers, posters, banner ads, brochures, PSD templates, and other graphics.

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