How to Vectorize an Image in Illustrator in 2 easy ways

In this article, I will show you How to vectorize an image in Illustrator. You already know the difference between a vector and a raster image. If you do not, the main difference is that no matter how much you stretch or blow up a vector image, the quality of your artwork will not change.

Raster images on the other hand, no matter how high quality, will continuously lose quality as you increase the size of the image. It is possible to change a raster file to a vector. However, the method you use will depend on the kind of result you want to achieve.

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Vectorize an image Image Trace

Image trace is the easiest way you can vectorize your image. This method is applicable if you do not really need to change anything after vectorizing such as changing the color.

To vectorize an image to be just it looks like a raster but be turned to a vector, follow the following steps.

Step 1: Open Illustrator

Step 2: Go to File>Open and navigate to the image you want to vectorize. Select the image and open it. I will use a puppy raster image.

Step 3: Duplicate the image by clicking on it and dragging while holding down the ALT key, or simply clicking CTRL+C  then CTRL+V to paste. This will help us have a before and after.

vectorize an image

Step 4: Select 1 of the 2 images then go to the top and choose image trace and select one of the options. High Fidelity Photo will result in an exact duplicate of the raster image but in vector. Fewer colors such as 3 colors or 6 color options results in a painting-like look. Here is a comparison. You can try other options to see what you get.

vectorize an image

Step 5: To edit your image trace, select it then go to Window>Image Trace and a panel will come up. You can edit the image as you want. After you are done, click expand to get your vector points. You can also release clipping masks and then delete some sections.

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Using the Pen Tool

Image trace is rigid and will only work with some images and not others. If you want a professional way to do it, you will need to know how to use the Pen tool. This method lets you draw over the raster image to come up with a vector illustration. It is however recommended for simple silhouette images.

Step 1: After opening the image in Illustrator, reduce its opacity to around 70% so that you can see it as you draw. The Opacity menu is on the top bar.

Pen tool

Step 2: Click control +2 to lock the image. Go to the Pen tool and draw an outline around the image. 

Step 3: Use the Eyedropper tool to pick the color. Fill it with black color like the sample. If you do not know how to use the Pen tool check out our Illustrator round-up article.

Vector image


A vector image is preferable for printing and other uses. However, Whereas vectorizing a raster image is possible, you need to be keen to know which method is best depending on the results you want.

  1. How to trace an image in Illustrator
  1. How to vectorize an image in Illustrator

    Select the image you want to vectorize
    Choose the image trace and set preset
    Image is vectorized
    If not ok undo and image trace with another preset
    Click Shift+Control +G to ungroup
    Select colors to change

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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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