I need to convert a transparent object taken from a photograph to vector format using Adobe Illustrator CS4

Currently I have an object in Photoshop CS4 taken from a photo that I made transparent.  I have saved it as a TIFF file and would like to open it in Adobe Illustrator and convert it to a vector object (understand there will be some loss in quality due to vector) for use on clothing, signage and obvious vector needs.

I will need step by step instructions to get it in the proper format so that I am able to add it to an existing Adobe Illustrator logo and finish project.  I suspect it has something to do with the tracing feature in Illustrator but am having difficulties getting to the working stage for the CMYK separations needed for the physical creation of the project.

Thank you for any help you may have to offer, it is appreciated.

asked 07/14/2011 01:10

goblue1's gravatar image

goblue1 ♦♦

5 Answers:
In Illustrator:

Open a new file. Since you intend to have this printed it's best to choose to make it a CMYK file.

File > Place. Find your .tif file and click OK.

While it is selected hit the Trace button you see in the Control panel at the top.

You will see it is converted to a black and white vector. This is the default setting (see the Preset: [Default]), but since this is a "live" trace you can adjust this setting to something that may fit better. You should start tweaking the Threshold button to adjust the balance between the black and white area.

Under the [Default] you will find some included presets but just to the right is a settings button where you can make your own or change the built in settings.

Notice in the settings window, the Ignore White check box and Output to Swatches. Check those because they are very helpful. The Ignore White eliminates the white or transparent area around the object and Output to Swatches can be very useful to edit colors afterwards.

This should help you to get started.
sigurarm's gravatar image


Excellent, this is exactly what I am looking for.  I see it will take some tweaking as you stated and akey factor was eliminating the white with the Ignore White (that one was killing me :))

I believe this is all i need.  One last minor question (probably dumb) but does the X covering the graphic itself play any role?  Or I guess I should say what is the reasoning behind the X being used in the transform controls area when selecting the graphic?  (ill post a screen shot if necessary) I am simply used to the border being around it with the X through the middle of the graphic.  Perhaps it may have to do with it because this was a traced object?

I simply want to make sure there are no surprises and if one more step is needed.  It definitely looks vector like i need it with the clean edges.  Appreciate your help very much.
goblue1's gravatar image


That should read "I am simply used to the border being around it without the X through the middle of the graphic"
goblue1's gravatar image


Ok. Next step:

The brilliant side of the Live Trace in Illustrator is that you can always go back into the settings and tweak the settings. Even weeks after you hit the OK button.

Until... you hit the Expand button in the Control panel. It removes the original bitmap picture out of the Illustrator file.

The X belongs to the bitmap picture. The X tells us that the file is linked, that is, it is not actually included in the Illustrator file. The other option is that such a picture is "embedded", included in the file (and makes it bigger).

In this procedure, when you placed, you could have selected if the picture was embedded or linked (checkboxes in the Place dialog box).

Finally, no question is too stupid. Keep asking.
sigurarm's gravatar image


Ah, excellent.  That makes a lot of sense.  This has opened a lot more avenues for creation.  I can tell the program is really working over time with the memory as well when processing this bitmap after expanding.  It now allows for the outlines to appear after un grouping the graphic.

This is excellent information and I thank you for it.  I needed to do this using a rock wall and it made all the difference in the world.  I'm not even done tweaking it and it is already looking much better.

Thanks again, well done.
goblue1's gravatar image


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Asked: 07/14/2011 01:10

Seen: 312 times

Last updated: 07/14/2011 09:56