How to Vectorize an Image in Adobe Illustrator?

Adobe illustrator is a popular choice for graphic artists looking to convert raster images into vectors. There are multiple processes to vectorize an image in adobe illustrator.
But before we go into the details of how to vectorize an image in adobe illustrator, let’s briefly introduce the two types of digital images, rasters and vectors.
Raster images are the average images that we encounter in our daily routine. The images come in various formats, including JPGs, PNGs, and others. Such images are composed of millions of individual pixels, which together form the image. However, since these are based on pixels (which have definite dimensions), these images tend to distort or blur when squeezed or enlarged out of proportion.
A vector image, on the contrary, is composed of lines and shapes. While they tend to hold lesser details as compared to raster images, vector images can virtually be squeezed or enlarged as much as you want; without distorting or losing the details.
So, when you are looking to work with a raster graphic, it’s only natural to get stuck with the size limitation. Then the only solution is to transform the raster image into a vector, which gives you virtually endless freedom to resize the image.
Here in this blog, we will be looking at some easy steps to vectorize an image in adobe illustrator. Once you know the vectorization process, you will be able to convert any raster image to a high-quality vector file and scale to your liking. So, let’s get started…

Choose an image to convert

Honestly, when you are looking to convert a raster image to a vector in adobe illustrator, the type of image doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters will be the size of the image, where larger images will take more time to edit. Also, specific images create better results for vectorization than others.
If you are just starting, we recommend to go with a single subject image and white or transparent background. This will help you understand and complete the process nicely and get started with the vectorization of raster images in the software.

Select an Image Trace Preset

When it comes to the vectorization process, adobe illustrator has a special tool for that – Image Tracer. The tool comes with a range of presets, which for most parts work automatically. To get started, you just need to choose the image Tracer preset that closely resembles your image. Be careful in selecting the preset since each preset produces varying results.
Here are some of your options to choose from:
  • High and Low Fidelity Photo: the high fidelity preset produces very detailed vector images, whereas the low fidelity preset produces less detailed vector images. These are most suited when you are working with complex artwork.
  • Black and White Logo. You can choose to work with the Black and White Logo preset if you want to create a simple bi-colour logo.
  • 3, 6, and 16 Colors. These are basic presets which are best suited when working with logos or artwork with flat colors.
  • Shades of Grey. As can be taken by name, this preset can be used when you require a detailed grayscale image.
Now, just open the image of your choice in illustrator and activate it from the image options. You can find the activation option at the top of the illustrator window.
Next, you will need to select the “Preset” by clicking on the dropdown arrow present with the “Image Tracer” tab. 

Vectorize the Image With Image Trace

Once you have chosen the present, the software will initiate the automated tracing process. Over time you will see the image undergoing multiple changes during the tracing process; however, most details will remain the same.
The final outcome from the tracing process will be a vector image with slightly lesser details but much sharper. However, you will note that the final image from the tracing process won’t pixelate, no matter how closely you zoom.

Fine-Tune the Traced Image

After the Tracing process is completed, you will need to fine-tune the traced image. For this, go to the “Image Trace” panel and select “Mode”. Here you will be able to switch between colored, black and white, and grayscale. To simplify the vector image, you can drag the “Color” slider to the left, whereas, to add more details, you can drag the “Color” slider to the right.
Once you are done with the fine-tune edits, click the “Manage Presets” and save settings as new Preset.

Ungroup Colors

To complete the vectorization process for the image, you need to separate the color groups of the image to be able to edit them. For this, you can click on the “Expand” tab on the top of the window.
Here you will see the composite shapes, which together make up the vectorized file. The shapes making up the vectorized image will be highlighted in blue. Here, you can simply right-click on the image and choose “ungroup” to separate colors into individual parts.

Editing Vector Image

Once you have vectorized the image in adobe illustrator, you now have the complete range to make edits to it.
You can start by deleting the color groups you don’t want to keep. Here, you can choose whole color groups, which will select all the groups of the same color using the “Direct Selection” tool.
Once you have selected the undesired shapes, simply click “Backspace” on the keyboard to delete those shapes. Alternatively, you can add additional colors or fill empty spaces to the selected shapes using the “Pen” or “Brush” tools.

Save Your Image

All that’s left to do is to save the new vector image. Adobe Illustrator offers a variety of vector formats to save, including SVG, PDF, EPS, AI, and others. Simply go to File > Export > Export As and choose your desired output file format to save the image.
Well, congratulations! You have successfully vectorized an image in adobe illustrator