How to vectorize an image?

Want to know how to vectorize an image? Do you know what’s the difference between raster and dovecot image? Learn how you can use Adobe Illustrator or create vector images without much effort. See how you can create different types of vector images with the help of trace paths. Learn to use image trace paths to minimize your work. See which image works best with vectorization.

If we talk about digital images which are used widely, rasters and vectors are the two types. Raster images are the most widespread type of image we use daily. In this type of image, we can not enlarge it without losing quality but the original quality is very high with a lot of details. On the other hand, Vector images do not have a high level of detail since it’s made up of lines and shapes. Which makes vector images highly scalable without losing any detail.

We will need to convert the raster image into a vector image when we want to use the image but is too small for it. Then we can convert it and use the vector image instead which will not lose quality. And the process of converting a raster image into a vector image is known as vectorization or vectorize an image.

How to vectorize an image
How to vectorize an image?

We are going to use Adobe Illustrator to convert images into vectors with easy steps. Adobe Adobe Illustrator makes it easy to convert and it provides us with powerful tools. Once you learn how to use Adobe Illustrator to convert normal images into vector images. Then you can convert and scale up any image within a few minutes with ease. You can use other apps to vectorize an image since the core steps will be the same. But before we can move towards the steps, we will see what is a vector image and why we would need it.

What Is a Vector?

Vectors are designing an image using mathematical formulas instead of using pixels, this makes vector images scalable. Due to the use of mathematical formulas, the images can be enlarged infinitely without losing any quality. And don’t worry, we don’t need to use any actual formula to make them. Adobe Illustrator will take care of those formulas, we just need to create a trace. This is why vector images are perfect for many applications where you need to change the scale of the images for different uses. For example, a logo needs to be resized constantly to fit the places where the logo must fit. Like on a coaster or a billboard for advertisement.

Along with the resizable, vector images also provide you with the ability to reuse the branded material to create new graphics. If you want to create a new logo to fit the shape of a coffee mug or a flyer then instead of creating the logo from scratch. We can just use the original vector logo image and change the length and width. This is why most graphic designers work with vector images instead of raster images. You must notice it while downloading any pre-made logo, there will be multiple options for importing the same logo.

Learn more: How to trace an image in illustrator

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What Is a Vector Image?

Vector images are simply the scalable version of raster image but with fewer details which is made up of mathematical formulas instead of pixels. This is the trade that we have to make if we want our images to be highly scalable.

If you go on google and download any random image, then it will be most definitely a raster image since it’s widely used. And raster images are a collection of square pixels which make up an image for us to see. Whereas vector images use dynamic color sections and scalable color polygons to create an image. Which produces crisp and high-quality images. It’s possible to scale up a vector image infinity and it will still not lose any quality.

Now we are going to go in-depth for the explanation of a vector image. So if you are not interested in more details then you should skip to the next section. But if you want to, then let’s dive in.

The vector image is comprised of mathematical formulas and geometry which makes them resolution-independent. We have already discussed that, which means we can increase the size of the image without losing any quality. In the next section, you will see how vector image uses polygons to maintain the shape and resolution on scaling up. On the other hand, raster images do not scale up since the pixels can not create new ones to scale up. So if you try to scale up a raster image then it will stretch and become blurry as you scale up. Information will be lost as you scale and will become a bunch of blurry pixels.

Now if you want to check if an image is a vector or raster, then we can do this by checking the file format. (File format is the suffix in the name of any image or file). If the image has JPG or GIF, then it’s a raster image that will not scale up. But if the image has SVG, EPS, or AI format then it’s a vector image.

NOTE: You can not use vector images in place of a raster image if you want to upload any image for people to see. Then you must upload those images as JPG or PNG only. Check the format requirement while uploading any image on the website/app.

Now we are going to see the steps on how to vectorize an image with Adobe Illustrator. But if you are using any tool for it then no problem, since the steps will be similar.

Steps on converting raster into vector image

Picking up the image for converting

There are not any requirements for an image to be used for converting into a vector image. But some images will be better to work with while converting them into vectors. Here we are going to see what type of image you should use:

  • The image must be in JPN, GIF, or PNG format since these are supported for importing in Adobe Illustrator.
  • There should not be multiple subjects in the image, otherwise, it will be harder to create a recognizable vector image.
  • The background should be ideally white or transparent since it will help you understand the outline of your subject.
  • Images should be of the subject which can be recognized easily since vector images will lose the quality. This is why it’s important that people can tell what’s in your image even with a lot less detail.
  • Images should be of recognizable images, logos, and icons that will help your final image.
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Once you select the image you want to convert into a vector image, import it into Adobe Illustrator.

Select the Trace Path

Adobe Illustrator provides us with multiple tools to work effectively on a vector image and this is one of those tools. Instead of creating the vector image from scratch, we can use the image trace path to get the basic vector image. Different trace paths will do the majority of the work for you.

In other words, we can pick up any image and use the trace path to get a basic vector image without doing anything. And different trace paths will give you different vector images are output.

Now, these are the image trace path options available in Adobe Illustrator:

  • Black and white logo: As the name suggests, we will get a simple vector image with only two colors. There will not be any high level of quality since the image will have only black and white. The best use is to create basic logos.
  • Shades of Grey: Here we will get high detailed vector images and have that beautify effect of black and white filters. This can be used for several different images.
  • 3 colors, 6 colors, and 16 colors: Here we can choose how many colors we want in our vector image. And the best use is to create abstract images which use limited color pallets. Mainly logos are created using this trace path since logos have limited colors.
  • Sketched Art, Silhouettes, Line Art, and Technical Drawing: These trace paths are used for specific types of images and artistic versions. And will produce mainly line-based vector images, which may not satisfy your requirements.
  • High Fidelity Photo and Low Fidelity Photo: Here the vector images produced are very high and slightly less detailed respectively. If you want to create complex artwork or complex images then you should use this trace path.

The best way to know which trace path works best for you is to test yourself. You can use all the trace paths one after another and pick the one which meets your requirements.

Now to get started with the trace path, simply select the image which we imported in the previous step and click on “Image Options”.  Click on the arrow next to “Image Trace” and a drop-down menu should open. From the menu select the image trace path, like Shades of grey. Once you select the trace path, click on it to begin the tracing.

Using Trace path to vectorize our image

After selecting the trace path in the previous step, the image will start to process and will produce a vector image for you to work on. This process can take images depending on the type of trace path you are using. Once the vector image is produced, you will notice that there are several small differences but overall you got the same image.

Most of the details will be gone after the image is vectorized, but the image will now look much sharper and high quality. And if you want to see the before and after, zoom in on the image and you will notice there are no pixels. Compare it to the raster image, and you will see that you can zoom in as much as you want in a vector image.

Now we can start our work on the vector image to produce a more detailed or artistically different one.

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Working on the traced vector image

Now click on the “Window” menu in Adobe Illustrator and look for the “Image Trace” panel. From here we can change the details in conversion, click on “Mode” to choose between black & white, grayscale, and color. NOTE: If you picked the color, then use the “colors slider” to change the level of detail in the image.

After you are done with changing the settings of the vector image, click on “Manage Presets” to open the Presets options. From here we can save our settings used for the current image as a new Preset to use in the future again.

Ungrouping the colors

Once we are done with adjusting the trace, we can move forward with separating color groups to edit. Click on “Expand” located at the top of the screen, and you should see different composite shapes.

From here we can ungroup the shapes into individual parts and adjust them to change the image. To ungroup them, right-click on the image and click on “Ungroup”. Check the Layers panel to see the separated color groups.

Editing our vector image

Now we can edit the vector image as we want, select the shapes with the same colors and click on “Select”. Next click “Same” -> “Fill Color”. Now you can edit the different layers as you would in regular images. Use pen or brush tools if you want to fill the empty spaces or add more colors.

Saving our vector image

Once you are done with editing the vector image, simply click on “Files” -> “Export” -> “Export As” and pick the vector image format. You can choose between PDF, AI, EPS, SVG, and others, you should know that SVG format is widely used for vector images. This is how to vectorize an image, if you don’t have Adobe Illustrator then download it from here.

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Here we learned how we can vectorize a raster image along with knowing what is a vector and vector image. You should keep in mind that the size of a vector image will be more than a raster image. And this might take time to upload or open on Adobe Illustrator.

If you have any doubt about using Adobe Illustrator or didn’t understand any of the steps then feel free to drop your query in the comment section below. We are more than happy to help out our users.