How to Vectorize an Image in Illustrator | Updated for 2024

Bring Your Own Laptop
19 Jan 202412:37

TLDRIn this tutorial, Dan Scott, an Adobe-certified instructor, demonstrates how to vectorize an image in Adobe Illustrator. He begins with the Image Trace feature, which simplifies the process to a single click, and then shares his three-step vectorizing system for more detailed and artistic results. The steps include removing the background in Photoshop, refining the vector details in Illustrator, and using the Smooth function for a less 'Illustrator-y' look. As a bonus, he also discusses color selection, suggesting stealing colors from others' work found on platforms like Dribbble. Dan encourages viewers to practice the technique by vectorizing an object from their desk and sharing their work on social media with the hashtag #BVector.


  • 🖼️ To vectorize an image in Adobe Illustrator, you can use the 'Image Trace' feature, which was formerly known as 'Live Trace'.
  • 🎨 You can adjust the number of colors used in the trace to increase or decrease the level of detail in the vectorized image.
  • 🔍 The 'Select Subject' tool in Photoshop can be used to remove the background of an image with just a few clicks.
  • 📂 After removing the background, you can export the image as a PNG with a transparent background to use in Illustrator.
  • 🖌 The 'Advanced' options in the Image Trace panel allow for further customization, such as ignoring a specific color or adjusting the smoothness of curves.
  • 🔍 Using the 'Expand' function on a traced image converts it into editable vector shapes, which can be manipulated for a more refined look.
  • 🛠️ The 'Smooth' function in Illustrator's 'Object Path' options can help to simplify and clean up vector lines, reducing complexity.
  • 🎨 For a more artistic look, you can 'steal' or borrow color schemes from other sources, like Dribbble or Behance, to enhance your vector images.
  • 📐 A useful shortcut in Illustrator is to select an object and choose 'Select > Same > Fill Color' to quickly change all instances of a specific color.
  • 🌟 Adding a personal touch to the vectorization process can involve experimenting with different settings and tools to achieve a unique style.
  • 📷 As a practice exercise, try vectorizing an object from your surroundings or find a representative image online, and apply the three-step method discussed.

Q & A

  • What is the process of vectorizing an image in Adobe Illustrator?

    -The process involves using the Image Trace feature, which was formerly known as Live Trace. You can adjust the number of colors and other settings to achieve the desired level of detail in the vectorized image.

  • How can you adjust the number of colors in the vectorized image?

    -You can adjust the number of colors by opening the Tracing Panel and modifying the settings. This allows you to control the level of detail in the vectorized image.

  • What is Dan Scott's Super Famous three-step vectorizing system process?

    -Dan Scott's three-step process involves: 1) Using Photoshop to remove the background, 2) Using Image Trace with advanced options to refine the vectorization, and 3) Applying smoothing to the vectorized image for a more illustrative look.

  • How do you remove the background of an image in Photoshop?

    -You can use the Select Subject feature in Photoshop, which automatically selects the main subject of the image. Then, you can add a mask to the layer and export it as a PNG with a transparent background.

  • What is the 'ignore this color' option in Image Trace?

    -The 'ignore this color' option allows you to specify a color that should be removed from the vectorized image, such as a white background, making the vectorization process more accurate.

  • How can you further refine the vectorized image after using Image Trace?

    -After using Image Trace, you can click on 'Expand' to break the image into editable vectors. This allows you to manually adjust and refine the vector shapes.

  • What is the 'Smooth' option in Illustrator used for?

    -The 'Smooth' option in Illustrator is used to simplify and smooth out the vector paths, reducing the complexity and 'scratchiness' of the vectorized image.

  • How does Dan Scott enhance the colors in his vectorized images?

    -Dan Scott uses a method of 'color theft' where he finds color schemes from other sources, such as Dribbble or Behance, and applies them to his vectorized images using the Eye Dropper tool and selecting the same fill colors in Illustrator.

  • What is the shortcut in Illustrator for selecting all elements with the same fill color?

    -In Illustrator, you can select an element with the fill color you want to match, then go to Select > Same > Fill Color to select all elements with that same fill color.

  • How can you share your vectorized image with Dan Scott and the community?

    -You can share your vectorized image on social media and use the hashtag #BVector so that Dan Scott and others can find and view your work.

  • What is the purpose of the exercise Dan Scott suggests at the end of the script?

    -The purpose of the exercise is to practice the vectorizing skills learned from the script by vectorizing an object from your desk or an online representative of it, and then sharing the result to receive feedback and see the work of others.

  • What additional resources does Dan Scott offer for learning more about Illustrator?

    -Dan Scott offers a paid course called 'Illustrator Essentials and Advance' which covers a wide range of topics and techniques in Illustrator, including a video on generative recolor.



🎨 Vectorizing Images in Adobe Illustrator

Dan Scott, an Adobe-certified instructor, demonstrates how to vectorize images using Adobe Illustrator. He starts by showing the basic 'Image Trace' feature, which can be customized for color and detail. He then introduces his 'Super Famous three-step vectorizing system process' for more refined results. This includes removing the background in Photoshop, adjusting the vector details in Illustrator, and smoothing the image for a less processed look. Dan also shares a bonus tip on how to select and apply colors from other sources to enhance the visual appeal of the vectorized images.


🖼️ Advanced Vectorization Techniques

This paragraph delves into advanced vectorization techniques. Dan explains how to use the 'Expand' feature to break down traced images into editable vectors. He also discusses the 'Smooth' function to simplify and clean up the vector shapes. The focus then shifts to color selection, where Dan admits to 'stealing' color schemes from other artists' work found on platforms like Dribbble. He demonstrates a method to quickly apply these colors to the vectorized images using the 'Select Same Fill Color' command and the 'Eye Dropper' tool for a more artistic and illustrative outcome.


📚 Practice and Share Your Vector Art

In the final paragraph, Dan encourages viewers to practice the vectorization techniques by finding an object around them or online, vectorizing it using the methods he taught, and sharing their work on social media with the hashtag #BVector. He emphasizes that the goal is practice, not perfection. Dan also mentions a video on generative recolor in his paid course, 'Illustrator Essentials and Advance,' and invites viewers to join for more in-depth learning. The video concludes with a call to action for viewers to engage with the content and share their creations.




Vectorize refers to the process of converting a raster image (made of pixels) into a vector image (made of paths). In the video, vectorizing is the primary technique used to transform old images into a format that can be edited and scaled without loss of quality. It is central to the video's theme of image editing in Adobe Illustrator.

💡Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Illustrator is a vector graphics editing software used for creating and editing vector images. In the video, it is the main tool used by the instructor to demonstrate the process of vectorizing images. It is integral to the video's message as it is the platform where all the image transformations take place.

💡Image Trace

Image Trace is a feature in Adobe Illustrator that automates the conversion of raster images to vector format. It is a key concept in the video, as it is the starting point for vectorizing images. The instructor discusses various options within Image Trace to adjust the vectorization process according to the image's complexity.


In the context of Adobe Illustrator's Image Trace feature, presets are pre-defined settings that determine how an image is vectorized. The video mentions presets as a quick way to apply a certain level of detail to the vectorization process, with options like 'Six Colors', 'Ten Colors', and 'Black and White'.


Threshold is a term used in image editing to refer to the level at which a pixel becomes a certain color. In the video, adjusting the threshold in the Image Trace panel is shown as a method to include or exclude certain details in the vectorized image, based on the contrast between the image and the background.


Expand is an option in Adobe Illustrator that converts the vectorized image into editable vector paths. This is a crucial step in the video, as it allows the user to manipulate and adjust the vector shapes after the initial vectorization. It is used to further refine the vector image and make it more illustrative.

💡Direct Selection Tool

The Direct Selection Tool in Adobe Illustrator is used to select and manipulate individual anchor points and segments of a vector path. In the video, it is used after the 'Expand' function to adjust the vector shapes and to apply the smoothing effect, showcasing its importance in fine-tuning the vectorized image.


Smooth is an effect in Adobe Illustrator that simplifies vector paths by reducing the number of anchor points and creating a more fluid appearance. The instructor uses the Smooth function to give the vector images a less 'Illustrator-processed' look and to enhance their artistic quality.

💡Color Genius

The term 'Color Genius' is used humorously in the video to describe someone who is good at choosing colors. However, the instructor admits to being 'average' at it and shares a trick of using other people's color schemes from websites like Dribbble or Behance to enhance his work. This highlights the importance of color in the final appearance of the vectorized images.

💡Eye Dropper Tool

The Eye Dropper Tool in Adobe Illustrator is used to sample and apply colors from one part of the image to another. In the video, the instructor demonstrates using the Eye Dropper Tool to 'steal' colors from other images, which is a practical technique for achieving a desired color scheme in the vectorized artwork.

💡Generative AI Features

Generative AI Features refer to the capabilities of artificial intelligence to create new content, such as images or color schemes. Although not fully explored in the video, the instructor mentions generative AI as a tool for color selection, suggesting that AI can be used to generate creative and unique color combinations for vector images.


Vectorizing an image in Adobe Illustrator is simplified to a one-click process with Image Trace.

Image Trace, formerly known as Live Trace, allows for customization of the vectorization process.

Dan Scott shares a three-step vectorizing system for enhancing vector designs.

Removing the background from an image can be done efficiently using Photoshop's Select Subject feature.

The tracing panel in Illustrator provides options to adjust the number of colors and detail level in the vector image.

Black and white vectorization can be achieved by adjusting the threshold in the tracing panel.

Expanding a vectorized image breaks it down into editable vectors.

Smoothing an image in Illustrator can simplify and clean up the vector paths.

Dan Scott demonstrates how to ignore a specific color during the vectorization process.

The 'Simplify' option can reduce the complexity of vector paths for a cleaner look.

Stealing colors from other designs is a technique Dan uses to achieve a professional color scheme.

Using the 'Select Same Fill Color' option can streamline the color change process in Illustrator.

Dan Scott's shirt, received from Adobe Max, is a cool accessory mentioned in the video.

The video provides exercise files for practice, linked in the description below.

A bonus tip is given on how to appear like a color genius by using colors from other designs.

Generative AI features for recoloring are mentioned, with a link to a full course for further learning.

The audience is encouraged to practice vectorizing an object from their desk and share it using the hashtag #BVector.

Dan Scott is an Adobe Certified Instructor teaching design courses at Bringhurst.