Using Illustrator CC Live Trace

Illustrator live trace tutorial
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For this tutorial, I am using an old illustration from an American newspaper. The illustration is a line drawing of a mother and daughter.

Select the image to be traced

Image of Mother and Daughter
Image of Mother and Daughter from old newspaper

Take Screenshot of Image

I take a screen shot of the picture.  I am on an iMac I can use the ‘shift’ + ‘command’ + ‘4’ to take a screenshot. I can also use a free application called Skitch in which I can also take a screenshot the keyboard shortcut is’shift’ + ‘command’ + ‘5’. Whatever method you choose to take a screenshot save the image into a PNG format onto the desktop.

Save Image

Open image with Illustrator

Once the image is on my desktop, I can use my mouse and right-click and open the image directly into Adobe Illustrator.


Adjust artboard size

If you have not created a document beforehand in Illustrator, you may have to adjust the artboard size.


Set workspace to tracing

After adjusting the artboard size, I am going to choose the specialised workspace for live tracing.


Live trace image

I am satisfied with the placement of my image on the artboard.  I then go to the menu select ‘object’, ‘image trace’ and then ‘make’. The following action creates a trace of the image.


Image Adjust Panel

In most instances, you will most likely need to make some adjustments. You can do this by opening up the trace image panel at the top of your browser. I make sure I select to preview mode, black and white and I have increased the threshold slider to the right obtaining more detail from the image.  I smooth out the corners, by adjusting the slider. Depending on the quality of the image you may want to make some adjustments to the other settings.



Convert into Editable Paths

In order to convert into editable paths go to the expand button and click on it. This action converts the tracing object into editable parts.


The final traced image is easy to edit either with your direct selection tools or any of the editing tools in your tool panel.

Clean-up Image


I choose to export the final image as a PNG as I am  using it in this blog.

teamSimon is a Sydney based digital designer. He is the Director of a boutique digital design studio, Bailey Street Design located in the vibrant inner west suburb of Newtown. Simon studied graphic design at Shillington College and specialises in web design for small and medium size businesses. Simon and his team (Toby the studio dog) are passionate about visual communication in the digital environment

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