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Is it possible to turn a .jpg into a vector file using Illustrator's Live Trace?

Jun 27, 2012 11:00 PM



So, what I have is a .jpg image of the Vitruvian Man. I paid for this image and obtained it through

I need to keep the black linework of the image but get rid of the gold background. I would like to turn the gold background into a transparent background.


The final destination of this image will be for the cover of an e-book. So, I could probably "get away with" using a .jpg.

However, what I've tried before is bringing the image into Photoshop and then using the magic wand tool set to a tolerance of about 45, then deleting the gold background. I then saved the selection.

I also need the black linework to be changed to red. So I turned the selection back on, chose my fill color of red, and used the paint bucket tool. The first click of the paint bucket tool changed quite a bit of the black linework to red. However, there were still a lot of bits that were still black. So I zoomed into about 3200% and filled one bit at a time. Pretty monontonous and labor intensive work literally clicking on bit by bit.


Despite all this work, when I placed the now red Vitruvian Man .jpg into my InDesign document, it showed up quite rough and pixelated compared to vector type and artwork I had also placed.


So what I am trying to do is turn this Vitruvian Man .jpg into a vector image/file.

When I opened this .jpg in Illustrator and used Live Trace set to Simple Trace, Illustrator did indeed get rid of the gold background. It also even made the now white background transparent. But when I tried to select the image with the Selection tool (black arrow) or the Direct Selection tool (white arrow) all I got is the image box the entire image sits in. I did not get individual anchor points as one would get with a vector graphic. The black linework did not become a bunch of paths. Thus, I guess there is nothing I can select to change the linework from black to red.


So, with all that said, is it possible to change the .jpg to a vector with individual paths I can select?

If yes, what is that method?

Once the .jpg has been turned to a vector file, what is the best way (easiest and most effective) to change the black linework of the image to red?


Thanks! : )


Here is the image:



  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 27, 2012 11:30 PM   in reply to SM66

    Yes. Live Trace should work pretty okay.


    In case you have Ai CS6, the Live Trace feature has been replaced with Image Trace, and it's better, works faster, and gives you more control. See this quick demo video for more information: 264


    Choose the Live Trace > Make and Expand options and then you may need to ungroup or double-click artwork to enter the isolation mode to edit them further. They are grouped to retain the relational position of the constituent paths. To view the Tracing options choose Window > Image Trace.


    For more/faster responses, we should post this question in the Illustrator forum.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 28, 2012 3:19 PM   in reply to Vikrant Rai

    Forget the rest and get yourself a copy of Vector Magic... It truely is magic.

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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 29, 2012 9:48 PM   in reply to SM66

    Hi - I think you need one more step before selecting your paths. Once you've chosen your preset you then need to hit the 'expand' button up in the toolbar. This will turn your jpg into paths which you can then colour as you like.


    There may be a bit of work required to release clipping paths etc to get it working how you want but it's usually pretty good.


    Good luck!



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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jun 30, 2012 7:51 AM   in reply to SM66

    You can do a good job of stripping out the background with photoshop using the right tools. Here is my step-by-step approach:


    1. Go to Image-->Adjustment-->Levels. With the white eyedropper (right-most under the Options button) click on the darkest area of the gold to turn the background white. Close the dialog box.
    2. Select all and copy.
    3. Deselect all
    4. Enter quick mask mode (bottom button on the tool pallette)
    5. Create new layer
    6. Paste into new layer
    7. Exit quick mask mode
    8. Depending on your settings you may need to Select-->Inverse the selection
    9. Edit-->Fill the selection with color of your choice. You may need to fill it twice or three times to get the desired opacity.

    There may be some colored areas beside the figure but they are mostly around the sides and can be easily erased or cropped out.

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