28 Replies Latest reply on Mar 2, 2016 6:27 AM by quesadillacreamer

    How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)

    daniel_laks

      I'm working on a couple of children books for a client (from taking the pictures to postprocessing). One of the books is a "water book" (the sort of platic books children can take into the bathtub with them). For this specific book, the client is asking for vectorized images. I've never done such a thing before (convert a photograph to a vector image of it). I would very much appreciate any help on this. My first guess is to place the image in illustrator and then use whatever function there to vectorize it. But I don't know if that is the best way to go. I have seen some examples of similar "water books" and the images are a bit poor looking, so I guess they don't want a perfect rendition of the original, but I would still like to know what's the best way to go with this to obtain the best possible results within the given limits. Is Illustrator the best way to go? And if so, what is the regular procedure? Or are there other, more specialized software tools to do this? 

       

      Just FYI, and in case this extra info helps, every page of this "water book" will have a picture of a sort of muppet surrounded by some empty space in the page. The pictures are originally raws, 12 MP, so I can convert them to whatever it takes (TIFF, PSD, JPG or whatever) before converting them into vector images.

       

      Oh, and I'm using CS4

       

      Thanks a lot in advance!

       

      Daniel

        • 1. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
          stevenvh504 Level 1

          I'm using CS5; I'm not sure if it is the same under CS4.

           

          I usually drag the bitmap image onto my artboard. Keep it selected and you'll see a Live Trace button on the control panel. Just clicking it will convert your bitmap to vectors. You can change the default options by clicking on the drop down arrow next to the button. You'll have to experiment a bit with the options to get the best results; it has something of black magic about it, so it's not easy to give strict rules.

           

          One strict rule though: never start from too large an image. 12MP is way too big. You may want to resize it to <1MP.

           

          Hope this gets you started.

          Regards,

          Steven

          • 2. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
            Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

            The two ways in Illustrator to do this.

             

            One the way most experience users might first choose.

             

            Use the pen tool to trace the shapes in Illustrator by first place the image and tracing over it. That does require skill and knowledge and experience but this sounds like the right project for it. This offers the most freedom to be creative and improve upon the original from the beginning. It is not easy but very satisfying results can be had.

             

            The second which is much easier to accomplish is the place the tiff, psd, jpeg or other suitable format bitmap images in AI then while the image is selected go to Object>Live Trace>Tracing Options set the color to the mode you want color, grayscale, bw then choose the number of colors you want or steps of gray. Bw only has of course no such options.

             

            Nw as far as the other settings in the live trace feature that requires experimentation and experience and personal preferences. But it will give you good results that are probably better looking than what you have seen before. For what you describe I would say between 8 and 16 colors would be fine.

             

            Now if you wan to do this outside of Illustrator there is an application that works similar to AI's live trace and gives you a result more like using the pen tool call Vector Magic the application is not free or cheap, they do have also an online service that will do it for you.

            • 3. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
              stevenvh504 Level 1

              Wade_Zimmerman wrote:

               

              [...]

               

              Use the pen tool to trace the shapes in Illustrator by first place the image and tracing over it. That does require skill and knowledge [...]

               

              I prefer the pencil tool for this. It feels more natural since you don't have to think in splines. You'll definitely want a drawing tablet for tracing this way; I find it impossible to draw with the mouse. I like the Wacom Bamboo; it's inexpensive, still has a nicely working pressure sensitivity.

              An advantage of the pencil over the pen is that it's easy to correct your path: simply trace over it again.

              • 4. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                mobila baie

                If you use flash ... it is very simple. Create a swf and atach the picture in there. On properties just mark "Allow smoothing". And thats it'! . The picture will be automathically vectorized. You can use flash anywhere in your html code.

                • 5. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                  daniel_laks Level 1

                  Thank you, Steven, I'll try that. Although, as I understand from your reply, this method may give very impredictable or even unwanted results.

                   

                  Do you just drag the image from one program (PhotoShop) to the other or is there some kind of import or place nutton in Illustrator?

                   

                  Thanks again,

                   

                  Daniel

                  • 6. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                    daniel_laks Level 1

                    Thank you, Steven, I'll try that. Although, as I understand from your reply, this method may give very impredictable or even unwanted results.

                     

                    Do you just drag the image from one program (PhotoShop) to the other or is there some kind of import or place nutton in Illustrator?

                     

                    Thanks again,

                     

                    Daniel

                    • 7. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                      daniel_laks Level 1

                      Thank you, Steven, I'll try that. Although, as I understand from your reply, this method may give very impredictable or even unwanted results.

                       

                      Do you just drag the image from one program (PhotoShop) to the other or is there some kind of import or place button in Illustrator?

                       

                      What I have in mind is to convert the file to high quality JPG (that should not be more than 1 MB) and then do the thing in Illustrator. Would that be ok?

                       

                      Thanks again,

                       

                      Daniel

                      • 8. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                        daniel_laks Level 1

                        Thank you, Wade.

                         

                        What do you mean by tracing the shapes? Imagine a photograph of a teddy bear (a real one). You mean tracing the contours/extrenal borders of it? How would this help if AI still has to vectorize all the interior areas of the teddy bear? Or am I missing something?

                         

                        I'm just asking in case the second method (the easier one) does not yield good enough results.

                         

                        Thanks again,

                         

                        Daniel

                        • 9. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                          daniel_laks Level 1

                          Thank you, Mobila.

                           

                          I don't usually use Flash. And I'm not doing this for a website or anything like that. This is to be printed as a book. But let's say I try Flash. Do I have to make the stage the same size of the image I'm using and then import the JPG to the stage? And will the results of the "Allow smoothing" be as good as anything obtained out of AI? Any other tip you may suggest?

                           

                          Thanks again,

                           

                          Daniel

                          • 10. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                            Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                            Are you sure the client wants some kind of photorealistic image? As this is a childrens' book maybe your client is referring to this particular look of simple shapes that you won't achieve by just autotracing the images but by manually vectorizing them, leaving out details etc.

                             

                            Like this: http://www.snarkhunting.com/images/Cooking.With.Pooh_01.jpg

                            • 11. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                              daniel_laks Level 1

                              Hi Monika,

                               

                              It doesn't have to be extremely photorealistic, but it is not meant to look like a cartoon either (like the one in your link). They showed me some examples of other water books they've done, and they look like poor or low quality photographs. Rather simple. Less colors, etc. At least that's what I remember, because I only had a few seconds to look at them.

                               

                              I can try to get a copy of one of them, scan it and post it here tomorrow.

                               

                              Thanks,

                               

                              Daniel

                              • 12. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                daniel_laks Level 1

                                In any case, Monika, I would not know how to manually vectorize them. Haven't done that ever before. I cannot even inagine the process. I just take photographs and work on them in different appplications. And I guess that is too complicated to learn in a couple of days. I was hoping the autotrace function would do the trick.

                                 

                                Daniel

                                • 13. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                  stevenvh504 Level 1

                                  Hi Daniel,

                                  tracing means that you draw the lines ("paths" in Ai-speak) yourself. The advantage is that you choose which lines you want. Depending on the tracing options the live trace function will generate thousands of short line segments, especially when you want a good path fitting.

                                  Think of it as placing a transparent sheet over your photo and drawing on it with a pen. From time to time you remove the photo to see what your drawing looks like (in Ai you'll click on the hide/show button for the photo).

                                   

                                  Wade mentioned the pen tool for doing the tracing. Using the pen tool means you place anchor points through which Ai will draw a path. For each anchor you decide the direction of the path. Like Wade said this requires a lot of practice, but when you get the hang of it you'll be able to create any path you want with a minimum of anchor points.

                                  The pencil tool works the other way around, and therefore feels more intuitive: you draw the path and Ai creates the required anchor points. You can easily make corrections to your path simply by drawing over it again, just like you would do with pencil on paper. But like I said I find it impossible to draw with the mouse (you wouldn't draw with a brick on paper either!), so I'm using a tablet. I paid 100 euro for my Wacom Bamboo.

                                   

                                  HTH,

                                  Steven

                                  • 14. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                    stevenvh504 Level 1

                                    daniel_laks wrote:

                                     

                                    In any case, Monika, I would not know how to manually vectorize them. Haven't done that ever before.

                                     

                                    Unless you have a lot of time I think you better choose Live Trace then. Even when you need some time to experiment you'll get results quicker. I tried a few things with photographs from my collection and found that

                                    1. you better start with a relatively small image (I told you that before). A 3000x2000 image gave me a better result after scaling it down to 600x400, or even 480x320.

                                    2. you may want to increase contrast as well before you import the image.

                                    3. you'd be surprised to see how few colours you need. I'm getting fairly good results at (the default setting of) max. 6 colours.

                                     

                                    Steven

                                    1 person found this helpful
                                    • 15. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                      daniel_laks Level 1

                                      Steven, Monika and all,

                                       

                                      I managed to scan (with a cheap scanner) two pages from two different "water books". Please take a look at the photographic part of each page (not at the cartoons). Do you think this kind of result can be achieved using the Live Trace function of AI?

                                       

                                      http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4080/4749350870_382595d1e6_b.jpg

                                       

                                      http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4102/4749350704_7cb1c89d2b_b.jpg

                                       

                                      Thanks a lot!

                                       

                                      Daniel

                                      • 16. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                        daniel_laks Level 1

                                        Steven, Monika et al.,

                                         

                                        I have managed to scan (with a cheap scanner) a couple of pages from two different "water books". The photographs were vectorized before printing. Please take a look at them and let me know if you think I can achieve similar results with the Live Trace function of AI.

                                         

                                        http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4102/4749350704_7cb1c89d2b_b.jpg

                                         

                                        http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4080/4749350870_382595d1e6_b.jpg

                                         

                                        Thanks a lot!

                                         

                                        Daniel

                                        • 17. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                          Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                          Definitely not. Those are high quality photos. The Live Trace function has a limit of 256 colors, so besides a lack of detail you will also never get smooth gradients.

                                          1 person found this helpful
                                          • 18. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                            daniel_laks Level 1

                                            Monika,

                                             

                                            So how do you think these prints were done? According to teh printer, they used vectorized images.

                                             

                                            Now I'm really clueless.

                                             

                                            Thanks!

                                             

                                            Daniel

                                            • 19. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                              Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                              Parts of the first one – the bubbles in the background – are definitely vector. Apart from that those are photographs. Maybe the printer received a file format (EPS, PDF) he associated with vector graphics. Maybe the printer wasn't referring to the same books.

                                              • 20. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                stevenvh504 Level 1

                                                In the one with the baby in the bathtub, Minnie is most likely a vector image, but the baby in the tub most definitely isn't!

                                                The more or 3D-like rendering of Minnie is done with the mesh tool, which is not an easy tool to use for unexperienced users!

                                                 

                                                S.

                                                • 21. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                  Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                                                  I am going to guess on this that what the printer means is the image s part of a vector file the art for the piece is vector such as the oval and the bubbles and text and it includes the photograph in the vector so in their minds they think the image also is vector.

                                                   

                                                  Probably know their business but not really knowledgable about creative applications.

                                                  • 22. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                    daniel_laks Level 1

                                                    Thanks to all of you for your feedback on the two images I posted.

                                                     

                                                    So is it safe to say that the photographs on both couldn't have been vectorized and so the printer had to use a CMYK or similar system to print in the plastic material?

                                                     

                                                    I'm asking this because I'm doing this job for a company in Spain that sends everything to print to a company in LA which, in turn, sends it to China. And they keep saying they want the pictures for the "water books" vectorized in AI. The pictures are not human beings or landscapes or anything like that, but they are pretty complex nevertheless, because they are studio photographs of teddybears, handcraft elements, etc. No drawings, no 3D stuff, etc. My client (the Spanish company) has no clue about the way to go with this, neither do I. In fact, I've taken pictures for 3 books, only one of which is going to be a "water book", and this is the one the printing company is asking vectorized bitmaps for.

                                                     

                                                    I really don't know why they cannot print bitmaps on the plastic material, but ... is it safe to tell them the pictures we have taken cannot be vectorized?

                                                     

                                                    Thanks!

                                                     

                                                    Daniel

                                                    • 23. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                      Monika Gause Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                                      Everything can be vectorized ... somehow.

                                                      But it will look different than what you want to achieve.

                                                       

                                                      You can tell them that vectorizing these images won't look as you want it to. Maybe they will also believe you if you tell them it's not possible. But maybe they would just try to vectorize it themselves and then print the results without asking you.

                                                      • 24. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                        Wade_Zimmerman Level 6

                                                        I don't really agree with this one with Monika I think she is looking at this in a purest sort of way.

                                                         

                                                        Lot's of image are traced by hand and using tracing software because it gives the photo real look to what amounts to an Illustration.

                                                         

                                                        Here is an example of a vectorized image in AI.

                                                         

                                                        Screen shot 2010-06-30 at 6.01.16 PM.png

                                                        • 25. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                          JETalmage Level 6

                                                          Even if the photos in the sample images were vector artwork, there would be no advantage in it. They would still have to be reproduced using some kind of process screening, be it traditional halftone or stochastic.

                                                           

                                                          Whomever is telling you that original artwork like those two samples has to be vector artwork doesn't know what he's talking about. Even if one did a photo-realistic rendering with a vector drawing tool, it would still have to be color-separated and screened for reproduction, just as if it were a raster image.

                                                           

                                                          You may be dealing with a different printing vendor than the one that printed the samples (or a middle-person who doesn't really understand the requirements) if, in fact, those were printed on vinyl. Or, you may be involved with a simpler (lower priced) repro method option that is limited to line art.

                                                           

                                                          People far too often specify that artwork "has to be vector" when in fact they really mean it has to be line art and/or spot color, as opposed to contone. It's quite conceivable that a vendor producing a durable product for use by children in a bath tub, and which therefore can't have flecks of ink coming off the plastic substrate, might have repro limitations which exclude contone screening. (The same principle commonly applies to many screen printing operations.) But that doesn't mean the original has to "be vector artwork"; it means it has to be line art that doesn't require screening (i.e.; not converted to toning dots).

                                                           

                                                          JET

                                                          • 26. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                            daniel_laks Level 1

                                                            Thank you Jet, and thanks to all of you for your help with this.

                                                             

                                                            As it turned out, the printer only wanted me to place the PSD image on Illustrator and deliver it like that. They will do whatever they are planning to do on their own. But in the first emails they did not make it clear and I thought they were expecting me to vectiorize it. I feel relieved.

                                                             

                                                            I really appreciate your help and apologize for my late reply. I was away from the town till today.

                                                             

                                                            Thanks again!

                                                             

                                                            Daniel

                                                            • 28. Re: How to vectorize a bitmap image (photograph)
                                                              quesadillacreamer Level 1

                                                              I put together a short tutorial that gives the basics of vectorizing an image using Illustrator CC here: How to vectorize an image Adobe Illustrator CC - YouTube

                                                               

                                                              Hope it helps somebody!