Whether you want to make a simple silhouette or something with a bit more detail, this tutorial will walk you through the steps of using your own pictures to quickly, and easily, create you own custom digital designs. You can use these graphics in your digital projects, or cut them out on your compatible electronic cutting machine to use in your traditional crafts and DIY!
Once you see how easy and affordable this project is, you're going to want to create custom graphics for ALL of your new projects!
You don't need to spend a lot of money to purchase a great quality, graphic design tablet. I picked up this Ugee M708 tablet for less than $60 on Amazon.com and it's already saved me hours of time, and allowed me to create some more complicated designs that I may not have even tackled with a mouse. If you're looking for a great starter tablet, I highly recommend it. It comes with everything you'll need to get started -- besides a computer, and the design software itself.
This tablet is pretty universal; it will work on a a Mac or any Windows based computer, and is designed to be used in most editing programs. I use, and absolutely love Adobe Illustrator. They have affordable monthly plans so you don't have to spend a lot of money up front or make a big commitment if you don't want to. (You can also purchase annual plans and save a little money!) ;)
If you haven't already read my review on this tablet, you can catch it here. It IS possible to do this project with a mouse, but you'll have a lot more clicks and drags involved, and using a tablet will just make it faster, easier, and will save you a ton of frustration!
To begin, open up Adobe Illustrator and start a new project. (It doesn't really matter what size artboard you use. I like to use a 12" x 12" so I have plenty of space. But since vector designs are completely resizable, you could create something an inch tall, and enlarge it to fit a billboard, and it wouldn't reduce it's quality. So really, use whatever size artboard you want. :)
PLACE the photo you'd like to trace onto your document, (Do not "Open" it. Make sure you "Place" it.) and resize it to fit your workspace. If you'd like, in the top menu bar, change the opacity of the photo to something more transparent if you have trouble seeing your trace lines. Select the PAINT BRUSH tool, and trace! Watch the video at the bottom to see this tablet in action!
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Once you've traced your image, and drawn in any detailing you'd like to add, select the photo with your SELECTION TOOL and DELETE your reference picture.
Zoom in and use the DIRECT SELECTION TOOL to select and move individual anchor points, and clean up your design. Once it's how you'd like it, use the SELECTION TOOL to select your entire design, go to OBJECT in the top menu bar, and select RASTERIZE. (There are a few different ways to get the end result we're going for, but this fast and simple method will work great for most of your designs!)
With your simple, pixelated version of your drawing selected, in the top menu bar click on WINDOWS and select IMAGE TRACE.
Even though your image is probably black and white (it might not be -- you can totally change colors and draw in colors other than black when you're originally tracing your design) select COLOR for the color mode, and then click on TRACE.
With your entire drawing still selected, go to OBJECT in your top menu bar and click on EXPAND. Then UNGROUP all of your newly created paths so you can edit their colors individually. You can change the color by selecting a path, and changing the fill color in the left menu bar. Watch the video below to see the entire process from beginning to end in detail!
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