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jpg/gif to vector


Broken Record

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Over the past couple of years, it seems that I often have had a need to have a vector image of something that I only have in jpg.

Since I don't own Illustrator or any high end package, I always end up either begging someone else to help me or just doing without. I don't really understand the benefits of vector (other than knowing you can blow them up to huge sizes without losing resolution), but I do know that almost every time I get into a design project that one is requested.

Anyway, my question is, what is involved in the conversion process? Can you take a jpg image and "import" it into Illustrator and save it or do you have to recreate the image?

Is there an easy way to do it? Is it a big deal?

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Illustrator can auto-trace an image, although the results are never perfect. I assume most other vector packages have the same functionality... they all will probably require some manual work - sometimes it's just easier to manually trace the image yourself.

Ultimately, the bigger and cleaner your source JPG or GIF is, the easier it'll be to convert to a vector file.

You might want to check out a program called Inkscape, which is a 100% free vector drawing program...not sure about it's auto-tracing functionality, however.

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It really depends on a a couple of things, but most importantly which illustrator version you have. CS2 now offers the LiveTrace function, which allows a user to simply cut and paste the image and the function will give a resulting vector path. Although this function isn't perfect, it is usually a great starting point when you have a gif or jpeg. After that, itis simply a work of patience to trace and adjust the rest.

In other versions, unfortunately, I have no knowledge of such a function. Therefore, the user vectorizing the image will do so manually, tracing every line and then adjusting everything.

Fine tuning is often the most time consuming work to do during a conversion.

And if the image had been done in Photoshop previously, I think you can export the image as vector paths and then use them in Illustrator. But I'm not really sure, I don't use Photoshop that much.

So it might be a big deal, depending on the user... ^_^

Hope this helps!

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Thanks very much for the replies. I'll download Inkscape today and see what I can do with it.

I was just totally in the dark regarding vectors. What you guys are telling me make sense, about skill level and software, because sometimes it seems like I would ask for one and get a "sure, no problem" response and have it back in an hour and then other times it was like I was asking for the world.

I personally don't mind spending the time to do them myself, I just don't have the tools. Maybe Inkscape will help!

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If you can't see the benefits of vectors now, you certainly will once you gain a footing with a vector drawing program like Inkscape or Illustrator. It's an unbelievable advantage. There's a good reason all the pros use vector drawing applications. It's really the standard for any type of professional quality graphic work.

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Adobe Streamline 4 (its development is totally halted now) was the forerunner to LiveTrace (and what we had to use before Illustrator CS2 brought that feature in) is a fantastic program which I can't hype enough.

And, since it's specialised in its purpose (it won't edit the paths it creates), it's significantly cheaper than an all-in-one package such as Illustrator.

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The Corel suite also has auto tracing features, both as a simple command in the Draw program and as seperate fuller featured application. The results are never exactly perfect, though, and I prefer to just trace the imported image manually. Vector is the way to go. It is resolution independent, and much easier to edit.

LT

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I've used a program called Silhouette (it's available as a cross-platform Illustrator Plug-In and a Mac-only Stand-Alone) with very good results - minimal tweaking. Here's an example using a GIF from the MotherSite:

houstonastrosalternate1bu.jpg

That is as it traced, without any manual editing at all.

It's not super cheap, but the demo is free!

edit: Oh, yeah, a link!

http://www.silhouetteonline.com

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