This quick and easy tutorial will teach us how to take a raster image with no layers and turn it into an editable layered vector graphic.
Before we start, let’s clarify a few terminologies in case anyone needs a better understanding.
What is a vector graphic?
Vector graphics are images created using mathematical formulas instead of a grid of pixels. They consist of lines, curves, and shapes defined by their properties like position, size, and color. Unlike raster graphics comprising individual pixels, vector graphics can be scaled without losing quality or sharpness.
The most significant advantage of vector graphics is that they are resolution-independent. This means that no matter how much you enlarge or reduce the size of a vector graphic, it will always look clear and sharp. This makes vector graphics perfect for applications such as logos, illustrations, maps, and typography, where precision and scalability are essential.
This was the short answer, which will be enough information for this tutorial. To learn more about vector graphics, visit this Wikipedia page.
What are raster images?
Raster images, or bitmap images, comprise a grid of individual pixels. Each pixel contains specific color information, collectively forming an image’s visual representation. Raster images are resolution-dependent, meaning they have a particular number of pixels per inch (PPI) or dots per inch (DPI).
Examples of raster image file formats include JPEG, PNG, and GIF.
Tutorial: Convert Raster Images to Vector in Adobe Illustrator
Step 1: Create a graphic in Adobe FireFly
Let’s create a raster illustration using Adobe Firefly; if you do not have a FireFly account, you can use whatever image you like; make sure to use simple graphics.
Go to https://firefly.adobe.com/ and in the search box, type whatever you like and click Generate.
For this tutorial, we will type: “Cute cat illustration with simple vector art, a light background.”
FireFly will give us four samples; we’ll pick one, then click on the More Options icon and Download it.
A .jpg file will be downloaded to our desktop.
Step 2: Convert the Raster images to Vector graphics in Adobe Illustrator
1. Open the image on Adobe Illustrator.
As you can see, this is a bitmap or raster image, which means it’s a flat file with no layers.
Our goal is to convert this file to have layers so we can edit each layer individually.
2. First, with your Selection tool (black arrow tool) click on the image to select it, go to the Windows menu, and open the Image Trace panel.
In the Image Trace panel, under the Preset option, select High Fidelity Photo.
You can also play with other options like Color, Mode, and Advanced options, but we do not need these for the purpose of this tutorial.
Wait for Illustrator to finish the process… Illustrator will turn your raster image into an editable vector graphic with simple clicks and option selections, but we are not done yet.
3. Next, click the Expand button in your Properties panel to convert the image to paths.
As you see in the screenshot below, we now have all the layers we can work with.
4. Now ensure the image is still selected, right-click on it, then Ungroup.
Our vector graphic is ready!
In the next step, we will show you how to edit it.
Step 3: How to edit our new Vector graphic
Since all the paths and shapes now have their own layer, you can select any shape and edit.
We’ll keep it simple for this tutorial and change the eye color, but you can explore yourself and make as many edits as you want. After all, the goal of this tutorial was to take a flat image and turn it into layered graphics to be able to modify it.
1. Select the eye with your selection tool.
2. Open the Color Panel and change the color.
That’s it; in this tutorial, you have learned how to convert raster images to vector graphics and edit them if needed.
If you are working with a group and want to package this file and share it with a group, you might find our How to Package Files in Adobe Illustrator tutorial helpful.
You may also want to put your graphic on a mockup; this tutorial on creating a realistic mockup in Adobe Illustrator will help you do just that!