Live Trace - How to use like Streamline ?

westcoastartist's picture

I haven't used a computer in 2 years. I forget how!
I have some very fine thick and thin hand lettering I scanned in and put in illustrator.
I want it to be as crisp as possible. The quality must be there.
I clicked Live Trace and it did something, not sure what.
It is still in a BOX,
and I can't select individual letters and move them.

After I get rid of the box thing (how, please)
I need to move each letter by itself..
Is this all I do?

Also, the letters are black, but I need transparency, not white, as the background,
so I can put the lettering layer over a photograph.


I would appreciate a step by step.

Thanks alot!

westcoastartist's picture

imac, OS X Tiger, use Photoshop & Illustrator CS3

blank's picture

Livetrace produces a big specialized group designed to be colored with live paint. You still have to expand those into regular vectors, which will then be in a big group that usually requires lots of merging and tweaking. The box the letters are in will be part of the group and may be dozens of little shapes that have to be selected with the magic wand and then deleted.

IMHO it’s usually faster and easier to trace letters manually. Livetrace is great for vectorizing complex drawings or photos when there just isn’t time to do them manually.

beejay's picture

LiveTrace works pretty well if you are vectorizing hand lettering — when the rough look is what you are seeking. If you have black ink on white paper, here are the steps after you scan in the drawing.

1. open a new file in illustrator
2. place your graphic (File > Place)
3. make sure you have LiveTrace active (window > workspace > default)
4. click on the placed graphic
5. using the dropdown arrow next to LIVE TRACE button, pick a setting. TYPE is a good one, but the controls can be further dialed in.
6. click on the EXPAND button.
7. use the magic wand to select the black only
8. cut (apple X)
9. select all (apple A) (selects all the stuff you don't want)
10. delete
11. paste (apple V) and your letters are now alone on the artboard

there's no LivePaint involved

westcoastartist's picture

Thank you Beejay! That really helped.
I was successful in doing this.

But I did not understand how to set up window.workspace.default.
This just gave me a choice of Basic -panel-type- I just didnt' understand that part.

Also, when I used the dropdown arrow next to live trace,
I could not pick a setting like Type etc.
I could only pick- Make - make and expand - tracing options

I did not see at all the graphic you illustrated in your comment, I cannot find that drop down thing.

I expect these things are things that I can experiment and refine with,
yet I don't see them.

So, I think I missing a part of your instructions., which were great!
Thanks so much, I was able to do this.

Any comments, Beejay, on the things I couldn't get would be appreciated.

beejay's picture

you might have a different setup ... i'm Mac, CS2 ... here's what I get under Window.

westcoastartist's picture

Thank you for your help.
Can I slip in another question?
I successfully put the lettering into a photoshop file.
where i want to drop the lettering onto a photo.
But in photoshop I cannot figure out how to change the color of the lettering.
Can you tell me how to do this?
thanks alot.

beejay's picture

a few solutions

1. change the color in illustrator before you paste
2. after you paste, click on the lettering layer, and with the Move Tool, you can move the letter and it will become selected. Then Edit > Fill >
3. use the magic wand to select the lettering

westcoastartist's picture

I know I will want to experiment with the color after it is in photoshop, not before. I used to do this on my old mac. I pray this is possible. Is it?

Right now, I've got the type selected with the move tool.

When I go to Edit-Fill - it says color. and i check okay, and the lettering turned gray. Not sure why.

I really need to change the colors and experiment in photoshop.

Any way? I can't imagine they wouldn't let you do this, just clicking around on colors to see what they look like....

thanks for any furthur instructions. i really appreciate it.

beejay's picture

make sure the blending mode is on NORMAL

in other words, where it says, COLOR, change that to NORMAL

westcoastartist's picture

Right now, when i click " Fill "

It says Contents: Color

and under blending : it says Normal

I can't change where it says Contents: color to normal.
I can change it to Foreground color, background color, pattern, history, black, white or 50% gray. I tried the, and its not it.

any other ideas.
I used to just use the eyedropper somehow to quickly change colors.
things are so complicated.
thanks for any other ideas you may have.

bobbybobo's picture

Beside life trace you could try Vector Magic (
Very impressive conversion from bitmap to vector.
Better quality.

bobbybobo's picture

There is also a standalone version available voor windows. Mac will be released soon, so I heard.

russ_mcmullin's picture

VectorMagic is much better than Live Trace, and it's a lot easier to control.

westcoastartist's picture

Well, I solved my dilemma one way. FIRST, I do all the layers that will be done in photoshop in photoshop, THEN, I place those layers in an ILLUSTRATOR file, and then I work on the Vector Hand Lettering in Illustrator. I finish the piece in illustrator.

Thank you all for your help i getting me here. I totally appreciate this!

Cody's picture

I believe you should be able to open your traced text from illustrator in Photoshop as a smart object so that any changes made in illustrator will take place in the Photoshop document as well. That way you can edit the colors in illustrator and they will update in Photoshop when you save. I use Photoshop and Illustrator Cs3 for windows so im not certain what is different but in Photoshop i can go to File> Open As Smart Object and then using the move tool drag the smart object from one document to the other.

Lars Oppermann's picture

You could bring the lettering into Photoshop as a shape layer. Just select Shape Layer in the dialog that pops up when you paste the vectors you selected in illustrator. If you want to have greater control over the individual letters, paste them as individual shape layers. Maybe group them later.

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