In Illustrator CS2, we were introduced to the Live Trace feature that allowed us to trace raster images and convert them to vector artwork. The tracing engine was useful in certain situations such as converting a hand-drawn sketch to vector artwork, but could prove trying when attempting to convert a raster logo for which your client “lost” the native .ai file. Illustrator CS6 has a completely new tracing engine that makes the conversion of raster images to editable vector artwork easy and clean. You can get sharper lines, with better shape fitting and more accurate color selection, than with the Live Trace feature. Image Trace has taken the large—some would say complex—dialog box of options and transformed them into a more manageable panel that can be docked in the Illustrator workspace. I’ve done a fair amount of testing and have a few examples (Figures 1 and 2) of the tracing difference between CS5 and CS6 on two types of images (a high-res photo and a raster logo off a website) using the same default settings. This is intended to show the results when using similar settings in Illustrator CS5 and CS6. Figure 1 High-res image (300ppi, CMYK): CS5 on left (Photo High Fidelity setting) CS6 on right (High Fidelity Photo setting) Figure 2 Raster logo from website (72 ppi, RGB): CS5 on left (Color 6 setting) CS6 on right (6 Colors setting) In this article, I take you through the tracing workflow and discuss some of the new features along the way. I also set some expectations going into this article. While most of the tracing results in Illustrator CS6 are better, no tracing software can provide perfect results in every situation. That’s why at the end of the article I offer a few tips for “cleaning up” your traced artwork. Let’s get started. The first step in the tracing process is to get something to trace. Because tracing is the process of converting raster data to vector data, you need a raster image open in Illustrator. For instance, this could mean that the raster artwork is a small part on a larger artboard, or you open a .PSD file using the File >, Open command to trace it. If you place a raster image using the File >, Place command, if the Link option is selected in the Place dialog box, you can later edit the image in another application and update the image in Illustrator, even if it’s already traced! Images can either be embedded or linked to be traced. Notice in the Control panel the Image Trace button with an arrow to the right. By clicking the Image Trace button, you apply the default tracing option to the selected raster content. By clicking the arrow to the right of the button, you can choose a tracing preset with which trace the selected content. You can also choose Object >, Image Trace >, Make to trace selected raster with the default tracing options or choose Object >, Image Trace >, Make and Expand to trace and expand the content immediately (I discuss expanding shortly). At the top of the Illustrator Image Trace panel is a series of preset buttons that offer generic tracing options which most of us will use at some point or another, depending on the project. There is also a series of preset options in the Preset menu below the buttons. The buttons at the top of the panel (mostly) coincide with an option in the Preset menu. For instance, the High Color button is similar to the High Fidelity Photo option in the Preset menu, and the Low Color button is similar to the 16 Colors option in the Preset menu. The Preset menu offers more options. If you trace a raster image, you can always remove the tracing, returning it to a raster image, by choosing Object >, Image Trace >, Release. When you trace an image using one of the tracing buttons or a trace preset, the raster image data is converted to an Image Tracing object. This means that you can adjust the tracing options, even trying different presets, but it is not editable vector. As a matter of fact, you will see Image Tracing on the left end of the Control panel with the newly traced content selected (see Figure 5). Source.