Quick and Painless Image Vectoring in Photoshop
Did you know that you could scale a vector graphic to the moon and back, and it wouldn’t lose any of it’s clarity or ultra smooth edges? Well, they don’t make printers that big… but at least you can create vector graphics from photographs in just a few simple steps! Here’s how!
I absolutely love finding graffiti. I try to capture and re-use simple tags or stencils in any way I can. Isolating and vectoring a tag like this, though, can often times be tedious and painful.
Or is it?
Here’s a quick how-to on vectoring photographs in just a few steps. With this technique, you could cut your work time in half, and the final results typically look great!
Step 1 – Getting Started
It’s usually easier to demonstrate these sorts of things with a real world example, so in this tutorial, we’re going to convert part of a photo I took with my phone. If you didn’t already know, phones typically don’t take crystal clear photos, but by the time we’re done converting things into vector format, we’ll have a graphic with great clarity.
In this tutorial, we’re going to isolate and vectorize the “Pirate Radio” text from the photograph.
First, we have to select the color of the object we want to isolate. For this, we’ll use the eyedropper tool and select the black lettering.
Step 2 -Sampling Colors
Once you’ve sampled the color, use Select Color Range to select the colors that compose the object you’re looking to vectorize.
The selection may look a little rough, but try to clean it up as best you can to select the areas as clearly as possible. If needed, you can add additional colors to your Color Range using the eyedropper tool with a plus symbol next to it (or remove sampled colors with the eyedropper tool with a negative symbol by it). The fuzziness value will allow you to select similar colors to the colors you’ve already sampled.
Step 3 – Clean Up!
You may notice that the “Select Color Range” picked up some extraneous parts of your image with similar colors. Using the selection tools, go back and get rid of these areas (Hold Ctrl + Minus for negative selections).
Disable your photograph’s layer, and create a new one on top of a white background. Using the Fill Tool, fill your selection to make sure you didn’t miss any huge extraneous parts.
Step 4 – Convert to Work Path
Okay, so our desired graphic is isolated, and we have a good selection to work with. Time to convert to Vector.
Go to your Paths Palette (Window > Paths if not already open), and click Make Work Path… This will convert your selection into a vector based work path.
Path Tolerance determines the work path’s fidelity. The lower the number, the closer the path stays to the pixels. It would be best to try this multiple times at different levels until you find a good looking path.
Here we have our beautiful path!
Select the Pen Tool from the toolbox, and while you have the path selected, right click anywhere inside of the working image area and select Define Custom Shape. After naming your custom shape, it will become visible in your custom shapes option bar.
To use your shape, select the Custom Shapes Tool, and select your shape from the options bar. Then drag it anywhere in your working image area to make a vector shape (Note: Holding shift will constrain the shape to it’s original proportions).
Here’s finished product, with a couple tweaks:
This is a great technique you can use in many scenarios Here are a few other situations I’ve used it in:
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