Create an Illustrator Texture From a Photograph

Textures play such a huge role in surface pattern design that I thought I'd start a series of posts on how to generate or create them. This first post shows you how to use one of your photos to create an Illustrator texture that you can put into multiple images, use in Photoshop, clip to a shape, or use as an opacity mask. The basic steps are to:

  1. Open a photo (preferably a JPG photo) in Illustrator.
  2. Select the photo and use the Image Trace command. In the video, I also show you how to make the artboard the same size as the image. I used the Object > Artboards > Fit to Selected Art command in Illustrator CC.
  3. Once you enter Image Trace mode, you need to open the Image Trace options (the icon between the presets and the View fields on the Control panel.
  4. You may uncheck the Preview box whilst making initi8al changes:  show the Advanced settings, set the Path count to Low, Set Corners to Less, untick Snap Curves to Lines, and tick Ignore white. (Snap Curves to Lines, despite my slip in the video, creates *fewer* lines, which is what I want.
  5. Once these options are set, tick the Preview box and drag the Noise and Threshold setting where you like them best.
  6. Click the Image trace options and click Expand on the Control Panel.

These steps should get your start. If you need more written instructions after viewing the video, please let me know and I will get them added to this site (somehow) I'm still learning my way around!

I'd love to know if you find the video helpful.


'Til later! Sherry--aka the prancingpixel


Creating Global Colors

Traditional fabric printing uses a series of passes by a single color ink at one time to produce the design. Just like spot colors in printing, each ink adds to the printing costs. For that reason, if fabric is to be screen printed (you'll also hear the term "spot color" used for this), you need to keep your colors to the absolute minimum. This is in contrast to most commercial printing that produces its colors by a combination of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black inks. In photographic (or continuous tone) printing process, it isn't necessary to limit your palette. If you need to produce a limited color palette, however, you can do that most easily to choosing colors you want that can range in value from dark to light. A printing press lays down one color at a time (even in CMYK printing) and does this by creating halftones  or screens that tell the press how to space the dots of color. Below, I created a black to white gradient in Photoshop and then, under, changed it to a halftone (which would be finer and more subtle in reality).

halftone  You can see how the black dots seem to separate as as the screen becomes lights. That's what occurs on press as the ink fills the image. For a 6 color print, the complete image requires 6 passes through the printer. To keep your colors clean, you don't want to mix up colors as you would in CMYK printing; you don't want them to blend on press.

So, how do you go about choosing and using a limited range of colors in Adobe Illustrator?  In the video below, I show you how to choose colors off of a target image. There are so many ways to pick colors; this is just one of them. However, once I've selected a color, I then define it as Global color to get easy access to the all the tints possible from the base color. Take a look! Please ask me if you have any questions about this. I will answer all comments as soon as possible.

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'til later


Navigating and Understanding the Layers Panel in Illustrator CS6

In the first two posts, you used the Image Trace command to take a scanned image and change it to a vector image in Illustrator. You then altered the color mode of the document and added swatches to the file. Now, you're ready to color your traced motif. But wait! When we last saw the image, it was decked out in solid pink! That will never do. If we'd wanted a square, we could have started with it and not fussed with Image Trace at all.

So, what hath Illustrator wrought here? It isn't quite the mess that it seems. The trick is to dig into the Layers panel and see exactly what Illustrator traced. It will rarely be what you had in mind, but everything can be fixed or worked-around, or, at worst, done over.

So, play the video and see how you can remove layers and ungroup things to make it easier to alter the colors.


Changing the Document Color Mode and Adding Colors in Illustrator

In the next video--and cheers!--it actually contains audio, I'll show you how to alter the Document Color Setting for an image to create a CMYK file from the original RGB document. I'll also explain how you can add additional colors to your image. Unlike Photoshop, which always shows you a variety of built-in colors in the Swatches panels, Illustrator gets its colors from the image assets associated with the document profile. For example, if I choose File > Open and use a Web profile, Illustrator associates the basic web set of color swatches with the image. Because we're scanning an image and it doesn't originate in Illustrator, our document has no associated colors. So, you need to add them.

The Swatches panel has a library button that gives you access to a large number of swatch document choices. You only need to choose the one you want and transfer it to your document Swatches panel. Click the link below to see it in action.

--Sherry aka the prancingpixel

The Image Trace command in Illustrator CS6

I have a love/hate affair with Adobe Illustrator's Image Trace command. When it works, I love it. When it balks at me, I am very unhappy.  The tool actually works well if you only have modest expectations for its tracings. It does well, for example, on a clean black and white image that you wish to trace. Click the link below to see a silent video of opening and Image Tracing a file in Illustrator CS6 on Windows. It should be basically the same on the Mac. I am just learning how to do video so I have no sound as yet.You can click the icon on the bottom right of the video to expand this so you can see it. Since there's no sound, at least you should be able VIEW what I did. I will change this and add sound as soon as I can.

After you Image Trace the object, you need to understand what Illustrator has done.  That will be my next video.

--Sherry aka the prancingpixel