Mr_Basmt's blog

Creating Vector Silhouettes from a Photo

posted by Mr_Basmt, Jan 31, 2008 5:22 PM — 25 comments

In this tutorial I will explain how to create a silhouette using Adobe Illustrator CS.

Please be kind as this is my first tutorial. Feedback is appreciated.

The image I will be using to demonstrate this technique is Snowboarder in Air 3 from user shortsands.

Alright. Start by opening illustrator and creating a new file. Then, go to the start menu, click place, and select the photo you wish to use.

Now zoom in on the photo using the zoom tool or by holding crtl+space till the subject fills the screen.

Next, select the pen tool from your toolbox and pick any point on the outline of your suject to begin. Create one point, or anchor, then create another point along the outline. Adjust the line/cure that is created so it matches the outline of the subject. Now click on the last point you created.

Continue all the way around the subject till you complete the outline.

Now, zoom in on areas that are blank space in the subject (ie: the crook of an arm or a gap between the legs) and create outlines for those areas as well.

After you have created all the necessary objects, fill the outlines that are for the empty space with white.

Then fill the main outline with black.

Finally, select the photo you were working off of and press the Delete key on your keyboard.

And there you have my method of creating vector silhouettes

Comments | RSS

1. posted by red_marc, Feb 1, 2008 7:12 PM

Nice and simple tutorial - thanks.

Another way - if you're lazy!(and if you have the whole CS suite) is to open the image in photoshop and use the magnetic lasso and convert the selection into a path. You can then export into illustrator.

For high contrast edged images such as the one in your example it can be a quicker and pretty accurate route.

2. posted by Mr_Basmt, Feb 1, 2008 10:34 PM

Thanks red_marc. I never even thought of that.

3. posted by els_g, Feb 2, 2008 7:18 PM

Tnx for this explanation!

4. posted by 2koi, Feb 15, 2008 7:44 AM

Please help. I'm a newcomer.

How can I set the pen tool to a path?

When I click on the pen tool then select the outline of the subject, the tool draw a filled vector shape instead on a path.

What should I do?

5. posted by Mr_Basmt, Feb 15, 2008 4:27 PM

In the toolbar you'll see two boxes with color in them near the bottom. The lower box is for the outline the uper one is for the fill. Click the fill color box then click the small white box that has a red x through it that is right below the outline box. This will remove the fill color. Make sure you have the outline set to black or white so you can see it. Do you understand?

6. posted by JAKATAK, Feb 21, 2008 8:48 AM

this is f ing gay

7. posted by wahsilas, Feb 22, 2008 12:21 AM

Thanks! :D

8. posted by pukalski, Mar 2, 2008 12:02 PM

Hi Ben,
You can do it easy way:
why don't try trace image, experiment with different settings than weld all part you want keep black or go for Live Paint to get simple but colourful figure.


9. posted by krish_93, Mar 17, 2008 12:27 PM


10. posted by king_of_, Mar 18, 2008 8:26 PM

Awesome PaL!

11. posted by shery2010, Mar 31, 2008 8:19 PM

its very bad ?????????????

12. posted by blumendoch, Apr 1, 2008 9:11 PM

very nice graphics,
i'll use them in a flyer for a music school

13. posted by jos_ti, Apr 12, 2008 1:17 PM

Good tuto, thanks !!!

14. posted by divStar, Apr 16, 2008 10:01 AM

Overall a very informative and simple tutorial. However: it is to be noted, that the end image will be only as precise and "perfect" as much time you invest into it. If you for example don't change the lines path according to some cloth, you might end up with a rather "simplified" output. Though when creating vectorized outlines - most people don't need presicison that much.

I already knew how to do that. Still I couldn't put it into just these few steps. Good work.

15. posted by Mr_Basmt, Apr 16, 2008 6:23 PM

Thanks for all the great comments!

16. posted by bilalala, Apr 23, 2008 2:01 PM

Ok not bad

17. posted by demon_lord, May 1, 2008 9:49 AM

thanks a great tutorial

18. posted by sameer_bhv, May 6, 2008 9:14 AM

good tutorial,
can ny1 giv me idea how to trace image in illustrator..
ny tutrial on this..,

19. posted by insurecom, May 30, 2008 1:56 PM

In Illustrator CS2 or above, simply select image with the Selection Tool (black arrow) and then click Live Trace for a simple but effective trace.

20. posted by alexs123, Jul 2, 2008 12:09 PM

Use Adobe Streamline.... (",) Faster and Better!

21. posted by rtmtasse, Sep 4, 2008 5:47 PM

faster way:

go to photoshop,
use the magic wand to erase the backgroud (sky)
go to>layer style>color overlay>chosse your color>ok
save as .eps and open at corel, illustrator, etc.

just othe way

22. posted by kat_dixson, Jan 26, 2009 1:31 AM

There are lots of ways to achieve this same result, the original tutorial mentions the way that will produce the least amount of data for a processor to compute. LivePaint and LiveTrace tends to go way overboard on vector points in my opinion. The photoshop path technique when brought into illustrator is not always as smooth but if you are patient, it can still give some great results. I think you have all addressed each one of the ways I have tried in the past. Of course, each problem may need a slightly different approach so don't be afraid to troubleshoot... challenge the status quo.

23. posted by trainer2, May 31, 2013 9:14 AM

What a bunch of rude people. He's only trying to inform those who don't know. Sheesh! Glad you don't live around me.

24. posted by trainer2, May 31, 2013 9:20 AM

Hey, very interesting way of achieving it. I just tried it out, and it works much better than the new fangled method I was using.

Great tute, and well presented!

25. posted by carlislekm, Jul 29, 2013 4:44 AM

Very interesting

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