Learn how to vectorize hand lettering in Illustrator with this east tutorial.
One of the most helpful things that I have learned lately is how to vectorize hand lettering in Illustrator. When you vectorize your designs, you are making them scalable which means that they can be scaled up to any size without losing resolution. This is helpful if you want to put your designs onto a big poster or banner. If you use a raster file such as a JPEG and try to scale it up to banner size, it will look all blurry. WOMP WOMP.
Vectorizing hand lettering is also essential if you are making SVG cut files from your lettering. When I wanted to start offering hand lettered SVG files, I needed to learn how to vectorize hand lettering and the program that I needed was Illustrator. At first this sounded very intimidating but it’s not. Today I’m going to walk you through how to vectorize hand lettering in Illustrator step-by-step. If you learn better via video, make sure to read till the end because there is a video tutorial as well.
HOW TO VECTORIZE HAND LETTERING IN ILLUSTRATOR
In order to vectorize hand lettering in Illustrator, you first need some hand lettering. I like to hand letter on the iPad Pro but you can also do it on paper with brush pens. Use white paper and a black brush pen.
Once your hand lettering is complete, send your file to Google Drive or DropBox (if using an iPad Pro). If you use paper and brush markers, scan or take a photo of your hand lettering and upload to your computer.
iPad Pro: if you used an iPad Pro, you won’t have to do any tweaking to the colors/contrast. Just open your file in Illustrator.
If you used paper and pens, open your file first in Photoshop and using the Levels tool (CMD-L), adjust so the background is white and your lettering is black. Save your file as a PNG or JPEG and open in Illustrator. The file I’m using for this tutorial is one that I created for my email subscribers. Not on my email list? Be sure to sign up to receive free monthly prints!
Now that your file is open in Illustrator, you need to trace your lettering. First, select your image and go to OBJECT>IMAGE TRACE>MAKE.
In the advanced box, set the MODE dropdown box to BLACK AND WHITE and make sure the IGNORE WHITE box is checked. This will ensure that any white areas in letter “loops” will be removed.
The top line shows the result with IGNORE WHITE checked. The bottom line is the result when IGNORE WHITE isn’t checked.
Go to back to OBJECT >IMAGE TRACE >MAKE AND EXPAND. Your hand lettering has now been traced and is comprised of anchor points and paths. This allows your lettering to be scaled up without losing resolution.
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After you have traced your lettering, you may want to clean it up a bit. Sometimes when you trace hand lettering, it can turn out a bit wonky. But don’t fear… it can all be fixed. Use the ADD ANCHOR POINT and DELETE ANCHOR POINT tools to add and remove points. The PENCIL tool works well for refining lines: just click and draw the line the way you want it. You can also use the SMOOTH tool to smooth out lines. Zoom into each letter of your design and use these tools to clean up your work.
Once you have your design the way you want, it’s time to save your file. I like to save my files in a few different formats. First, I save it as an Illustrator file (ai) so I can edit it later if needed. Next, I save it as an SVG file to be used in personal cutting machines. Many people also offer these files as a JPEG, DXF and PNG files as well. To save as a JPEG, DXF or PNG, you need to choose Export, as shown below.
HOW TO VECTORIZE HAND LETTERING IN ILLUSTRATOR VIDEO TUTORIAL
I hope this tutorial on how to vectorize hand lettering in Illustrator has been helpful. If you’ve enjoyed it, please consider sharing it.
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