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In today’s blog post, I’m going to teach you how to convert your designs from Procreate into vector graphics using Adobe Illustrator.
If you clicked on this post, I’m sure you already have some motivation for why you want to convert your art to vector format. But if you don’t, here are some super neat things you can do with vector art:
- Scale it infinitely to any size. Pixels are so last century.
- Save it as an SVG for vinyl cutting. Such as with your Cricut machine.
- Use it to create products. Onesies, tumblers, .svg craft files, etc.
By the way, if this is your first time hearing the term vector, then you should check out my blog post Everything You Need to Know About Vector and Raster Graphics as a Designer. I lay it all out in a way that’s easy to understand.
And without further ado, let’s fire up Procreate and Illustrator and get to work.
What You Need to Know Before Converting Your Artwork from Procreate to Vector Format
Before we begin, let’s cover some best practices when converting your artwork from Procreate into vector format with Illustrator.
First of all, artwork that is extremely detailed is never going to perfectly translate as a vector, especially if you’ve included gradient shading or drop shadows or intricate patterns, etc…
For the best results, use simple art work that is high quality resolution and isn’t overly detailed. Line art, or artwork with only a few high-contrast colors is going to render much more easily into vector format.
Technically you can use more detailed art, which I will also show you in this post, but expect to lose a lot of detail and/or be prepared to use your most advanced Illustrator skills to clean it up.
Speaking of which, if you want to learn Illustrator, check out my Free Illustrator Course for Beginners. You’ll find 12 short videos that will guide you through creating (and bonus: animating in Photoshop!) your first vector Illustration.
Step 1 : Save Your Procreate Art for Illustrator
Now that we’ve covered some best practices and adjusted our expectations, the first step in this process is to save your artwork from Procreate to open in Illustrator. All the file-types in Procreate are raster (as opposed to vector) format.
You can either save it as a .PNG or a .JPEG – the choice is yours! In my example, I saved as .png.
Then, transfer your file from your iPad to your computer either through Airdrop or by emailing it to yourself. I’ve chosen this floral letter G that I drew in Procreate- the resolution/quality isn’t stellar.
In Illustrator, choose Open and select your new artwork.
Step 2: Open Your File in Illustrator
Since Illustrator CC knows I’m opening a .PNG file, it automatically shows me the Image Trace option in the top menu bar.
If you don’t see it go to Window > Image Trace.
Also notice the blue bounding box around your artwork. Because this is a .PNG file, there is nothing editable about this art right now other than the ability to scale it up or down, but it’s also pixel based (aka raster), so the larger you go the lower in quality it will appear.
Our goal here is turn those art lines into editable paths (vector).
Step 3: Make an Image Trace
Image trace is a super-powerful tool in Illustrator. So amazing. And also one of those things you can totally use for evil. If you can’t think of how you would use it for shady practices, then good on you! I’m not going to let my dark-side corrupt you.
But there are a few things to know about Image Trace. Click the arrow next to Image Trace in your top toolbar to see the different options.
You’ll see a list of preset Image Trace Options such as Default, High Fidelity Photo, Low Fidelity Photo, 3 Colors, and so on…
I can usually get something good with the built-in tracing options, but you can also open the Image Trace Options Panel, (find it under Window > Image Trace) and tinker with the settings to get a custom result. This may be necessary if your image is stubborn, aka low resolution, low contrast, or very detailed.
I tried out a few different options on my image, and the best results came from Low Fidelity Photo and 3 Color. In fact, when I chose Black and White Logo, I literally got NOTHING but a white box as the result.
This is just one of those individual things that depends on your artwork, so expect to have to play around. If you don’t like the result, just press Cmd + Z or Ctrl + Z on your keyboard to undo the changes and try again.
The larger and more detailed your image, the longer Image Trace will take. Illustrator will throw you a pop-up warning when that’s the case. My simple artwork only took a few seconds, but your computer speed also plays a role.
I’ve done a lot of Image Traces in my day, and my pro tip is that 3 Colors or 6 Colors works well, especially when you’re working with lower-contrast art.
Here are my Results from using 3 Color Image Trace. Notice how my art is less pixelated now? That’s exactly what you want to see.
Step 4: Expand and Ungroup the Image Trace
Unfortunately, the initial Image Trace is only half the battle here! We need to do a few more steps to really get the result we’re looking for.
Did you notice how after your Image Trace finished a new option appeared in the top toolbar that says Expand? We need to expand this artwork in order to make adjustments and get rid of the pieces we don’t need.
Click Expand in the top toolbar.
You’ll see the result instantly, like in the image below. Notice how all the artwork is outlined? Cool, cool. That’s what we want.
After you Expand the artwork, right click on it with your Selection Tool (V is the keyboard shortcut) and select Ungroup.
Now that the artwork is ungrouped, click once outside of the blue bounding box to deselect everything, then click again in the area where the blue bounding box is to select only that.
What you may not realize is that when we made our Image Trace, Illustrator traced EVERYTHING about our photo, including the white background on our image. But you may not even realize it’s there.
Hit Delete on your keyboard. You won’t notice anything change, but you just deleted the white background of the image. We’re going to further emphasize this point in the next step.
Because spoiler alert: there are even more things we need to get rid of in this artwork! It’s a little tedious, but it’s part of the process.
Step 5: Understanding the Results of Image Trace
Next, Select the Magic Wand Tool from the Toolbar.
I know this image looks like line art, but it isn’t. Inside of the pink, there is white fill in the flowers. To demonstrate this, I will click once with my magic wand tool on anything that’s colored white inside my G.
The magic wand tool selects everything that is white, which you can see in the image below. The blue outlines are all inside the flowers, and the pink parts of my image are not selected.
Now let’s do something scary to demonstrate a point. Don’t worry, we’ll undo it.
With all the white parts of our artwork selected, hit Delete on your keyboard. Do you see now what I meant when I said the pink stuff wasn’t really an outline and that there was white fill in my image?
After you do this, hit Cmd + Z or Ctrl + Z on your keyboard to undo the damage and restore our art.
Step 6: Cleaning Up Your Artwork
Now that we understand what results we’re working with, let’s talk about how to proceed next.
I want to mention that not everyone will need to follow these next steps. It really depends on what your end goal is for your artwork. For example, if you are ok with the white fill in the flowers, you can just let it be. You can turn them green or tie-dye if you want. Whatever.
I, however, want my art to be an outline only – no white fill! So how do I accomplish this? I’m going to use the Pathfinder Tool, but I need to get my artwork prepped first.
I use my Magic Wand Tool to select everything white again. After I’ve selected it, I will right click and choose Group.
Now all my white elements are grouped together.
Then I will use the magic wand tool to select all the pink parts of my artwork, and again: right click and choose Group.
Now all my pink elements are also grouped together. You may need to right click on your pink group and select Arrange > Send to Back to send the pink elements behind the white ones again.
Step 7: Use the Pathfinder Tool to Minus Front
Good news: we’re nearly there! And again I want to reiterate: this step may be completely optional for you, depending on what your goals are.
I’m going to drag over and select my whole piece: all the pink parts and all the white parts.
Open the Pathfinder Panel. Window > Pathfinder.
Choose the second option under Shape Modes: Minus Front.
What we’ve just done is cut the white part out of the pink part so that all the white fill is gone, resulting in the “outline” art I want.
I’m now realizing this step would’ve been a lot more visually impactful if I’d changed the white fill to another color so you could really see the results, but hindsight is 20/20.
In the image below, I’ve sized my artwork up to demonstrate the scalability of vector formatting, and you’ll notice in the areas where my art extends over my canvas… the white fill is totally gone!
Congrats! Your procreate masterpiece has been converted to vector format by the power of Adobe Illustrator.
I recommend saving your art as an Illustrator .AI file so you can edit it anytime, change the colors, start using it for graphics, and all that jazz..
Don’t forget – if you really want to be a pro graphic designer, read my full post on Vector Graphics to understand the different vector file type extensions.
Try Image Trace on Detailed Artwork
I mentioned at the beginning of this tutorial that I would show you an example of how to do this with more detailed artwork.
I created a bunch of Harry Potter art in Procreate and saved it as a JPEG file. As you can see, some of the illustrations are detailed and others are more simple. I would argue that even though there are visually a lot of colors, each individual piece has only a few colors, and for the most part: high contrast.
So let’s try converting it to vector format! I’m following the same exact steps as listed above.
The only difference is that I went with High Fidelity Photo as my Image Trace option.
This is one of those instances where Illustrator warned me this could take awhile since the file is so large, but then it only took 10 seconds. I freaking love my Macbook Pro.
*Drum Roll Please*
Here are the results!
I used Illustrator’s selection tool and also the lasso tool to select each little picture and group it together, so that’s why they’re all moved around in the results image. But more importantly: I think they turned out great!
I showed you this so that you could see it’s possible, but I will say- depending on how I plan to use these files, they could potentially need a LOT of work to clean up.
And really- I’m not sure I need most of these as vector files!
Also, when I scaled them up in size, I noticed that I lost quite a bit of detail, specifically on the Hogwarts Express Ticket. I know you can’t really tell because you weren’t as up-close and personal with this art as I was, but trust me: the loss of detail is real.
This has been a LOT of information about converting your procreate art into vector format with Illustrator, but I hope you found it helpful.
If you have any questions at all, please feel free to comment below so I can answer them.
Otherwise, would you share this post with your friends by pinning the image below? It would mean so much to me!
Exactly what I needed! Thank you so much!