vector

Convert Procreate Artwork to Vector with Illustrator

Convert Procreate artwork to vector in illustrator
Learn how to go from Procreate to Illustrator

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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.

Open your raster artwork file in Illustrator

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).

Bounding Box on Raster File in Illustrator
Image Trace Option Appears!

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.

Image Trace Options in Illustrator
Image Trace 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.

Window > Image Trace
Image Trace Options Pop-Up Panel

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.

3 Color Image Trace Results Illustrator
Result of 3 Color Image Trace

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.

Expanded Image Trace Illustrator

After you Expand the artwork, right click on it with your Selection Tool (V is the keyboard shortcut) and select Ungroup.

Ungroup your expanded artwork
Right Click and Ungroup the newly Expanded Artwork

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.

Illustrator Magic Wand Tool

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.

Selecting colors with magic wand tool in Illustrator

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?

The results of Image Trace

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.

Grouping artwork

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.

Pathfinder Tool: Minus Front Illustrator

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!

Vector Artwork in Illustrator
Success: no more white fill!

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..

Recoloring vector art in Illustrator

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.

Harry Potter Art made in Procreate
Harry Potter artwork made in Procreate

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.

Image Trace Render Illustrator

*Drum Roll Please*

Here are the results!

Image trace results Illustrator

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.

Scaled Vector Graphics after Image Trace

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!

Convert Procreate Artwork to Vector

Happy vectoring,

Lexie

Vector vs Raster Graphics Explained: Everything You Need to Know

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I earn a small commission – and it doesn’t cost you a thing.

vector graphics vs raster graphics

There comes a moment in every graphic designer’s life when you first encounter the term vector graphic.. it’s usually preceded or followed by another unfamiliar (and alarmingly mathematical-sounding) term – raster graphic.

If these terms automatically evoke bad memories of high school Physics Class – or even worse– Trigonometry- don’t be alarmed.

Vector graphics and raster graphics aren’t all that complicated to understand. Even better, you won’t need your calculator to figure this out.

Here’s the main difference between them: Vector graphics are path-based. Raster graphics are pixel-based.

There’s a little more to it than that, of course. And understanding the difference is important.

The sooner you master vector & raster graphics, the sooner you’ll go from total design noob to expert level graphic artist (pronounced ar-teest).

Here’s what we’ll be covering in this post:

  • What a vector is, the pros/cons, and the common file types of vector graphics
  • What a raster is, the pros/cons, and the common file types of raster graphics
  • The role of Photoshop & Illustrator in vector vs raster graphics
  • How to convert vector graphics into raster graphics and vice-versa

What is a Vector Graphic?

First off, what even is a vector graphic?

vector graphic

To put it simply…

A vector graphic is a graphic made up of paths (and not pixels).

The benefit of a vector graphic is that (thanks to math), it’s infinitely scalable. You can shrink it down or make it bigger, and it will stay perfectly crisp, clear, and proportional.

Common Vector File Type Extensions

Here are some common file extensions for vector graphics:

When to Use Vector Graphics

But other than understanding a vector graphic by it’s file extension, how do you know when to use one?

Most vector graphics are working files.

This means you aren’t usually going to visibly see vector graphics on display, if at all. But you might see the finished products that were made from vector graphics.

One occasion you always want to use a vector graphic is when designing a logo. (Even if you aren’t the designer, make sure your designer sends you this file.) This allows your logo to be editable with the right software. It can easily be converted into a cut file (think vinyl signs) or digitized for embroidery (shirts, hats, etc).

The most common vector graphic most people interact with on a daily basis is a .PDF.

Using the logo example again.. Even if you don’t have the vector file of your logo, if you have a .PDF – you can send it to your vinyl shop or graphic designer. They will be able to edit it to their specs using a program such as Adobe Illustrator.

The Pros & Cons of Vector Graphics

The PROS of vector graphics are:

  • no background or bounding box
  • no size constraints- infinitely scalable (larger or smaller) while maintaining sharpness, clarity, and proportion
  • can easily be converted to raster graphics for display purposes
  • useful for turning into product art

The CONS of vector graphics are:

  • basic in appearance (less detailed)
  • less realistic (they will always be a drawing or imitation of the real thing)
  • most vector file types can’t be opened or edited with free computer software

How to Make Icons in Adobe Illustrator


What is a Raster Graphic?

Now that we know the meaning of vector graphic, let’s talk about raster graphics.

raster graphic made of pixels

To put it simply…

A raster graphic is a graphic comprised of pixels.

Pixels are just tiny dots of light, and together a group of pixels makes up one large image. Generally, the higher the pixel count, the better quality the picture. The number of pixels that make up the image are known as the resolution.

This isn’t a hard concept for most of us to understand. After all, we interact with pixel-based images every day on our cameras, phones, TVs, etc.

Because it is made of pixels, you can’t scale a raster graphic infinitely the way you can a vector graphic. The maximum size and overall clarity of the image is going to depend on how many pixels it’s made of (aka it’s resolution).

Common Raster File Type Extensions

Here are some of the common file extensions for raster graphics:

  • .JPG
  • .PNG
  • .GIF
  • .BMP
  • .TIF

When to Use Raster Graphics

So when should you work with raster graphics?

Raster graphics are the kind you most commonly see, because they are used as display graphics. Most of us interact with them every day.

Posting a photo on social media? Driving past a digital billboard? Just texted your BFF an animated GIF over iMessage? You guessed it.. all raster graphics.

Use raster graphics for anything you want people to SEE.

In general, the higher the resolution, the clearer the image. But keep in mind that your graphic is limited to the resolution of the device it’s being displayed on.

For example, you’ll never need to create a 4K image if it’s not being displayed on a device that supports 4K resolution. And even if the device supports 4k- chances are you can get just a sharp an image with a much smaller file size. In this instance, bigger doesn’t always equal better.


Learn how to make your own GIFs in Photoshop


The Pros & Cons of Raster Graphics

The PROS of raster graphics are:

  • extremely common file types
  • can be opened, viewed, and edited with free computer software
  • lots of rich colors
  • fine detail
  • realistic

The CONS of raster graphics are:

  • will become “pixelated” in appearance if you try to scale a raster past it’s maximum resolution
  • not suitable for logo design, cutting vinyl, or embroidery
  • difficult to convert to vector graphics

Want to Learn Illustrator FREE? Check out This Video Playlist


The Role of Illustrator and Photoshop in Vector & Raster Graphics

Now we know the difference between vector graphics and raster graphics. We know what they are and when to use them, but questions remain, like:

How do we create vector and raster graphics?

How do we edit them?

There are other programs that work for these purposes, but my favorite programs are by Adobe.

Adobe Illustrator is software that is commonly used to create or edit vector-based graphic art.

and….

Adobe Photoshop is software that is commonly used to create or edit raster-based graphic art.

As an industry standard, look to Adobe for basically anything related to the creation or editing of vector & raster graphics, but if you’re looking for free or alternative options – check out some of these:

Illustrator Alternatives:

Photoshop Alternatives:

A quick Google search will turn up even more results.


Start a FREE 7 Day Trial of Adobe Creative Cloud


Converting Vector Graphics to Raster Graphics

The final thing we should cover about vector and raster graphics is the topic of conversion. Again – it’s not as scary as it sounds.

Can we convert vectors to rasters and vice-versa?

The good news is converting vector graphics to raster graphics is simple. It’s easy to do this in a program like Adobe Illustrator.

In Illustrator, simply save as or export your vector graphic as a .JPG, .PNG, .GIF, etc.

Remember, once you do this your graphic will have a set resolution and size, so be sure to scale it up or down before saving depending on your sizing needs. You can easily change your screen resolution in the document settings as well.

Converting Raster Graphics to Vector Graphics

Now for the not so-good-news.

Converting raster graphics to vector graphics isn’t easy.

Possible? Yes.

But how difficult or easy it is depends on some different factors.

To convert raster graphics to vector graphics, you’ll need to use what Adobe Illustrator calls Image Trace. Alternatively, you could trace it by hand with your pen tool.

The trouble is that Image Trace can have a really hard time capturing all the detail of a raster image.

If the raster is comprised of just a few high-contrast colors, you’re in luck.

If it’s got lots of detail, tons of colors, and not enough contrast…Image Trace may not detect anything at all. Chances are you’re going to have quite a headache by the time you get done.

If you get it done, that is.

Long story short, when you convert a raster to a vector, you’re almost ALWAYS going to lose detail. Sometimes that’s ok, and other times it isn’t. It’s all relative.

If you enjoyed this post, PIN the image below to save for later.. or share it with friends!

raster graphics vs vector graphics easy guide to understanding the difference

Now go forth and create this vector illustration in Adobe Illustrator — then add some raster animation effects in Adobe Photoshop.

Maker Lex Signature

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