Illustrator #8: Using Photos

Although Illustrator is basically a vector drawing program, it can also handle the raster images such as photos, primarily to combine them with vector elements.

Previous Tutorial

Illustrator #7: Stealing Colors Using Eyedropper ToolIn this tutorial you will learn how to manipulate colors using Eyedropper Tool in order to copy colors from one object to another or 'steal' color palettes from existing artwork.

Important

Although Illustrator is basically a vector drawing program, it can also handle the raster images perimch as photos. While you shouldn’t use Illustrator to edit raster images (use Photoshop for that), it’s perfectly ok to use Illustrator to make compositions that combine sharp vector drawings and text with raster images such as photos or 3D renderings.

Several important points to know are:

 

Illustrator or Photoshop ?

If you are not sure whether you should use Illustrator or Photoshop for some task, you can use the following as a rule of thumb:

If what you are doing is mostly a photo or a rendering – use Photoshop.

If you work with a drawings, lots of text and other type of graphics that need to appear super sharp – use Illustrator.

 

An example of a typical task ideal for Photoshop:

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A photo-like image where, although we might need to show a lot of detail, the nature of this image does not require sharp and crisp edges between the elements:

 

And then, the typical work that’s ideally done in Illustrator:

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Here we have a lot of emphasis on pure shapes with flat colors and  contours that should show crisp clearn, flat colors. Having  a lot of text that needs to be displayed very sharply is another good sign that we need a vector drawing tool like Illustrator (and if we really have a lot of text on a lots of pages, like a book, we may be using Adobe InDesign).

Another two example, side by side, both contain a lot of text – but can you tell which one is good to work with in Photoshop and which one in Illustrator?

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Illustrator AND Photoshop

Finally, there are certain type of images where it’s best that we combine the Illustrator and Photoshop.
We use Photoshop to prepare photos (and photo-like elements), taking advantage of the great photo editing tools that Photoshop offers. Then we import the photo(s) to Illustrator and combine them with super-sharp text and graphics.

The advantage of this approach is that with Illustrator we can have some elements print in high resolution with a lot of high detail without having to deal with large files. When we print vector drawings from Illustrator (or export to files such as EPS and PDF), they will be printed in as good resolution that printer has (maybe up to 1200DPI) without needing extra file size. f we tried to do this with Photoshop (which is certainly possible), the resulting file size would be too big not only for sending via internet, but also to work with (Photoshop would use too much computer memory resulting in very slow performance).

NOTE: Please have in mind that in almost all cases exporting PDF and EPS from Photoshop doesn’t make any sense (although it’s technically possible) because Photoshop will export a PDF which will just contain one raster image – it will not export vector drawings or text, so there is no advantage of exporting PDF versus exporting to a raster format such as JPG or TIFF.

So, here are some typical “mixed” Photoshop + Illustrator examples:

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Here we combine the renderings (raster images, finished in Photoshop) with the drawings. For the raster images, it’s normally enough to use 150dpi, as that quality is good enough and it doesn’t result in images too big to manipulate comfortably. On the other hand, the drawings are imported as vectors from AutoCAD and treated as vectors in Illustrator, so they can be printed in as good resolution that printer has, resulting in a super-sharp output.

Another example:

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Here we have a floor plan exported from AutoCAD (as vector, sharp) combined with the rendering of the same floor.

 

 

Preparing Image For Import

Before we import image to Illustrator (or before we really plan to do anything with it) we need to make sure that the image size is correct. So let’s say we want to import image to Illustrator document that has 10x10cm.

In fact, let’s go ahead and create a new Illustrator document of 10x10cm, in RGB mode:

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Watch Out For Image Size In Pixels!

Then let’s say we want to import an image that will cover the entire 10x10cm area.
Please click here to download the image we will be using. Now open that image in Photoshop, and go to Image Menu > Image Size, we’ll see it’s size here:

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We see that its size is 3300x3300px. Now if we need to have a 10x10cm image at 150 resolution (because 150DPI is basically enough for most of the printers, especially if photo is part of composition that will include sharp vectors), let’s calculate what image size we really need:

10cm = 3.93inches x 150DPI = 590px (approximately).

That’s way less than what we have, and while it’s certainly better to have more detailed image, very often the extra size it brings too much unnecessary overhead. So we will resize this image to what we actually need.

Let’s change units to Centimeters and write down the following values. Please not how the Dimensions of image change from 3300px to 591px automatically as you edit the Width, Height and Resolution:

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Now that we resized the image we can save it – but WAIT just a moment, don’t hit File > Save just yet!

Instead, use File > Save As… and give this new, smaller, image a new filename, such as concrete_small.jpg.

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SUPER IMPORTANT!

WHENEVER WE MAKE IMAGE SMALLER, SAVE IT AS A SEPARATE FILE SO THAT YOU COULD KEEP A COPY OF A HIGH RESOLUTION IMAGE, YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU MIGHT GET TO NEED IT AGAIN!

We can already see the difference between the file size of the two images, the concrete_small.jpg is more than 20 times smaller than concrete.jpg!

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Working With Photos

Importing Photos Into Illustrator

Now go back to our Illustrator file and go to File >Place… then select the concrete_small.jpg.

You’ll see the the cursor will change and the thumbnail of our image will follow the thumbnail.
Click at the top left corner of the Artboard to insert the image. Since we set up the size 10x10cm in Photoshop, it should neatly cover our Artboard area:

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Or better yet, let’s see this in a video:

You’ll note by the end of the video that when we inserted image its size was some 10,00076cm, which is completely ok, but if you really want to keep things tight (as I do), you may want to use Transform panel to make it a sharp 10cm. Not necessary though.

Difference Between Vector And Raster

Now let’s draw a shape similar to this (check the Shape Drawing tutorial if you’re not sure how to do this):

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Now if we try to zoom extremely close, for example near the top-right hand side corner of the shape, we’ll see that the raster image behind it became unrecognizable (pixels got very big, and Illustrator tends to blur them to soften the negative effect), while the shape remains sharp:

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This is the point of combining the raster and vector images. If we drew this shape in Photoshop, it would, under zoom appear as blocky as the concrete texture in above image. The way we are doing it, this shape will always print sharp, even if we tried to print this image not at 10x10cm, but 10x10m (though the concrete will appear bad at such a huge size).

:)Note: If you wonder how to zoom or pan in Illustrator, it’s done the same way as in Photoshop. If you still don’t know, search Google

Now we’ll do something more with it.

 

Using Masks In Illustrator

Instead of explaining what Mask is, let’s just learn by doing it.

Select both the white shape and the concrete behind it (don’t remember how to select multiple objects? Keep SHIFT key pressed!).

Now go to Object Menu > Clipping Mask > Make… and you’ll get this:

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Ok, so now you know that Clipping Mask mean using one shape to “cut out” images (or other shapes).
This can be used, as in example above, to give your shape a visual texture.

Why doing this in Illustrator vs. Photoshop?
Well if we zoom in again, we’ll see why – the edges will remain sharp even when texture can no longer hold up the zoom very well:

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No matter how cool this may look, applying  Clipping Mask to raster image is probably not the most common way you’ll use raster images in Illustrator.

Most often than not, as in the presentation board example above, you want to import images and combine them with drawings that you output from AutoCAD. In this case, it’s recommendable to put all images into one layer and then lock the layer so you can work on top of them without accidentally moving or even deleting images.

 

Replacing Photos

Now very often you will need to replace the image you already imported into Illustrator with another one, often with the newer version of the same image. You don’t need to delete and do everything from scratch, you can simply link to the new image file. Here’s how to do it.

Go to Window Menu > Links. The links panel will open, and you’ll see the image we imported there.
Select it, and then click the little Chain icon (Relink) below it. Illustrator will ask you for a new file to replace the existing image.

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Now select any other image you have on your computer, maybe one of the compositions you’ve done in class, and you’ll get:

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Two important notes:

1 – If you move the image files into another folder, or delete them, Illustrator may not be able to find them, so be careful!

2 – Before you link to another image, make sure it’s size is appropriate!

 

Next Tutorial

Illustrator #9: Working With TextThis tutorial will introduce you to basics of working with text in Illustrator, which includes creating text objects, and modifying its font, text size and alignment.

Any questions?

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