Sunday, 11 December 2016

Auto Trace Sucks

I’ve been using vector drawing programs for almost 30 years. Turning a scanned image (aka a raster or bitmap image) into a vector drawing (aka a line drawing) has always been a laborious task. When Adobe released Streamline in 1989, I was excited at the possibilities it opened up. But I was sorely disappointed with the results. Over the ensuing 25+ years, I figured the technology would improve. I’m still as sorely disappointed today as I was all those years ago. It’s still a computer algorithm that tries to deduce what should happen - and gives you a RIP clogging mess of random points, and weirdly contoured lines. You spend more time trying to fix the resulting mess than you would if you just traced it yourself. Sure, the results can give you a crude effect - which may be fine if that’s what you’re after. But if you want precision – which, since I’ve been told I’m a persnickety control freak, is definitely the case – doing it by hand, carefully placing points and controlling the nodes, is the way to go. There are online programs - Vector Magic is one - but they all produce the same slop.

I recently turned a drawing Mike Austin did years ago into vector file. Took a kooky amount of time – and I see all sorts of things I want to tweak – but I wanted to use it as an opportunity to show how lacklustre the results are.
A crop of the original that I was sent.
My effort.
The setting used was Illustrator’s “Black & White Logo”. Her hair and the lettering are obvious examples of the inaccurate results created.
“Line Art.”
“Technical Drawing.”
“High Fidelity Photo.”
What that looks like in wire frame mode. Nothing a plotter could ever handle. Image setters would have started belching smoke if you tried to print that, back when I started in this field.

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