Note: I am not a graphic designer. I would consider myself to be somewhere in between beginner and intermediate.

Although these are different drawings, both are vector and both try to achieve the same result, which is to represent an organic being (man vs pelican in this instance).

Man traced geometrically

pelican traced blotchy

One is sloppy blotchy and unusable for what I am trying to do. The other is clean, geometric, and beautiful. Is there a way to do this geometric effect while live tracing an image or is there a way to apply it after the image has already been traced? So for example, if I wanted to change the pelican traced image into something similar to that of the mans traced image style.

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    Image trace is not a viable solution if you wish to have clean, precise images. It really is mandatory to draw them manually if that's the goal. Software can only do so much, which is why artists can still find employment.
    – Scott
    May 19 '19 at 19:37
  • @scott that's fine I'm willing to do the manual work. But how would it be done?
    – wardr
    May 20 '19 at 1:54
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    Well, that would take a considerable explanation, especially if you are unfamiliar with the tools (software). I use Adobe Illustrator and the Pen Tool. Then use the width and profile features to alter line vocabulary. In some instances pathfinder is used to create shapes. And in some cases brushes can more quickly define areas. In other words, practice and familiarity with the tools. There's no easy answer.
    – Scott
    May 20 '19 at 2:18
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    There's a tutorial here: retrosupply.co/blogs/tutorials/… that might help. These illustrations are what I would call "engravings", so you can use that term if you need to search for more tutorials or examples.
    – Billy Kerr
    May 20 '19 at 9:42

No automatic method available. Sorry. The pelican is a drawing You have traced an image which is scanned from a book, I guess. As well I guess the pelican drawing, before it went to the book, had solid lines with much less white breaks. Printing has detoriated it and your tracing as well.

How do I know their line patterns are drawn, not transformed automatically from a photo or painting?

Because the long lines seem to follow the apparent curvature of the 3D surface. No program without human knowledge can deduce 3D information having only a flat 2D image.

But the conversion? In theory an ingenious programmer could create a program which extracts the directions of the lines on the pelican as well as their local density variations. Then it would draw a new set of solid lines, maybe with with greater line spacing and line widths, but still following the original directions and local black vs white density ratio variations. I guess the line density cannot be reduced much without reducing the information value of the image radically.

I'm afraid that ingenious programmer has a good reason to stay far away from less ingenious persons like me, who have a tendecy to want something but not to start with generous money offering. If you happen to be as unpopular, prepare to redraw the pelican manually with solid lines by yourself. I guess it's not impossible. The original artist has already done it once.

I guess that the preceding story isn't exactly just the wanted one, so I suggest other way. At first try to guess a greyshade image of the pelican, the intended greyshades that the original drawing presented. Smooth the image as much as is needed to make it presentable with coarse enough engraving-like lines. That means a huge detail reduction, if you expect remarkable line sparsening. Here's my attempt in Photoshop:

enter image description here

Do not think it's a painting. It got at first several subsequent median filterings to close the gaps, then I selected with manually drawn paths separate areas one by one and gave to them heavy surface blur to get smooth shades. The eye was kept as own selection. Finally the brightness was reduced, only the original background area was kept white.

Then an engraving simulation filtering was applied:

enter image description here

As said, this is in Photoshop. The used engraving simulator is a preset in Filter Forge plugin package and my grayscale image has brightness&contrast matched for that process. Other engraving simulators need other settings.

From this older case Create engraving in GIMP/Inkscape you can find how it can be made totally in vector domain (Inkscape), if you have a greyscale photo or other bitmap image prepared for it.

  • thanks for the answer, but as I mentioned in my question I am working in AI (adobe illustrator) and I supplied this info in the question and in the key words. But what you have produced is interesting. Is it possible to cleanup the pelican drawing (less detail, etc) and use illustrator brushes to get the effect that is seen in the image of the man?
    – wardr
    May 20 '19 at 1:58
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    Unfortunately Illustrator hasn't automated tools for it. You must draw every line you want manually. Here and there you can use blending to add intermediate lines between two drawn. There's width tool to make varying line widths. It's up to you to select what lines you want to draw. You must have the same instinct that wood carvers and metal engravers have had since medievals. Fortunately now the tool allows infinite amount of trial and error without a need to start from the beginning.
    – user287001
    May 20 '19 at 7:04
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    @wardr (continued) You should watch engravings and find the ideas how lines are used. Start from the linked story in my answer. If you bother to make a grayscale (actually RGB with only grays) image at first, you can convert it to simulated engraving in Illustrator. Make grayscale tracing and use different areas to mask different line widths. You can even get presented the surface curvature if you draw the line raster manually for this image like engravers.
    – user287001
    May 20 '19 at 7:28
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    @wardr If you select to try the manual way, do not expect fast victory. Engravers practiced years. Illustrator is different tool, but it takes today the same as 500 years ago to develop the "instinct" i.e. the ability to see the needed lines for shading and presenting surface curvature at the same time.
    – user287001
    May 20 '19 at 9:28
  • I am very much okay with doing it manualy, problem is I simply don't know how. What you described here is very helpful but I still don't have a clue where to go to find out how to do this manually. I searched "engravers" online and it took me down several rabbit holes but couldn't find anything resembling what you are describing (I dont think)
    – wardr
    May 20 '19 at 16:45

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