I'm trying to make an effect that looks like a defrag image. (like the linked image) I know how to make the interlaced lines knocked out and I tried using the mosaic effect. but It's just coming up as a pixilated image.

I'm looking for any tutorial but I'm not sure how should this effect should be referred to. any guidelines or suggestions are appreciated

enter image description here

  • Mosaic could work. As could something like this. Depends on what your starting point is
    – joojaa
    Jun 26, 2020 at 7:50

1 Answer 1


It's in a tricky way halftoned eye, maybe a part of an image of a full face. You already have a comment which leads to a technical possibility to clip lines as needed, but what to clip maybe needs an explanation.

So, have a photo. You can remove the noise, convert to BW, adjust levels and posterize the image to a few greyshades in Photoshop. Posterization in Photoshop is useful because you can make all adjustments with adjustment layers and tweak until you have good placements of the different greyshades. Then flatten the photo and paste it to a vector drawing program (Illustrator, Inkscape).

Trace the photo to the same number of greys than it was posterized. The shapes must not overlap, do not use any stacking tracing mode. This is an example of the tracing result:

enter image description here

In the left there's the whole result. In the right the lighter grey is moved apart. In the middle there's whats left: Black, darker grey and white. The white shape is colored to yellow only to show it.

You must divide the greyshade shapes to different layers to be able to convert to lines one greyshade at a time, the rest of the layers are closed to invisible.

Here's what to do with one layer.

enter image description here

There's prepared a group of black horizontal lines with equal spaces. The lines have rounded ends and the dash spacing is set to create an illusion of dotted lines.

In the left the line group is aligned with one greyshade of the traced image. In the middle the shape and the lines are selected and the unwanted parts of the lines are shaved off with the shape builder tool. It removes stuff if Alt-key is held as one drags over the unwanted pieces.

In the right the grey is deleted.

Different greyshades need differently spaced dashes. If you have only 2 greys between full black and white you need only a single dashed version for the lighter grey, the darker grey can be solid lines. White and black layers can stay with the traced colors with no need to have any lines. Use a copy of the same line set to keep everything lined.

Insert a solid black background layer and change the lines to white.


Illustrator's Shape Builder is a fine tool. Inkscape users don't have it. Cutting the extras from the lines need a couple of more steps in Inkscape.

  1. The lines (dashed or not) cannot be a group. They must be a compound path. You can create the equally spaced lines easily by applying Tile clones + Unlink or Extension > generate from Path > Interpolate. Ungroup the lines if they are grouped and apply Path > Combine.

  2. Split the lines with a grey shape with Path > Cut path. The upper shape vanishes and the lines below get splitted. Delete the extras by selecting and pressing DEL

It's essential to colorize the grey shape to well visible and duplicate it before applying Cut Path. One piece of the grey shape vanishes, but the other can be used as a selection guide. Colorizing helps substantially selecting the pieces which must be deleted.

enter image description here

In the top there's the traced image, the dark grey shape is moved to the right.

Bottom left is the colorized shape laid on the combined lines which in this case are solid. The shape is duplicated and the duplicate is used to cut the lines. You see a red curve. If you drag the normal selection cursor and press Alt-key at the same time that line is drawn. Everything which touches the line is selected (wait 2 seconds, Inkscape must think a moment to see what's selected)

Bottom right is the result (=splitted lines) after deleting the grey shape.

Inkskape has a hiccup. It has only preset dashed lines and circular dots are not in the list. Custom dashed line can be seen in the collection list, but it can be defined only by writing XML language in the code window. I skip it.

I guess pattern along path could be a way to find a workaround, but I didn't try it.

Lines with circular dots are not needed if you have only 3 greyshades: Black, grey and white. Black and white can be the original traced shapes and the grey can be splitted solid lines.

  • thank you!!! very clear instructions
    – soft eye
    Jun 26, 2020 at 16:24
  • @soft_eye you should probably upvote then.
    – joojaa
    Jun 27, 2020 at 5:48
  • @jooja: that needs 15 rep. But the OP may want to accept this answer.
    – Jongware
    Jun 27, 2020 at 12:23
  • @usr2564301 yeah if youd upvote the question seing you thought it was answerable then once op accepts they can also upvote.
    – joojaa
    Jun 27, 2020 at 14:08
  • thx, accepted and upvoted
    – soft eye
    Jun 28, 2020 at 1:45

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