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Basically I'm wondering if there are any shortcuts when it comes to outlining an image in either Photoshop or Illustrator, with a lined result.

I'd like to avoid taking the Pen tool all the way around this image:

enter image description here

To get this type of result:

enter image description here

In Illustrator I know of Object --> Image Trace, and depending on the Preset, I could generate something that looks like this via Silhouette:

enter image description here

Or like this via 6 colors:

enter image description here

And then I could expand and remove the background piece by piece to get something like this:

enter image description here

And there are of course many other variations - 3 colors, 16 colors, line art, etc. But trying to remove the background piece by piece starts to become tedious - and by the end of it, just using the pen tool would have been quicker.

What about Photoshop? You can of course you quick selection + select and mask:

enter image description here

enter image description here

But is there a quick way to create an outline around this image? Maybe copy and paste the image into Illustrator and then do an Object --> Image Trace + Expand:

enter image description here

But again, this seems like a lengthy process and the trace doesn't look as accurate as it should be. It would just be better to use the pen tool:

enter image description here

So I'm just wondering - any other suggestions for accomplishing a quick outline around an image in either Photoshop, Illustrator, or both?

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  • Not a bad question, but it seems you have covered the most essential methods. In the end nothing beats a hand drawn image in artistic quality. Auto-traced images just look a bit ... digital and boring. You don't really show an example of the kind of result you are looking for. Just a silhouette or with details within the object as well? With or without shadows? How fine details? When a human draws an image tons of choices are made to create the illusion of a real object.
    – Wolff
    Commented Feb 24, 2021 at 23:46
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    If accuracy is what you are looking for, sometimes it's just easier to use the Pen Tool. It's what I would use. Getting a good mask in Photoshop which you can then auto trace in Illustrator can be very time consuming. Either way, there's going to be manual work involved.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 0:02
  • @Wolff - sorry if it's not clear - the final image is pretty much what I'm going for. I'll make an edit to the post but it sounds like, based on these comments, that just using the pen tool might be my best option here. Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 2:17
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    You can use magic wand or select same then inverse selection to cickly isolate selections.
    – joojaa
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 19:35
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    I've had recent success with Select>subject especially when the background is slightly out of focus. It uses AI, I think. In any case you'll always need manual fine-tuning
    – Miro
    Commented Feb 27, 2021 at 6:08

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