I'm just learning how to trace images with the pen tool in Illustrator -how do you trace when you have lines protruding from the whole (a line that offshoots) or when you have two objects which need to be flush with each other?

Is there a strategy for tracing a complex image with different shapes, such as a person wearing shirt?

For example, something like this: Hoodie

2 Answers 2


Let's say we have 2 shapes as on your picture (face + head).

I make these two shapes overlapping with the face layer below the "head":

enter image description here

I duplicate the head layer, Select 1 head and face layers and by Pathfinder operation Minus Back get this perfect match -

enter image description here


Let's say you should create long ray as you asked. I choose on Direct Selection Tool (A) and click on the anchor point as in the picture:

enter image description here

Next, I press right arrow to move the anchor point to the desired location:

enter image description here

This is the result:

enter image description here

You can correct the curve operating handles of this anchor point.

Next, I thicken the stroke and expand - the picture will be perfect.

  • The pathfinder works great, and it didn't occur to me that I could thicken the stroke after adjusting the points on the curve. Thanks so much! Apr 23, 2014 at 18:56

Smart guides (ctrl-u / cmd-u) can help, but they aren't always enough, especially on curves.

Often it's best to overlapping path lines - if it's solid fill it might be better to just go underneath, and if it's empty outlines it might be better to just stop when you connect the line (like you would if drawing on paper: you wouldn't carefully draw over the line you've already drawn).

For when you do need overlapping lines and smart guides aren't enough, here's one way I know of. It's a little bit fiddly but works.

enter image description here

To summarize:

  • select the points where you want perfect overlap using the direct selection tool (white arrow, A) or lasso (Q),
  • copy and paste in the same location with ctrl-C ctrl-F (cmd instead of ctrl on Mac),
  • draw the rest of the path joining that new path.

Tip: Draw your new line very close to the duplicated path, then join, else you might distort the duplicate (this'll make sense when you try it).

  • Thanks for the tips - didn't realize I could just copy a section of the path! Apr 23, 2014 at 18:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.