Let's say I have a PNG image (with transparent background) like the below simplified example.

What is the quickest way with either Illustrator or Photoshop to create a vector path/image (i.e., ideally using straight lines, bezier curves, etc. as opposed to raster pixels) that traces around the outline of this object, without manually hand-tracing the outline?

enter image description here

  • 2
    Use Place image and immediately press Trace image. One of the last layers in the expanded results is outline of the big shape - invert fill and stroke and you have done.
    – Ilan
    Nov 23, 2014 at 21:29
  • @Ilan: Do you mean Object > Live Trace ?
    – boardbite
    Nov 23, 2014 at 21:34
  • 1
    "without manually hand-tracing the outline?" -- then anything you get will be less-than accurate. If you need a good vector path, you need to draw a good vector path.
    – Scott
    Nov 23, 2014 at 22:00
  • 2
    To be fair, the person never said the best quality. @Scott
    – Ryan
    Nov 24, 2014 at 1:08

2 Answers 2


You have so many options with "Automatic Tracing Solutions"

  1. using Photoshop by CTRL select your layer and convert the marquee into Path.
  2. using trace in Illustrator
  3. using Corel Trace if you have
  4. using a free online tool called "Magic Vector" and it can convert your scanned image into any vector format. personally I prefer this tool so much, as it is the most accurate tool I have ever seen.

The way I did it in photoshop, isolated the layer then use the fx (special effects) dropdown menu, select stroke,

I made the stroke outside position. The rest of the choices are up to you.

You can rasterize the layer if you want to get rid of the stroke effect in layers.

Good luck.

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