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Is there a way to convert a .JPG image in to vector format? I'm using Illustrator and I've tried that "Image Trace" but the result doesn't look any where close to my original. Plus, I cannot select individual letters of a word like I can in an .AI or .EPS file.

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    To select individual parts of an Image after Image Trace: After you do Image Trace. Select the object and go to Object -> Expand. Then right click and ungroup (might have to do that twice). – AndrewH Oct 5 '15 at 13:05
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Well, jpg files are raster files, so they don't have any vector or text data saved in them that can be modified in Illustrator. Image > Trace is probably your best bet to get your image back into vector format (barring totally recreating it).

If you haven't played around in the advanced settings yet, there are quite a few controls you can manipulate to try and get better results. Understand that your text won't be an editable font again, that data is gone. It will just be vectorized shapes.

As Andrew H pointed out, also be sure to go to Object > Expand (or hit the "Expand" button if it's available on your toolbar) after you've made your Trace. This will allow individual points to be modified.

image trace panel

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I can't speak for workflows using Adobe products, but I've had to convert JPGs to SVGs using Inkscape before.

The main problem I've always had is that the compression often creates artifacts throughout the image (speckles, splotches of slightly-off color, etc). Before tracing it, you need to open it up in Gimp or Photoshop and fix some of this. This often includes making pixels of similar-but-slightly-different colors the same color, replacing colors, sharpening edges, etc. In many cases, you are trying to simplify the image, which will improve the quality of the vector trace.

What you need to do will depend on the image. One quick Gimp technique that I've had good success with (source):

  1. Apply a Filter > Blur >Selective Gaussian Blur with a blur radius of 3.0 and a delta of 10.
  2. Apply that filter again, but this time with a blur radius of 0.5 and a delta of 30.
  3. Apply a Filter > Enhance > Unsharpen Mask with a radius of 5 and an amount of 0.5.

Sometimes, however, the amount of work needed to get a workable vector isn't worth it, and it's faster (and the results are better) to just re-create the image.

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