Is there any way to convert a semi transparent object to a vector using live trace or any other feature in Illustrator? (For instance, a simple cloud)

  • What do you want as a result? Would you like a sharp outline that sits in the middle of the blurry edge? Or... ? Commented May 8, 2012 at 4:07
  • I wouldn't necessarily want it to be blurry.
    – Hanna
    Commented May 8, 2012 at 15:46
  • Is that semi-transparent object is an image(raster)? Using Gimp and Inkscape what I've been able to do is In Gimp > Select by Colour in transparent area > invert selection(now the image is border selected) > path from selection > copy path > in Inkscape > paste. The path is pasted. Don't know if that's what you want(IDK how to do it in Illustrator :))
    – Samik
    Commented Jul 31, 2012 at 17:43

3 Answers 3


Personally I am against live-trace.

Why? — It's lazy and, in mu opinion, completely unprofessional. You can create way better effects and greater quality if you do it yourself (''by hand''). Yes, it is way more time consuming, but you add your own touch to the picture and fix errors it has while doing it.

Another plus is you may encounter something you never knew how to do and learn in the process and end up gaining much more than being lazy and just live tracing something.

  • I fully support this. I always prefer hand tracing over live-trace. But when it comes down to doing something quick and fast, it's the best option (especially some quick mock-ups of some sort) The reason I asked this question was because clouds are very difficult to do (in my opinion) and take a lot of work.
    – Hanna
    Commented Jun 12, 2012 at 5:22

I couldn't find a way to do this with Illustrator, but Flash Pro's bitmap tracing (Modify > Bitmap > Trace Bitmap) does handle images with multiple levels of transparency. It only has 4 options (color threshold, minimum area, corner threshold and curve fit) and doesn't always seem to get the colors right, but it will give you a place to start from.

I also prefer Flash's vector drawing tools and shape optimization to Illustrator's. They're simpler, but I find them more intuitive and easier to use.


You're best bet is to make the image opaque via Photoshop or some other Raster app. Then place and Live Trace with AI. Then set the opacity how you want it.

If you mean an image which varies levels of opacity within itself, you could use the raster image as an opacity mask rather than trying to trace it.

For example...

A transparent PNG image:

enter image description here

Then a red rectangle created in Illustrator. File > Place used to place the transparent png. Select both the png and the rectangle and choose Make Opacity Mask from the Transparency Panel menu.

enter image description here

  • But since it's a raster mask won't it not scale like a vector? I need something that will scale.
    – Hanna
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 3:07
  • 2
    It is raster, so it has those limitations. There's no way to take a semi-transparent image and convert it to vector automatically.
    – Scott
    Commented Apr 8, 2012 at 4:39

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