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I'm running into a very frustrating issue. I have a logo element that the client specifically asked for: a hand-painted circle. So I painted the circle, scanned it, did an image trace to vectorize it, and it looks great. On a white background. But with a different color background, the image presents some problems.

Case (left: looks great on white; right: not so great...):

left: looks great on white!; right: not so great...

I tried (a million different things, including) using the 'Multiply' blending option to make the white transparent. Which works(ish), except on dark backgrounds (due to the darkening effect of Multiply, which just makes it disappear on black).

Case (left: logo element doesn't show enough on darker backgrounds; right: doesn't show at all on black background):

left: logo element doesn't show enough on darker backgrounds; right: doesn't show at all on black background

Any suggestions on how to get the messy white out of the original logo without making it look chunky and choppy or compromising the color of the logo (i.e., the same appearance as on the white background, but on any different color background)? Obviously this will be part of a logo, so it is necessary that it be versatile in its placement on websites, stationery, etc.

  • Thanks for the good question and welcome to GraphicDesign, John-Michael! Let us know if you have any questions about how the site works – Zach Saucier Mar 26 '16 at 15:47
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Your problem is that image trace creates solid colors but you want varying levels of opacity.

Manually recreating the colors isn't quick but it is relatively easy. Obviously the less colors you have, the easier it will be—so try to create your image trace with as little colors as you can.

First create swatches out of all the colors. You can do this by selecting the whole object and choosing New Color Group from the swatch dropdown. This will create a new group of swatches from all the colors in the selected artwork.

enter image description here

The easiest way I can think of doing this manually is to draw a square for each color in a row. Duplicate the squares to a new row below and set the color of all the bottom squares to the main color. Then all you have to do is work through the bottom row of squares adjusting the opacity untill it matches the square above it.

This is what I came up with in a few minutes:

enter image description here

To replace the colors in your artwork with your newly created transparent colors, work through each color in turn doing the following:

  1. Select the original color sqaure (top row)
  2. Select → Same → Fill Color
  3. with the Eyedropper Tool (I) click the new transparent color (bottom row)

Do this for each color and your artwork is now transparent:

enter image description here

  • Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to do this and answer with such a detailed tutorial.I'll give this a shot and let you know how it turns out! – jmlallier Mar 26 '16 at 21:38
  • No problem. Let me know how you get on – Cai Mar 26 '16 at 21:55
  • Well, it took quite a bit of time, but I think it looks great! Thanks again for the excellent answer, @CAI. – jmlallier Mar 26 '16 at 23:25
  • @CAI it would be trivial to make a script to do this. – joojaa Mar 28 '16 at 15:51
  • @joojaa true, however it was probably quicker for me to do it manually in this case (assuming I'm only doing it once) – Cai Mar 28 '16 at 16:15
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If you don't want it to look 'vectorized', you could use Photoshop's 'Select Colour Range' tool to select the marone regions of the logo, then create a new layer and 'Fill' the selection with the same colour. You'd have th play around with the sensitivity of the tool, but this would result in a shape with properly transparent areas that would work on both light and dark backgrounds.

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I recommend preparing the image in Photoshop before you go for the image trace in Illustrator. Make all the white transparent in PSD and then vectorize in Illustrator.

  • This does not help in most cases. – joojaa Mar 26 '16 at 17:33
  • How would this help specifically? What part of preparing it in PS cannot be done in AI? – jmlallier Mar 26 '16 at 17:59

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