I am preparing illustrations for a scientific publication. As a direct result of calculations I obtain figures (raster format) as depicted in the first row below. Now journals are full of these kind of plots, which to my opinion do not convey much information and not actually deserve to be depicted in color. Therefore I decided to stylize these images in AI by tracing them in 3 colors (second row). enter image description here

It is quite common in this field, however, to make even more stylised plots as shown below enter image description here enter image description here

While I probably can draw diagrams like that in AI directly, I would like to base them on the realistic data (Fig.1). Therefore my question: How can I stylize the diagrams on Fig.1 (second row) even more, in order to create a recognisable picture with minimum of elements and colours?

In response to some comments. I did try to trace to contours, etc.

enter image description here

However, it is a lot of manual work and it is just repeating someone's style...

  • Have you thought of using tints of your existing colors? Unimportant sections could be 30-50% tint of each color, so the full strength colors stand out more. That will not add colors for printing.
    – Christy
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 15:30
  • @Christy I will try your idea. How to do it most straightforwardly in AI?
    – yarchik
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 19:07
  • A very quick idea (and therefore not a full answer) would be to livetrace the raster images with a setting that turns it into a line drawing.
    – Vincent
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:15
  • Well i would just change the shader code in the 3d model to be honest. If you really need vectors then i would trace those areas afterwards.
    – joojaa
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:21
  • @Vincent thank you for your suggestion. Tried to implement it (see my edit). It is ok, but just I feel this way I copy someone's style. I would prefer to have a different and possible distinct stylization .
    – yarchik
    Commented Nov 3, 2016 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


Sorry for the radio silence, crazy deadline.

What I meant was this:

starting from the vector image in Illustrator. (For this, I rebuilt it very quickly.)

I created swatches for your two colors, but you can use pantone colors if you wish. With an object selected, click and drag the color from the box at the top left corner into the swatches palette.

enter image description here

I next converted the swatches to Spot Colors: double-click the swatch in the palette, and change Color type to Spot Color, and I usually change color mode to CMYK. enter image description here You can see it worked if your swatches now have a little black dot on the corner. enter image description here Then, depending on which items you want to change, I selected the two opposite branches and changed the spot color tint to 50%. enter image description here This is not a transparency, so remember that it will knock out background colors and images, like below. enter image description here

I hope this helps.

  • Thank you Christy. It is not exactly what I was expecting, but it made me thinking broader.
    – yarchik
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 19:51

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