I'm having an illustrator create an etched look with pen on Bristol, scanned high res and vectorized in Illustrator. I'm having problems with lines closing up when scaled down.

enter image description here

Click the image for full resolution.

Works fine at 5", but scaling to 35% of that closes everything up and it's not printable. We're trying to work backwards figuring out scalable pen widths, but hardly any detail is holding after trace action in AI.

I've tried every setting and combination thereof. I even downloaded a program mentioned above, watched all the tutorials and realized it only worked well on AI paths, as in drawn in AI. Scans, come in as shapes after trace so, thinning paths doesn't work.

The artwork must be solid black for screenprinting on bottle.

How do I make the traced artwork scale better? Is there a way to either convert traced shapes to paths or automatically 'thin out' paths when scaling down?

  • Above images have been traced in Illustrator. Left two illos are different from large illo on the right. The originals had much finer lines. Can't seem to keep those.
    – user85167
    Feb 21, 2017 at 23:24
  • what's the resolution you're printing it?
    – Luciano
    Feb 22, 2017 at 9:23

3 Answers 3


They key to this may be in the settings used for Image Trace.

I can get fairly decent tracing results with your image (Using Illustrator CS6 here).

enter image description here That's the traced preview in the screenshot above, not the original raster.

I then Expand the trace, Object > Expand to expand the strokes, then Pathfinder Panel > Merge Button to combine everything.

It reduced okay.

enter image description here

There is a point where too great a reduction just causes visual "plugging" of the detail (upper right, smallest image in the above). However, the only real way around that is to either draw the illustration at size, or create it entirely in Illustrator avoiding any tracing. That way you have strokes that will scale. With the tracing, there's really not much you can do to scale the detail in Illustrator at a certain point. You either have to redraw the detail, or otherwise draw some counters to avoid the "plugging".

All Illustrator screenshots/images above.

If you take the trace back to Photoshop as a Smart Object, it seems to scale slightly better there (but of course it's raster again).

enter image description here

The larger you can scan the image, the more detail will be picked up and the better the tracing. That may help the reduction to a point.


I don't believe there's a way to automatically thin out the shapes in your case, since many lines overlap each other.

If the resolution is not high enough the smaller shapes will "jumble up". The solution would be printing at a higher resolution.

If you can't increase the resolution with your printing method, the only option is to use a simplified image with less fine detail (it wouldn't be visible anyway since the resolution is not high enough).

  • Thanks for helping, Luciano. The image was scanned and saved at 600dpi so, I think it's going to have to be redrawn with less detail and a thinner pen. Ugh. I think having someone redo within Illustrator would probably be best at this point. Nightmare.
    – user85167
    Feb 22, 2017 at 14:01
  • yes, if it can be done in Illustrator you would have more control, with the lines being actual lines instead of shapes. Although if you have the large amount of detail, you might still have problems printing.
    – Luciano
    Feb 22, 2017 at 14:22
  • For sure. That's going to need to be cut by about 70%. Truly just doesn't work as a very small logo part.
    – user85167
    Feb 23, 2017 at 15:08

1) take it into photoshop, separate it into 3 pieces (anchor, telescope x2)

2) change each into a black and white image, add and remove details as needed

3) bring each into illustrator and live trace, open the image trace panel and increase the threshold to ~200

  • you can always expand the trace, when its super small, and set the line width to .008. and turn of scale stroke and effects when you scale

enter image description here

  • Not a bad idea. Thank you! I'll try anything at this point. I just can't figure out what line weight (micron pen width), and negative space between hatching should be for a redraw if it comes to that. Has to work for both 4" and 2" height without closing up or losing detail. I'll try this and see if it helps. Never again. ;-/
    – user85167
    Feb 25, 2017 at 15:58

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