Re-create a Logo From a Poor Quality Scan With Illustrator

Use Illustrator's Live Trace feature to draw vector art from a scan

You can recreate a logo from a poor quality scan in a couple of ways using Adobe Illustrator CS4 or later. You can automatically trace the logo using Live Trace or manually trace the logo using a template layer. Each method has its pros and cons, but either method produces editable vectors in Illustrator.

01
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Adjust the Artboard Size

Adjust the Artboard Size

Sandra Trainor

Begin by opening the scan in a new file in Adobe Illustrator. Use the Artboard tool to resize the file if desired and then click OK. To exit the artboard-editing mode, click a different tool in the Tools panel or press Esc.

Choose File > Save As, and name the file live_trace. This preserves the original scan for later use.

02
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Use Live Trace

Use Live Trace

Sandra Trainor

Before you can use Live Trace, you need to set the tracing options.

  1. Select the scanned logo.
  2. Choose Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options.
  3. Set the Preset to Default, the Mode to Black and White, and the Threshold to 128 or use settings that work better with your logo scan.
  4. Click Trace.
  5. Choose Object > Expand, making sure that Object and Fill are selected in the dialog box.
  6. Click OK.

How to use the Live Trace Feature in Illustrator in later versions of Illustrator.

The Live Trace method differs slightly in CC versions of Illustrator.

  1. With the scan selected, click on the Image Trace drop-down menu in the Illustrator Control Panel. 
  2. Select either Black and White Logo or Shades of Gray in the drop-down menu. Other options may work as well, including Line Art and Technical Drawing.

Experiment with the options until you have a set of vector outlines that closely match the scan. 

03
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Change the Color

Change the Color

Sandra Trainor

To change a color or add color to the logo:

  1. Click on the Live Paint Bucket tool in the Tools panel
  2. Choose Window > Color.
  3. Click the panel menu icon in the upper-right corner of the Color panel to choose a color option.
  4. Using the Live Paint Bucket tool, click on different parts of the logo, one section at a time, until the entire logo is the color you selected.

You just recreated a logo using Live Trace. The advantage of using Live Trace is that it's quick. The disadvantage is that it isn't perfect.

04
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View and Save Live Trace Outlines

View Outlines

Sandra Trainor

To look closely at the logo and its outlines, click on it with the Zoom tool and choose View > Outlines. Notice that the lines are somewhat wavy.

Choose View > Preview to return to viewing the logo in color. Then, choose View > Actual Size, followed by File > Save and File > Close.

It is likely that the quality of the logo is not what you were hoping for. For a higher quality logo, manually trace the logo using a template layer, which takes longer but looks better.

05
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Create a Template Layer

Create a Template Layer

Sandra Trainor

Open the original scan again and rename it manual_trace. Next, create a template layer. A template layer holds an image that is dimmed so you can easily see the paths that you draw in front of it. To create a template layer: 

  1. Double-click the layer in the Layers panel.
  2. In the Layer Options dialog box, choose Template.
  3. Dim the image to 30 percent and click OK.

At any time, you can choose View > Hide to hide the template, and View > Show Template to see it again.

06
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Manually Trace Logo

Manually Trace Logo

Sandra Trainor

In the Layers panel, click the Create New Layer icon. With the new layer selected, choose View > Zoom In.

Manually trace over the template image using the Pen tool. It's easier to trace without color, so if the Fill box or Stroke box in the Tools panel shows a color, click on the box under it to change the color to none. Trace both inner and outer shapes.

If you're unfamiliar with the Pen tool, click to plot points, which create straight lines. Click and drag to create curved lines. When the first point connects with the last point, it makes a shape.

07
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Indicate Stroke Weight and Apply Color

Indicate Stroke Weight and Apply Color

Sandra Trainor

If the new layer is not at the top in the Layers panel, click and drag it above the template layer. To apply a stroke width and color to the manual tracing:

  1. Choose View > Actual size.
  2. With the Selection tool, shift-click the two lines that represent the pages of a book and choose Window > Stroke.
  3. In the Stroke panel, change the stroke weight to 3 pt or whatever looks right to you.
  4. To color the lines, double-click the Stroke icon in the Tools panel and enter the color values.
08
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Apply Fill Color

Apply Fill Color

Sandra Trainor

To apply a fill color to a shape:

  1. Select the shape.
  2. Double-click the Fill box in the Tools panel.
  3. In the Color Picker, choose a color.

When you don't know the exact color values of a logo, but you have in your computer a file that shows the logo in color, you can open the file and click on the color with the Eyedropper tool to sample it. The color values are revealed in the Color panel.

09
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Arrange the Shapes

Arrange the Shapes

Sandra Trainor

With the Selection tool, shift-click the path segments that make up the shapes that you want to cut out or appear white, and choose Object Arrange > Bring to Front.

10
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Cut Out Shapes

Cut Out Shapes

Sandra Trainor

Cut the shapes you want to appear white out of the shapes that are colored. To do so:

  1. Shift-click on a pair of shapes.
  2. Choose Window > Pathfinder.
  3. In the Pathfinder panel, click on the Subtract from Shape Area button. Do this with each pair of shapes until it's done.

You've just recreated a logo by tracing it manually with the use of a template layer. If you enlarge it and view the logo, you'll see that the quality of the stroke outlines is better than it is in the automatic Live Trace version.