In this tutorial I am going to show you how to take a photograph and turn it into an engraved illustration effect in Illustrator. Our end result will be a pure vector design. We will go through preparing the image, and then we will apply some patterns to the shapes, manipulating them to achieve the engraved effect. Let’s get started.
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To begin, download the special engraving patterns I created just for you, for FREE!
Step 1: Choose your image. I am using a lovely image from Reine-Haru.
Step 2: For this example, I am going to isolate the subject, but you don’t have to. It will completely depend on your image. I am also going to turn the image to black & white and adjust the levels just a little bit for more contrast.
Step 3: Create a new document in Illustrator. The patterns are set up to work best with a letter sized page (8.5 x 11 in). File > Place your image into the document.
Step 4: With the image selected, click on the arrow to the right of “live trace” and select “Tracing Options…”
Step 5: Select Grayscale for the mode, change the Max. Colors to 8 and add a .2 blur. Hit Trace.
Step 6: Click on Expand and ungroup (ctrl+shift+G) everything.
Step 7: Now we are going to separate each shade of gray and put each one on its own layer. So, go ahead and create 8 new layers. To help keep this from getting confusing, I am going to name the layers 1-8 where the layer named 1 will have the white sections and 8 will have the black sections. You want layer 1 (white) to be the top layer and each step darker will go underneath.
Step 8: I put a pink rectangle behind the image so you can see that there is still a white background. If you have a background in your image, you can ignore this step. If you have a white background, go ahead and delete it. IF your background and main shape are connected in some way, just take the Knife tool to cut it away from your main image.
Step 9: Start with the lightest, white shade. Use the Direct select tool (A) and click on any of the white shapes. Go to Select > Same > Fill and it will select all of the white objects.
Step 10: Cut all of the selected objects (ctrl + X), go to Layer 1 and Paste in Front (Ctrl + F). Lock the layer and turn the visibility off. This will help you select the next lighter color.
Step 11: Do steps 9 & 10 again for the next shade and paste on to Layer 2.
Step 12: Keep going until you have separated all 8 shades onto their own layer.
Step 13: Now we are going to combine the layers and apply the patterns to them to create the engraved effect. Start by creating a new layer above all the other layers. Name this Layer “Dashed”. Also, if you haven’t already, load up the patterns. To load a Pattern Library, in the “Swatches” window click on the menu > Open Swatch Library > Other Library. Navigate to where you saved the patterns and click Open.
Step 14: Unlock all of the layers 1-8. Select everything (Ctrl + A), copy (Ctrl + C) and “Paste in Front” (Ctrl + F) on the layer named “Dashed”. With all of the bits still selected, go to the Pathfinder panel and click on “Unite”
Step 15: Apply the pattern titled “Dashed 2” to the object.
Step 16: Lock the “Dashed” layer. Create a new layer above it and name it “0.5 pt”. Hide the layer “1”. Unlock layers 2-8, select all, copy and paste in front on the new “0.5 pt” layer. Click on Unite through the Pathfinder again.
Step 17: Apply the pattern called “0.5pt”. You can see where we are going at this point. We are creating new layers by combining the original 1-8 layers. Each of our new layers will have one less of the original layers.
Step 18: Lock the “0.5pt” layer and create a new layer above it called “.75pt”. Hide the layer “2”. Unlock layers 3-8, make a copy and paste in front on the new “.75pt” layer. Unite through the Pathfinder. Apply the pattern titled “.75pt”
Step 19: Create a new layer named “1pt”. Same process, but with layers 4-8. Apply the pattern named “1pt”.
Step 20: New layer named “2pt”. Copy layers 5-8. Apply pattern named “2pt”
Step 21: New layer named “3pt”. Copy layers 6-8. Apply pattern named “3pt”
Step 22: New layer named “4pt”. Copy layers 7-8. Apply pattern named “4pt”
Step 23: Finally, new layer named “4pt 2”. Copy layer 8. Apply pattern “4pt” again.
Step 24: Zooming out and turning off that pink background you can see our work so far. Not much of an engraving yet, but the next steps are where the magic happens.
Step 25: Keep in mind, everybody will have a different image, so the next steps may be different for you. It is best to experiment to see how the lines work with your image, but to start, unlock the last layer we made “4pt 2”. With the object selected, right click on it, go to “Transform” then “Rotate”.
Step 26: UNCHECK objects so that only “Patterns” is clicked on. Change the Angle to 90 and click OK.
Step 27: Do the same thing to the layer titled “4pt”. This gives us a nice bit of cross hatch in the darkest areas.
Step 28: Look at your image and determine which layer is about halfway between the shadows and highlights. In our case this is the “1pt” layer. Unlock this layer, right click > Transform > Move. We are going to move the distance 2pt, Angle -90.
Step 29: As you are working you can adjust the angles of any of the patterns and experiment to get your desired effect. Below I have rotated the angle on the layer named “.75pt” to 45 degrees.
Step 30: I feel it is getting a little darker than I wanted, so I am going to turn off the layers “Dashed” and “.5pt” .
Keep playing with it until you are happy. Add a background, add more lines, remove lines. Whatever works best for your image.
Test it out with different images and have fun!