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ACC-7015 • Auto tracing done right


For as long as there has been vector computer graphics there have been programs to "auto trace" scans to convert them to a scalable, editable vector format. To some it's nothing short of Black Magic, to others it's a very technical procedure that needs to be handled properly in order to be valuable.


Things to know about Postscript:

Postscript is a very deep and complex language that most end users never think twice about. They go about their day working a program and expecting everything they create to print as needed when needed. That just isn't the case. Knowledge is power so understand what you are doing in order to have a smooth workflow.

There are right now 3 different levels of Postscript. The reason is that Adobe keeps adding abilities and features as the language grows, fixing and enhancing as it does.

In the early days of computer graphics (late 80') if you had a single anchor point more than 127 to a single vector line that line would not print. Programs still have features for splitting line segments, flattening, rasterizing and converting fonts to curves (outlines) all because postscript as a language is very complex and may fail to print for a variety of reasons. You need to know where these features and options are located in your main stream graphics programs and how to use them when needed.

How to prevent a problem:

You should not just take any image you have and click auto trace and expect that magic will happen and you can then color, size and print your clients image. Really read the documentation about how the feature works in Draw or Illustrator and read the tips for making a better trace. A better trace maps the graphic closely but does not add an enormous amount of anchor points (nodes) to the result.

If when you click the traced vector file after the features is done and it looks like an huge bunch of points, so much that you can't tell what the image looks like then you are probably going to have a print memory postscript limit check over load. Just a guess. :)

Work with smooth edge graphics not rough edge poor quality of stylized graphics. The rougher the outer edge of your scanned or digital image the more anchors point are needed to reproduce it. Years ago we always cleaned the edge of scans with marker to allow the auto trace app to do a better job. We basically tried to scan our art as close to "ad slick" (camera ready) quality as possible. Today everyone is in a rush, not understand the technology as well or just plan ignoring things until they blow up on them.

Have a whole new mind. Don't be one of those people, be better.

A good start is a good finish and this saying seems custom made for discuss ing auto trace programs.

A great help and your worst nightmare, which will it be for you?

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