How to Vectorize an Image in Illustrator

Let's get to the point.
Ash Ash (362)
20 minutes

Adobe Illustrator is great for creating vector artwork. Any version of Illustrator will work for this guide. Menus move around between different editions, but the principles are still the same.

What is a vector?

In relation to vector graphics, a vector is a point used to measure its relation to another point.

Vector graphics are a certain type of image constructed out of vector points. These points connect together through a series of lines and curves. You can scale the image as large or as small as you need - the relation of vector points ensures the image is always properly constructed.

Adobe IllustratorAdobe Illustrator ×1

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Adobe Illustrator Blank Canvas

Start a new project in Adobe Illustrator. You can create vector work with a blank canvas or upload an image to create vector artwork.

To upload an image, drag and drop it onto the Illustrator workspace or use the File > Open menu.

Adobe Illustrator Vector

Now it's time to create your vector artwork. This step can be easy or time-consuming depending on the project you have ahead of you.

There are many ways to go about creating your vector artwork. I highly recommend familiarizing yourself with the Pen Tool—once mastered, it can be used to create professional-looking details.

If drawing from scratch isn't on your agenda, you can always try tracing an existing image. Check out our guide on how to trace an image in Illustrator. I’m tracing a picture of my cat for this guide.

Illustrator Vector Art

Be sure to give your artwork a once-over before saving. This is a good opportunity to clean up your line art and add final details to the design.

Create An SVG File

When you're ready to export your design, be sure to save it as a vector supporting file type. Avoid using formats like jpeg, png, or bmp. These create rasterized images that lose quality when scaled. I recommend one of these three:

  1. SVG - An SVG file supports vector graphic images. SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. To make an SVG file, save your vector art in Illustrator as a .svg file type.
  2. EPS - An EPS file supports vector graphic artwork, but also contains a rasterized copy of the artwork for quick viewing. It stands for Encapsulated PostScript. To create an EPS file, save your Illustrator work as a .eps file type.
  3. AI - An AI file supports Adobe Illustrator files and vector graphics. It stands for Adobe Illustrator and is the default file type for Adobe Illustrator projects. To create an AI file, save your work in Illustrator as a .ai file type.

Congratulations! You’ve created an original piece of vectorized work. You may want to go a step further and check out our guide on how to add a transparent background.

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