Help with Illustrator technique

I am stuck on figuring out how to trace shapes in Illustrator. The tutorials seem to focus on a different end result, and I’m not sure what I should be searching for, so I am hoping someone can point me in the right direction – and/or I’d be happy to do a paid mentor session if that’s available.

For the attached image, the end goal is to cut these from paper stock, so I need vectors, and I want to build up a layered 3D effect. So for example, I might trace a large body shape to include the torso, arms, and legs, then trace individual pieces for cuffs and hands.

Any Illustrator experts available for a session?

Spend a lot of time with the pen / curvature tool, that’s what will get you to your end result. They’re not an intuitive tool to work with if you don’t have experience with bezeier curve tools but you get the feel for it after a bit.

What you need to do is work from the bottom up, so you’ll draw an outline of the largest shape and create new layers for each shape that lies on top of it.

Think of a stack of concentric circles cut out that ultimately form a mountain. You’ll cut the biggest one, then the next smallest one and so forth, like a stack of pennies.

When you have all your shapes separate them from themselves so you cut them out individually. If you cut them in place you just make a puzzle, if that makes sense.

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Yeah totally makes sense, and that is the plan. Build up layers. I’ll do some research on pen/curvature. Thanks for the tip!

I’d recommend finding some tutorial videos and just follow along, it’s how I learned illustrator many moons ago and once you have the basics you figure out ways to do it easier and faster

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Maybe @Felipeg101, depending on his schedule.


There is a technique of importing a jpeg or png file and then “place” it on the canvas. file → place Shift - Cntrl - p. That goes on the base layer.

Create an additional layer. Your image has a number on a top layer. Delete it.

Create a layer 2

Copy paste the image from layer one to layer 2.

Lock down layer 1 so if you make any mistakes you can always go back to the original in size and scale. Hit the eyeball to make layer 1 disappear.

Create layer 3 and you can start drawing on layer 3. There is a function called image trace that is more complex than I can describe here but there are tutorials on how to use it.

What you are looking for is to draw on top of the first copy outlines of the different colors. Set the pen to say 1 or 2 pixels and add a fill color similar to the color you want to trace. Set the opacity to 40% or 50% maybe and trace each color on a different layer of the drawing.

Check your work showing or hiding different layers. The image trace thing is pretty cool but it takes some playing around to get it to work as intended.

Also play around with the mask. That is a tool/technique that help you isolate colors.

A lot of ways to skin this cat. I’ve done this a number of times but I’d need to review the tutorials. There is so much in AI

Feel free to reach out for questions

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I teach the illustrator course at asmbly. I can run you from being a beginner, to being able to actually use it proficiently in a short time. Let me know if you are interested, and I can show you some tricks that you can use on this project in a session!

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Thank you! I appreciate the detailed write-up. I’ll look into the trace feature more. First pass, it wasn’t getting what I needed.


…now I’m replying too quickly?

…and mail messages count as replies, so the reply timer has reset

One clutch thing that has been of great use to me has been using illustrator on the iPad with the Apple pen. Changed the game

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