How to make a vector image

In this article, we are going to focus on vectors designs and how we can create them cleanly and efficiently. You will hopefully understand the benefits that come with working in such a manner, not only for you but the people around you. So without further ado, let’s come to grips with learning how to clean!

What Is a Vector Image?

In graphic design, a vector image is a type of digital graphic created using mathematical vectors to define shapes and elements. Unlike bitmap images, which are composed of individual pixels, vector images are based on mathematical equations that describe the location, size, shape, and colors of elements in the image.

Vector images are highly scalable, which means they can be resized to any dimensions without losing quality or clarity. This makes them ideal for graphics that require sharp lines and precision, such as logos, illustrations, typography, and diagrams. They are also useful in graphic design because they allow for easy adjustments and modifications since individual elements can be edited.

How to design a vector image

When working in this industry as a professional, you will find yourself working alongside others, collaborating, sharing files, and sending documents to print or fabricate with the ultimate aim of sending a final document to a happy customer. So to become a true professional at your game, cleaning up your act is very important, avoiding things like heavy file sizes and messy Vector drawings and steering away from complications in the future. One thing you don’t want is projects being rejected after all the hard work you have put in.

Document size

A finalized document is most likely not for personal use, but a customer. Therefore it is customary for a designer to deliver this package in a user-friendly way, taking into consideration the method of delivery. Sending documents via Email is commonplace, and with a cap of 20MB, anything above this file size can be a frustration we want to avoid. In addition, customers simply might not have terabytes of storage needed to store your oversized documents. Big projects like video and photography are an exception. However, there are many ways to tone down file size when working with Vector designs.

  • Simplifying complex vector drawings
  • Minimize the use of clipping masks
  • Linking images instead of embedding them
  • Using low-resolution images up to 3MB or no images at all
  • Convert images to vector
  • Make a custom PDF preset with compression

Ease of modification and support for collaborative work

How to make a vector image

Creating a clean vector design will be your future best friend. We have all been there. You have created a striking vector drawing for your client, but they want a last-minute change. However, the design is in a state! Clipping masks in disarray, overcomplicated paths, and a document that is just too big to be sent via email. Avoiding this carnage will make you a better designer, perhaps persuading clients and collaborators that you are clean and tidy, not just in appearance but in the way that you work.

Another point to keep in mind is we all work in our own way, and some designers may differ in technique. It is good practice when leaving work for another designer to vacate the design in an editable state for anyone to pick up from where you left off. There is nothing more frustrating than opening someone else’s work to find you are tearing your hair out trying to back engineer their work. Leading by example is the best angle!

Ethical behavior for your collaborators include:

  • Saving fonts used in the project folder
  • Saving images used in the project folder
  • Cleaning up over complicated clipping masks
  • Ordering and naming layers

Tips to create a vector image

Graphic design is a universal language, and just like any other language there are particular customs in place to keep all of us talking on the same page. The introduction of Feng Shui to graphic design was aimed at creating a balance in the way we visually communicate, bringing positive ‘Chi’ to design by following certain design principles.

This includes:

  • Using symmetry
  • Harmonizing objects in an open space
  • Providing balance and visual weight
  • Rule of thirds

This state of mind will help you in creating seamless designs. Check out some of these Vector designs and see if you can spot some Feng Shui!

Useful tools

Illustrator is full of tools that can help define your vector drawings, making cleaner and more efficient designs. Let’s go through some of the tools that can help clean up your act!

Eliminate unnecessary anchor points

Tips to create a vector image

There are a few techniques when laying down your Vector lines in illustrator. You could be drawing using a drawing pad, vectorizing an image using image trace, or playing it old school with a mouse. Vectorizing images can be particularly messy, but in all cases, it should be routine to go through and discard any unnecessary anchor points.

Can Adobe Illustrator clean up vector lines? The answer is yes! The path simplifier tool does exactly that. With the simple click of the mouse, it will clean up anchor points deemed unnecessary. However, it may not be for the perfectionists out there, preferring a more hands-on approach, removing unwanted anchor points click by click. Both techniques will work well to strip your drawings of extra weight, ultimately reducing file sizes.

Use basic shapes

Building a drawing from scratch using the basic shapes provided in the Illustrator toolbar is not a bad way to start a project. After all, there are millions of logos out there using this kind of technique to come up with stripped back contemporary Vector designs, and they look really clean! What’s more is, they are a fast way to work. If you are efficient, you can half the time it takes to do an original drawing.

Creating clean curves with the pen tool

When drawing freehand in Illustrator, it is worthwhile getting to know the pen tool and how it works, especially when making complex drawings involving curves. Practice using the nodes and handles along your path. You will soon get the hang of it, using the skill to your advantage. Perhaps you will find yourself using fewer anchor points and stripping the extra baggage from your creations. If learning more about Vector drawing is what you’re after, take a look at this article.

Curvature pen tool

If it’s just curvy lines you are after, then perhaps the curvature pen tool is just what you are looking for. It works in a very intuitive way creating natural-looking curves with minimal effort.

Pathfinder tool

Perhaps one of the most important sets of tools in Illustrator. You can slice, dice, merge and unite objects and paths, leaving you with no limitations in which to create. In addition, there is the pathfinder found in effects, which is only for grouped objects and layers, and since it works as an effect, you can take steps back in the appearance menu or even try different pathfinder effects to explore your curiosity.

Outline view

Head into the outline view to have a thorough check of your drawing. Acting like an X-ray, you will only see the structure of your drawings. Leaving out color fill, outlines, and effects will all be gone, leaving just the paths exposed, an excellent opportunity to find any kinks, stray anchor points, and mistakes in general.

Combining the perfected skills of the pen tool with the mastery of basic shapes will send you on your way to becoming a very talented designer, perhaps creating stunning icons for the real world!

Converting picture to image vector

A situation might arise when you need to vectorize an image, meaning to take a pixel-based element such as a photograph and transform it into a vector outline. It is a skill once perfected, can open up your world to creating some stunning vector designs. Just think of the possibilities!

Advantages and disadvantages

When going down this route, you must understand a few things first. It will no longer be an image, but an outline of an image, so all shading will be gone along with any pixel-based detail, leaving you with a vectorized outline. It all sounds doom and gloom, but once you give it a try, you will notice the joy that can come of it.
The experimental aspect of this practice is limitless. Now that your image is vectorized, you can create clipping masks with other images and designs, filling them with hues and gradients to your heart’s content. However, one huge advantage is the freedom to enlarge to any size you like without complicated file sizes. Great for large format print projects!

How to prepare an image for vector

Let’s try to understand what we are trying to do here. When using the image trace tool, Illustrator will try its best to identify the contrasting contours of the image and follow them to create completed paths. So what we must do to the image is exaggerate these contrast contours as much as possible for Illustrator to create an accurate Vector representation.
An image with high contrast is a good place to start. Open the image up in Photoshop, and increase the contrast with the aim of capturing all you want vectorized in the deep dark tones. It can sometimes help to convert the image to black and white since Illustrator reads black onto white much better, essentially cutting out the black tones.

Image trace

If you want more control, image tracing by hand is the option that might interest you the most. Using the pen tool in Illustrator to draw around the edge of the subjects in the image will keep you in the driving seat, creating your own unique interpretation of your Vector image. It is good practice to keep in mind the techniques mentioned earlier on in the article, keeping your work to a high standard. You never know who could be judging your work!

Now that you have cleaned up your act, perhaps you will set an example for others to follow, creating clean and pristine Vector designs everywhere you go.