Learning to Vector Trace

Hidamari Sketch vector test drawing

I try my hand at vector tracing…

Have you ever wanted to capture an image of your favorite anime character directly from an episode but the result isn’t as good as you wanted it to be? The smallest of details can ruin the perfect shot; from  blurry areas to colors that don’t pop, even having unwanted backgrounds, objects and people in the shot. Or did you just want a picture you can zoom in on without getting all pixelated? Well one solution is doing a vector trace.

To get me by I’ve been making requests at 4Chan’s “anime wallpaper“‘s thread titled “Vector Thread – Requests & Sharing.” So far they’ve been happy to fulfill my requests in good time:

Before

1368641599382

After

Yuyushiki - Hinata Balloon v0

But one day I asked them for this image of Miyako in costume using the trademark wideface. But I received replies that ranged from “not worth it” to “you can do this yourself.” Alright then, I’ll give it a try. Where do I start?

HS capture

Many directed me to try a guide using Inkscape, an image editor program. With only basic knowledge from Photoshop, I went ahead with the guide. The result can be seen in the top image.  Download my completed vector if you’d like. Below are a few spinets from the process:

Making Lines

Lines

Coloring

Coloring

Trace Disassembled

Pieces

All in all, this first time trace probably took me a full a day to do (spread out over weeks of mistakes).  Not bad but not good either. And this isn’t even one of your typical vectors since the image is not as detailed (no eyes in this one). True trace artists will take days of work to get a good one done, using more techniques to get the perfect match.

I enjoyed the process but not the endless amounts of mouse clicks to get here.  I think I’ll continue this hobby, one image at a time, putting more detail as I improve. Practice makes perfect. I encourage you to give vector tracing a try. Who knows, it may become a useful skill in the future!

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