Live Trace to Prep Artwork for Laser Etching


Live Trace is a tool in Illustrator that converts your artwork to vectors.  This is a necessary step for this workshop, even if you are only etching.  Live Trace will eliminate pixelation and allow you to resize your artwork without blurriness.  It will also convert your image to either black and white or grayscale, which is necessary for the ULS.

Any time you bring an image (exe: .jpg or .png) into Illustrator, an option for Live Trace will appear at the top of your screen, below the the menu bar.  Clicking this will give you the default options for Live Trace.  For some images, the default setting will work fine.  But for more complicated images, especially those using grayscale, you will want to tweak your settings before doing the Live Trace.  To access those settings, go to

Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options.  


Once your Live Trace options screen is open, move it to the side so you can see the original artwork.  Click on Preview to see your changes as you select them.  Next, decide if you want a grayscale image, or black and white.  (The laser will not recognize color images, so for this exercise do not choose Color)

In Black and White mode:

Threshold is the main setting to adjust the look of your artwork.  Changing the Threshold values will have the most obvious effect.  Experiment with the slider bar to see which value works for your image.  

In Grayscale mode:

The Max Colors will determine the level of detail in your images.  6 shades of gray is the default.  The more shades of gray you add, the more shading and contrast will be in your final image.  

After you have adjusted these settings, feel free to experiment with the other values like Blur, Path Fitting, Minimum Area, and Corner Angle.


Final Steps

Once you have an idea of what your notebook will look like, layout the images and text and resize as needed.  Make sure that your “template” layer is locked and that your artwork appears on the “artwork” layer.  After your notebook design is finished, you are ready to laser cut and etch it!