Create a Vector Object in Illustrator Using Layers and the Pen Tool

An easy way to draw objects in Illustrator is to use an image, layers, and the pen tool. This way, you can create original illustrations for logos, brochure printing, web pages, or whatever project you are creating.

Create a Template of the Original
Open a new document in Illustrator and then go to File>Place. In the dialog box that appears, choose the image you want to work with and check the Template box located on the lower left hand side of the screen.

 

Click Place and your image should now be placed as a locked layer at 50% opacity. A new layer should appear above this locked image layer.


 

Trace Using the Pen Tool
Before beginning a trace, you may want to rename Layer 1 as Main Outline, or a similar name. Simply double-click on the layer and type in the new name. Select the Pen Tool and begin tracing only the main outline of your image.

 

Now add a new layer for additional parts of your image (in this case, for the fins.) and rename it appropriately. Since my new layer involves fins, I have named it Fins.


 
Before tracing your outer objects, be sure to lock any other layers by clicking on the empty box next to the eye on the left hand side of your layers. A lock icon should appear. Now you can trace your objects using the pen tool again.


 

Tip: Make sure Fill is on while tracing to see the object that you are creating as compared to the original image. The Fill icon is located on the lower left hand side of the screen in the Tools menu.

 
Draw in Details
Now you can add some details to your traced image. It's easiest to do this with your Fill set as white and the lines that you draw set to a black color. Before beginning to draw, though, create a new layer named Details. I found it easiest to draw the details by hiding the main outline and fins and tracing over details I wanted to include using the Pencil Tool located in the Tools menu on the left hand side of the screen. To hide layers, simply click on the eye to the left of the layer.


 

After completing the details, view all of the layers except for the template to see what your image looks like.


 
You should now have a completed image that can be edited as desired and saved as a vector image for use in brochure printing, web design, and more.
 

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