In this post, I’ll show you step-by-step how to digitize a drawing with Adobe Illustrator or Inkscape. Learning how to digitize your hand drawn artwork opens up a world of possibilities. Once you convert your hand-sketched art to digital images (also called vector images or vector line art,) you can resize them, color them digitally, and make professional graphics that you can use over and over. Create logos, digitize your signature, make digital stamps, make prints to sell, and even make your own fabric! Awesome, right?
How to digitize a drawing
What you need:
A pencil and eraser
Micron felt-tip pens in black
Vector Art Software. This tutorial shows the process using Adobe Illustrator software. You can also use Inkscape (it is free.) I have included a video at the bottom of this post that outlines the tracing part of the process for Inkscape as well.
Step 1: Draw an image
First sketch out your drawing in pencil. I often erase and draw things if I don’t like the way a part looks. (I included some text as well so you can see that this works with your hand-drawn text too!)
Step 2: Outline your image in black pen
Once you are happy with your sketch, ink over the lines you want to digitize with your Micron pen. They make several sizes, but I most often use the 3 or the 5 size. The difference in the lines they produce is minimal, but 5 is thicker than 1.
Erase any pencil lines that didn’t get covered by ink. This makes sure you get the cleanest possible trace result when you scan and bring in to the vector program.
3. Scan your hand-drawn image to create a digital file you can work with
Next scan your drawing using your scanner. This creates a picture of your drawing that can be traced by the computer software.
4. Use a vector art program to trace your scanned image
Open the scan of the drawing in your vector art program. I am using Adobe Illustrator. For Inkscape instructions, check out the video tutorial at the bottom of this post.
Select the picture in the program and find the “Trace” button at the top of the screen. There are many options and you can play with all of them, but if you want a trace that produces a very clean, simple line, select the “Sketched Art” option.
Once the trace has completed, select the image again, and it will look like the picture below.
5. Clean up the vector graphic
Now you need to separate the graphics and erase anything you don’t need that got traced like the outline of the paper and specs of ink or eraser dust. With the graphic still selected like above, go to “Object” and select “Expand.” Select to expand both the “Fill” and “Object” when that option pops up (pictured below.)
Now “ungroup” everything. Select anything you don’t want and hit delete. If you are deleting the graphic you wanted when you do this, it means things are either not expanded or still grouped. Go back a couple of steps in this tutorial and check you have done those things.
Once you have completed the above steps and cleaned up your graphic, you can color it in, move things around, resize, or whatever! Save your file as an .eps or .ai file so the lines stay vector and can continue to be manipulated. Save as a .png file with no background to use as a digital stamp.
How to trace a drawing with Inkscape: