How to Trace an Image in Photoshop Featured Image

How to Trace an Image in Photoshop?

Tracing an image converts a low-resolution image to breaking its resolution limit! Although sounds challenging, tracing is unbelievably easy with a little how-to knowledge. But how to trace an image in Photoshop? 

Today we will explain the process of tracing an image in Photoshop. You can trace an object in Photoshop to create the exact scalable shape and path.

Let’s skip all the trash talk and learn how to digitally trace an image. Welcome to the Clipping Pixel Photoshop guides!

What is Image Tracing?


Image Tracing: Definition

Image tracing is the conversion of an image from a raster to a vector. Raster is a 2D graphic that allows photos to be viewed on a computer screen. Raster has a limited dimension. Yet, image tracing modifies the shape, lines, and some other details of an image to select the path.

Image Tracing: Importance

You can use Photoshop to trace images to vectors for so many use. You can even make an animation of any real objects through tracing. Tracing will help you recreate the image easily. For example,

  • Cropping
  • Resizing
  • Upscaling
  • Color replacement
  • Background removal

In other words, tracing helps you get total control over any shape in the image to make it more appealing. Let’s learn how to trace an image in photoshop most concisely.

How to Trace an Image in Photoshop?

Trace an Object in Photoshop: Using Pen Tool

The pen tool is the most used tool for professional Photoshop artists. You can use poen to create a path or shape having anchor points. Clipping path work needs special assistance from the pen tool. 

Let’s begin the tracing process using a pen tool. Follow the steps below. 

  1. Open Image in Photoshop

Open your image in Photoshop. You may have Photoshop CC installed on your computer. All the versions can perform the same trick, including the CS versions.

First, click on the File menu, click on the Open, and select the image you want to trace. The image will take place on the artboard.

  1. Duplicate The Layer

Inserted the image? Now go to the right panel of the Photoshop dashboard. Use Ctrl + J hotkey or go to the Layer menu to create a duplicate layer of the original image. Now hide the original image layer so you do not affect the original image. 

  1. Reduce The Opacity

Now, adjust the opacity of the duplicate layer. Pull the opacity slider to 50% to make it half transparent. Then, lock the layer so you do not misplace its position in the next steps. Name each layer to identify it easily.

  1. Create New Layer

Now, create a new layer on top of the duplicate layer. You can name that tracing layer because you need to perform the tracing on this layer.

After that, unlock the bottom layer and tap Ctrl + Backspace hotkey to make a solid white background like art paper. 

  1. Zoom in/out to Get a Better View

Now, click on the tracing layer, and zoom in a little bit to find the edges of the subject of your image. Tap Z on the keyboard to have the zoom-in and zoom-out buttons. Or click on view from the menu bar to set your preferences. 

  1. Choose The Tracing Color

There will be many color variants in the image. Right-click on a layer for color options, then select a specific color, such as Red. 

  1. Activate The Pen Tool

Now, select the pen tool from the left sidebar. Simply put the pen on the edge of any shape and start overlapping the pattern. Try to create a path around the edges to draw like sketches.

  1. Adjusting The Pen Diameter

Adjust the pen from the Pen menu on the top bar. Select the path option and make the pen point larger or smaller according to your need.

  1. Trace an Object in Photoshop

Now, you have to observe every image shape and start tracing. You can use an anchor point in the pen tool to do it accurately. The maximum use of anchor points will help you create the round edges more accurately.

  1.  Export or Save The Image

Done? Then it’s time to save the final image. Note that you can colorize the paths to make animation. Also, you can save it as how it is. Click on File, then click on Save as, and save it in your preferred format. 

Trace an Object in Photoshop: Using Content-Aware Tool

You can trace an image in Photoshop using the content-aware tool. The tool will use artificial intelligence to detect the paths for you. Using this you can trace an object in Photoshop within the second.

Follow the instructions to use content aware tool to trace images.

  • Open Photoshop, click on File, and import the image.
  • Now click Edit, and hover on the Preference option from the drop-down menu.
  • Now click on the technology previews option from the sub-drop-down menu.
  • Mark the Enable content aware tracing tool and restart your Photoshop.
  • After that, right-click on your pen tool, and choose the content-aware tracing tool.
  • Now move your mouse cursor to the area you want to trace and click to select area.
  • Now left click to create a path.
  • Hold the Shift key, and repeat the process to select the other area.

Content-aware tracing tool is a powerful tool for tracing an image quickly. After the tool helps you create paths, you can save the selection like the manual steps.

Trace an Object in Photoshop: Draw Over Image in Photoshop

As you already know how to trace an image in Photoshop, we are coming up with another bonus tutorial for you: drawing over an image in Photoshop.

Drawing is needed after tracing an image in Photoshop. You can do it perfectly with the help of the pencil tool. Let’s have a glimpse of the process.

  1. Open The Photoshop

As usual, open your Photoshop CC and proceed to the work. From the File option, open the image or already traced file.

  1. Activate Pencil Tool

Now go to the left toolbar and find the pencil icon. You may find the pencil icon embedded in the pen or brush menu. Select the pencil icon.

  1. Adjust The Settings

After that, look up the top bar with some pencil options. You can set the brush size and style required for your drawing.

  1. Select The Color

Go to the right panel, and click the color swatch toolbar. Use the color selector to select the perfect color. The rainbow-like slider is good for this job.

  1. Begin the Drawing

Click on the image and prepare for drawing. You can drag the mouse cursor to draw with pencils. You can create a new layer on top of the tracing layer to draw more precisely.

  1. Export or Save The File

Done with the drawing? Now click on File, and use the Save as option to save the newly drawn image in your preferred format. 

Trace an Object in Photoshop: Use Photoshop Traced Image to Vector

Do you know the process of Photoshop tracing images to vector? Well, there are easy instructions for you. A couple of steps can convert your raster images to vector format.

Vector format will give you the maximum enhancement ability to work with the design. Let’s keep our eyes on the simple steps. 

First, trace your image following our first step-by-step guide. Then follow the below:

  1. Apply Threshold Effect

Click on Create New Fill option or adjustment layer icon to create a threshold effect layer in the editing panel.

  1. Selecting Tones Areas

Use the color range command to choose the toned areas. 

  1. Tolerance Value

Now, adjust the tolerance value to how you would like to apply in your created path. 

  1. Filling The Path

Now, create a solid color layer to fill all the paths. Done!

  1. Save or Export

After that, you can save your file. Go to File and export in SVG format. Now the vector is ready for you.

What Are The Importance of Photo Tracing?

While some people want to know how to trace an image in Photoshop, beginner users want to know the importance of Photoshop. 

So, we have brought the comparison for your convenience. Today, we will describe the advantages and disadvantages of tracing images in Photoshop. 

Trace an Object in Photoshop: The Advantages

Tracing an object in Photoshop reveals many opportunities for designers. 

  • Vector graphics improves image quality magnificently.
  • Tracing allows designers to scale up the image to make creatives.
  • The tracing ensures extreme precision.
  • The tracing can rebuild a shape in the fastest time.

Trace an Object in Photoshop: The Dis-Advantages

There are some problems when the designer is yet to learn to trace precisely.

  • Tracing can result in bad images from low-resolution resources.
  • Tracing is slower while working with large images.
  • Inaccurately done traces will change the shape of any human or animal face.

What are The Most Important Settings for Tracing an Image?

Adobe Illustrator has advanced options to trace images. But Photoshop does not have dedicated functionality. So you have to use alternatives to control the following settings.

Mode: Mode include color, grayscale, black and white, and outline, which play key roles before starting the trace. So use the correct options to convert images accordingly.

Threshold: The threshold is the main part to determine whether the adjacent pixels will be grouped. 

Path & Pixels: Path and pixels represent the raster image’s accuracy. The more value they have, the more accurate the results will become.

Wrap Up

If you want to cope with a competitive design, learn how to trace an image in Photoshop with proper attention. You can impress your clients with amazing Photoshop tools. With growing skills, you could trace an object in Photoshop like a true professional.


What does tracing an object in Photoshop mean?

Tracing an image in Photoshop denotes converting a pixel-based raster image to scalable vector graphics. It is a process of improving the quality of a normal image.

What is content aware tracing tool in Photoshop?

The content-aware tracing tool is an artificial intelligence-based algorithm that allows you to select a shape or object automatically. The content-aware system can inspect the pixels and select the area with the same color information.

What is the benefit of tracing an image in Photoshop?

Sometimes you do not get an SVG or PNG version of an image. Therefore, tracing an image can recover the path and shapes from a small JPEG image to unleash its resolution. Tracing is the most simple solution for graphic designers.