From a hand-drawn sketch into a vector image

Digitizing line art florals and botanicals

From a hand-drawn sketch into a vector image

Digitizing line art florals and botanicals
Essential steps
Essential steps
Use suitable drawing tools.

  • Smooth white paper, not textured. Ivory, creme is also fine, because background color will be easily removed.
  • Thick enough to absorb pen pigment. 80g white printer sheet is a great option.

  • Black pigment liner size 0.1 for floral and botanical drawings. Size 0.2 will work better for geometric shapes. Size 0.05 will help add extra detail. Size 0.05 sometimes might be too thin, and AI migh ignore such thin lines.
  • Apply enough pressure on your liner. Find a balance between a sufficient line thickness and an airy natural look we're trying to create.

For our purpose we don't need a perfect illustration. At this stage we are creating raw material, which we'll later process and adjust in Illustrator. If some lines, shapes, sizes feel wrong, no worries! We'll correct them later.

  • Don't take photos. Use a proper scanner.
  • Scan at minimum 300 dpi. I usually scan at 600 dpi.

Edit the scan
  • Use Photoshop or any other photo editing software. Photoshop is not necessary, any photo editing app will do the job.
  • Adjust contrast, whites and blacks. If it's not enough, run a second round of the same edits.
Result after adjusting contrast, whites and blacks in Photoshop Express
Result after adjusting contrast, whites and blacks in Photoshop Express
  • Alternatively adjust Levels in Photoshop. Click White Eyedropper and click on the white area in your image. Click Black Eyedropper and click on the black lines in your image.
  • Drag your image into Illustrator, Image Trace it at Black and White preset. It usually does job, but you can also play with the settings and see what works best for your drawing.
  • Open Advanced and click Ignore White. If later we want to color the inside parts, there is a better way to do it. For now we only need the outline.
  • Expand. Ungroup. Remove dots, lines and anything you don't want in your illustration.
  • Very often Image Tracing does a great job, and no additional corrections are needed. We can stop here, and use our illustration further for a logo, a print or a pattern.
Additional edits
Additional edits
If lines look edgy and rough, we can use Smooth Tool or Remove Anchor Point tool. Smooth Tool is located under Pencil Tool. Delete Anchor Point Tool can be found under Pen Tool.

  • Select the shape with Direct Selection Tool (A). Select Smooth Tool. Hold your left mouse button and draw the lines on the rough edges of your illustration.You'll see how the line becomes softer. Repeat if needed.
  • Make smaller fixes with Delete Anchor Point Tool (-). You can remove unwanted angles, dots and slightly even the lines. Click on an anchor point to delete it.
Smoothing lines is completely optional. As I've said before, in most cases if you do the preparations correctly (stages 1 - 3), Image Tracing provides a good smooth result for florals and botanicals, while preserving their hand-crafted touch.
Sometimes digitized drawings look different than their paper originals. Also, working on a logo sometimes you need to use only a part of your illustration, or you might need to incorporate your illustration into a shape. In this case we need to cut a part of an illustration or rebuild it completely.
  • Cut parts with Eraser Tool. Let's not overcomplicate things :) Don't forget to save the original copy of your illustration.
  • Divide an illustration into several pieces with Eraser Tool, and reorganize them the way you want.
  • Use Unite action from Pathfinder Tab to create one shape from all your separate elements.
Adjust line thickness
If you are planning to apply your illustration on dark backgrounds I'd suggest making the lines thicker. Making lines thinner usually help create a softer airy look. Steps are almost the same in both cases.

  • Add outline to your illustration
  • Object - Expand
  • Open Pathfinder Tab - Unite (make lines thicker) / Minus Front (make lines thinner)
I prefer my illustrations to stay outlines only :) But there is always a way to fill them in with color. With this method we can add color to all closed areas of our drawing.

  • Create any shape of any color and place it underneath your illustration. Select both.
  • Pathfinder - Trim - Ungroup - Delete the outer part of the shape.
Now you can change the color of not only the outline, but also the inside part of your drawing. You can group the colored parts, so that you can select them all at once.