Since Procreate came out, more and more artists have moved to the iPad as either a starting point, or their entire workflow. One piece of the process that has been hard to substitute when using the iPad alone, is vectorising.
The fastest and easiest way to convert pixel artwork to vector has always been via ‘image trace’ in Adobe Illustrator (aka ‘auto trace’). This is a popular method, but you need a costly subscription + a desktop computer.
But is there another way to do this without leaving the iPad or paying a monthly subscription? Yes!
I’m going to show you two different options for mastering your vectorising projects today. First, we’ll export lettering from Procreate and use the autotrace function using the free app, Vectornator. Then we’ll see how that compares when using Adobe Capture + Affinity Designer.
Don’t worry, Adobe Capture is free. There is a (very reasonable) one-off cost for Affinity Designer, but once you see the special ‘sculpt’ feature, you will understand why I had to include it!
on the iPad
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When is Vector Artwork Important?
Vector artwork is key for a lot of projects as it allows you to scale both up and down to any size, as many times as you need without losing quality. This is especially important for print projects, logos or any situation where the dimensions may need to change. It’s also useful for people selling prints on Etsy or other marketplaces. They may have multiple sizes they cater for, or in some cases need to supply .svg format for vinyl cutting. Having a master file in vector, they can resize without any quality loss and export to a .png .svg .tif (or whatever is needed). If you were trying to do this with pixels, the size changes would leave you with a very blurry image!
I want to note as well, there are a few different ways to create a vector. Some are more precise than others (such as bezier curves from scratch). But the quickest and easiest method is to use a feature called ‘auto trace’. Auto trace will automatically turn your pixel artwork into a vector at the click of a button! It’s not available in all vector software, but I’ll show you two different ways you can do it without leaving the iPad.
A Note about the Tutorial
A couple of years ago, I published a video about this process using Adobe Capture for the auto trace capabilities and Affinity Designer to refine the vector. At the time, this was the best way I could find to do this. I still rate this method. Adobe Capture does an excellent job of tracing (you don’t need a paid subscription to use it) and Affinity Designer has the amazing ‘Sculpt’ tool (see video from 9:53), which makes refining the vector a piece of cake.
But since then, Vectornator has joined the party and now offers auto trace capabilities, so I wanted to demo how that works today. I will say, Adobe Capture definitely did the better job of the auto trace for the particular project I was working on, but you can easily try both options for yourself and see which you prefer.
So without further ado, here is the tutorial!
I hope you enjoyed today’s tutorial. I’d love to know in the comments which method you prefer.