How do I Live Trace the images in a PDF in Illus CS3?
October 18, 2009 10:47 AM   Subscribe

How do I Live Trace the images in a PDF in Illustrator CS3?

So, a friend has mocked up a program for a conference that he's arranging on a shoestring budget in Microsoft Word. The printer was ready to charge like $200/hr for converting this document to a printable format, which is out of the budget range my friend is working with. Basically, he said that it needed to be in a vector format in CMYK color space.

Since I have a mac, the first thing I did was to print the document to a pdf, to convert all the text to glyphs. Next, I opened a page in Illustrator, and it was easy enough to convert the color space to CMYK from RGB. Finally, I went to convert the raster images inserted in the document (.jpgs and .gifs) to vectors. The tutorials I had seen for Live Trace made it look pretty simple, but I can't figure out how to make it happen on my document.

It isn't that I'm displease with the results, it's that I can't make it happen at all. With the image selected, the Object->Live Trace->Make menu option is grayed out.

What do I need to do to the images in this imported pdf to make it so that Illustrator allows me to Live Trace them?

Thanks for the help!
posted by cobra_high_tigers to Computers & Internet (10 answers total)
I realize this isn't exactly what you're asking, but are you sure the images have to be in vector format? They shouldn't have to be. Illustrator can output images just fine. How many colors will this be printed with?
posted by Brainy at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2009

Just for the sake of simplicity, I usually lift images I'm going to trace out of the original document and put them into a new illustrator document all by themselves. The other issue could be that a PDF opened in Illustrator is composed of so many clipping masks and layers, you may think you have the object selected but you really don't. That said, don't expect miracles from Live Trace. Most often, I try Live Trace and end up retracing it with the pen tool instead.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2009

Best answer: Instead of opening a page of the pdf in Illustrator, create a new document in Illustrator, then place a page of the pdf (File - New, then File - Place and navigate to the pdf and select the desired page in the Place PDF dialog box). Placing the pdf should open up the Live Trace option a-ok.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 11:11 AM on October 18, 2009

Brainy's point is also well-taken. It's distinctly possible that your print service provider is being a dick.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:13 AM on October 18, 2009

One more thing. When placing, make sure you check the "Link" box on the first Place dialog box. You want the pdf page linked, not embedded.
posted by Uncle Glendinning at 11:15 AM on October 18, 2009

Best answer: Placing the pdf should open up the Live Trace option a-ok.

I think that option will attempt to trace the whole PDF page, including the text portions. Maybe instead, open a copy of the PDF in Photoshop, crop down to the specific thing you want to trace and save it as a TIF, then place that in Illustrator for tracing.
posted by wabbittwax at 11:17 AM on October 18, 2009

Response by poster: I think I'm just gonna open a PDF of the text only for the glyphs (live trace is working poorly on the text) and then place the images separately. Thanks for the advice, guys!

And yeah, I'm pretty sure the print service provider is being a dick, but they said if we didn't give them files in exactly the format they wanted, they'd just do the conversion themselves... at great cost.
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:57 AM on October 18, 2009

The layout file being in AI format should be enough—place the images as CMYK bitmaps. Get the images by opening the PDF in Photoshop, cropping down to the image size, converting to CMYK, and saving.

I'd be concerned that the files are not high-res enough to go to press, however. My experience with Word is that placed images get downsized pretty dramatically. Best option is to go back to the original image files your friend used and place those in to Illustrator.

If you can also figure out your Live Trace issue (sry, no help here!), I recommend preparing both an all-vector version and a placed-bitmap version. Unless you're super jazzed on the Live Trace look, the bitmaps should be what you try to get the printer to use.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:58 AM on October 18, 2009

The printer cannot accept a .pdf? Time for a different printer.
posted by bz at 12:38 PM on October 18, 2009

Yeah, get a different printer. If they can't handle a straight PDF, even with raster images, they're awful and don't deserve anyone's business.
posted by zsazsa at 12:54 PM on October 18, 2009

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