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How to (Perfectly) Trace a Photo in Silhouette Studio

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial
One of the first tutorials I ever shared on Silhouette School was on how to trace a photo to get a silhouette. The point editing method results in a silhouette and it's perfect if that's what you're looking for.  But what if you want more depth and character and really want to keep the essence of the photo?   The trace function is about to become your new BFF...and finally there's a reason to keep the high pass filter feature checked.

The first thing you want to do is find a photo.  It's best to pick a photo that doesn't have a ton of background.    I went with this picture of me and my daughter paddle boarding.   It's obviously a color photo and while you can trace a color photo I find it easier to trace a black and white image since the trace feature works on finding contrast.  Never did I think I'd share a picture of me in a bathing suit on this blog....but...



Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial

To change your photo to black and white go to PicMonkey > Click 'EDIT' > navigate to your photo.  Once the photo is open click on the icon along the left side that looks like a wand with some stars (in blue along the left side).  Scroll down until you find 'black and white' then click Apply.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial, PicMonkey


Now click the very top icon (in blue along the left side) and pick 'Exposure'.  Move the bars around until the blacks and whites are pretty drastic.  The contrast bar is a good one for this.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial, PicMonkey

Save the photo and then reopen it Silhouette Studio by dragging and dropping.  If you need a step by step tutorial on opening PicMonkey images in Studio read this tutorial.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial, black and white

And we're ready to trace...

Click the Trace icon (in blue along the top bar) > Select Trace > Select around the photo > TRACE.  You'll have red lines everywhere and it will look like a whole big mess.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial

Move your trace off of the photo and then use the fill and line color tools to turn your image black.   It's getting easier to see your image, right?! But, we're not there yet.  We need to trace the photo  again.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial

So go back to your jpeg and trace again. Only this time, you want to UNCHECK high pass filter and adjust the threshold.  Finish your trace by clicking 'TRACE' and again fill in the red cut lines with black fill and black lines.  These are what your two traces look like.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial

Neither is perfect (although some may want to go with the second trace alone), but when we layer them together, we get the best trace with the most detail.   So go ahead and move one on top of the other.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial
Zoom in and focus on one area so you can see exactly how to align the two traces.  Once you have it perfect, GROUP THE TWO TRACES!!!!

Now you can print, print and cut, cut on vinyl, black cardstock, sketch...there are so many options.   I decided to print mine on printable Silhouette cotton canvas (because can you honestly image me trying to weed that water?!) and it turned out beautifully!

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial
Here's a close up so you can see the texture of the canvas sheets material.

Silhouette Studio, trace, photo, Silhouette tutorial

Next week, I'll be sharing how I took this photo one step further by adding a custom color background...all designed in Silhouette Studio.

Looking for more ideas for this <<<< printable canvas sheet? Check this out.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. By clicking on them and purchasing products through my links, I received a small commission. That's what helps fund Silhouette School so I can keep buying new Silhouette-related products to show you how to get the most out of your machine! 

Thanks for coming to class today at Silhouette School.  If you like what you see, I'd love for you to pin it!


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6 comments

  1. This is the best tracing tutorial, I've seen. I struggled with other ones, but I was able to actually do this. I'm still working with the threshold and what it does and what's a good number (though, I'm sure it's picture dependent), but even with that, the tracing's came out well.

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  2. What is the process if you do not have PicMonkey?

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  3. ugh.... where are the "fill and line tools"????

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  4. Looking forward to next weeks add-on!

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  5. I finally decided to try tracing a picture. Of course, I came here first to figure out how to do it. You made it so easy. Thank You!!!

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  6. What do you adjust to the Threshold to?

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