How to Import Sketches into Illustrator for Creating Infographics

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

Even in this wired world, artists still love to sketch. Great news! Your rough sketches can be easily worked into your drafts of infographics. You can scan sketches or snap a picture of your sketch with your phone and e-mail it to yourself. They don’t need to be color, just clear enough for you to work with.

You can also import your sketch directly into Illustrator. To use a sketch as a template, open your Illustrator document and simply place the image the way you would any photo. Put it on its own layer so you can turn the visibility on and off to check your progress. You can lock that layer or make it a “template” layer, which will enable you to dim the image, making it easier to draw on top of.

Sketches can also become part of your infographic. You can colorize a pencil drawing in a number of ways. Most simply, you can draw color layers and then set the transparency on your traced image to Multiply. This will make the black-and-white image combine with the colors to create a Photoshop-like result, as illustrated in this figure.

Apply color to a black-and-white drawing.

Apply color to a black-and-white drawing.

Or, you can select the live trace option from the Windows menu (with a placed image selected, choose Object→Image Trace) to turn your drawings into vector objects, which will look more polished and will remain fully editable as your work progresses.

This technique works best with stronger contrast sketches, like ones done with ink or marker. From the Image Trace dialog box, you can control the tolerance, which sets how tightly the trace will follow the lines of your drawing. More precise tolerance will result in more anchor points. “Expand” will break the tracing into editable vector shapes, which allows you to see your art in greater detail.

You can also click the Image Trace button in the Control panel, or select a preset from the Tracing Presets button.