Adobe Illustrator: How to turn a hand drawn image into a vector image

Illustator is a great tool to create an edit images with. However sometimes you may want to have the drawings you are doing on paper to be used in this app!

This guide will help you to import an image from paper – into Illustrator!

For a comprehensive and personal guide, view our Illustrator courses.


Draw Your Image

First thing you need to do is to draw an image! I just used an image of a cat from internet but you can draw whatever you want.

When you are drawing your image you need to make sure that there are no gaps in the lines otherwise there will be gaps when you turn it into a vector.

You should also not put any shading in otherwise illustrator will just turn it into a solid colour.

You should use pencil or pen. I used pencil because it easier to draw with but if you use pen then your lines will turn out better.


Once you have drawn your image and you are happy you need to import it!

To do this you need to use a scanner. If you try and do it from a photo then then illustrator might add colour to parts you don’t want coloured because of the lighting in the picture.

Looking for more Illustrator tips? Read our guide here on The Gradient Mesh Tool.


Scan The Image In


Now you need to open illustrator and open the scanned image to do this go to file, open and then find your image in your folders and then click open.


And just like that you will see the image in your Illustrator. However you will notice you cannot edit it as you wish.


Make The Image A Vector

Now you have the scanned image in illustrator you need to turn it into a vector.

To do this you need to go to “Object”, then down to “Image Trace” and click on “Make and expand”. A window will pop up so click ok.


Now you’re finished and you will have a vector image of your drawing which you can manipulate like any other vector in illustrator.  For example, you could change the colour, see example below!


Want to learn how to make 3D letters without using the 3D tool in Adobe Illustrator? Read more here!

About Ben Richardson

Ben is a director of Acuity Training which he has been running for over 10 years.

He is a Natural Sciences graduate from the University of Cambridge and a qualified accountant with the ICAEW.

He previously worked as a venture capitalist and banker and so had extensive experience with Excel from building financial models before moving to learn SQL, Microsoft Power BI and other technologies more recently.