Introduction: How to Digitize Physical Art
Make your physical art digital! This Instructable shows how to take a piece of hand-cut vinyl art and digitize it with the aim of reproducing with a vinyl cutter, printing it, or using it digitally. I use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CS6 in this Instructable, but there are many tools that can achieve similar results.
Step 1: Photograph the Art.
Take a high-quality photo in good lighting. The example I am using is a vinyl sticker I cut by hand, so my cell phone camera gave adequate image quality. Be sure to pay attention to the accuracy of colors if that plays a role in your art piece.
Step 2: Open Up the Photograph in Photoshop or a Similar Program.
I'm using Photoshop CS6.
Step 3: Crop Your Image So That It Includes Only the Art Piece.
Photoshop's crop tool or equivalent will get rid of extra background.
Step 4: Select and Delete Any Background Areas.
Photoshop's Magic Wand Tool (circled in the first image) is very useful for this.
Step 5: Clean Up Your Art.
Use a tool similar to Photoshop's brush tool to clean up any messy edges. You can also correct imperfections in the art piece itself at this stage if you wish.
Step 6: Experiment and Enjoy!
Congratulations, your art is digitized! You can now use the magic wand and brush tools to select and quickly change the color of different areas. If you're interested in using your art digitally or printing it, save it as a .jpg file and do those things. For basic instructions on how to vectorize your image for vinyl cutting, continue to the next step.
Step 7: Open Your File in a Program That Can Convert Pixel Images to Vector Images.
I used Adobe Illustrator CS6, and my instructions will be very specific to Illustrator from here on. You can easily export files from Photoshop to Illustrator by clicking File>Export>Paths to Illustrator and clicking "Ok". You may need to change some viewing settings in order to see the same thing in Illustrator as you did in Photoshop. A second option is to simply save your digitized image as a .jpg and then reopen that .jpg in Illustrator.
Step 8: Use the Selection Tool to Select Your Image.
There will be a thin blue line around your image when it is selected.
Step 9: Trace Your Image.
Click the small arrow next to Image Trace in the top bar, and select an appropriate tracing method. I chose Silhouette, which works well for our purposes (creating a simple vectorized image to cut from vinyl).
Step 10: Vectorize Your Image!
Click Expand to finish the trace and vectorize your image. The photos show two different views of my final image. Most vinyl cutters should now be able to read the image, and if you started with a piece of hand cut vinyl art you're ready to mass-produce it!