How to Create a Vector Signature in Illustrator

One would think that a web site marketing company would rarely be commissioned to design in print – but there’s the beauty of having a really diverse team of website design specialists. One request that we get is to include a signature of a president or chief executive officer – to include in our design.

Years ago – the best way to go about getting a signature into a digital layout was to scan the signature into Adobe Photoshop, convert that image to grayscale color mode, tweak the levels and save the file as a very high-resolution black and white bitmap. I know, bitmap sounds horrible – but at 1200 dpi the results were actually quite good. The problem was that this required a great deal of time and expertise to really nail down a solid, natural line – something that would hold up when converted to bitmap.

Back when I started in website design – us young whipper-snappers had Adobe Streamline. A tiny, crude app that could trace raster images and convert them into vector. Streamline would eventually become Adobe Illustrator’s ‘Live Trace’ feature and it does a much better job than Streamline ever could.

To turn your signature into vector – we can skip the entire scanning process and simply snap a photo with a smart phone, email us your high-resolution JPEG file – and we’ll import that raster image into Adobe Illustrator. From there, choose the Live Trace option, make a few tweaks to the default settings for optimum tracing – and boom. You got yourself a vector version of a signature.

Not quite.

Chances are you’ll have to do a little bit of clean up – Live Trace still has the tendency to include random points that get a bit squirrely and leave behind very sharp pointy peaks and valleys. I personally would recommend scaling your signature to 300% and tightening up any stray points. Because our artwork is vector – and not resolution dependent – your file size will not change. File size in vector formats is determined by the number of points in a document, not pixels. And by reducing your vector image in your layout – you’ll be able to reduce the visibility of those tiny imperfections. The end result is a flawless, life-like signature – that can printed on everything from the tip of a golf tee to a giant 48-foot billboard if you like.

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