Is Live Trace the Same as Image Trace?

When it comes to graphic design, there are a variety of different art styles and ways to convert and move different images. Often in graphic design, you will see pictures that are comprised entirely of pixels that need to be converted into a clearer image that is created by using programs that have mathematical formulas. Two such programs which convert pixelated images are Live Trace and Image Trace. Are these two the same thing?

While the result on a picture is the same and they are both used in Adobe Illustrator, these are two entirely different programs. Live Trace is used in older versions of Adobe Illustrator, while Image Trace is used in newer versions.

Because these two programs have the same result and are both used in Adobe, some aspects of how the images are converted may be similar. However, there are also differences, as well. Below, we will explore some of these similarities and differences. Read on to find out more.

What are the Similarities Between Live Trace and Image Trace?

If you have updated to a newer version of Adobe Illustrator, then it might come in handy to know what some of the similarities are between Live Trace and Image Trace. It can help ease you into a smoother transition and you won’t be overwhelmed thinking that you need to relearn everything. Some of the similarities include the following:

  • In both, you will import and paste the image from elsewhere. In either program, after you have opened it, you will paste the picture you want to use by clicking the file button, then clicking open and selecting the image you want to use.
  • For both, you will click on a button labeled “Image Trace” to convert the image. Although these buttons are located in different places depending on which program you are using, they both serve the same function.
  • For both, you will have the option to change the preset option. This means you are not limited to simply converting to a black and white image, though the default option is black and white for both.

What are the Differences Between Live Trace and Image Trace?

As already stated, the final result of using either of these programs will be the same or very close to the same. However, since Image Trace is a newer program some improvements and adjustments have been made to make the process more streamlined. Some of these differences include the following:

  • In Image Trace, you will need to highlight the picture you want to convert before you can convert it. In Live Trace, the image will highlight itself after you have entered the menu are where you will be able to select the trace options.
  • In Image Trace, the Image Trace button is located right at the top center of the page. In Live Trace, to access the image trace button, you need to click on the button labeled Window at the top left of the screen, then click on the option labeled “Image Trace” from the scroll-down menu which will then open up another menu where you can choose which settings you want for your image trace.
  • In Image Trace, if you want you can convert the image to a black and white image right away by just clicking the “Image Trace” button, and to access the other options you will click the down arrow button to the right. In Live Trace, you will have to press the “Mode” button before you can choose any style or color to convert.
  • In Image Trace, it converts the image immediately. In Live Trace, you may have to give additional permission and it will take a bit longer.


As a graphic designer part of the job is converting images from one style to another. One common conversion that you may have seen others do or will do yourself at some point is converting pixelated images into trace images. There are many options for trace images including black and white or highlighting different areas or using different effects. Two programs used in Adobe Illustrator for trace imaging are Live Trace and Image Trace.

While both these programs do the same thing, the process of how to get to the result is a bit different. Image Trace has a much more streamlined approach, where you can just click an “Image Trace” button at the top of the screen, for a nearly instant conversion. Live Trace, on the other hand, requires you to get to the image trace option via the “Window” button before you choose the settings to what you want and click “Okay”.