How To Take A Small QRCode And Convert To Vector Path In Adobe Illustrator

Note as of 10/19/2012: In Adobe Illustrator CS6 the previous feature called “Live Trace” is now called “Image Trace.” To make modifications to the settings go to Window -> Image Trace and the panel will appear. After that you can go to Object -> Image Trace -> Make. Enjoy, and thanks for the comments!

In the past, I’ve received clients suggesting to place QRCodes on marketing print materials. Usually when I preview the file they sent it’s a very low resolution compressed image, which doesn’t play well in print. If you happen to be a Creative Suite owner, fear not, there is a simple trick to convert these small images to vector based paths. This will allow you to scale the QRCode regardless of DPI / size. We can get a vector path from a jpg, gif or png by using Adobe Illustrator’s Live Trace feature!

You will need to open up Adobe Illustrator and create a new file. Don’t worry about the document sizing. Either go File -> Place (to import the image to canvas) or copy/paste the image.

At this point goto Object -> Live Trace -> Tracing Options

I used the following settings to get an accurate path traced based on the QRCode image. I used the following settings:

Threshold: 1 (or 2)
Blur: 0 px
Path Fitting: 0 px
Minimum Area: 0 px
Corner Angle: 0

When you click Trace, the paths will be generated. Double check to make sure it looks accurate by using the Preview check box.

Once it’s done, click the object that was generated, go to Object -> Live Trace -> Expand and it will reveal the paths.

At this point you can either use the path object in Adobe Illustrator, or copy / paste this into Adobe Photoshop. Note: When pasting into Adobe Photoshop, Paste As Smart Object. It will retain it’s vector paths, allowing you to scale the object to whatever size / dpi.


5 thoughts on “How To Take A Small QRCode And Convert To Vector Path In Adobe Illustrator

  1. Mark Kolodziej say:

    Quite brilliant… thanks!

  2. Reese say:

    This just saved my hide, seriously

    • Eddi Hughes say:

      😀 Good to hear! I don’t write these types of tutorials to often but when something stumps me I try to document it. ^_~

  3. sunil say:

    Have you looked into the settings required since they updated CS6? The LIve Trace window no longer has the same options, and I can’t seem to produce the same quality of tracing on a QR code as before.

    • CodeSleepShred say:

      Hey Sunil,

      In Adobe Illustrator CS6 the options have changed a bit. Under Object -> Image Trace -> Make and Expand

      Not to mention under Windows -> Image Trace you can find the options to adjust.

      I typically use an online generator like to quickly make the QR Code image, save it or even right click “Copy Image” and paste it into CS6. I just jump right in with Image Trace and it typically traces the path very accurate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To create code blocks or other preformatted text, indent by four spaces:

    This will be displayed in a monospaced font. The first four 
    spaces will be stripped off, but all other whitespace
    will be preserved.
    Markdown is turned off in code blocks:
     [This is not a link](

To create not a block, but an inline code span, use backticks:

Here is some inline `code`.

For more help see