How to Digitize your Artwork with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator

I’m so excited to have Denise Palmer from guest post about digitizing artwork with Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator! This is such an awesome skill that Denise walks you through step by step. Go hop on over to her site to show her some love after going through this post! And hey, while your sending her some love you should pin the image below to your fave board so you can keep this cool article forever!

Pin the image below to your favorite board + follow me on Pinterest by clicking here!

The nature of creating hand-drawn art is to first draw your artwork on paper, canvas, or some other surface. It has been done that way throughout history, this skill of interpreting, imitating, and abstracting the details around us through the vision of skilled artisans. Today, in our digital world, artists and illustrators are turning their handmade sketches and art into digital versions of original pieces.

If you have never digitized your art before, you might wonder why it is a good idea to digitize your artwork instead of selling originals. You can sell original works, and sell digital copies of your original designs. By creating digital versions of your artwork, you enable new avenues of selling your work in the marketplace. For example, if you are a hand lettering artist or calligrapher, you could take an original lettered art print and turn it into a mug, t-shirt, decorative pillow, fabric pattern, and this list could go on for days since there are so many possibilities. You could even sell licenses of your original work to other designers and companies to use on their products, so they can focus their energy on connecting with their customers.

I sell licenses of my original works. I do this is by digitizing my original drawings and creating designs my clients can use to add value to their own products. I realized some companies want new designs to add value to their own products or services. I know from first-hand experience in my previous work as a stationer that it is very time-consuming to design, develop, and source each product and bring it to market. My reason for doing what I do today is that I wanted to work with other designers and companies and empower them to tell their creative story.

If you are interested in learning how to turn your artwork into digital designs, than this post is for you. I am going to show you how to digitize your artwork and vectorize it using Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator. This way, you too can turn your artwork into digitally designed assets.

Some of the materials you will need are:

  • A good quality scanner
  • Your finished sketches inked in black with your Sakura Pigma Micron Pens (or any other black ink artist pen) with your pencil lines erased
  • Your computer, and Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator

digitize artworkThese are the sketches I am using to show you how to vectorize hand lettering, and a leaf drawing. For this tutorial, I am using Adobe Creative Cloud, on a PC, so your menus may look a little different than mine depending on your version of Photoshop & Illustrator and your computer.


The first step is to scan in your artwork as a high quality image at a minimum of 300dpi (dots per inch), and bring it into Adobe Photoshop.

We will need to make some adjustments to our scanned image to get the black areas even darker. There are several ways to do this in Photoshop, but I am going to show you the way I like to make my adjustments quickly. It is considered a permanent way to adjust your images, since you cannot change your adjustments later. But for this application, I will not want to make any changes later, since I am vectorizing, so I am not going to use layer Masks. (I will do another tutorial in the future on making adjustments using Layer Masks).


Watch the full video tutorial on Digitizing Your Hand Lettering & Artwork, on my YouTube channel. I will be adding more videos in the future.


To make your adjustments, go to

Image > Adjustments > and select Brightness/Contrast


This will bring up the control panel for making adjustments to your image.


Bring up the Contrast on your image to where the black elements get very dark. Adjusting the Brightness down some will also help bring out the dark color. Play around with these settings until it is right for your image.

You can adjust your image even more by using the Levels adjustment. Do this by going to

Image > Adjustments > and selecting Levels


Bring in the left slider and the right white slider to make your adjustments. The left slider will introduce more black into the image, and the right slider will whiten the white areas.

Now your image is ready to bring into Adobe Illustrator.

There are several ways to bring your image into Adobe Illustrator. You can save the image file as a jpg or png, and open it in Illustrator. But, because it is so easy, I prefer to just copy and paste it.

Go to Select ALL then use the keyboard shortcut for copy. Which on my computer is Control + C. Or, Command + C for Mac.


Now that you have your artwork ready to paste into a new Adobe Illustrator file, you need to create a new document in Illustrator. Set up your Adobe Illustrator file for your intended use. If you are using your artwork for print applications, you will want to set up your document for print.


Select the New Document Profile for Print (or your intended use) and select OK to create a new Illustrator document.

To paste the Photoshop image into our new Illustrator document,  use keyboard shortcut Control + V, Or Command + V for Mac, to place the image into Adobe Illustrator..


My image is now pasted into my new document. Note: My document is square, since that is how I set up my document. I usually work in squares since I create a lot of repeating patterns. But, the standard letter size is fine too.


We are now going to vectorize these objects with Image Trace. If you don’t have the Image Trace Panel open, you can access it by going to

Window > Image Trace, and it will pull up the Image Trace Panel.


In the Image Trace Panel, go under Presets and select the Preset > Black and White Logo.

As soon as you select a preset, Image Trace will vectorize the image. Depending on your image, you may get a warning dialog box pop up that warns you your image is large, and will ask if you want to reduce size and Rasterize it. As long as your computer has enough memory, just ignore it and select OK to proceed with Image Trace. You really do not want to Rasterize / Scale down the size of your image, because you will loose all the hand drawn details from your high quality scans.


You can adjust the tracing result by moving around the Threshold controls, and some of the Advanced control sliders. Play around with these until you get your tracing how you want it.


Once you have the tracing finished, you will want to Group your objects. My objects did not have any separate tracing elements, but I showed the Grouping step since each trace can be different depending on your artwork.

To group everything, use the Keyboard shortcut Control + G or Command + G. But, make sure you do this step TWICE to group everything together.


The next step is to Expand your tracing. To do this, go to

Object > Expand. Then select OK.


Now your objects are Expanded, and you can see all the anchor points around your objects.



When using Image Trace, it may look like the leaves are the only object there, but Image Trace also traces the white space around the object.


Shown here with a colored background so you can see the white areas of your artwork.

You will need to remove the white background areas from your artwork. You can do this by clicking on the white areas and deleting them, or by going to your Layers Panel, and Selecting the white areas there, and dragging the Layer to the trash can within the Layers Panel.

Do this for all the white areas of your artwork.


Now that you have removed any background from your artwork, it is time to fine tune it by cleaning it up.


Access the Smooth Tool in your left side toolbar, and using the Smooth Tool with your object selected, drag it along the paths to smooth out your artwork.


You also want to smooth out hand lettering artwork the same way.


Apply color to your artwork by Selecting your artwork, and using a color from your Swatches Panel.

For more techniques on digitizing artwork, see Denise’s post on her blog, 3 Methods to Go From Sketch to Illustration.

Digitizing Your Hand Lettering and Artwork

It is my hope that this post enables you to dream up new ways to share your creative works with the world and carry your imaginative talent to newly inspired products for your clients.

denisepalmer_profile_photoDenise Palmer is an illustrator, blogger, watercolor artist, and surface pattern designer. She draws inspiration from her everyday adventures as a mom of three, and crafts a unique visual story that celebrates these moments where life’s greatest memories are born and shared. She founded her design studio to empower others to share their creativity, and to envision the joyful details found in each client’s beautiful journey.

Visit her blog to read more of her thoughts on design & illustration.


I’m the host of this show, Market Beautifully podcast. I’m a podcaster and online entrepreneur that believes in the power of Asana and meditation.




I'm Haley, the funder of Market Beautifully and the host of the Market Beautifully podcast. I'm obsessed with tortellini and educating others on how to market as beautifully as possible in the business world. What you do is incredible and I want to help make your voice louder so that your message can reach more people. I'm a fan of ladies who are entrepreneurs at their core believe that we will make a difference together.