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Recreating Low Resolution Logo Scans as Print Ready Vector Graphics


Donovan Myers

By Donovan Myers on Wednesday, June 28, 2006


From time to time we come across a client who does not have any digital files for their branding. The original designer or printer (sometimes one in the same) never delivered the source files or they were lost after being created several years ago. Many times all we have to work with is a scan from a business card or brochure.

All is not lost, because with a few simple tricks in Illustrator, we can recreate the logo in a much easier format to work with. All in less time than it takes to make a phone call to the original designer (who has probably lost the files anyway).

To begin, we are using a logo that was scanned at fairly low resolution, saved with lots of jpeg compression, and not very straight either! This is a worst case scenario.

Step 1 - Straighten

1. To start, we are going to load up the logo in Adobe Illustrator. The following steps can probably be performed in any vector graphics program, such as Macromedia Adobe Freehand, but we prefer Illustrator for logo work.

2. Since the logo was not scanned very straight on the scanner, we are going to rotate it to make it as straight as possible to work with. Look for a long horizontal plane to work with in your own logo, for this example we are going to use the bottom of the house. You may find it useful to drag a horizontal guide across the plane you are working with.

3. Now that the logo is straight and ready to work with, we like to create a new layer to put the new artwork on top of and lock the layer the scanned logo is on to prevent accidently selecting it.

Step 2 - The MG Cutout

It would take hours to properly trace the MG with a pen, so we'll hope that the original designer used a standard font. It looks like a pretty generic sans-serif font, so we'll start with Helvetica. We use the type tool to create the text "MG" and set the font to Helvetica Italic.

It turns out that Helvetica is close but not close enough. After choosing several fonts and comparing them, we've determined that the font used (or at least it's closest match) is Helvetica Neue Italic.

Step 3 - The House

1. It appears as if the house is a simple shape that we could trace without too much trouble. So, we take the pen tool and mark all the points along the house to create the outline of the house.

2. Once we have connected the house outline, we use transparent for the stroke and set the fill to a green that most closely matches the original green. Here we like to pick a pantone color and have the client approve it to be used for all future web and print work.

3. Now the house is on top of the "MG" we created. We'll have to move it below the "MG" object as well as select both of them and use Subtract from shape area to "cut" it out of the house.

Step 4 - The Swoosh

That swoosh looks like a real pain in the butt. We could use the pen tool to try and trace it perfectly, but that would take hours as well. Instead, let's see if we can use the ellipse tool to figure it out.

1. We create an ellipse that seems to line up well with the swoosh.

2. There's only one problem, it's still an ellipse, we need a swoosh. Copy and paste the ellipse and move it over to create the desired effect.

3. Lastly, we'll use the same trick we used to cut the "MG" out of the house and change the newly created swoosh to have a transparent stroke and orange-yellow fill.

Step 5 - The Type

Our font experts have determined the designer has used another standard font, Century Gothic.

1. For this step all we do is simply add the "Master Grade Builders" type and size to fit.

2. It looks as though that blog on the end is supposed to be a trademark (™) symbol. To create this, we use a sans-serif font (Helvetica) and size it to 4pt.

Wrap Up

We can simply hide the layer with the scanned logo and see the beauty of our newly traced vector logo.

The benefit now is that this logo can be scaled to any size and is ready for print. It is also now more flexible offering the ability to easily change colors and place on different colored or patterned backgrounds, or even over photographs.

That will do it for this write up about recreating low resolution logo scans to print ready vector graphics. Check back for more advanced methods and other tips on logo design. Until then, keep those logos crisp.

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