Help turning an image into a vector

So I have this file I created for a local little girl who passed away. They’re doing a fundraiser and asked me to make something with a mermaid. On my test run I created a silhouette in illustrator and just lined up the images on the GF app without an issue. Now that I have added text and the little hanging things I can’t seem to repeat the process the same way. I’m using image trace and making a compound path but it has holes in it and I’m not proficient enough in Illustrator to figure out what I’m doing wrong. Can someone help with the file and if you happen to use illustrator let me know the steps you took so I can repeat the process should I need to?


Here is my quick trace attempt using Inkscape’s trace bitmap function:

Is that close to what you are looking for? Note, I have the outline in red, which will probably be interpreted as a cut. You probably don’t want that for all of the outlines, just the outermost.

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Super close but I want to engrave the inside. I need just the silhouette so it will cut around the edges like the original one that I did. If I release the layers it creates the silhouette but fills in around the text and I can’t figure out how to get rid of it. If I delete the layer it’s still filled in on the main silhouette.

I see the issue. I think this might be what you’re looking for:



@shunamanda If you’re using a relatively recent version of Illustrator the Shape Builder Tool is the easiest way (keyboard shift+m). Once you’ve got the tool active, select your all your shapes (best to make a copy on a new layer so you can go back) hold down the alt key so the cursor turns into a minus sign instead of the plus sign and click on the parts you don’t want like the inside of that A. They’ll turn a shaded tone as an indicator when you hover over an area that can be removed. (if you don’t hold down alt, the tool adds shapes together)


it still leaves this area and the mermaid text. It’s the only part I’m having an issue with.

It looks right when it is all outline but when I attempt to delete it it just fills in with color and when it’s not highlighted there’s no path. It’s soooo frustrating!

Oh so you’re trying to DELETE the “Amy” and “Mermaid off duty” text?

No, I’m just trying to cut out around it and it’s leaving most of it.

make a copy of the svg layer, turn off top version. Change the fill color of the new version to something different.

edit> compound path> release

select the interiors of the letters and anything else you want to CUT out, change to a different color
(if you are having problems finding the right parts within the solid-looking mess of shapes, turn the top layer back on and lock it; that can help you find the bits you want removed.)

select one element of the remaining design, then use Select>Same>Fill Color, then Pathfinder>Unite, which will give you a big solid shape.

use Object>Arrange>Send To Back

Select All


select one of the cutout parts, then use Select>Same>Fill Color, then hit delete.
Swap the fill and stroke (you want a stroke color and no fill)
turn top version back on.


i edited the file just a little, as it would have been incredibly fragile being held together with just the tip of the “M”. it is still gonna be fragile.


Omg you did it! I’ve been trying since 7am. Admittedly sometimes when I spend too much time I forget to just walk away and come back to it because I end up going in circles. Thank you so much for explaining because I definitely want to do this again but this is my first time working in illustrator. I can pick up a lot of stuff because I know photoshop so well but I’m not used to working with paths! Thank you Again and to everyone else for helping!

Well… maybe go though the steps I wrote and see if it makes sense… because actually, I missed some of the cutout bits in her hair and tail, I was only looking at the letters. Good practice!


Thanks, I’ll try it!

Bah! I can’t get it. I’ll just do it with the hair bits attached and try to come back to it later. I’m not sure why I’m having such a hard time. Thanks again for your help.

well shoot, use this one for now, I fixed it.



Thank you. I’ve probably just been staring to long but when I release it it all turns one color so I think I have it down but when I save it it’s still all the individual paths. I’m probably just missing a step since I’ve been looking at it for so long.

I just edited the steps above to add some that I missed and maybe hopefully make it a bit more clear. Once you get used to illustrator, there are things that become so routine that you don’t even realize that you are doing them, or consider mentioning them in a quick write-up. I am often guilty of this.


Thank you again. I’m a visual learner so sometimes it’s hard to read and follow but I couldn’t find a YouTube video on it. I’ll go back and look over the steps again over lunch and play around with a different file. She wanted this by Saturday for the memorial and it’s the same thing that on her headstone so it felt like a crazy amount of pressure trying to figure it out.

I know exactly what you mean though. I taught myself photoshop over a decade ago and I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. Now I know the program like the back of my hand.

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it took me a long time to tear myself away from photoshop and learn illustrator. I kept getting frustrated and going back. my best advice is to find little project tutorials on youtube, and follow along. Now I use it almost all day everyday, and I still learn new techniques or methods all the time.


I do wish we could cut png files. It would make my life a whole lot easier. :joy: