Need to convert a low-resolution image to a print-ready logo? Find out how to re-create a logo as a high-resolution vector in six simple steps.

One of the most common tasks designers face is rebuilding low-resolution logos. Sometimes an original vector file gets lost, or the client never had it and didn’t know they needed it.

In this guide, we’ll cover a few easy ways to rebuild graphics, like logos, out of familiar shapes using techniques you may already know.

1. Evaluate and Assess the Image

First, we have to look at the complexity of the logo we’re rebuilding. Break down the logo into basic shapes, lines, or curves, and assess how to recreate the design. Let’s take a look at a low-res raster logo.

Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Evaluate and Assess

Even though it looks simple, it represents several techniques used in logo artwork. It has straight lines and curves, but we can use shapes in most of the areas as part of the re-creation. After evaluation, we have some idea of the structural parts, so we’re ready to start rebuilding.

Can You Just Use Image Trace?

Image Trace is a function in Illustrator that traces a raster image using vector points. It can reproduce complex images with many colors, or simple ones with a few colors. However, it has limitations for jobs like this.

If we have a very pixelated image, Image Trace will try to trace the pixels, which is what we don’t want. Give it a shot if you have something that’s relatively high resolution and you just need to vectorize it.

2. Rebuild Using Multiple Shapes

To draw the capsule shapes, select Rectangle from Shapes in the Tools menu, or hit M on the keyboard. Drag out a rectangle of similar size to one of the sections. Hit V to activate the Direct Select tool, then hover your mouse over a corner of the rectangle until you see a curved arrow. Click and hold Shift to rotate it 45° to the left — or whichever angle matches the shape.

Tip: Make sure you use layers when you build shapes on top of the original. Then lower your artwork’s transparency so you can see the original through it. That way you don’t have to toggle the visibility of all the layers to check your work.
Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Rebuild

Adjust the shape with the transform handles so it matches the dimensions of the original. Deselect the rectangle by hitting Enter/Return.

To make rounded ends, click and hold the Rectangle tool in the Tools menu (to access more options), then select Ellipse from the list, or hit L on the keyboard. Click in the rectangle and drag while holding Shift to make an equilateral circle. Adjust it to fit the width of the rectangle, and position so that the curves of the circle meet the rectangle’s width. (In other words, line it up.)

Move a copy of the ellipse to the other end by holding Option and dragging it. Line it up the same way to create a capsule shape like the original. Once you have aligned it to match, group the shapes by selecting them and hitting Command + G so they stay together when you move them around.

Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Re-create Shape

Using this process of creating a shape with smaller shapes, you can recreate most simple graphic images. There are more shapes in the Tools palette, too, if you need them.

3. Combine Shapes with Unite

If you are satisfied with your multi-shape, you can turn it into a single shape with Unite, in the Pathfinder window. Simply select the shapes you want to combine, and hit the Unite button in the Shape Modes row.

Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Combine Shapes
Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Combine Shapes

This will simplify your parts into whole shapes, making coloring and stroke options easier to control.

4. Using Lines and Strokes to Make Shapes

We can use the Line Segment Tool to recreate any lines or rules in the artwork. But, another way to build and rebuild shapes is to use lines and adjust the strokes. If we have a simple shape, such as the one above, we can simplify our task by using the Line tool and adjusting the stroke.

Select the Line Segment Tool from the Tools menu, or hit the Backslash (\) key on the keyboard. Click in one of the shapes, and drag a line to match the angle.

Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Using Lines and Strokes

Now go to Window > Stroke and use the stroke options and controls to make a rounded capsule shape. Hit the up arrow in the Width field to increase the stroke until it matches the original. To increase by 10s, hold Shift while clicking.

In the Caps section underneath the width field, select the middle icon for rounded caps. This will add perfectly rounded ends.

Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Rounded Ends

5. Trace An Image

Tracing manually can sometimes be faster, since it eliminates some of the steps involved in uniting multiple shapes. The trade-off is that you will have to tweak individual vector points. The two main options for this are the Pen (P) and Brush (B) tools.

The Pen tool will give you point-by-point precision. On the wilder side, the Brush tool will let you click and drag the mouse around, then Illustrator will turn that into a vector path.

6. Minimize Layers with Compound Paths

When you need a simple shape on top of another simple shape, making a hole is better than simply layering shapes upon each other — that way, if the background changes, you can still see it. To do this, we make a Compound Path.

After you’ve created your main shapes, outline the hole you want to create with an additional shape, and place it on top of the shape in which you want the hole. Select both of the shapes and go to Object > Compound Path, or hit Command + 8.

Learn How to Rebuild a Low-Res Logo with These 6 Techniques — Compound Paths

Now you can see through the hole, and it’s all one piece. The shape of the hole will also take on any stroke settings from the base shape.

Cover image via Nwork.

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