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How To Trace Plans Using Photoshop

I use the drawing tools in Photoshop to do the tracing. What I do is straight forward and isn't
complicated like the improvement of plan scans. I will try to give a brief outline of what I do
here. I should say I use Photoshop CS-3 Extended, version 10.0. As the drawing features are
pretty basic, I expect they are in all versions of Photoshop both old and new. Other drawing
programs should work in a similar fashion.
Before we start, I should note that I will tell you how to locate the particular feature or tool
mentioned in the instructions below. For features I will always start with the Menu bar at the
top of the Photoshop screen and proceed through each menu. Example: (Layer New
Layer) meaning go to the Layer menu at the top of the screen and click on it, then click on
New then when it opens up click on Layer. This will open a new layer. When selecting a
tool you will go to the Tool Bar and click on the tool.
1. I open the plan in Photoshop and immediately save it to a new file for a working file.
Before saving, I change the Mode to RGB (Image Mode RGB) as we will be
working in color mode. I always work at a resolution of 300 dpi and set this by (Image
Image Size Resolution).
2. I then open a new layer ( Layer New Layer) so we will be doing all of our tracing
on a layer over the plan and not the plan itself. As we work we will be adding layer
upon layer over the plan and we will be sure to save our work frequently as power
outages seem to happen at the worst times.
3. We will begin our tracing by using the Line tool. It can be found on your Tool Bar
(NOT the Menu) as a diagonal bar on a square button. You will have to search through
the tools. The Line Tool draws straight lines of various widths. It also creates a new
layer each time it is used. When you click on the line tool button a new menu bar will
open at the top of the screen that will show all of the settings for the drawing tools.
There are two settings that you need to know about. One is the Weight box that
allows you to set the width of the line in pixels (px) or inches (in). I use pixels. The
other setting is the color of the line which is set in a little box labeled Color.
4. I want to note here that there is another tool available, the Pen tool that allows you to
set coordinates that will make a bezier curve. It does nice lines but is so slow and
cumbersome to operate that I find the line tool to do an acceptable job and is much
faster. To each his own.
5. Select a line on the plan you want to trace and use the Line Tool to draw a line beside
it. Compare it to the line on the plan and make width adjustments to the line using the
Weight Box. When the line is the correct width, change the color of the line to
something you like that will be easy to see on the plan. I use red. Set this by looking in
the special drawing menu bar at the top of the screen for the Color box and then click
on it and set the color. When you have done all of this, delete the test lines by (Edit
Step Backwards) until you have a clean sheet.
6. Now you can set off and trace straight lines. Remember, every time you draw a line it
makes a new layer for that line. To delete a line you can use the Step Backwards or
delete the layer (Layer Delete Layer).
7. Tracing curved lines is no different. You just break up the curve into little short lines, the
tighter the curve the shorter the lines. Just make sure each little line overlaps a touch.

This sounds like it wouldn't work very well but it does.

8. Remember that you can enlarge the view to get a magnified look at what you are doing
using the magnifying glass tool on the tool bar. Or use the keyboard and press
control- + (that is a plus sign) or control-- (minus sign) . Press both keys at the same
9. Erasing part of a line. To erase a part of a line or copy a line you must first change it
into a rasterized form (look up raster in the Help menu if you want a full explanation of
what this is) . To do this, after drawing the line click on (Layer Rasterize Shape).
Note this has to be done with type too, but that is later on. Once the line is rasterized
you can use the eraser tool from the tool bar to erase the line. Yes, this is cumbersome
and I wonder why Adobe has set this up this way.
10. Moving or shifting a line. You can do this by (a) using the left-right-up-down buttons on
your keyboard or (b) use the cursor arrow after pressing the Arrow + button on the
tool bar.
1. Making circles, ovals, squares, and rectangles easily with specific line widths. These
are done with two similar tools that operate the same, so I will describe the circle/oval
tool and just say the square/rectangle tool uses the same methods. These two tools
are found at the upper left button on your tool bar, one with a dotted-line box, the other
with a dotted-line oval.
2. You will need a little practice with the circle tool so move to a clean page. The way it
operates is you draw a little circle/oval in dotted lines and then command the line to be
drawn with a certain width and certain color. The width and color operate just like the
lines do. To draw an oval you use the tool as-is. To draw a perfect circle you use the
tool while holding down the Shift-Key. After you draw your circle/oval, you command
the line to be drawn in using the (Edit Stroke) command. A window will open up. Set
the line width in pixels, set your color, and pick your location (in, on, or outside of the
dotted line). Leave the opacity at 100% but note that you can lighten the line if ever
3. Play around doing this and the same with the square/rectangle tool until you feel
4. Note: These tools DO NOT automatically make a new layer. You must make a new
layer for them each time you use them. Do this by the command (Layer New
Layer). If you don't, you will be drawing directly on the plan scan itself. If you do make
a mistake, just use the (Edit-Step Backwards) command.
5. Each of these shapes can be rotated to whatever position you want. You do this using
the (Edit Transform) command. A small window with choices pops up. Just pick the
one you want.
6. Each of these shapes can be enlarged, reduced, or have their shapes altered in
various ways using the (Edit Transform Scale) command or the other commands in
that box. The Scale command can have its aspect ratio locked by looking in the special
menu bar that appears at the top of the screen when the Scale feature is used and
selecting the little linked chain button. Try it with and without this feature locked to get a
feel of what happens. Note also that when unlocked, the Scale feature operates
differently when you use the mouse cursor to pull at the corners of the box that is
formed around the shape and when you pull at the sides of the box. Try it. This feature
is very handy when making adjustments to your drawn shape so it will fit over the lines

on the plan. Also note that the line width changes with the size change.
1. Typing in directions in your drawing is easy using the Type Tool on the tool bar. Once
again, note the special menu bar that opens at the top of the screen when the type tool
is opened. You can set the type face, size, color, etc here. There is no automatic
spelling correction so if your comment is to be a lengthy one I suggest using a word
processor to type out what you want to say and then use the copy/paste to paste the
words into the space. Should you want to alter the size or shape of what you have
typed after you have typed it you will first have to rasterize the type before you do it
(see rasterize in the line instructions).
1. After you finish portions of your tracing you will need to save it and move on to other
areas. Do this by erasing that part of your plan beneath the tracings and then
collapsing all of the layers onto your background. You then save the base plan with its
new tracings and begin tracing other parts of the plan. To erase parts of the plan, first
make sure you have selected the layer your plan scan is on. Press the Move Tool
button at the top right of the tool bar. Then press the right button on your mouse while
the mouse cursor is above the plan. A small window will open. Select Background or
whatever layer your plan scan is on. This puts what is called the Focus onto that
layer. Then select the Polygonal Lasso Tool from the Tool bar (second button down
from the top left). Begin selecting the area you want to erase by placing the tool cursor
at a starting point and then press the left button on your mouse to anchor the tool. Now
drag the tool around the area on your plan to be erased while periodically clicking the
left mouse button every time you change directions to place a new anchor point. When
you arrive back at your starting point give the left mouse button a quick double-click to
complete the selection. If the selection is correct, press the Delete key on your
keyboard to erase the selection. If you make an error just use the (Edit Step
Backwards) command.
2. To collapse the layers containing your tracings onto the new empty space, just go to
the main menu bar at the top of the screen and select (Layer Flatten Image). Now all
of your tracings are actually on your plan scan and not floating above. If all is O.K., do
a file save and continue on with new tracings.
That about tells everything you need to know to get started. There are a few shortcuts and
helpful features that will help from time to time but these you will figure out and they are really
not necessary.
Good luck!