The following article is in regards to patch designs that I create. If you're looking for current available units, you can find those here.
First things first. NONE of my patches are made using the trace feature in Adobe Illustrator. I feel it's important to start off with this bit of information as I've seen many files that are both sold and available freely that utilize this feature. While it is an awesome tool and has many uses in tons of applications I do not feel that charging someone for the click of a couple buttons is cool. I'm going to take a couple minutes of your time and explain other reasons I don't use trace.
Using the trace feature won't make clean lines and corners like using the pen, pencil, curvature, and type tools. For the best trace results you need the highest quality image as possible. Illustrator will take your pixilated image and turn it into a vector with with click of a button. The higher the resolution the better the results but there are still limitations. Lets take a look.
The above PNG was downloaded from Google at 800x800px. It's actually not a bad image size to start off with for utilizing trace. First thing is to place the image into Illustrator and I put it on an 800x800px board.
As I mentioned, with the click in Illustrator you can take this PNG and covert it into a vector. For this sake of this demo I just used HIgh Fidelity.
And the results don't look horrible... from a distance.
For this next part I didn't remove any of the color from the trace vector but I will show side by side comparison of this trace result and my finished file.
Notice how the trace file has wavy lines and rounded corners?
I don't alway include details down to the lowest levels. Doesn't really matter for engraving pieces that won't show up unless highly enlarged. My pointless ripples in the quill feather aren't even visible with engraving but the artwork looked weird without it.
I use sharp corners where I think they are necessary to the original artwork (not shown) and leave others more rounded like the rightmost claw. Again, not something that's even visible when engraving but details are details.
Take a look are areas like the nose and teeth. Much sharper lines, corners, and curves.
I will always match the fonts to what I believe are the closest possible match. While not a 100% match it is decently close and not something many will even notice or compare. There are some fonts that are impossible to find a match for and for those I will trace the lettering the same way as I do the rest of the image.
There are many other aspects that go into the designing of the file to make it compatible for engraving especially for multi-colored patches with no definitive outlines. I do my best to recreate each patch as close to the artwork as possible utilizing just fills... which leads into my next important topic.
Other than the border outline of each patch (a layer you can hide or make visible) which is used to cut out the patch if wanted, only fills are used in the completed file. I convert all strokes and merge all the paths to make compound paths (where necessary) and group everything together in a single layer.
There are absolutely no unwanted strokes or fills that require you to "clean up" the file before use. If you need to change the color of the fill you can select the entire patch layer and make the adjustment and you won't have unwanted areas filled as well. There are also no duplicate areas that would cause your engraver (and assuming other machines but not personally tested) to run over said areas multiple times thus wasting your time and materials.
Other than resizing and color changes, there is not much altering you can (or should) do to these files. If you purchase a file and you do notice a mistake in the design or I didn't catch something that shouldn't be there, please let me know and I will fix the file, send you the replacement, and replace the file in my store for the future purchases of others.
Two more important things before I wrap this up... bare with me...
All my files are made in what I consider "proportioned" to each other. As you may know, patches come in many shape and sizes. In the following when referencing size, I will be referring to the center pieces of the patch not include the sizes of the banners. My patches are made so the artwork is approximately 2.5" in diameter, regardless of actual patch size. This is done so if you make an item with multiple units, the design of the patches themselves are the roughly even and no one patch looks too large or small. Although not exact, I think they are pretty close.
This also goes for the cutout path (red line) on layer 2. This path is not made until the finished artwork is sized and then the border is added to each patch at the exact same distance. If you need to resize multiple patches for a single project, I suggest using the scale tool vs resizing them all to a specific height/width. If you scale them all to let's say 110%, all the portions will remain.
If you resize them all the 5" in height, patches with top and bottom banners will appear smaller than those with single banners.
Last thing... I know, about time, huh?
I engrave every patch before offering it online to ensure the details are visible and clean. Mainly that the width of the lines are thick enough when engraved at the purchased size. Mistakes are caught and mistakes are fixed and I am confident that you will be happy with any patch file you purchase.
In Conclusion.... aka one more thing.
This is an ongoing project. I am starting with 41 patch files available for purchase and if you haven't been able to tell, I've started with USMC aviation units but am not limited there. While I would still consider myself a novice in vector design, I am confident in remaking just about any patch design. My plan is to continue with the aviation units until all are complete and move to other areas and military branches. If you have a specific request please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get the artwork up as quickly as possible.
Oh yeah, please don't share, distribute, or sell files (especially as "your own"). That would be greatly appreciated.