Is there a preferred method for tracing in Illustrator or is it completely task dependent? I've seen a few tutorials showcasing these 2 techniques:
1- Vectorizing artwork: going over the sketch lines with a black sharpie, scan + prep the file in Photoshop and adjust the levels for high contrast so everything gets lifted in live trace (strictly for black+white tracing).
2- Manually tracing
Both techniques shown in tutorials end with the best results-- LiveTrace picked up 100% of the line work as if it had been traced by hand and the manual tracing done by an experienced Illustrator user was also 100% spot on.
Which leaves me wondering if there is a preferred method?
For instance, if live trace doesn't work for whatever reason, then the default would be to go with manual tracing or does manual tracing make a difference in the quality and therefore should be used from the get-go? I know you can expand on the live trace and edit manually thereafter but I am looking for some type of "best practice" or "Standard" for tracing in Illustrator.
I do a load of tracing. I'll say this: it depends.
If your drawing is clean and you can scan as a hi-res bitmap (just white and black values, no greys), the autotrace works great. If you have complex colors, gradients, thick-to-thin-to-thick lines, you're better off manually tracing cuz you'll spend hours redrawing what autotrace screwed up and could just as easily have done it yourself.
Take a look at Flash for tracing too. For some reason, I have better luck with color drawings using Flash's auto trace tool. Maybe Macromedia had it right before Adobe bought 'em? Dunno. I've gone through the tutorials loads of times and done what they say, but my results with autotrace are always off and I'm just too picky with my line work I guess.