How to Open an AI File in Photoshop Without Rasterizing

As a graphic designer and digital artist, you may work with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. While both platforms have undoubtedly made your life easier in many ways, there is no denying the frustration that occurs when you want to work with an Illustrator file in Photoshop. Is there any way to open an AI file in Photoshop without rasterizing and losing control of quality?

Fortunately, there are a couple of nifty tricks you can use to avoid the dead end that is rasterizing. You’ve just got to know what steps to take. Keep reading to discover 4 simple steps to open an AI file in Photoshop without rasterizing.

4 Steps to Open an AI File In Photoshop Without Rasterizing

Use the following 4 steps to quickly avoid rasterizing an AI file in Photoshop.

1. Prepare to Export Your AI File

The first step to preserving editable layers for your AI file in Photoshop is to correctly prepare the AI file for export.

This is easily accomplished in Illustrator using the following process:

  1. Open the file to be exported in Illustrator
  2. Click “File” on the task ribbon at the top of the program screen
  3. Select “Export” from the drop down menu (it is near the bottom of the menu)
  4. Click “Export As” from the task box

Following these steps should bring a new, larger “Export” task box to the forefront of your screen.

2. Convert the AI File to Photoshop Format

This is the key step.

In the “Format” section of the task box, the default will be an Illustrator file (AI). This needs to be changed to a Photoshop file (PSD) to ensure editability when opened in Photoshop.

Toggle the “Format” field until “Photoshop (psd)” appears as the file type.

3. Export the File

Now you are ready to export. It is recommended that you rename the file (top field in the task box) for easier identification when opening Photoshop, but failure to rename the file will not influence file quality.

Follow these steps:

  1. Click “Export” at the bottom right of the task box.
  2. This will produce yet another task box titled “Photoshop Export Options.”
  3. Click the dot to activate “Write Layers”
  4. Check the box next to “Preserve Text Editability”
  5. Check the box next to “Maximum Editability”

Once all of these fields are appropriately highlighted, click “OK” at the bottom right of the task box to complete the export.

4. Open the File in Photoshop

Now it is time to open your Illustrator project in Photoshop as an editable PSD file.

Here’s how:

  1. Open Photoshop
  2. Click “File” from the top task ribbon
  3. Select “Open” and choose your recently created PSD file

Notice that all of the layers from your old AI file are visible and ready to edit in the “Layers” panel.

What Is Rasterizing?

The file format used by Photoshop, PSD, is known as a raster file.

This is a file format composed of pixels, of which photographs are composed. Therefore, when you “rasterize” a file, you convert it from its original file format into a pixel-based format, or raster file.

From a visual perspective, there usually is not much of an issue rasterizing AI files–they typically look good. The trouble comes when you try to edit. AI layers usually don’t translate correctly when rasterized and result in a single, immutable layer.

This is obviously an issue for graphic designers who want to combine and edit their digital artwork, Placeit logos, and photographs into a single piece of art. Hence, the need for taking the aforementioned steps for converting an AI file to PSD prior to opening it in Photoshop.

Why Do Illustrator and Photoshop Use Different File Formats?

Although it is highly inconvenient for graphic artists who frequently use both of these Abode platforms when creating, there is a rhyme behind the reason for using different file types.

Illustrator File Format

Illustrator is a platform ideal for making graphics. As a result, it uses vectors, composed of a series of connected dots and algorithms, when creating its files. This enhances mutability–the ability to change–and ensures that graphics do not become distorted as they are scaled.

Photoshop File Format

Photoshop, on the other hand, is a platform for working with photographs. As photographs are composed of pixels, this is the format in which files are stored in the program. This helps artists when editing photographs because they are able to set the rules for how each pixel behaves and appears, enhancing the quality of the photograph.

The issue when dealing with pixels is that image quality can change drastically when resized. Therefore, when rasterized files are manipulated in Photoshop, the result can be very substandard, so artists really want to have the file readily converted in multiple pixelated layers to have the best chance of success when editing in Photoshop.

Do AI Files Lose Quality In Photoshop?

There is no way around it–your AI files run the risk of losing quality when resized in Photoshop, even if you avoid rasterizing. However, you can take steps for preserving the quality of your AI files in Photoshop if you take advantage of the platform’s Smart Objects tool.

Making your AI files a Smart Object prevents them from losing quality in Photoshop. This means you can:

  • Undo any edits made in Photoshop and revert back to the original
  • Scale up or scale and preserve project quality, preventing any blurring or distortion

To leverage Smart Object features, you can simply copy and paste your AI project into Photoshop.

How to Use Smart Object In Photoshop to Prevent Quality Loss

You need to make sure your Illustrator copy and paste settings are configured correctly to allow this process.

Follow these steps:

  1. Open Illustrator
  2. Click “Edit” from the task ribbon
  3. Click “Preferences”
  4. Click “File Handling & Clipboard” from the drop down menu
  5. When the task box with clipboard handling preferences appears, be sure to select “SVG Code” on copy and “AICB” on quit
  6. Select the objects you want to paste into Photoshop by choosing “Edit” and then “Copy”
  7. Open Photoshop to the project you want to work in
  8. Select “Edit”
  9. Select “Paste.” This will produce a task box that asks how you want to paste the file.
  10. Choose “Smart Object” and click “OK”
  11. The project will now appear in Photoshop layers as a Vector Smart Object

You can now go back into Illustrator and edit the original file, with the edits appearing simultaneously in Photoshop in the same high quality. Pretty cool!

The Easy Way to Open AI Files In Photoshop Without Rasterizing

Although it is easy to open an AI file in Photoshop, it will automatically be rasterized to convert to the correct file type, essentially ending any further editing efforts. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. By using the pro tips listed above, you can easily open your AI files in Photoshop without rasterizing!