How To Open And Use Vectors In Photoshop

Today we are going to see how to open and use vectors, such as those available on Vectorfresh, in Photoshop, but first, why not check out this list of Illustrator Alternatives, hand crafted programs designed for editing vector graphics!
Before we embark on this learning journey let me first give an overview of what Photoshop is, for people who don’t know about it. Later we shall learn how to open a vector file in Photoshop and also explore some best practices to use vectors in Photoshop. If you’re well acquainted with Photoshop you may skip to the next section on ‘How to open Vectors in Photoshop’.

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What is Photoshop?

PhotoshopPhotoshop Logo CS6 is a Bitmap editing application which is ideally used to edit photograph and to manipulate images. It is also widely used to create digital artwork, but the output is always in a Raster format. This leads us to another question regarding image formats. So let’s discuss image formats to have a better understanding of the subject.

Adobe Photoshop Vectors – how?

There are mainly two formats in computer graphics, namely raster and vector. Raster images are pixel based and are resolution dependant. This means that these Raster images cannot be scaled without losing their picture quality. Vector on the other hand are created using dots, curves, lines and polygons and are completely scalable or resizable without any loss of quality. You may visit our earlier post to learn more about the difference between Raster and Vector formats.

Coming back to our earlier point, Photoshop is a bitmap or raster editing software and is well suited for image editing purposes. Vectors cannot be completely edited or created using Photoshop. If you’re disappointed in Photoshop for this reason, please don’t be. The good news – Vector files can be resized and used in Photoshop and also retain its picture quality. How can you do that?

Let’s move on to learn how to open and use Vectors in Photoshop. For our purpose I’ve created a background in Illustrator and saved it as an EPS file as this is a widely distributed Vector format. I shall be using this abstract background to demonstrate the right technique to open and use Vectors in Photoshop.

Try it yourself! Download my Demo File!

Download Abstract Background

Download my demo file for free, if you like to follow my step-by-step guide below.

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Moving on – How to Open the Vectors in Photoshop

Steps to open Vectors in Photoshop – the not so right way

  1. Go to File menu in the Menu bar, Click ‘Open’
    Step 1 - How to open Vector in Photoshop

    Step 1

  2. Select the EPS or AI File and Click ‘Open’
    Step 2 - How to open Vector in Photoshop

    Step 2

Steps to open Vectors in Photoshop in the right manner

  1. Go to File menu, Click ‘Open As Smart Object’
    Step 1 - How to open Vector in Photoshop

    Step 1

  2. Select the EPS or AI File and Click ‘Open’
    Step 2 - How to open Vector in Photoshop

    Step 2

This way, the EPS file opens as a Smart Object. So we've opened the EPS or the AI file in Photoshop. Let’s begin using it right away and learn as we go.

How to use Vector Files in Photoshop

First, let’s look at the two images that has been opened. This is how the images appear in the layer panel for both files – one with the normal image layer and the other as a smart object.

Layer - Vector in Photoshop

Regular Layer in Photoshop

Layer - Vector in Photoshop

Smart Object Layer in Photoshop

Now that we have the same file opened differently, let’s look into why it’s ideal to open Vectors as Smart Objects in Photoshop.

Smart object lets us do non-destructive editing in Photoshop. This means that we can transform or resize the image as much as we want without losing the picture quality. Let me demonstrate this aspect for you to clarify.

I have dragged both these files aka layers – simple layer and the smart object layer to another file. I shall now scale down the image.

scaled-down layers

Scaled-down layers

Once done, I shall scale up the both these layers back again.The results after scaling up given below and without a question the Smart Object has retained its picture quality despite the scaling. The normal layer on the other hand has lost its quality and charm.

Scaled-up regular layer

Scaled-up regular layer in Photoshop

Scaled-up Smart Object layer in Photoshop

Scaled-up Smart Object layer in Photoshop

 

There’s another advantage of opening a file as smart object. You can apply Photoshop filters to this layer and alter it at a later stage in your work. You can go back to the filters settings whenever you want and can also adjust the opacity of these filters. You can also apply a couple of image adjustment settings and edit it later.

That’s not all – there’s another big surprise. You can double click this Vector Smart Object layer and voila! The file opens in Adobe Illustrator in its true form with layers and shapes as editable vectors.

More on how to open and use Vectors in Photoshop.

You can also open the file as is and later convert to a smart object. This way it will still have the non-destructible editing features but will open as a separate Photoshop file when double clicked. Unfortunately it does not open as Vector in Illustrator.

Additionally you can place a Vector in Photoshop by doing the following steps.

  1. Go to File Menu
  2. Click Place
  3. Select the EPS or AI file and Click Place
  4. This way too it opens as Smart Object and when double clicked, opens in Illustrator.

So let me conclude that its ideal to use Vectors as Smart Objects in Photoshop so that we enjoy all the benefits that I mentioned earlier. I hope you make the most of your Vectors in Photoshop as well, as much as you do in Illustrator or one of many Illustrator Alternatives. By the way you can download this amazing Abstract Vector Background that we created in Illustrator. Absolutely Free!

Free Abstract Vector - VectorGuru

Download Abstract Background

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Images © olly – Fotolia.com

18 Comments
  1. Reply
    Håkon October 15, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Thank you very much, this article helped me alot!

    • Reply
      amosnet October 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm

      You are welcome Hakon! Glad we could help.

  2. Reply
    John November 2, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Thank you!

    • Reply
      amosnet November 2, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      You are very welcome John.

  3. Reply
    surjit kapila November 30, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    thanks a lot…for this .

  4. Reply
    Brett December 6, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    I’m not a graphic designer, but this helped me understand this perfectly. Thanks.

    • Reply
      amosnet December 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Glad we could help Brett!

  5. Reply
    vgja December 16, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    thaks .helped a lot

  6. Reply
    steven January 18, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Thank you for explaining this. I am looking at having a photography logo made. It comes in an AL EPS file and I only have photoshop. Can I alter the text or colors later?

    • Reply
      amosnet January 18, 2015 at 6:28 pm

      I don’t think so Steven. You would need to have an active Adobe Illustrator installation on hand to edit the AI file. I recommend always get the EPS file or SVG file from your designer, which will let you edit it in many cheap or free software.

  7. Reply
    Jess Pomeroy January 26, 2015 at 4:24 am

    I’m making a photography logo as well and my badges and pieces i got all come together on a grey background and I’m wondering how i separate them from the grey background to no background and how i edit fonts.

    • Reply
      Faaiq Bilal July 23, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      Try using the magic wand tool to select the outer grey area and then pressing delete to get rid of it. After you’re done with that, just right click and deselect, I do that with most of my vectors 🙂

  8. Reply
    ASTAZA September 26, 2015 at 3:10 am

    hi, when i treid to open .ai file i got a blank space only what is the wrong
    thanks

    • Reply
      amosnet November 3, 2015 at 9:13 am

      Sorry but I can not help you with this question. I do not see the AI. file you are trying to open.

  9. Reply
    Gerwald December 2, 2015 at 10:32 am

    Thank you very much for this information. I was able to change a logo and keep the file in its original quality.

  10. Reply
    Wes January 23, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Hi, I have opened a vector file as a smart object in Photoshop. Then I drag and drop back into illurstrator and if I zoom in I can see that it has pixelated compared to the original vector file in illurstrator? Please help

  11. Reply
    Jessica Van Deventer September 16, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    I have the same issue as Wes from January 23rd. Not sure where I’m going wrong.

    • Reply
      Amos January 21, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      I think this has to do with the source vector file. The “canvas” of the vector might be too small. I recommend to open it quickly in Adobe Illustrator if you have the Adobe Creative Cloud and then copy and paste into Photoshop.

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