The Creative Toolbox: Share and Share Alike with Illustrator and Photoshop
With Illustrator 9, Adobe introduced some remarkable capabilities for exporting vector files to Photoshop -- and brought even more to the table with Illustrator 10. The onslaught of new features in the last two releases of both Illustrator and Photoshop may have obscured these new exporting options so that they snuck right by you. But the net result is that not only is it possible to write out individual Illustrator layers to Photoshop layers, but Illustrator text can also be saved as editable Photoshop type layers.
Considering that these two applications now manage to handle raster and vector artwork like a second language, it makes perfect sense that they share each other's elements. It occurred to me that many users of these applications might not be aware of the advancements made that allow these two apps to "talk" to one another.
In this article I'll explain what's needed to achieve editable layers in Photoshop from your Illustrator artwork and call out some of the pitfalls to look for along the way. There is one thing to note before we get underway: Although this discussion relates to the most recent versions of Illustrator and Photoshop (10 and 7, respectively), these capabilities originally found their way into Illustrator 9 and Photoshop 6 and should be relevant to users of these versions as well.
Exploring the Photoshop Export Dialog
Illustrator now makes it possible to maintain layers, blend modes, masks, and transparency settings, among other attributes, when exporting to a Photoshop document. This is good news to anyone who would like to start artwork in Illustrator because of the flexible environment and creative tools it provides but who ultimately needs the artwork to end up in Photoshop for final touch-up and bitmap exporting. Although the process of moving your artwork from Illustrator to Photoshop isn't that difficult, it's worthwhile to go over the options available to you. Fortunately, Adobe has put all these options in one nice dialog box -- the Photoshop Options export dialog (see figure 1).
Figure 1: This unsuspecting export dialog holds all the power you'll need to bring artwork over to Photoshop.
Here's how to get started:
- Begin by having your Illustrator document open and ready for export. The artwork should be organized into appropriate layers and sublayers and, for this demonstration, include transparency with blend mode adjustments. Keep in mind how you wish to later edit the layers when they become Photoshop layers.
- From the main menu of Illustrator, choose File > Export... Then select Photoshop (PSD) from the Format pulldown menu. Click the Export button.
- You're presented with the Photoshop Options dialog box. Here reside the various options that determine how the exported Photoshop file will end up.
Let's break them down one by one:
- The Color Model pulldown menu defaults to the current color model of the Illustrator document, either RGB or CMYK. You also have the option to select Grayscale from this pulldown. Since exporting across color models can result in unexpected changes, especially when blend modes are involved, I suggest leaving this pulldown in the document's current color model and converting the exported file in Photoshop instead, if desired.
- The resolution option is straightforward. Here you set what you wish to be the resolution of the Photoshop file. You can decide from one of the presets: Screen (72ppi), Medium (150ppi), High (300ppi) or punch in your own resolution by selecting "Other." Depending on the speed of your system and what you dial in here, you may be waiting a good bit of time for Illustrator to chug away as it works on rasterizing the file to the exported file. Note that any artwork you've previously rasterized in the Illustrator document may end up pixelated if it was permanently rasterized at a lower resolution than what your target resolution is set here.
- The anti-aliasing option decides whether the rasterized artwork will smooth the edges or keep them jagged. Except for rare cases, you most likely want to keep this option enabled.
Up to this point, all of these options relate to purely rasterizing your Illustrator artwork and to be quite honest, all this is possible by simply opening your Illustrator document within Photoshop. Now let's get into the options that really make this dialog worthwhile: writing layers and text out to Photoshop (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Here's my artwork in Illustrator. Later we'll see how it turns out in Photoshop.
Maintain Those Layers
Over the years, layers have become the crucial organization and management tool of both Photoshop and Illustrator. Although layers have been available in both applications for years, the ability to import and export layers between the two didn't show up until recently. Let's continue to look at the Photoshop Export dialog and the options that relate to layers.
Selecting the Write Layers option will export each top-level layer as an individual Photoshop layer. If you have built your artwork using sublayers, also known as nested layers, you may also want to select Write Nested Layers (see figure 3). Doing so writes top-level layers out as Photoshop layer sets. Otherwise, your nested layers are flattened into the top-level layer. If the option to Write Nested Layers is unavailable, it's a telltale sign that your document isn't currently using nested layers.
Figure 3: Sublayers live under your top-level layers in Illustrator. Be sure to have this option enabled in the Layers options.
If you find the resulting Photoshop file unexpectedly merges or drops layers, try isolating any blend modes you've applied. Select the objects in question and in the Transparency palette click Isolate Blending (see figure 4). If you're not happy with this effect, try applying the blend mode overall to the layer if possible.
Figure 4: Isolating blending can make it possible for Illustrator to render out certain layers it normally wouldn't be able to if certain blend modes are applied.
Preserving Editable Text
Even though Photoshop 6 introduced vector-based type layers among other vector-centric features, it's helpful to point out that Illustrator text can be converted into fully editable type layers in Photoshop. You've probably overlooked this feature when it debuted in Illustrator 9, although, I wouldn't blame you if you did. With its slight mention in the user's manual and easily overlooked checkbox option in the Export dialog box, it's amazing anyone knows about this powerful feature other than Adobe.
To successfully get your Illustrator type to come over as fully editable type layers within Photoshop, you must create your type as point type in Illustrator. Not to be confused with points, the unit of measure favored by typographers, "point type" is Adobe's term for type you don't set within a box, which is known as "area type" (see figure 5). Point type is created by simply clicking anywhere on the artboard with the Type tool (horizontal or vertical) and then typing. Be sure not to click and drag. Doing this creates area type that is contained within your dragged box. Illustrator cannot export area type or type on a path as editable text. Lastly, your point type most live on a top-level layer not within a nested layer.
Figure 5: This image shows the difference between point type and area type in Illustrator.
If you've successfully followed the instructions above, the Photoshop export dialog should reward you with an enabled Editable Text option located below the Write Layers option. After exporting the file, open it up in Photoshop and check out the magic in action. You'll be prompted whether to update the vector layers. Click Update and then marvel at your layered Photoshop file with editable type layers. (see figures 6 and 7)
Figure 6: This palette shows how my layers ended up in Photoshop. Notice the Point Type layer is a type layer.
Figure 7: And now a look at the file how it opened up in Photoshop -- blend modes, transparency, and point type intact.
Coming Up Next
Sharing your Illustrator artwork over to a Photoshop file has come a long way from its humble beginnings of copying clipping paths. I hope this article has informed you of the new capabilities available to you in the latest versions of these two applications. Maybe even one day this knowledge will save you some time when that particular project demands such cross-application work.
In this article, I've demonstrated the basic features of exporting to Photoshop. In part two, I'll delve deeper into the remaining options, such as writing compound shapes and slices as well as moving Photoshop files into Illustrator. Until then, experiment with the features detailed here and see what's possible when sharing between these two powerful applications.
Read more by George Penston.
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