Bringing Illustrator files into Photoshop

I recently received a question from a reader who wanted to know if there was a way to take his Illustrator (.ai) file into Photoshop and still keep it fully editable. The simple answer is yes.

Many graphic artists start working in Illustrator and find themselves wanting to work with their files in Photoshop to run filters, add layer effects like embossing, drop shadows and more. For many, this means either copying and pasting until you wear-out your Command key, or by placing the Illustrator files into Photoshop. Either way, it’s tedious and creates a whole lot of work to maintain file editability.

The simple, and painfully obvious, way to do it is to export your Illustrator file as a Photoshop document. Here’s how you do it:

Take your carefully crafted Illustrator file with all its layers intact (remember to name those layers for easy editing later). As you can see in the sample image below, I have each of the three objects on its own layer, and the star layer has transparency applied to it as an overlay.

sample illustration

Go to File - > Export… and select Photoshop (.psd) from the format drop-down menu and press OK. A dialog box will open containing the export options. Since we want to keep the file editable, we’re going to click the Write Layers radio button. This will tell Illustrator to maintain the layers you have set when exporting to the Photoshop format. But we can’t stop there.

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You also need to click the Preserve Text Editability and Maximum Editablity checkboxes. This will not only keep your text fully editable, but also maintain any layer transparency you have set in Illustrator. I also highly recommend you to check the Anti-alias check box, and don’t forget to set your resolution to High for print work, or Screen for Web work.

photoshop layers

Your Illustrator file is now a native, layered Photoshop file. Open your newly exported file in Photoshop and you’ll see that the layers are named just as they were in Illustrator, the text is editable and the layers maintain their transparency (see image left).

While Photoshop’s Smart Objects feature is a great way to place images into Photoshop, while still allowing you to edit them in Illustrator and have the changes automatically reflect in your Photoshop document, it still requires you to “build” your document over again as far as size, placement and so forth. This simple method is perfect for Web designers who do their mockups in Illustrator before finishing the files and splicing images in Photoshop.

Creating a halftone-dot effect in Illustrator

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Yet another reader wanted to know how he could create a halftone-dot effect--which is quite easy to do in Photoshop--in Illustrator in order to keep it completely vector-based. He had to do this in order for it to work with his sign-making equipment.

You can find a simple-to-follow tutorial on this very topic, which will produce great vector results with only a little effort, similar to the sample image on the left, on my blog.

[James Dempsey runs the Creative Guy blog, which offers tips, tricks and opinion on a variety of Mac OS X and design topics.]

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