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How to rasterize in Adobe Photoshop.

Certain actions in Photoshop work only on raster images, which are made of pixels instead of vectors. Learn how and when to rasterize your work.

What does it mean to rasterize in Photoshop?

Graphics in Photoshop can either be raster or vector. Raster graphics, also referred to as rasterized images or bitmap images, are made of countless tiny squares called pixels. When you zoom way in, you’ll see the solid edges break down into jagged squares. On the other hand, vector graphics are shapes mathematically programmed to remain sharp at any size. Here are some rasterizing basics:

Paint Bucket icon superimposed on graphic art.

Why rasterize an image or shape?

There are several tools in Photoshop that work only on raster layers — including brush tools, the Eraser tool, the Paint Bucket tool, and certain filters like Blur. If you try to do a raster-only edit on a vector layer, Photoshop displays a prompt letting you know your layer must be rasterized before proceeding. 

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Shapes and text layers default to vectors.

When you create new shapes in Photoshop or add text to a project, they automatically show up as a vector layer. Their edges will be crisp no matter how much you zoom out or in. However almost everything else you can work with in Photoshop is a raster graphic — including digital paint strokes, photos, gradients, and more.

A photo of a person. The person's shirt has been zoomed in to show pixels.

Rasterizing a vector layer converts it to pixels.

Rasterize layers to transform them from vector images into pixel images. Unless you zoom in until you see the pixels, you probably won’t notice a difference after you convert your layer.

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The downside of rasterizing.

Once you rasterize, you can’t go back to your original vector layer. That means you’ll also lose the ability to scale your shape to any size without some loss in image quality. And once you rasterize type layers, you can no longer change the words or font of your text.

How do you rasterize an image in Photoshop?

While many graphic designers avoid rasterizing unless absolutely necessary, rasterizing a vector layer doesn’t have to compromise the quality of your project. A raster image is just fine unless you require a vector file so you can blow your image up into a bigger format, like for a digital billboard or a printed banner. 


1. Select it:

If your Layers panel is not visible, press F7 to reveal it. Then select the layer containing the vectors you want to rasterize.


2. Duplicate it:

Because rasterization cannot be reversed, choose Layer › Duplicate to save a copy of your selected layer just in case. Tap the eye icon beside your new layer to hide it from view.


3. Rasterize it:

Right-click on your original vector layer, choose Rasterize Layer, and select an option from the menu:

 

  • Type. Rasterize only the text on a type layer.
  • Shape. Rasterize a shape layer.
  • Fill Content. Rasterize only the fill (solid color, gradient, or pattern) on a shape layer, leaving the vector mask.
  • Vector Mask. Rasterize only the vector mask on a layer, turning it into a layer mask.
  • Smart Object. Convert a Smart Object into a raster layer.
  • Video. Rasterize a video frame to an image layer.
  • 3D (Extended only). Rasterize the current view of 3D data into a flat raster layer.
  • Layer. Rasterize all of the vector data on selected layers.
  • All Layers. Rasterize all layers that contain vector and generated data. 

Instead of rasterizing, try these techniques.

These workarounds, like converting your layer into a Smart Object before transforming it, can eliminate the need to rasterize. 

Layers panel superimposed on a photo of a person with a pink halo centered vertically around their head.

Make edits with new layers and Smart Objects.

To paint directly onto a vector layer, you need to rasterize it. Instead, add a new layer as an overlay on your vector layer and paint or draw on that. To transform your vector layer in other ways without losing quality, convert it to a Smart Object — then warp, scale, or add filters without permanently affecting the original layer.

Layers panel and Properties icon superimposed on an illustration of an airplane in the sky.

Change colors in the Properties panel.

You can rasterize to change the color of shapes or text with the Paint Bucket tool. Or you can change shape color by selecting your shape layer in the Layers panel and going to Window › Properties and changing the color with the Color Picker. To change text color, double-click the T icon in the Layers panel, select Window › Character, and use the Color Picker.

Layers panel and Layer Mask icon superimposed on an image of a person skateboarding.

Use a layer mask instead of the Eraser tool.

To use the Eraser tool to remove parts of your vector shape, you need to rasterize. Instead, select your layer and click the Layer Mask icon (a rectangle with a circle in the center) at the bottom of the Layers panel. Then select the Brush tool to paint on your layer mask. Paint on black to conceal parts of your vector shape or white to reveal parts of it.

Adobe Photoshop

Do more with Adobe Photoshop.

Tutorials to take vectors and pixels further.

Dive deeper into enhancing your images with text or layer masks.

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Use your words.

Explore all the ways to work with words — from choosing poster fonts to adding fun effects.

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Get precise with masks.

Learn how to target your edits on specific areas of an image with layer and vector masks.

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