How to Convert to Vector in Photoshop

By Alexis Lawrence

There are two main graphics file types that can be created using Adobe Photoshop. Raster files, or bitmaps, utilize pixels to create an image. This is good for image color but causes distortion when changing the file size of a graphic. Vector image files rely on paths to create an image. Since paths are numerically based, these files do not distort upon resizing and are ideal for text and other images in which precision is important. If you have a bitmap image, it is possible to convert it into a vector image with Photoshop.

Step 1

Open the image that you would like to convert and draw a path around each object. Try the “Magic Wand” tool first. It can be selected from the main toolbar. If the image you want to convert is basic, like the image of a car, it is possible that the “Magic Wand” tool will correctly identify the edges of the object and draw an accurate path around it. If the “Magic Wand” tool doesn’t work, you will need to turn to the “Magnetic Lasso Tool.” Select this tool from the toolbar and trace the edges of the object until it is fully enclosed in lines. The “Magnetic Lasso Tool” will snap to the edges of the object, giving you a precise tracing.

Step 2

Click on “Make Work Path from Selection." This option is available on the “Paths” work palette and appears as a circle with lines emerging from each side. When you click this button, the tracing that you have done around each object will be turned into a path.

Step 3

Export the paths that you have created. Click on the “File” menu, then click on “Export” and choose the “Paths” option when it pops up. This will bring up a window for exporting.

Step 4

Save the file with a new name to prevent confusion. You can type the name for your vector file next to “File Name” in the export window. Click “Save." The file will save as an Adobe Illustrator (.ai) vector file.

Step 5

Correct the image. There will likely be a few places along the path created that look ragged in comparison with the original image. You can correct these spots by opening the .ai file in Photoshop and using Photoshop tools to smooth out the edges. Selecting each path is done using the “Path Selection Tool.” Once a path is selected, the edges of the path can be moved. Other Photoshop tools, like the "Eraser," will also be effective in altering and smoothing path lines.