Illustrator Quick Tip: Exporting Layered Files to Photoshop

Illustrator Quick Tip: Exporting Layered Files to Photoshop

Most of the time when I transfer a vector from Illustrator to Photoshop, I use a simple copy and paste. But if you have a more complex vector with multiple layers, there’s actually a much better way by exporting the file to a PSD. Lets take a look at how to do this.

Lets start with a layered Illustrator file like the one below.

Select (File | Export), and from the Format drop down at the bottom of the Export window choose Photoshop (psd).

From the Options panel that appears next, choose CMYK or Grayscale from the Color Model drop down. Either of these options will give you the ability to select Write Layers, Preserve Text Editability, and Maximum Editability.

Now, when you open the newly create PSD file in Photoshop, you have the design divided up into layers, and the text remains editable. Simple as that!

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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. Great tip, Nathan! Can’t believe I am just now discovering this

    • Thank you so much! I never even thought about this! This is going to help me out aloooot, i cant believe all these years of working with illustrator and photoshop and i always had to annoyingly copy and paste.

  2. On the other hand, if you want your objects to be flattened as a single layer (I am not talking about flattening the whole PSD here), so you don’t get a lot of “junk layers” in your PSD, just group them and apply a rasterize filter to it.

  3. duncandraws

    cool tip..can you tell me how to go the opposite way. i.e. from photoshop files to illustrator.

  4. Nice! Great tip!

  5. Thanks for the pro tip. Big time saver!

  6. am

    why this way, when you can just export your ai file into psd?
    like this one

    • Ai Sir

      That link actually says the same exact thing, its actually a longer process man.

  7. am

    hey sorry!!! I post on the wrong page!!
    my mistake T_T I opened too many tabs.

    you sir do the right way! :D
    thank you.

    • Ai Sir

      Oh nevermind -_____- i just saw your next comment. lol!

  8. Sarah Northway

    My last few layers always get merged with this method, so I end up with “Layer 50 + Layer 49 + Layer 48 + Layer 47 + top” at the bottom. There doesn’t seem to be anything special about them, and in fact if I reorder the layers different ones get merged!

    This seems to be a known issue ( with no solution??

    • Vic b

      It’s now a year later and no one seems to have the answer to the auto-merging mess. Did you ever get a solution to this issue? If so, would you please share it? I’m desperate! I’m tired of having to re-do everything!


      Vic B

      • Pat

        The layers group as a single rasterized layer because of the connection between the elements. Whether it be groups, or items contained within a single or multiple masked object, both of these cause the elements to raster onto a single layer when exporting to photoshop. If it is not possible to release masks, so as not to change appearance, split the elements that are rasterizing on their own layer with their own mask if necessary, turn off the other layers that transferred properly, and export the new set of layers. Open up your original exported psd and your new ‘layer’ psd and copy the layers to your original file. Make sure it looks ok and delete the composite layer that did not separate correctly. This works. I do it all the time for a project I work on.

  9. OmiD

    How many maximum layers have PSD files in photoshop?
    1. unlimited
    2. 256
    3. 8000
    4. 16000

  10. Adam

    I’m attempting to batch process a bunch of EPS files to export as PSD. I recorded an action, which worked for one file. But when I try to batch a folder of EPS files with the same action, it creates AI, EPS, and PSD file for each image.

    Is there something I’m missing or not doing on the batch settings?

  11. Millay Shipley

    Great! I never knew!

  12. Mónica

    Perfect! thank you :)

  13. alfa

    Hi, how to keep exported layer in PS as vector shape not flat layer?

  14. Hello I have one eps flyer, i tried your way i cant able to open and edit in photoshop it just be showing single layer file in psd, can u tell me how to mockup in eps file. please help

  15. surya

    does not work ,.. photoshop only shows the single layer at last

  16. Now, this all works fine till “Now exit Quick Mask Mode, and should should have a selection like the one below

  17. Nice Alan.
    This is the process I know too and it’s the kind of function useful to export layers that will become an animated gif image. But my problem is the request of client: they want the layers as Smart Object, so they can edit the vector layers with a simple re-directing double click on the layer. The matter is this is not possible in this way, the maximum editability doesn’t export layers as Smart Object.. how can I do? Can you help me?

    Thanks in advance.

    + Andrea O.

    • Serena

      I have the same issue. Did you ever get a resolution on this? It would be so helpful if you could provide any help. Thanks.

  18. Rebecca

    Thank you SO MUCH! I just tried it and it worked perfectly. Saved me a lot of problems. (This day just keeps getting better and better!) Really appreciate it!!!

  19. Serena

    I have the same problem as LenAine does. When you save/export as such, it does save your images as smart objects, but rather, attempts to rasterize them. I even tried converting the images back to smart object in Photoshop, but that doesn’t actually work so well. Once you go to stretch the image, it quickly becomes distorted, which tells me they are not smart objects.

    • Brad Lenox

      Serena, try copy and pasting the shape from PS to AI. PS will ask if you want to keep the shape as a vector. That should solve the issue.

  20. Ravi

    I got to know that when you we are export AI to PSD, Its only exported with layers when you are working in CMYK Mode in AI file. I work on mobile app with RGB Mode, I am getting PSDs with only as image :(

    Is there any way to fix this?

  21. Ravi

    I just fixed it. Its working thanks. I had to remove all artwork which is outside of artboards :) Thank you!

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