Blog: Secrets from the Chef

Exporting design comp from AI to PSD the right way

Yegor GilyovAuthor: Yegor Gilyov
5 May 2011

Exporting design comp from AI to PSD

Nowadays you can often times meet interface designers who gave up using the good old Adobe Photoshop in favor of vector instruments. In other words, in favor of Adobe Illustrator. The advantages are obvious: while working with the vector source one can better control the process than while working with a bitmap (even if it is split into layers). In a vector editor a drawn circle will remain a drawn circle and in Photoshop it will be just a multitude of painted pixels. Finally, in a vector editor it is much easier to create versions for screens with different pixel density (dpi) — Hello, Retina Display!

However, there is an opinion that the migration of designers to Adobe Illustrator promises a load full of problems to HTML coders. HTML coders are conservative people in general who tend to be reluctant to adopt new trends. So in most of the cases they just refuse to access graphic source files in AI format. This attitude is normally based upon two myths:

  1. Exporting designs from AI into PSD is complex and time-consuming.
  2. Exporting designs from AI into PSD dramatically affects the picture quality.

Both statements are fair only in the case when you want to face the matter boldly. Taking a AI source and exporting it into PSD may result in getting a target file with a bunch of mixed layers and small glitches that did not appear in the vector file. This way it is definitely going to be tiresome and even excruciating. As you may have already guessed we will go in a different direction.

The correct way of exporting the design layouts from AI to PSD is described in three easy steps below:

Step one: housekeeping. We take all the text objects and place then on a single layer (or several layers). All of the remaining objects should be wisely grouped by layers. In PSD each of these layers will be completely flat, so this is the right stage to think and to decide on what details should be flattened and which should be scattered among layers. It is also important to track that all overlay effects stay inside the layers otherwise it will create unnecessary noise.

As a result of step one you should have a relatively small set of properly named layers:

Exporting design comp from AI to PSD

Step two: rasterizing. You should apply the Rasterize effect over all the layers but the text ones in Type Optimized mode.

Exporting design comp from AI to PSD

It may sound weird but that’s the way to do it. Only this way of rasterization ensures the result that matches what we see in the vector source. I have described this peculiar feature of Adobe Illustrator in our blog 7 years ago: Rasterizing in Adobe Illustrator 10 & CS. Surprising as it may sound, the situation has not changed much since then.

Step three: exporting. As a result we get a PSD file with a picture that matches the source in AI up to a minute detail.

That’s all, folks!

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