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How do I take a gradient vector design into photoshop, add noise to it, and then return it back into Illustrator without the white background?

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Could you add the noise in Illustrator instead? Not identical to Photoshop's noise filter, but similar: Effect -> Texture -> Grain... – JohnB Dec 20 '12 at 18:29
I was going to suggest it as well, not the answer to the question as asked, but the OP may not know it is possible within Illustrator.. – horatio Dec 20 '12 at 18:31

You can use some of the photoshop filters right in illustrator. Once you have converted the file to bitmapped (when you import it into photoshop), all of your vector data is lost and it cannot be used as an illustrator file again. Do your vector stuff first, then go over the finished image in photoshop.

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The most flexible solution I've found (and I'm assuming you want flexible since you're coming back to Illy) is a tiled raster texture overlaid on your Illustrator art. It's not exactly the same effect but it is essentially scalable.

  1. Create a texture tile in P'shop -- seemless is obviously better
  2. Place that image into your Illy doc
  3. Use Effect > Distort & Transform > Transform ... to tile it out to the area required
  4. Apply a mask to limit it to the area in question
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You really can't. You can certainly take an Illustrator file to Photoshop. Add a layer or rasterize the file and add noise. However, to go back to Illustrator you bring raster content. Not the mathematical stops of a vector gradient.

As soon as you go back to Illustrator, you've got to be aware of the files resolution (PPI) as well as traditional raster restrictions. And you may need to use Clipping or Opacity masks depending upon the object. THere's no way around that.

I have requested some sort of dither or noise ability in Illustrator for some time. But I don't think it's going to happen anytime soon. Vector gradients traditionally do not need any noise or dithering due to the mathematical structure. At least that's been the reason in the past. Nowadays, with Illustrator being used far more for on screen work, some dithering would be nice.

While Illustrator does contain some raster effects and these may or may not work for your needs. I've found all of the effects within Illustrator to be too drastically different than simple noise or dithering to be of any real use.

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Why the down vote? – Scott Dec 20 '12 at 19:58

As stated in other replies the round trip involves a change from vector to raster format so you must be mindful of desired output scale, however this does not also mean that you must therefore accept a white background for the gradient after it returns to illustrator. By exporting to a format capable of handling transparency such as .PNG or .TIF and maintaining the file on a layer without a background you should be able to avoid any white background.

Another possibility: is to generate the gradient with desired noise and simply use it like a "fill" in illustrator by clipping it with paths as needed. This would allow you to re-use the same gradient in multiple locations in your illustrator file--thereby keeping overall file size down.

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