I was given an illustrator file that was used to mark up screenshots. The screenshots themselves are the original raster images, one per layer, and the annotations are all additional shape/path layers. In other words, the original screenshots are unmodified themselves as the annotations are on different layers.

What I'm wondering is if it's possible to somehow get those raster images back out again as separate files.

Note: To my knowledge this is not the same as exporting an illustrator file/layer/whatever to a raster image as that (re)creates raster images from the layers, including rendering down any paths, etc. I'm trying to simply gain access to the already-rasterized data behind the layer. Hope that makes sense.

  • Are you referring to AI content that has been rasterized or embedded raster images? The later can merely be copy/pasted to Photoshop. The former is pretty set and not reversible in most instances.
    – Scott
    Dec 2, 2018 at 23:51
  • I believe it's the latter. The layer says <image> But pasting to photoshop would be a tedious process as there are fifty layers or so. That's why I was hoping to find a way to export them all at once. Dec 2, 2018 at 23:53
  • It was my understanding that the team that created this original PDF used Sketch to export the original files, then they dragged them into Illustrator to annotate them, but the original designer is long gone so we can't ask. Dec 2, 2018 at 23:54
  • you could try just opening the file in gimp too. for some not so well supported formats in it the end result would be just loading up the layers as layers. Dec 3, 2018 at 6:56

1 Answer 1


If you are referring to only embedded raster images.... And don't want to copy/paste each image on it's own into Photoshop.

  • Save the AI file as a high quality PDF
  • Close the file (which should now be a PDF)
  • Drag or open that PDF with Photoshop

    Since Ai files are, by default, both PDF and AI .... you may not need to save as a PDF and could possibly merely drag the AI file to Photoshop. However, the saving as PDF merely ensures the below works regardless of the AI save options when the file was originally saved

You will be presented with the PDF Import Options dialog window

enter image description here
This is actually a 40page PDF exported from an InDesign sales letter containing live type, vector images, and raster images opened in Photoshop

  • Tick the Images option at the top left of the window and all the raster images within the PDF should be visible.
  • Shift-Click (or Command/Ctrl-Click) to select more than one image if necessary, or select all
  • Options on the right will be screened out because the images will open at the size/color mode they are in the PDF.
  • Click OK and they will all open in Photoshop
  • You'll have to then manually save them or use some other action for saving/exporting.

If the raster images contain things like paths and fills over an original raster image which have then been rasterized into the image itself, there is no method I'm aware of which will revert and remove any drawn objects that have been rasterized and embedded with the pixels of another raster image. (That's like trying to remove the chocolate from a chocolate cake, after it's been baked.)

  • 1
    This really is a great trick, and I'm honestly surprised I missed it, considering I used to manually edit the file in Illustrator, then import the entire thing in Photoshop (not even noticing that 'images' tab!), then one-by-one try masking each layer and saving them out as files. This also had the down-side of re-rasterizing the images. This however just extracts the rasterized images as-is, regardless if they were scaled in AI. Really is a great trick! Now I'm working on an automated script to do 'Quick export as PNG' on all open files to make this a near-effortless workflow. Tx again! Dec 3, 2018 at 0:24

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