I'm trying Effects > Pixelate > Crystallize to create borders like this (something like which we can do with Wrinkle or Crystallize tool):

enter image description here

But even after applying the effect, I can't see any difference for my shape (I used a rectangle with solid fill). I tried increasing the amount, but still no effect. I can see the effect being applied in Appearance Panel, but not visible on actual shape.

And by chance, I created two objects side by side with different colors which were in a group, and then applied the effect, I could see the effect. But still it's only on one side and looks like a low quality raster effect. I mean it's not crisp. Also, it vanishes once the objects are ungrouped.

enter image description here

enter image description here

I need the similar and better quality effect but on the entire border of a single shape.

So can this effect somehow be used to achieve wrinkles/crystallize effect on borders? If yes, how?

And why is this strange behavior? Why it doesn't work (apparently) on single shape?

3 Answers 3


All the menu items under the Effects > Photoshop Effects > section are raster effects. This may or may not be appropriate for any project. However, if the goal is to retain things in exportable vector form, then the "Photoshop Effects" should generally be avoided or used minimally.

Many of the raster effects are constrained to the shape's edges - they won't extend past the bounding box of the object in most instances. And actually any of the raster effect which do extend past an object bounds use a sort of hidden on-the-fly underlying, auto-generated, raster image which is set to be larger than the object. You can see how much larger this underlying raster image is, or adjust its size within reason, by checking Effects > Document Raster Effects Settings... The Add [ ] Around Object field sets the size of this underlying raster image.

enter image description here

However, the Crystalize effect does not use a larger underlying raster image. The Crystalize effect is one of the effects applied using sort of "rectangular pattern tiles". The reason its not seen on a single, solid filled, rectangular is because these rectangular raster pattern tiles align with the rectangular object boundaries. Since the effect is a rectangle and the object is a rectangle they essentially align at the edges. The Crystalize effect can't go outside the edges of the rectangle so it essentially appears to do nothing on a single colored, rectangular, object.

Don't let the little "preview" snapshot fool you... it will show the effect working on a rectangle, but it doesn't actually get applied like the preview on a rectangle -- unless Adobe's fixed that loooooooooooooooong standing issue (which I doubt.)

This is also why on non-rectangular shapes you can see the effect. The rectangular pattern tiles for the effect extend to the bounding area of the entire shape (the bounding box basically, not just the object paths). If the shape has areas smaller than its bounding rectangle, as in a star, the effect pattern can be seen.

Ideally though.... for rough edges, the raster Crystalize effect is a poor choice. You may find Effect > Distort & Transform > Roughen a more appropriate effect to use. It remains vector and achieves the same basic appearance on a single object, with actually more refinement options.

enter image description here

  • Thanks for the technical explanation. Now I found another mistake about my answer. The star thing I stated incorrect. Like you said, we actually don't need border on non rectangular shapes to see the effect. I'll edit mine.
    – Vikas
    Jul 27, 2021 at 19:21
  • Just when I had thought I had understood it, I actually didn't 🤣 (one of the reasons I posted a question). Could be very confusing to beginners.
    – Vikas
    Jul 27, 2021 at 19:25
  • My compliments 😉
    – Sebastiano
    Aug 1, 2021 at 12:15

Actually, it probably is working or has been applied successfully but since there's only one color, you can't observe it (unless you zoom in a lot and notice some rough edges). Just like your problem, for example, I've applied the crystallize effect to this shape, but I can't notice it in my shape.

enter image description here

According to official Adobe's user guide:

Effect > Pixelate > Crystallize

The Pixelate effects are raster-based and use the document’s raster effects settings whenever you apply the effect to a vector object.

Crystallize - Clumps colors into polygon shapes.

So what I could conclude or what I could understand is that your object should have more than one color to actually see the effect easily. It could be a raster image or a simple vector shape with two or more colors or a group of different colored shapes. More the colors, more you'll see the cells/polygons.

Here are a few examples:

On left, no effect is applied. On right, effect is applied.

  1. Image (which is already a raster object) enter image description here

  2. Group of 3 fill shapes (better the resolution in raster effect settings of your document, better would be the results)

    enter image description here

  3. A rectangular/square shape with a stroke

    enter image description here

    After you expand it, it will become a raster image, like a JPEG/PNG etc. You can confirm this by going to Layers panel and checking the layer. And the effect is easily noticeable because you have two different colors.

  4. Gradients

    enter image description here

How to use it for creating wrinkled border:

Like mentioned before, you can use this effect To give a crystallize border look to a solid shape. This is what you're trying. For this, you can follow the 3rd example explained above, i.e., using a stroke for your shape.

Here's a bit more guide about how can you further use some tools and make it vector/crisp.

  1. Select the shape with Crystallize effect applied on it and go to Object > Expand Appearance (turns shape into an image)

  2. Window > Image Trace and trace it using suitable preset

  3. Expand again and remove the black part:

    enter image description here

    After expanding it:

    enter image description here

The reason your effect looks like low quality because it was still raster effect. Plus, like I had mentioned, better resolution and bigger objects will give better results.

You don't need necessarily need to trace and expand it, if you're satisfied with higher document resolution and your requirements.

Like you said, there are some other tools in Illustrator for this kind of border effect, which are quicker and efficient than this. But this is in case you want to use only this effect and try more things.

Note: I'm posting this answer to my own question because I recently noticed this behavior. I experienced most of the problems I'm mentioning and figured out the behavior with some hit and trials. I feel this effect might be confusing or unknown to some new users. Or could be at least useful to some users. I was trying to improve one of my existing answers a few days ago and I had trouble understanding my own answer. I couldn't understand how that effect was applied at that time. I came to realize I had explained it in somewhat incorrect way. So I went into some details and got some understanding which I'm sharing here. Please help improve my question/answer if you feel I've stated something incorrect. Or please post a new answer if you think you can explain this with a new perspective.


You asked how to use the crystallize effect to get smooth wrinkly edges. Here's one way:

enter image description here

  1. The shape which needs the edge treatment

  2. The shape embedded into a bigger differently colored shape - it's needed because you want to see the effect with no tricks. In this phase you should also rasterize the combo because it will be rasterized anyway, as you knew Photoshop effects to do.

  3. Apply the Crystallize effect, expand the appearance and Ungroup. The result is a bitmap image with not so smooth edge wrinkles.

  4. Trace to vector with 2 colors. Add Gaussian Blur and adjust the tracing accuracy to avoid sharp corners.

Expand the Trace. After ungrouping you have these 2 vector shapes:

enter image description here

BTW. Photoshop effects should be considered as the last resort when vector-only ways are not known. They can, of course, generate pro quality results if the raster effect resolution is as high as the job needs. Many of us see no problem in mixing vector and raster stuff. The problems arise if the resolution is not high enough or one cannot accept as big raster image files as needed or some edits are needed afterwards for ex. to get a new version.

You have already got a suggestion to use effect "Roughen". There are also maybe useful tools Wrinkle and Warp.

To have more control you could apply a drawn curve as Art Brush. When you apply Expand Appearance to the result and ungroup you get the edge as curve if the brush was a single open curve. Pattern brush could also be used, but it causes easily problems at corners. An example:

enter image description here

In the left there's my pattern brush shape. In the right it's applied to a rectangle. The corners will not meet.

In the next image the rectangle is splitted with scissors at corners and in the right the image is expanded + joined to one.

enter image description here

Expand appearance didn't change strokes to filled paths, so joining was possible.

I see the brush method as a way to keep the edge style consistent.

  • Very nice your answers.
    – Sebastiano
    Aug 1, 2021 at 12:14

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