When I go Create New Layer => Convert to Smart Object => Double click on Smart Object thumbnail it opens in Photoshop as a .psb, but I would like it to open in Illustrator. How do I get all my Photoshop smart objects to open in Illustrator? I'm using PS & AI CC.

The Adobe docs just say you can open in either of them. The docs aren't clear how to choose set one or the other.

7 Answers 7


You can not. The Smart object opens in the application which created it. Smart Objects are true to their originating application.

If the smart object was originally created in Photoshop, there is no way to tell it to open in Illustrator, and vice versa.

The Adobe documentation simply means the Smart Object will open in whatever app is appropriate, not that you can choose which app it opens in. The embedded information knows which application created the original artwork and will always revert to that application to edit the artwork.

  • Thanks Scott. One question though, how do I get a smart object to open in Illustrator? When I make an .ai file and open it in photoshop => convert to smart object it still opens in Photoshop. Can I create a smart object in Illustrator and export it somehow to Photoshop?
    – evan
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 19:36
  • Don't open it in Photoshop, place it or copy/paste. Opening rasterizes the file. Or choose Open as Smart Object rather than just "open".
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 19:38
  • Wow, so easy. Thank you for all your help and quick responses.
    – evan
    Commented Feb 14, 2014 at 19:42
  • Disagree, although the smart objects were created in Photoshop it can still be opened in Illustrator.
    – user21167
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 15:30
  • @angel Please explain how. I see no mechanism within Photoshop to tell any smart object to open in any application other than the application which created it via "Edit Contents". There is no "Edit in..." option anywhere to the best of my knowledge.
    – Scott
    Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 15:59

Highlight the Smart Object in question and go to the Properties panel. You should see both the original file extension and the option Convert to Linked. This allows you to save the Smart Object in it's original form. From there you can edit it in whatever program you like.

p.s. I'm using Photoshop CC for Mac


Experienced this problem the last couple of days, somehow all .ai files were being opened with Acrobat by default - the solution was to create an AI file, right click - open with - set default program to illustrator, then I was able to edit vector smart objects in Illustrator again.

  • 1
    Not really the same issue as the question. But still helpful if someone has their Operating System associations incorrect.
    – Scott
    Commented Feb 25, 2015 at 22:26

In Windows, if you have Photoshop as default program for opening PDF/Illustrator, the vectors smart objects then will open in Photoshop always.

Just go to a PDF on Windows Explorer and choose default program: Illustrator. Then when you double click in Photoshop in a vector smart object will open in Illustrator rather than Photoshop. I just find this myself and fix it.

  • Thanks for the contribution and welcome to GraphicDesign! Let us know if you have any questions Commented Mar 3, 2015 at 18:00

As the matter of fact – answers by Oliver B and diego are good! If somehow your system doesn't open .ai file by default in Illustrator, Photoshop won't neither. Sometimes the system gets it all confused during re-installations, updates and so on. And then the Photoshop tries to open Smart Object originally with .ai extension in... Photoshop.

So just check – if the default application to open this filetype wasn't changed in some Adobe vs. Your System misunderstanding :)


I had the same issue, but with SVG files, but I solved it this way:

  1. Type in the search bar: Choose a default app for each type of file
  2. Find the file extension (I looked for SVG e.g.)
  3. Choose a default app (Adobe Illustrator)

And, voila! That's it! :)

Step 1

Step 2


The chosen answer is outdated, so for anyone still looking for an answer in 2022 and beyond, all you have to do is open Illustrator, then File --> Open your PSD file, chose to open as layers, and your smart objects will be vector paths.

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