I am well versed with Photoshop and how it works. But recently, I decided to make a poster for my home and for that I'll have to use Illustrator so I need some help from you guys along the way.

Illustrator CS6 has some Photoshop effects included by default in its filters. After applying a "Photoshop" effect (in this case, the cutout artistic effect), will the output be vector because it was made in Illustrator? If not, then how can I go ahead and make it vector?

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    What exactly do you mean by output? Do you mean the .ai file when you save it, the .pdf when/if you convert it to pdf, or the actual data that goes to the printer when you print it? And what's your specific reason for needing vector output? May 29, 2012 at 16:40
  • @user568458 - By output, I meant the output that appears in Illustrator right after I apply the cutout effect. I needed vector output because when I'm going to be making this poster I'm gonna make it something like 6ftx3ft and print it at 300ppi because I am sticking it on my wall home and everyone's going to look at it very closely - so I'd need really large images. May 29, 2012 at 17:40

2 Answers 2


No, they are not vector. They are raster and remain raster.

However, upon output, the raster effects are generated to match the resolution of the output device in conjunction with the Document Raster Effects Settings as well as any scaling which may take place upon output.

Make certain the Document Raster Effects Setting (in the Effects menu) is set appropriately for your needs and you should be okay.

If you must have it as a vector object, you can expand the object and then use Live Tract/Vector Trace to trace the raster image.

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    Oh thanks a lot, after applying the cutout effect I can just use image trace to get a vector image which I can then INFINITELY EXPAND - the virtues of illustrator, I guess. May 29, 2012 at 17:40
  • Oh, and what about Illustrator's very own effects? Are they vector? May 29, 2012 at 17:48
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    The Effect menu has 2 areas "Illustrator Effects" and "Photoshop Effects" Anything listed under "Illustrator Effects" are live vector effects. Anything under "Photoshop Effects" are raster-based effects and will rely on the Document Raster Effects Settings when you output or save the file.
    – Scott
    May 29, 2012 at 20:02

What Scott says is true, but since you're talking about the way it's stored within illustrator, there's one thing worth adding.

Within Illustrator, a vector shape with a Photoshop effect applied is stored as a vector shape, plus data about the effect that needs to be applied to it - not as pixels like a rasterised shape or a layer in photoshop. When you alter the vector shape, the photoshop effect is re-applied.

That means that you can scale up the vector shape as much as you like without the pixelation problems you would get scaling up a fully rasterised shape. Here's a simple example:

enter image description here

Both circles pixelate at this zoom level - because as Scott says, it's a raster effect. But both circles pixelate exactly as much as each other, despite the fact one of them has been scaled up. Illustrator takes the settings for the photoshop effect and re-applies them to the newly sized circle. This also causes the effects to look different.

So you might not need to use Live Trace to get what you want - you can 'infinitely expand' the shape, and each time you do, it'll re-apply the effect at the resolution you choose in Document Raster Effects Setting. You can take a tiny image, apply photoshop effects, then scale it up to fill the page and it'll re-apply the effect and will have the exact same level of pixelation as the smaller image.

That said, it might be worth live tracing at some point anyway, to 'fix' the effect. When you scale the image and it re-applies the effect, it might not work in the same way as you intended. Here's another example using the 'Sketch > Reticulation' effect (again zoomed right in so you can see the pixels):

enter image description here

Each time the effect applies as the circle is scaled up, it re-interprets the effect, filling the circle with a greater number of gravelly bits in a new pattern that works at the same resolution.

So, you can 'infinitely' scale up a vector shape with a photoshop effect applied without worrying about resolution issues or data loss as you would in Photoshop working with raster data. But, you need to keep an eye on how the effect is applying itself each time, to make sure it's not re-interpreting it in a way you don't want. If it does, you've got two options. You can tweak the settings to better fit the new size, or, you can go back and 'fix' the effect into pure vector data using live trace - depending on what you want in each case.

  • Yeah, but I start here with a raster image and NOT a vector shape, so it doesn't apply. Thanks for adding the info though, it helps. May 30, 2012 at 10:00
  • Ah. It would have been good to mention that in the question! May 30, 2012 at 10:17
  • Oh, sorry for that. :) May 30, 2012 at 14:39

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