So I recently did some logo design work for a friend of a friend and just sent him a collection of image files, with each design available as a basic JPG, a transparent PNG, and an AI vector file. I just used Photoshop's Export > Paths to Illustrator function to create the AI files since I don't actually have Illustrator, and this method has always worked in the past.

My client and his printer sent me a message alerting me to the fact that all the vector files were showing up really small (as in less than a KB) and were strangely empty. I went back and double checked all of them, and they were all showing up as having file sizes that seemed appropriate given the contents. I'd originally sent all the files in a .zip folder so I got to wondering if the compression had done something weird to them -- I re-sent all of the AI files as individual attachments and they were properly preserved this time. However, I received another message from the printer:

These do show up this time, however they come in as a vector file with an embedded image. Maybe try these exported as a PDF and an EPS file to see how those work.

I've since exported all the files as EPS and Photoshop PDFs, and apparently there's still a problem. However, I'm wondering what he meant by "vector with an embedded image." If I can fix that somehow, I might be able to resolve this whole issue without any further steps.

When I originally saved those AI files, I merely opened the transparent PNG in PS then exported from there. Could that be part of the problem? If I were to copy and paste the image from the PNG onto a fresh PS canvas and then export from there, would that solve the problem?

I'm still waiting to hear back regarding what exactly the problem with the EPS and PDF files is, but fixing the AI files directly just strikes me as being a simpler solution. I've just created a lot of AI files with the PS Export > Paths to Illustrator function in the past and have never had any problems, so I'm kind of at a loss as to what's wrong.

UPDATE: I just heard back re: the EPS and PDF problem, and he said the files contain JPG material and are raster, not vector. I'm kind of thinking "Well duh, but you're also the one who told me to try those formats." So that was basically no help.

2 Answers 2


The problem is because PNGs are raster images, not vector images. Exporting raster images as EPS, PDF, or AI will not turn them into vectors. They will still be raster images, but just embedded inside a vector file format.

So basically, what you are trying to do will not work.

To get it to work, you'd need to recreate all the graphical elements as paths with strokes and/or fills in Photoshop, and delete the raster layers. There is no way to do this automatically in Photoshop.

  • Okay, that's kind of what I was wondering. And if I do all of that first, will the export > paths to Illustrator function do the trick?
    – EJF
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:24
  • Only if all the graphics are vector - i.e. made of paths with fills/strokes, with no raster effects applied to these layers. But I don't know how well these will work when opened in Illustrator - there might still be some problems. Without Illustrator to check them, you are potentially handicapped.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:27
  • Yeah that's the thing - I did download the Illustrator free trial via Adobe CC, but it has long since expired. Not sure if it would work to try again with a different account, since Adobe is still pretty good about telling when/if you've had a piece of software installed on a particular machine. I've wanted to just find an older copy (CS4 or 5 maybe) for sale somewhere and install it from a disk, but I've had no luck so far.
    – EJF
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:34
  • There's other vector image editing software - if you don't mind learning something new. Inkscape(dot)org is free and Open Source, but sadly it is not fully compatible with all AI files, although it will open basic AI files. Since it's free you've nothing to lose by trying it.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:51
  • Another thing to note, is that if the image in the PSD is made of vectors, there would be no need to supply an AI file at all.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 19:56

There appears to be some format confusion on everyones part :)

PNG, JPG, TIF all will not support vector data under any circumstances.

PDF, EPS, and PSD can contain vector data, but they also can contain raster data. Merely selecting these formats never converts raster data to vector data. So, opening a PNG and saving it an EPS or PDF results in a raster-based file, not a vector file, since PNG is a raster format.

The Export paths to Illustrator function only exports the paths. It does not include any color or any strokes and fills. You get unfilled shapes and unstroked paths, essentially leaving "spines" and not "objects. To an unfamiliar user, these exported .ai files will appear as though they are empty (You have to switch to Outline Mode in Illustrator to see the paths). It is customary to open the .ai export with Illustrator and reapply fills and strokes to the hollow objects.

In addition, this feature only works when there are actual vector paths within the Photoshop document. In no instance with paths be "created" by merely choosing this export option. You must create paths in Photoshop first.

Essentially the Export paths to Illustrator is a step in a construction workflow, it never results in final, usable files. You always have to then open the file in Illustrator to continue working.

Be aware.. Photoshop does not create vector files. Photoshop creates raster files with embedded vector data. There is a difference between this and a vector file from a vector-based application, such as Illustrator.

See Here: Is a Photoshop EPS file a vector format?

And Here: How to create vector graphics In Photoshop?

  • Thanks for the in-depth answer! Taking all of that into consideration, what are my options? I actually used GIMP for the original artwork, so I should still have all the individual layers available in one of the versions I saved. Can I do anything with those that will help?
    – EJF
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 22:08
  • Well GIMP is raster based as well. Does the artwork have paths and shapes? or is it jsut a bunch of raster layers? If the artwork is actually constructed of vector shapes you may be able to send a PDF, but you tried that without success. It somewhat sounds to me, at this point, you need an actual vector application - Illustrator, Inkscape, Xara, CorelDraw, etc and you'll have to recreate the artwork in vector form. I don't know of any raster-based application capable of saving an actual vector file (without embedded raster images).
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 22:12
  • sigh I was afraid of that. The GIMP artwork is just a bunch of raster layers. Out of curiosity, what's the problem with having an embedded image in the AI files? I've used that Paths to Illustrator function to create AI files for another friend, and her printing person was able to use them with no problem. What might cause that difference?
    – EJF
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 22:46
  • Well, chances are "her printer" fixed the file for her. Seriously, the export paths results in absolutely unusable files. They have to be edited in every case. And if there are no paths in Photoshop... there was nothing exported. Printers will often correct simple things if possible, kind of depends on the printer and the complexity of the art.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 22:48
  • There's no inherent "problem" with having some embedded raster data. However, it may be an issue depending on usage and production. For example... a vinyl sign cutter won't work with raster data.. so it's a problem there. It all depends on the output really.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 22:50

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