How to Vectorize an Image in Photoshop.
Adobe Photoshop is not a vector image editor. Adobe Illustrator will skillfully handle this task. But what if you have one of the basic Adobe Creative Cloud membership plans? Or do you only have a Photoshop subscription?
Photoshop has several tools that let you draw vector shapes and paths from scratch. Now you can even select multiple paths and change the look with features like Live Shape Properties. However, learning to vectorize an image in Photoshop takes a little more work.
How to convert a bitmap to a vector image
Vector images can be scaled to any size, unlike photographs, which will be pixelated when the resolution is changed. They are composed of paths that look like “lines” drawn using mathematical equations, scalable to any resolution.
To convert a pixel-based bitmap to a vector:
- Select pixels.
- Convert them to paths.
- Color them in and save them as vectors.
As always, you will be working with different layers in Photoshop to extract the paths from the bitmap. Here is a glimpse of the original bitmap portrait and the final image after vectorizing it.
Screenshots taken from Adobe Photoshop CC (21.2.0). But you should be able to follow this simple guide with most recent versions of Photoshop.
1. Open a bitmap in Photoshop
Drag the bitmap into Photoshop, or open it from File> Open. The sample image in this example is a simple portrait. If the object you want to vectorize has a background loaded, first remove the background in Photoshop.
2. Make a selection around the image
There are different methods you can use to make selections in Photoshop. The method you choose will depend on the nature of the image. For example, if the image has straight edges, you can select the Rectangular Marquee tool. If you want to select by color, you can use the Magic Wand or the Quick Selection tool.
For portraits, the Select Object command automatically selects the main subject in the photo. It is a content-aware tool that uses smart algorithms to detect people in images. The Select Theme button appears on the toolbar when you select a selection tool. You can also find it in the Select menu.
Choose Select> Select & Mask> Select Object and it will neatly select the most visible object in the photo.
Use the Global Refinements sliders to fine tune the edges of the selection if needed, then bring the selection onto a new layer.
For more complex objects in a photo, the Object Selector is a powerful feature of Photoshop. It works in the same way as Select Subject, but helps you fine-tune the selection with additional controls. Use this if you have a group of objects (or people) in your photo.
3. Creating a threshold effect
A threshold adjustment layer converts the current layer to a black and white image, and you can give a color image a neat monochromatic look later in the process.
In the Layers panel, add a new threshold layer by choosing the Create New Fill or Adjustment Layer icon. Adjust the slider until you get the look you want. We used 51 in the sample image.
4. Use the Color Range command to select tonal areas
The Color Range command on the Select menu is similar to the Magic Wand selection. But it’s also better, as he can select pixels that are the same or similar color with the eyedropper tool in that area of the image. You can choose different colors by repeatedly using the tool on different parts of the image.
In this Photoshop tutorial, we want to use the Color Range command to select all the white and black areas of the tone.
Go to Select> Color Range.
Use the Eyedropper tools to select all the different tonal areas of the image. Selecting grayscale preview from the dropdown will give you an idea of the selected areas.
Click OK to close the dialog and return to the threshold layer with the selected portrait.
5. Convert the selection to an outline
A path in Photoshop is nothing more than a line with anchor points at two ends. In other words, they are vector line art. Tracks can be straight or curved. Like all vectors, they can be stretched and shaped without losing detail. Photoshop can convert selections to outlines and vice versa.
Select the Marquee Tool or any other selection tool. Right-click the image and choose Create Work Path from the context menu.
Also set the tolerance value in the small box that appears.
6. Set the tolerance value for the path
To make the path smoother, set the Tolerance value in the pop-up dialog box. A value of “1.0” should be ideal for uneven outlines around the portrait.
The Tolerance value determines how closely the path should “follow” the contours of the image. The lower the value, the more closely the selection matches your path. Higher values will decrease the number of anchor points and make the path smoother. Rule of thumb – the simpler the object, the higher the tolerance.
But experiment with this value depending on the complexity of your image.
7. Create a new solid color layer
Without clicking anywhere, go to the Layers panel and select Create a New Fill or Adjustment Layer.
Then choose Solid Color from the menu. You can choose any color.
This step creates a vector shape layer on top of the Threshold layer.
This solid color fill layer can be set to any color of your choice. In the next step, export this layer as an SVG image.
8. Save the vector image as an SVG file
Right-click the layer and choose Export As. You can also save the vector image by choosing File> Export As.
In the Export As dialog box, select SVG in File Preferences and click Export.
Now you can open the vector file in Adobe Illustrator or any other vector image editor.
In addition, you can also export vector paths from Photoshop to Illustrator. Click File> Export> Illustrator Paths. This will export a solid color fill path in Illustrator if you have one set.
There are more ways to convert an image in Photoshop
This particular method is an easy way to get a monotonous vector image from a color photograph. You can use it as a template for any other image modification in Photoshop. Then enlarge or reduce it to any size on paper or other media.
There are other ways to vectorize an image in Photoshop. The one you follow will depend on the base photo and the results you want.