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Photoshop: Vector or Vexel?
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Here I am explaining the difference between the pen tool settings to see whether you are working with vector or raster in Photoshop.

This tutorial is a visual supplement to the 'Did You Know..?' box on my userpage, which is quoted in full below.

There are quite a few people who are confused by the various settings and there are those who think that anything created in Photoshop has to be vexel while Illustrator is the program people use for vector. The latter is true, people do use that a lot, but Photoshop is perfectly capable of creating vector images.

You will need
:bulletpink: Photoshop 7 +
:bulletpink: Enough pen tool knowledge to make a shape or [use the rectangle tool].

Did You Know..?
"In Photoshop, just because you have used the pen tool to create something, it does not necessarily mean it is a vector - and it also does not necessarily mean it is vexel just because it was done in Photoshop and not in Illustrator.

The pen tool has two options in this respect, which are called "Shape layers" and "Paths". If you are using the shape layers setting, you are indeed making vector shapes, if you're using the paths setting, you are making raster layers, which are made out of pixels and do not have the vector qualities of scalability.

If you are unsure whether you're making vector shapes or layers, here are three simple ways to tell the difference while you're working:

1. Look at the pen tool setting - is it set to shapes, or is it set to paths? Hover over the selected icon to find out.
2. Resize your picture to about 50-100 pixels across - make it really small. Then resize it again back to its originial size. If the quality has been damaged in any way, you are not using vector shapes.
3. Start a new path. Does it automatically create a new shape layer or are you still working on the layer you previously had selected? If it is the latter, you are not working with vector shape layers.

Lastly, if you merge any layers or add any Photoshop filters, your image will no longer be a vector. You can use layer effects such as 'gradient overlay' and 'stroke' which you find in the FX menu beneath your list of layers. Why? These will scale along with the vector shapes, but filters (noise, lens flare, texture) will not.

Here endeth the lesson!"
Image size
1200x9000px 5.38 MB
IMAGE DETAILS
Software
Adobe Photoshop CS3 Windows
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Comments (118)
DarkBoxeR's avatar
DarkBoxeR|Hobbyist Interface Designer
you cant do vectors on photoshop.
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
Yeah you can. Hence this tutorial.
Reply  ·  
CameronKobe's avatar
CameronKobe|Hobbyist Digital Artist
Oh my gosh, this is so useful. I have tried so many times to get clarity on this subject!
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad you found it helpful ^^
Reply  ·  
guko9909's avatar
Thanks for the info. :)
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
:thumbsup:
Reply  ·  
Arashix's avatar
Arashix|Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you :)
:+fav:
Reply  ·  
fazerT's avatar
perfect explanation - made a lot of sense and the examples worked for me no trouble. The part where I was going wrong previously is not understanding the significance of the little hollow button as opposed to the button with the pen nib in it. simple now you point it out :D

Many thanks!
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm glad it helped ^^
Reply  ·  
HeroTheHedgefox's avatar
HeroTheHedgefox|Hobbyist Digital Artist
i have cs3 and the vector didnt work.
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
You'll have to give me a bit more info than that if you want my help ;p In what way didn't it work? I don't have CS5 yet so you'll have to provide me with a screenshot, if possible.
Reply  ·  
HeroTheHedgefox's avatar
HeroTheHedgefox|Hobbyist Digital Artist
well, i have cs3, which looks like the program used in this tut.

anyway, i do all the steps to make a vector(vector mask, pen toll shape layer, etc.), and when i finish all of the stuff i need to do, its all pixelly.
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
You don't need to use a vector mask to make a vector if you're using a shape layer. Can you follow the steps again to try to make a vector shape and then take a screenshot so I can see?
Reply  ·  
HeroTheHedgefox's avatar
HeroTheHedgefox|Hobbyist Digital Artist
i have cs5, and the vector didnt work
Reply  ·  
HayleySky's avatar
HayleySky|Hobbyist Digital Artist
But how do you know in Illustrator?
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
I don't know, I don't own that program.
Reply  ·  
Tintinytdj's avatar
Tintinytdj|Hobbyist Digital Artist
..so THIS is how those mlp;fim wizards do their business!
Onto getting photoshop. Screw paint.net.
Reply  ·  
zara-leventhal's avatar
zara-leventhal|Student General Artist
How do you save it as a vector? I have illustrator and I made an image in Photoshop of these shape layers, but I have no idea how to export to photoshop to save it as a "true vector". Do you know? And thanks for this tut :D
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
If you want to keep the vector format then you'll need to export it to Illustrator to save it as PDF or EPS. While Photoshop can save in these file formats, it saves them as "Photoshop versions" which actually rasterizes them, so not a lot of point. If you want to keep it vector simply to resize and use within Photoshop or for print, then saving it as the PSD will work fine. Does that answer your question? :)
Reply  ·  
zara-leventhal's avatar
zara-leventhal|Student General Artist
Wow, thanks for the quick response! It answers my question, but I am having trouble opening it. I did the Export->Paths to Illustrator, and then when I opened it up in Illustrator all that came up was a blank canvas. Does this only work with the paths tool and not the shapes?
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
Quite possibly, I don't actually have Illustrator so it's hard to answer your question. I think if you save your photoshop vector as a Photoshop EPS and then open the EPS in Illustrator, you should be able to save it 'properly' there. If that doesn't work, I'm not entirely sure, but I could probably find out for you from somewhere or another ^^;
Reply  ·  
naomicoco's avatar
WHA--- i never knew the difference!!! I'm usually a vector + traditional artist!

Whoaaa vexel seems soo.... whoaa

thanks for the tut, dude!! luckyyougotaddyouyou--
Reply  ·  
VAngelLJ's avatar
VAngelLJ|Hobbyist Digital Artist
A lot of people didn't know the difference, it's why I made the tutorial - to try and help people out ^^ Thanks for the comment.
Reply  ·  
whatthehell123456789's avatar
whatthehell123456789|Student Digital Artist
OMG, thank you so much lol, i thought i would have to get illustrator for vectors :P
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