What does Rasterize mean and why does it matter?

Working with digital photography

If you have just started working on Photoshop and were bombarded by Photoshop to rasterize your images before you could use brush tools, paint, and filters, and do not know whether it’s a good idea, you have come to the right place. This article quite comprehensively defines the meaning of rasterization and the significance of raster layers when using Photoshop. We have detailed the steps used for rasterizing a layer and also, clarified what must be done if you did not feel like rasterizing by explaining the option to duplicate your project before you rasterize. We have also talked about some of the workarounds that you might use if you did not want to rasterize, just for your ease.

Smart Objects:

Before continuing with the highlight of the article, we have to understand Smart Objects. A Smart Object holds the image data which determines if it uses vector layers or a raster layer. That data tells Photoshop if an image needs to be rasterized or not.

What is the meaning of Rasterization in Photoshop?

Vector Outline Rasterized Image

If we were to talk in very non-technical terms to give you an idea about rasterization in Photoshop, the following definition would be perfect

                     ‘’ It is a technique used for converting the layer into individual pixels that can not

                        be further scaled up.’’

Now, people who like to delve a bit further might ask what layer are we converting from? That is the vector layer. A vector layer is basically formed up of formulas and expressions that are evaluated to create the graphics that is why shapes and text are created in a vector layer to give is the crisp because edges remain perfect in this layer. In simpler terms, a vector layer is created of lines and curves (shapes). And Rasterization adds raster layers to the image which converts the shapes into individual pixels or a pixel layer.

What happens when you rasterize a vector layer?

Image Layers to Pixels
mountain silhouettes in snowy conditions

When you rasterize vector layers, the image is then converted into pixels. It might not be noticeable at first, but when you zoom in on the vector graphics, you will be able to see that the image is now made up of tiny squares called pixels.

Why should we rasterize a layer?

As we have said that a vector layer is used to create shapes and texts using formulas to make the edges perfect but it also means that we cannot use many of the tools that Photoshop provides for other photographic elements. That’s why, a vector layer needs to be converted into a raster layer so that the tools such as brush tools, eraser, paint bucket fill, and filters. These tools are made to only work on the rasterized layer and if you want to use any of them, you must convert a vector layer into pixels form.

Steps for rasterizing a layer

After you have changed the pixel data, text, font, font size, spacing, and other factors of graphic design in the vector im,ages, it is time to change it into a rasterized image so that you can create a finished image. The following steps are used for this purpose

  • You must first press the F7 key which will show the Photoshop Layers Panel.
  • In the Layers Panel, you should press the Vector layer.
  • Clicking the Vector Layer will open a new menu bar which will have ‘Rasterize’ in it. You must click that.
  • After that and for the last step, it will further open a new pane of options, you must click on ‘Layer’ to rasterize the layer.
  • A quick rundown of the steps to rasterize a vector layer; F7 — Photoshop Layers Panel — Vector Layer — Rasterize — Layer

Are there any drawbacks to rasterizing a layer?

Rasterization of a layer does provide us with an array of tools and new function ability which does make it worthwhile for whoever might want to use all those tools but there is a slight bit of drawback to using a raster layer. No, when we said that a vector layer is made up of shapes, it also meant that no matter how much you scaled it or zoomed it, the edges of the shapes and text would retain their perfect edges thus creating a crisp image no matter how much scaled. But when you rasterize the image, it is converted into pixels form and if you try to scale it or zoom it, it might lose a bit of quality.

Furthermore, since the text is also created in the vector layer, after converting into the raster layer, it becomes un-editable meaning you can no longer edit the text or change its font.

So, is it worth rasterizing a layer?

There will come a certain point in your work, that you will need which could only be accessed in a raster layer, that is when you will definitely, converts your vector layer into a raster layer. But you can also create a backup of your vector layer in case you mess later in the project and had to start again from the vector layer. You can create the duplicate of you vector layer by going into the Layers Panel, which we have already discussed earlier how you can get into, after you are there just press Duplicate. So, if you ever need to go back and make changes, you have got a spare.

Can you undo the raster layer?

Now if you are thinking that after you have used all the tools in the raster layer and made all the changes that you need, you could simply convert back to vector form to get the scalability and the image quality, unfortunately, that is not possible. Although, you can use the undo feature, but we must warn you that since the image is converted from shapes to figures, reverting it back will cause you to lose all of the work you had done, hence not making it a feasible option. That is why you must always duplicate the vector layer by using the steps, we mentioned above.

It cannot be done in Adobe Photoshop, but if you are simply trying to convert a raster image into a vector one, you might have some luck in Adobe Illustrator. It is not guaranteed to always work, but you can give a shot to Adobe Illustrator’s Image Trace feature.

Alternatives to using Rasterization:

Paint Bucket Tool

Vector Images Graphic Design

If you want to use the paint bucket tool to change the color of text or a shape natively in the vector layer, without rasterizing the vector layer, you can use this workaround.

For editing the shapes, you must first get into the Vector Layer from the Layers Panel as we mentioned earlier. After doing that, you must click on the Properties which will further open a panel. There you must click on the color picker to change into any color of your preference.

For editing the text, you must similarly get into the Layers Panel, there you must select the T icon by double-clicking on it which will highlight all of the text in your vector layer. Then you must open the Character panel and then similarly, color picker.

Paint or Draw

To use the paint or draw feature, without rasterizing, you must create an empty layer above the vector layer. It can be done by going in the Layers Panel and then clicking the New Layer icon which will give you Brush Tool used to paint on the empty layer.

Eraser Tool

If you have to use the Eraser tool without rasterizing, you would have to use Layer Mask in place of it.

Using the steps mentioned earlier in the article, get to the vector layer in the Layers Panel. Then, you have to add a Layer Mask by clicking on the icon with the same name. Now, you have to use the Brush Tool. Using black color to paint on Mask will hide those parts while using white will reveal those parts of the vector layer.


To wrap it all, the rasterization process converts an image into pixels rather than vectors. To draw a shape, or for a font where instead of pixels, graphics are used which can be scaled (made smaller or bigger) without losing any quality, is called a vector layer or new layer. Now, the process we talked about, converts those graphics into pixels which makes them lose quality but allow them to be edited similarly as other elements in a photograph. After we have talked in detail about all the technical and non-technical aspects regarding the rasterization of the vector layer, its uses and drawbacks must be pretty clear to you by now. And, we trust that you will be able to make an educated decision whether your projects need to be rasterized or not. Nonetheless, we have also provided you with a number of workarounds if you ever did not feel like using the rasterization of the vector layer. In the end, it all comes down to preference and your ease, whether you would want to add a pixel layer to easily and efficiently make the changes you need or just go through the workarounds to use them.