Editing Digital Vector Art in Adobe Photoshop

Editing Digital Vector Art in Adobe Photoshop

An easy start guide for editing your purchased or downloaded vector files in Adobe Photoshop.

Vector files are fantastic for many projects, but how do you edit them to suit your design? Sometimes you need to modify, transform or adjust these files, so they are right for you. If you’re not familiar with vectors, this can seem a little scary, and that is why I have created this easy start guide. If you’ve purchased files from my Creative Market store or downloaded them from the internet, let me guide you through the process of editing digital vector art in Adobe Photoshop. 

โœ๏ธ What is a vector image?

A vector image is a computer graphic which is formed by lines and shapes. Generated using mathematical formulas a vector is scalable to any size without losing quality (don’t worry, you don’t have to do the math). If we compare a vector to a photograph or raster file when scaled, the difference is visible. That is why vector files are an excellent option for graphics because they can suit projects large and small.

๐Ÿ–ฅ Editing in Adobe Photoshop

Editing a vector file in Adobe Photoshop is relatively easy. While Adobe Illustrator is recommended, Photoshop can modify vector files, as long as they are in a .pds format and using shape layers. If your vector image is in .ai or .eps, there may be complications in opening the file or rasterising occurring. 

For this guide, we will be using Donut Vector as the example file. You may download and use the vector file for training purposes only. 

โญ๏ธ Getting Started

To begin our journey on learning to edit vector art in Adobe Photoshop, we need to start at the beginning and go over a few basics. Firstly, you need to locate your downloaded files. It’s always a good idea to keep them organised, for example, you might have a folder called assets or vectors.

Step 1: Open the file ending in .psd in Adobe Photoshop

When you open your vector file for the first time, you may see a screen similar to below. In this example, I have used the Essentials workspace view in Adobe Photoshop CC 2019. You can adjust your workspace by going to Window > Workspace and selecting your preferred setup. 

Step 1: Open the file ending in .psd in Adobe Photoshop
Step 1: Open the file ending in .psd in Adobe Photoshop

Step 2: Save As (optional)

If you are working with a vector you have downloaded, it’s a good idea to save the file as another name, so you still have the original. You can do this by going to File > Save As and enter the new name. Make sure that the format is in Adobe Photoshop (PSD).

Step 3: Viewing Layers

By clicking on the Layers panel, you can see all of the layers associated with the vector. The layers are important because they contain all of the shapes that form the image. Layers can be single shapes or grouped to include several shapes. Hopefully, the creator of the vector has labelled the layers to make it easier for editing. 

Step 3: Viewing Layers
Step 3: Viewing Layers

Step 4: Disabling or enabling Layers (optional)

If you decide you would like to disable a particular layer, you can click on the eye icon next to a layer. To enable the layer again, you can click in the same space, and the eye will appear again, to show the layer is visible. 

Step 4: Disabling or enabling Layers (optional)
Step 4: Disabling or enabling Layers (optional)

Step 5: Clipping Masks (optional)

A clipping mask is a shape that reveals only select parts of layers. In the layer Clipping Mask: Shadow the darker shadow is clipped to the donut shape. Layers that are clipped will only show what is visible in the masked area.

Step 5: Clipping Masks (optional)
Step 5: Clipping Masks (optional)

Step 6: Saving Your File

You must save your file through the editing process, so you do not lose any changes. To save, all you have to do is go to File > Save.

โ†ช๏ธ Undo And Redo Changes

The Undo and Redo options in Adobe Photoshop allow you to go backwards or forwards on modifications you have made. Additionally, the History tool enables you to select specific points of revision.

Undo Changes

To undo or go backwards you can click on Edit > Undo.

Redo Changes

To redo or go forwards you can click on Edit > Redo.

๐Ÿ—’Note: Depending on the changes you have made the Undo and Redo options may have Move, Color or other options beside them. This simply shows what form of modification was completed.  

History Tool

The History Tool allows you to select specific points in time that you can return to. This is an excellent option if you have made numerous changes and want to go back to an earlier stage. 

  • Step 1: Click on the History icon
  • Step 2: View the history of the editing completed
  • Step 3: Click on a specific step to return to that point

๐Ÿ—’Note: The History Tool will only show changes made on the current time you have been editing. For example, if you made changes and closed Photoshop if you open the file again, the previous changes will not be in History. 

History Tool in Adobe Photoshop

๐Ÿ—‚ Grouping and Ungrouping Layers

Layers can be grouped in Adobe Photoshop to include all of the shapes that complete a specific design element. Grouping layers allows you to control all layers within the group and makes it easier to move, scale, rotate and move. You can group and ungroup layers depending on your preferences and the project demands. 

Grouping Layers

Grouping contains all layers together. 

  • Step 1: Click on the Layers panel
  • Step 2: Hold the Shift key and click on each layer you would like to group together
  • Step 3: Go to Layer > Group Layers
  • Step 4 (optional) Under the Layers panel, double click on the group and rename it

๐Ÿ—’ Note: In this video example file, I have ungrouped all of the layers to show the grouping process. In the downloadable file, the layers are grouped.

Grouping Layers in Adobe Photoshop

Ungrouping Layers

Ungrouping releases layers that were previously grouped.

  • Step 1: Click on the Layers panel
  • Step 2: Select the group
  • Step 3: Go to Layer > Ungroup Layers
Ungrouping Layers in Adobe Photoshop

๐ŸŽจ Modifying Colours (fills and strokes)

Modifying colours in Adobe Photoshop allows you to change the fill or stroke of a particular shape to suit your needs. Adjusting the colours of the vector can be done by a single shape or multiple selections. 

Modifying Colours (Fills): Single Shape

Changing a fill colour on a single layer shape is achieved through layer selection.

  • Step 1: Click on the Path Selection Tool
  • Step 2: Under layers, select the layer that you would like to change
  • Step 3: At the top of the screen click in the Fill colour box, you can choose from recently used colours or click on the Color Picker
Modifying Colours (Fills): Single Shape in Adobe Photoshop

Modifying Colours (Fills): Multiple Shapes

If you need to change the colour of multiple layers, you can do this by selecting numerous layers at the same time. 

  • Step 1: Click on the Path Selection Tool
  • Step 2: Under layers, hold the Shift key on your keyboard and click on each colour you would like to change
  • Step 3: At the top of the screen click in the Fill colour box, you can choose from recently used colours or click on the Color Picker

๐Ÿ—’Note: This will only work in changing all of the selected shape layers to the same colour. 

Modifying Colours (Fills): Multiple Shapes in Adobe Photoshop

Modifying Strokes

Strokes can add defined outlines to a vector and are easily applied and edited.  

  • Step 1: Click on the Path Selection Tool
  • Step 2: Under Layers, select the layer that you would like to apply a stroke too (or modify an existing stroke)
  • Step 3: At the top of the screen click on Color
  • Step 4: Now click on the width tool and select your desired size
  • Step 5: Click on the Set shape stroke type for Stroke options to choose the style, alignment, caps and corners

๐Ÿ—’Note: If you are setting a stroke for the first time, you may find that it is not visible if applying to a layer with a fill. Make sure you go to the stroke options and change to centre or outside. 

Modifying Strokes in Adobe Photoshop

โฌ†๏ธ Resizing, Moving And Rotating

Resizing, moving and rotating vectors in Adobe Illustrator allows you to control the size, positioning and angle for your design.

Resizing A Vector

Resizing a vector enables you to change the scale or size of the layers or group you select. It’s important to remember if we want to resize the whole image that all the grouped layers are selected or that Auto-Select Group is chosen in the move tool. 

  • Step 1: Click on the Move tool
  • Step 2: Select the layer or group you would like to resize
  • Step 3: Under the move tool options, ensure Show Transform Controls is checked
  • Step 4: Click and drag on a side or corner of the vector

๐Ÿ—’Note: If your vector uses strokes, you may have to adjust the size of the stroke to fit the scale.

Resizing A Vector in Adobe Photoshop

Resizing An Image

Resizing the image allows you to change the dimensions of the file and canvas you are working on. The size is commonly measured in pixels (px). 

  • Step 1: Go to Image > Image Size
  • Step 2: Enter the new dimensions for the Image under Width and Height and hit OK
  • Step 3 (optional): Resize your vector if required (following instructions from the previous section)

๐Ÿ—’Note: The dimensions you choose will affect the size of the file. For example, if you choose 6000 x 6000 pixels, the size of the file will be significantly larger than 600 x 600 pixels. Additionally, some artists have restrictions on the size that vector files can be scaled too. Make sure you read the full terms before using a vector. 

Resizing An Image in Adobe Photoshop

Moving A Vector

Moving a vector allows you to control the position of the layers or groups within the artboard. 

  • Step 1: Click on the Move tool
  • Step 2: Select the layer or layer group you would like to move from the Layers panel
  • Step 3: Click and drag where you would like to move
  • Step 4 (optional): If you would like to align a vector to specific positioning (such as centre), go to the move options panel, click on the three dots and change the ‘Align To’ Canvas option, now use the horizontal and vertical align options
Moving A Vector in Adobe Photoshop

Rotating A Vector

Rotating a vector enables you to turn specific layers or groups. 

  • Step 1: Click on the Move tool
  • Step 2: Select the layer or group from the Layers panel
  • Step 3: Hover over one of the points
  • Step 4: Click and drag to rotate your selection
  • Step 5 (optional): Hold the shift key and click and drag to rotate at specific degrees
Rotating A Vector in Adobe Photoshop

โŒจ๏ธ Adding And Editing Text

Adding and Editing Text in Adobe Photoshop gives you the power to personalise your design. You’re only limited by your imagination and your font library. 

Adding Text

Adding text to your design allows you to emphasise your message. In this example, I have used the font Arial, which should be available on most PCs and Macs. 

  • Step 1: Click on the Horizontal Type Tool
  • Step 2: Click in your canvas
  • Step 3: Double click in the text and remove the preview text and type your own
  • Step 4: Click on new text layer under the Layers panel
  • Step 5: Under the Properties panel, select your font, size, color and additional options
  • Step 6: Click on the move tool (make sure Auto-Select Layer is checked) position your text where you would like it
  • Step 7: Your text will now have its own layer and can move above or below other layers
Adding Text in Adobe Photoshop

Editing Text

Editing text allows you to send the correct message that suits your project. You can change words, modify fonts, colour and more. 

  • Step 1: Go to the Layers panel and select the text
  • Step 2: Double click in the text and enter your own words
  • Step 3: Under the properties panel make any changes to the font, size, color or other options
  • Step 4: Click on the Move Tool (make sure Auto-Select Layer is checked) and position your text where you would like it

๐Ÿ—’Note: Some vectors will have outlined fonts, meaning you can not customise or edit the text. If that is the case, you may have to search online for the font (or one similar). Not all fonts are free, and some have specific licensing agreements. Always make sure you read the description before downloading. 

Editing Text in Adobe Photoshop

โฌ›๏ธ Background Colour

Adding and editing a background colour in Adobe Photoshop allows you to create a design that suits your project perfectly.

Adding And Editing A Background Colour

The quickest and easiest way to add a background in Adobe Photoshop is to create a new fill layer.

  • Step 1: Click on Layer > New Fill Layer > Solid Color
  • Step 2: Name the layer Background and click OK
  • Step 3: Use the Color Picker to select color and click OK
  • Step 4: Select the Background in the Layers panel and drag it below the vector
  • Step 5: To modify the background colour double click on the background layer (colour box) to open the Color Picker and click OK
Adding And Editing A Background Colour in Adobe Photoshop

๐Ÿ’พ Exporting

When you save your file, it will do so in the Adobe Photoshop (.psd) format. To use the image on print or screen, we need to convert it to a different format. The type of format you choose will depend on what your project requires. The most common is JPG or PNG. 

Exporting A Vector

When you have finished all of your edits, it’s now time to export your design. 

  • Step 1: Go to File > Export > Export As
  • Step 2: Under File Settings chose your format
  • Step 3: If you want to change the image size you can adjust the numbers directly or use the scale option
  • Step 4 (optional): If you would like to export more than one size, you can use the Scale All tool
  • Step 4: Click on Export All and your files will be saved
Exporting A Vector in Adobe Photoshop

๐Ÿ’– Thank you for reading

Throughout this tutorial, we have looked at the many ways you can edit digital vector art in Adobe Photoshop. Vectors are an incredible asset to a range of design projects, and so many incredible designers share their work. I hope that you will now be able to make any modifications with ease and have your latest project ready to roll!

๐Ÿ—ฃ Help!?!

If you need help, please get in touch, and I will do my best to assist you. Leave a comment on this post or reach out via the contact form. Alternatively, you can reach me Twitter (@up) or Facebook (Kassandra Oโ€™Shea). 

๐Ÿ“ข Disclaimer

I do not work for or have any association with Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Inc. This guide has been created to assist others in using Adobe Photoshop. 

Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 on Mac was used for the examples in this guide. Layouts of other versions of the software may look slightly different. 

This document was last updated on the 17th of November 2019 and is for information purposes only. Please do not redistribute in part or full without written permission. 

Make sure you read and follow the license agreement on any downloaded vector files or fonts, in case of any restrictions on editing, sizing, medium or usage. 

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