Photoshop to Illustrator / Quick Outlines and Vectors of Photoshop Paths

The trace tool in Illustrator can be a great tool but sometimes you spend more finagling with getting a clean trace than you should. The following is a quick way to get easy outlines of objects (very useful for cutting). You can also use it to send any Photoshop path to Illustrator in a vector format - useful for things like the Symmetry Brush in this post.

I want to trace a cut line of this walleye fish. I could use the Illustrator trace tool and delete the unneeded components. Or, I could spend time manually drawing it with the pen or pencil tool. Or, I could take about 30 seconds and combine the power of Photoshop and Illustrator. I prefer option 3.

This is a decent trace. But, it wants to trace all of the interior components and I’ll have to delete those manually. You could probably mess with the thresholds and noise to reduce the number of paths. But, right now it’s 48 paths - and I only need 1 - the outline.

Enter Photoshop. I made a contiguous selection of the white background with the Magic Wand tool and then inversed the selection. Make sure that contiguous is selected. You do not want it selecting the white on the interior of the object.

I had the paths panel open, so I just clicked the little selection kinda looking icon (4th icon on bottom of panel), which is make a path from selection. You can also just right-click while everything is selected and choose “Make Work Path”.

Now that I have a nice outline, I just need to move that path over to Illustrator so I select File > Export > Paths to Illustrator. I select the path and proceed. It prompts me to create a new AI file and name it, so I do.

I open the file in Illustrator to a blank compound path.

I assign a stroke and have a perfect vector outline in way less time than it took to type this and upload the screenshots.


Instead of exporting it can you simply do a copy and paste?

I can’t get that to work. If I copy a path, I don’t have a paste option in Illustrator. If I load path as selection, I still don’t have a paste option. There might be a way, but I don’t know it, I guess :slight_smile:

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Thank you very much for taking the time to write this up!

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Wonderful, thank you!

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Linked! :grinning::+1:

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Ah, too bad. I was on my iPad at the time so I wasn’t able to test it.

I have been doing this for a while now. It works with a picture or photo you are going to place in illustrator too. You can select the image area like a leaf or a snowflake the turn the selection to paths and copy past the path to illustrator and place the image.


I always love when threads go all tool-nerdy! :smiley:

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Every time I show up, we seem to go down this rabbit hole of the “secret menu” tools that so many people don’t know about.

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Blow their mind and do something with an alt-Key + tool lol.

These programs are so huge, with so many features, I don’t know that anyone truly utilizes them (or knows them) to their full capabilities through and through.

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Wow, I’ve been duplicating my layers in Photoshop and filling in one of the images to have a solid image in Illustrator. I like the method I’ve been using if I’m planning to expand whatever I’m working on, as it does sometimes shift some lines around a smidge, but what you’ve explained here is awesome!

I’ll have to run some tests on what’s more convenient overall for my process, but a creator can never have too many tools at their disposal, thank you!


This is EXACTLY the tutorial I need this moment. THANK YOU! so very much for taking the time to create this. This is exactly what sets GF above ANY other frickin laser out there. The Community.


@jbmanning5, this tutorial just inspired me to make a quick video tutorial showing the way that I often do this (but just in AI).


Wow saved me using that dang pen tool!! Thank yous!!!

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Holy carp this is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. I have a different version of photoshop but it worked all the same! THANK YOU SO MUCH!

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Now if I can find a similar route in Corel Paintshop/CorelDraw, or Gimp and Inkscape…:upside_down_face:

Well, not as clean as this one, but I posted this a few days back that sort of fits the bill.

Hi July,
Not quite the same problem, though I’ve bookmarked it for other uses.
I’m looking for a short cut that is a bit like ‘trace’ software, but avoids the immense number of nodes that they give. A sort of compromise, like when you were plotting a graph at school, you could draw a line through all the data points that you had plotted, that was an approximation of the values.
I have just been given a lnk to some online software that I’ll look at tonight, and if it’s good, I’ll come back to the forum for other peoples comments.


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