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I'm in the process of making a little animated film, and since I don't really know how to use Illustrator, I did all my graphics in Photoshop, and now I'd like to import those into After Effects to animate everything.

I have a few .psd files which I prepared, and they all consist of vector layers. All those layers were created with the pen tool, and other similar tools, and I did not rasterize them, so they are still fully editable within Photoshop. However, when I import my .psd into AE and try to scale one of the images above 100%, it becomes pixelated and blurry. I assumed that AE would properly handle vector graphics in a .psd file, but I was wrong. I did try enabling the "continuously rasterize" option for my layers (as suggested by other sources where the same question was asked), but it didn't do anything. Also, this happens regardless of what option I choose when importing the .psd file (whether to merge the layers or not).

I guess I could just export the .psd in a much higher resolution in order to be able to zoom into it in AE, but that seems like a waste of resources, plus the render times and just performance in general would be horrible, I imagine. I would have to export my images in like 8k, or something like that, since I want to zoom in pretty far. I don't have a really powerful computer anyway, so that would be just plain suicide.

Is there a way to make AE properly re-render vector graphics in an imported .psd file at any scale?

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Using Photoshop to create vector graphics is a bad idea, as it is just not built for that. Even if you don't use the more sophisticated features of Illustrator, the basic tools such as the pen work somewhat similar to the vector tools in Photoshop. So next time you want to create vector graphics, just work with Illustrator from the start.

For your existing vector graphics, as long as they are truly vector-based in the .psd-files, there should be several ways to export them to a vector format or copy them over to Illustrator (this doesn't directly answer your question, but it's a better approach than trying to make the .psd files work with vector graphics within After Effects anyway). Here are two options for you to try:

  1. Export as svg [requires Photoshop CC]. In Photoshop, use FileExportExport as.... Select SVG from the dropdown menu. SVG is an XML-based vector format. You should be able to import those into After Effects directly. Or you can open the exported SVG file in Illustrator and export it to another format.

  2. Open your .psd file in Illustrator. Chose 'convert layers to objects' in the Photoshop import options. As long as your .psd contains only vector objects, this will work as intented. Once you have imported your vector graphic to Illustrator, save it as an .ai file. You should be able to import that into After Effects to work as intended. If that doesn't work for some reason, try saving it as an .eps file instead (FileSave a copy... → Select Illustrator EPS from the dropdown menu in the file saving options).

  • I'll try to convert to .ai then. The problem with SVG is that my .psd has certain layers with vector masks, clipping masks based on other layers, and stuff like that, and I don't know how that would carry over to SVG. For example the eye of a character I designed has the outside shape of the eye as a clipping mask for the center of the eye, so that it stays within the shape. I would like to animate all these layers in AE while keeping these properties, for example move the center of the eye around to make the character look different ways. So I guess .ai would be my best shot. Thanks. – adam10603 May 16 '16 at 12:08
  • The clipping masks should remain functional when you import the psd to Illustrator. You'll just have to try it out and see what works. – MoritzLost May 16 '16 at 12:20
  • Alright. I'll have to install Illustrator first. I'll let you know if it worked. – adam10603 May 16 '16 at 12:21

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