What Does Rasterize Mean?

What does rasterize mean? Converting a vector layer to a pixelated image, so you can perform more in-depth edits and merge it with other raster layers. Raster-based images have a defined pixel count, so making them larger will affect their visual quality. Vector-based images, on the other hand, are created with mathematical data that allow them to be displayed at any resolution, without a loss in quality. 

This concept is also used frequently for 3D animation, where one frame of 3D data is converted into a 2D still image, which can then be arranged using video editing software. This way, the computer has already done the hard work of generating the 3D graphics, so playing a rasterized 3D animation is like playing any other video clip. 

Whether you’re an aspiring Pixar animator or a graphics editor, we recommend keeping images in vector format until they need to be edited at the pixel level, in which case rasterizing is the only option. Remember, once you’ve converted the layer, you won’t be able to go back and change the size or font. Think twice, and save copies of your work as you go. Below, we’ve outlined how to convert vector-based images into pixel data.

Understanding Vector Layers

Before rasterizing an image, you should understand how Photoshop creates vectors. The “vector mask” is the vector’s outline shape, and the “fill layer” is anything inside that shape. When you rasterize the entire vector, you combine the two layers into one pixelated image. If desired, you can also choose to rasterize the vector mask or fill layer individually. 

How to Rasterize an Image   

There are a few ways to rasterize in Photoshop, but the easiest is to find the Layer tab on the top menu and then select “Rasterize”. From here, you’ll have a few options.

  • “Vector Mask” leaves the fill layer as is, but converts the vector outline into a pixel layer
  • “Fill Content” leaves the vector mask as is, but converts the fill layer into pixels.
  • “Shape” merges the vector mask and fill layer, and then converts them both into one pixel-based layer. 

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