What Does Rasterize Mean In Photoshop?

Whether you’re working with text, shapes, or smart objects, you’ll find yourself coming across the need to “rasterize” the layer. Perhaps you need to edit the layer, change the color, or erase parts of the image, but it’s not possible without rasterization. This word might seem a little mysterious as the difference between a rasterized layer and a vector are not all that different.

Rasterizing a layer means you are converting a vector layer to pixels. This changes how your layer is displayed and what editing capabilities you have. When a vector becomes rasterized, you can see the pixels along the edges instead of a clean line. However, you gain the ability to directly edit the layer.

To better understand the meaning behind rasterizing in Photoshop, let’s go through the purposes of this feature.

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What Is The Purpose Of Rasterizing A Layer?

Rasterizing a layer will convert any type of vector layer into pixels. As a vector layer, the image is made up of geometric formulas to create the contents of your image. This is perfect for graphics that need to have clean edges or be scaled up significantly.

The problem with vectors is they are not compatible with pixel effects such as brush adjustments or the eraser tool. That means in some instances, you won’t be able to apply the effects you need to a vector layer because it can’t be mixed with a pixel layer.

That’s where rasterizing comes into play. By rasterizing the layer, you can convert the vector from a geometric formula and turn it into pixels. That way you can apply pixel type effects onto your layer without any issues.

How Do You Rasterize A Layer?

Any vector layer or smart object can be quickly rasterized in one of two ways.

The first and fastest, way to rasterize a layer is to right-click on it in your layers panel, and choose “Rasterize.”


For example, if you were to try to use your brush tool on a text layer, you would get an error message asking to rasterize your layer. This is Photoshops way of telling you that you cannot make that specific adjustment unless you give up the vector layer functionality.

Things like layer filters, the brush tool, eraser tool, and paint bucket adjustments cannot be made unless you rasterize a layer.

What Kinds Of Layers Can Be Rasterized?

Not every layer is made the same. Only certain types of layers will have the option to be rasterized. Here are a few kinds of layers that you may have to rasterize at some point in Photoshop:

ShapesTextSmart Objects

Although shapes and text are considered as vector layers, smart objects are a little different. Since smart objects act as “packaging” for regular raster layers, it can’t be directly edited. That’s why you won’t be able to directly edit any smart object layer without first rasterizing it into a regular layer.

You can learn more about smart objects and how they work in this post.

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To edit non-destructively, it’s worthwhile to duplicate vector layers so you always have a backup plan. Even when there are error messages saying you can’t make adjustments to a vector layer, having a second layer is an easy workaround. Additionally, you can use a new layer with a clipping mask to directly edit any vector layer you need. That way you never have to sacrifice quality for an adjustment.