How to Vectorize an Image (Photo to Vector) in Photoshop

Vectorizing an image, or converting a photo to a vector format, typically involves using Adobe Illustrator rather than Photoshop, as Illustrator is designed for vector-based graphics. However, if you’d like to create a vector-like effect in Photoshop, you can use the pen tool to manually trace and create paths. Here’s a simplified guide:

Steps to Create a Vector-like Effect in Photoshop:

  1. Open Your Image:
    • Open the image you want to vectorize in Photoshop.
  2. Create a New Layer:
    • Create a new layer on top of the background layer.
  3. Select the Pen Tool:
    • Choose the Pen Tool (P) from the toolbar.
  4. Start Tracing:
    • Begin tracing the main shapes and contours of the image using the Pen Tool. Click to create anchor points and drag to create curves.
  5. Adjust Anchor Points:
    • Use the Direct Selection Tool (A) to adjust the position of anchor points and handles, refining the paths for accuracy.
  6. Add New Layers for Different Elements:
    • For complex images, consider creating separate layers for different elements (e.g., one layer for the face, another for hair, etc.).
  7. Apply Stroke (Optional):
    • You can apply a stroke to the paths to make them more visible. Select the path, go to Window > Paths to open the Paths panel, and choose “Stroke Path” from the panel menu.
  8. Use Shape Layers (Optional):
    • Instead of paths, you can use the Pen Tool to create shape layers. This allows you to fill the shapes with color.
  9. Adjust Opacity (Optional):
    • Reduce the opacity of the traced layers to see the original image underneath and ensure accuracy.
  10. Refine Details:
    • Continue tracing and refining details until you’ve covered the entire image.
  11. Save as PSD or PNG:
    • Save your work as a Photoshop document (PSD) to retain layers and editability. Alternatively, you can save it as a PNG file to preserve transparency.


  • Practice Patience:
    • Vectorizing an image using the Pen Tool can be time-consuming, especially for detailed images. Take your time for accurate results.
  • Use Reference Layers:
    • Keep the original image visible as a reference layer to guide your tracing.
  • Experiment with Layers:
    • Experiment with creating separate layers for different elements to maintain organization.
  • Explore Filters (Optional):
    • After creating paths, you can experiment with Photoshop filters to achieve a vector-like appearance. Filters like “Gaussian Blur” or “Posterize” may be applied.

While this method in Photoshop doesn’t produce a true vector file, it simulates a vector-like effect using paths and shapes. For a true vector graphic, Illustrator or a specialized vectorization tool may be more appropriate.

How to Vectorize an Image (Photo to Vector) in Photoshop
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