Photoshop: Problem saving AI file after opening as Smart Object

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  • Updated 4 years ago
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  • (Edited)
There is a disastrous File Save (mis)behavior when an AI file is opened using "File > Open As Smart Object".

When editing is complete, the expected behavior on Ctl-S or File > Save is for Photoshop to open the "Save As" dialog, as it does when e.g., a jpeg has been modified in such a way that it is no longer a valid jpeg.

What actually happens is that the PSD is saved over the AI file, using the same file name including the .AI extension. The result is an "AI file" that is actually a PSD. It opens in Illustrator as a raster image. The original AI file is gone. This is a disastrously bad bug.

The only workaround is to revert the Photoshop document to its Open state, open the Vector Smart Object (which is identical to the original AI file) and save THAT with the original file name, but this definitely is the wrong behavior in this situation. I'm amazed no-one has run into this earlier (including me); it's been in the program since at least CS5.
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Alan Gilbertson

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  • horrified!

Posted 7 years ago

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Chris Cox

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How did you save the AI file as PSD after it opened for editing in Illustrator?

Or do you mean that you opened an AI file as a smart object, and saved the resulting Photoshop document but somehow you got the wrong file extension?
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Alan Gilbertson

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Hi Chris,

I saved AI out of Illustrator, not PSD. The PSD-with-an-AI-extension came out of Photoshop.

That was distressingly easy: I hit Ctl-S, expecting the "Save As" dialog (since this was a new document, never saved). When I saw the AI thumbnail immediately update in Bridge I knew that something was dreadfully wrong. ("Dreadfully", because I had spent quite a bit of time on this logo file for a client, and had heavily modified three independent copies of the SO inside Photoshop, so the result was a very long way removed from the original 3 artboards with variations on the logo.)

I checked into the issue in some detail, verifying that the "AI" file was no longer an AI file in fact (its three artboards were reduced to one tiny raster image when I opened it in Illustrator). I also checked 5.1 and 5.0 and verified the same behavior in both.

When the Save As dialog is explicitly invoked in this situation, PS defaults to PDF as the file format, which would make some sense if "Save PDF Compatible File" is turned on in AI, which it is in this case.
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Chris Cox

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Because it's a smart object file, you can always save the AI file embedded in the smart object.

But I'm still not sure how you saved a PSD file with an AI extension: Photoshop doesn't allow you to save with an AI extension unless you manually replace the extension on the filename.

And after opening an AI file as a smart object, the default file type is PDF (which can contain Photoshop layers) because the AI file really is PDF.
If you change the file type to PSD, you get the PSD extension.

So you placed an AI file in a PSD file, then saved the PSD file with an AI extension by mistake. Ok, just change the extension to PSD and keep using the file, and export the original AI file if you need to.
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Alan Gilbertson

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The problem arises if you've modified the Vector Smart Object in Illustrator. In this particular case, I had three artboards, deleted two of them, then created two new SOs via Copy so I could apply different effects to different parts of the illustration. The only recovery mode was to revert to the Open state in history, open the vector SO and save it back to the original place, overwriting the bogus Photoshop document.

This is hard to grasp because it's so completely illogical. Trust me. I've not been through four Photoshop prerelease cycles to not know when I'm changing a filename.
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Alan Gilbertson

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Chris, that's the whole point. There's no way Photoshop should ever save a document created in Photoshop with a .AI extension. That's a bug. I replaced NOTHING in the filename. PS simply obliterated the original .AI file (which I had opened as a Smart Object) by saving the new Photoshop document over it.

One data point that perhaps will give you the clue. Call it an edge case: you don't start with an open Photoshop document and THEN "Open As Smart Object." You create a new document using "Open As Smart Object."

Steps to reproduce:

1. WITH NO DOCUMENT OPEN use File > Open As Smart Object and select an Illustrator file, foo.ai.

2. Do anything you like to it -- add a drop shadow, resize it, anything.

3. Hit Ctl-S. Your Illustrator file is now saved over. Foo.ai is now a PSD.

This is not what happens with, say, a Camera Raw file opened the same way. Ctl-S invokes the "Save As" dialog, just as you would expect.
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Chris Cox

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Ok, trying it again, I think I see the problem. The save logic is getting invoked when it shouldn't be, but only after adding layers or making other modifications.

We will have to investigate.
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Alan Gilbertson

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Yep. You got it. Sorry that took so long. :-/ When you're in a rush it's easy to leave out important bits of data.
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Jeanne Rubbo, Employee

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Hi Alan,

I've logged this in our bug database. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
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colin reichard

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i had this same problem... Have we found a way to make it editable again as an actual .ai in illustrator?
i haven't finished this yet and I'm def not starting from scratch. it took many many hours to get this far. please any help would be appreciated
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Chris Cox

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Again: you can export the contents of the Smart Object, which contains your original file. The big problem is that you have a PSD that got saved with a .ai extension -- but you already embedded the AI file inside the PSD as a smart object.
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Alan Gilbertson

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@Colin: It's a three step process.

1. Rename your ".ai" file (that is really a .psd) so it has a .psd extension.

2. Open in Photoshop and select the Smart Object layer.

3. Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Export Contents *or* double click to open the SO in Illustrator and save it where you need it, with the proper filename.

Bonus step 4: Mop brow, wait a few moments for blood pressure to return to normal, and go enjoy a nice [beverage of choice].
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colin reichard

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Thank you very much!! :) @ Alan
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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Official Response
Fixed in CS6 (13.0.1) or later.