Photoshop: Add options for softer anti-aliasing for Vector Masks/Shape Layers

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  • Idea
  • Updated 3 years ago
  • Under Consideration
  • (Edited)
*** If this is important to you, please comment below. ***

Vector Masks in Photoshop have sharper anti-aliasing than shapes created other ways. Quite often, I find that the results are too sharp. This is especially true for very small shapes, making it an issue for icon creation.

It’s interesting to note that vector Smart Objects that have been pasted from Illustrator have vastly different anti-aliasing to Shape Layers that have been pasted from Illustrator. The Smart Objects are far heavier and the anti-aliasing seems posterized.

I don’t really have a solution for this, except a suggestion that the Shape Layer/Vector Mask rendering is very close to ideal for me, but I’d prefer slightly softer anti-aliasing. I don’t know how this could be implemented while keeping legacy support. I guess there’s three ways it could be done: A global change or preference, where all documents get the new rendering (breaking legacy rendering), a per document setting or a per object/layer setting. The first breaks compatibility, the second and third add UI and file bloat.

Steps to Reproduce — Create a circular marquee selection at a smallish size, say 9x9 pixels and fill it with white. Create a pixel snapped vector circle that’s the exact same size (you may have to use the rounded rectangle tool with a large radius and Snap To Pixel turned on). Compare the results—the marquee selection bitmap layer is smoother.

Workaround — None. Only really crazy, silly stuff that I’m not usually willing to do because it removes editability.

If you'd like to see the original files, grab them here:

View an animated comparison between the various methods.

*** If this is important to you, please comment below. ***
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Marc Edwards

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  • happy

Posted 8 years ago

  • 59
Photo of Alex


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It would be very helpful to have an "object-related" antialiasing modes for both marquee tools and vector tools.
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Marc Edwards

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Similar to text objects? That would be great. Definitely one way it could be implemented while keeping legacy support.
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Iain Dowling

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This issue has been a major source of frustration for me, particularly when I have been authoring buttons and small image resources for web sites and mobile devices. The problem is more apparent for mobile devices because the user typically holds the screen closer to their face, so sub-pixel details are more noticeable.

I am a fan of Homer's suggestion of having object-level control over the heaviness of anti-aliasing. Hopefully this gets the attention from Adobe that it deserves.
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Marc Edwards

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"particularly when I have been authoring buttons and small image resources for web sites and mobile devices"

I agree. It's definitely all about smaller shapes and icons. Larger shapes don't seem to need the softer anti-aliasing.

I think there's a very strong parallel to type rendering, where complex shapes are rendered at tiny sizes, but need every pixel to be carefully considered or they lose their legibility and meaning. There's a huge diversity of type rendering methods for this very reason (and quite a few within Photoshop itself).

And with that thought in mind, there probably isn't a right or wrong answer. Photoshop's text rendering, Cleartype on Windows and Mac OS X's type rendering all have scenarios where they're preferable. This is a fairly specialised UI/web/screen design request, but a very important one as there's no workarounds. If we don't like the shape rendering, there isn't really any way to tune it, so we're stuck with the results.
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Foster Brereton, Programmer

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This is a super example, with a clear-cut definition of the improvements needed. I wish all requests were more like this one.
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Jeffrey Tranberry, Sr. Product Manager, Digital Imaging

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I agree. The better case a user makes for their idea the more likely other customers and developers on the product teams will see value in the idea.
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Marc Edwards

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If there's any more information required, please let me know. If Photoshop becomes better, my job gets easier, so I'll do what I can to help.
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Marc Edwards

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The more I think about this, the more I'd actually like vector shapes to be able to run the full gamut from completely aliased to anti-aliasing similar to the elliptical marquee tool. It'd mean those building retro pixel art could keep everything as vector paths. How awesome would that be?

An example circle, from completely aliased to elliptical marquee tool anti-aliasing. (Doing this with the current tools is possible, but more time consuming and impossible while maintaining vector objects.)

And where we've been talking about placing the option:

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Brilliant idea!
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Would it not be more appropriate in the masks panel? You can already control feather, just needs another slider for anti-alias.

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Mama Shan Canfield

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You took the words right out of my mouth! It was my intention to mention to put the options in the Masks Panel....but you've covered that! Best idea for placement of vector aliasing options, in my opinion, too!