Working with Adobe Illustrator Files for Video Makers

Working with Adobe Illustrator Files for Video Makers

There will come a time in your life when someone hands you an Adobe Illustrator file to add to a video you are creating. It happens to us at Video School Online, all the time! This can be very daunting at first because to us video editors, Illustrator is a foreign language. It’s like handing a French guy a recipe written in Spanish and expecting him to make a feast. Like French and Spanish, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Premiere Pro (pick your video editing program) come from a similar origin. They are both a tool for creators like you and me to create art. Follow along and learn how to use Adobe Illustrator files in your video.


1. You receive an Illustrator file. These files have the ending .ai like .mov or .jpg. You will need Adobe Illustrator to open this type of file. Go ahead and open up the file.

2. Hopefully you have Adobe Photoshop as well. If you have Illustrator, there’s a 99% chance you have Photoshop as well. We’ll be transferring our Illustrator creation to Photoshop for export. Why can’t we just export from Illustrator? Adobe Illustrator’s artboard’s may not be the right size for your video. It is best to export your image the same size (using pixels) as it will end up in your video. I find it easiest to do this in Photoshop. So go ahead and open up photoshop. Another reason that we don’t want to export straight from Illustrator is because many times Illustrator’s artboards have multiple graphics on them. If you want to export them one at a time, it is best to transfer to Photoshop first. See the example that I’m using. I have an artboard full of gears. I only want to select one of them to bring into my video project.




3. Determine the size of your board. Knowing that my video will be HD quality (1920×1080 pixels) and that my gears are a 1:1 ratio, I can be confident that a 1000×1000 Photoshop project will be a sufficient size. I can always decrease this if the gears aren’t going to be that big and I want smaller files. Make sure you change the ‘background contents’ to transparent instead of white. You’ll now have Illustrator open with your graphics and Photoshop Open with a blank canvas.



4. Go over to Illustrator and select the item you want. Make a selection with the ‘selection’ tool by clicking and dragging over your item. If the project is set up correctly, you can just double-click the graphic and it will be selected. The other graphics will be shaded out (see graphic).

5. Now is the tricky part. Click on your selected object. While holding the mouse down, Command-Tab over to Photoshop. Don’t let go of your mouse yet! Hover the mouse over the Photoshop canvas and let go. Your graphic will pop up and it will ask if you want it to be a Smart Object – say yes. So that was the tricky cool way. You can also just go to Illustrator, select your item. Copy it (command-c) and then past it in Photoshop (command-v).


6. Resize your image and center it on your canvas.

7. Save your project as a PNG. PNG files are larger than JPG files but take up less computer memory when using in Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects. At least that is a common urban legend. I can’t back that up with science. Or you can just save it as a PSD file and import it into your video editing program.

Your graphics should be big and beautiful and ready for video editing!


  • Ryan Strandjord

    What a STUPID article!! I need help with Illustrator not Photoshop you dolt!!!!!!!!!!

    • haha – I’m confused Ryan – this is Illustrator. It’s how you work with an Illustrator file for video making. Since most applications don’t work with Illustrator files (other than AE), you’ll need to convert using Photoshop.

      • Ryan Strandjord

        Wrong Phil, you don’t teach a person how to use chopsticks to eat by saying, “well, 99% of you probably have a fork, so just use that!” I figured out how to do it anyway without using Photoshop.

        I get that back in the day with the Creative Suites people had both most of the time, but not anymore with the cloud subscriptions. I guess that’s just what I get for trying to use an article with no date attached to it.

    • Belmontian201

      You need Photoshop to use Illustrator’s tools…