96. Simplify a Layer
Before You Begin
91 About Layers and the Layers Palette
120 About Drawing Shapes
183 Add a Text Caption or Label
When you create text and shapes, they are placed on their own layers. Text and shapes are made of vector data, which allows them to remain easily editable because they are rendered onscreen using a formula. This formula allows the Editor to easily redraw the text or shape if you change the text font or size or rotate a shape, for example. This flexibility has its limits however. Because text and shape layers contain vector data, you can't apply filters, effects, and layer styles that work by manipulating individual pixels. For example, you can't apply the Glowing Edges filter to some text until that text has been simplified, a process that converts the vector data into raster data, or simply a series of pixels.
After you convert a shape layer to a simplified layer, you can no longer use the shape-editing tools to modify the shape you've drawn. The same is true with a text layer; the text-editing tools are no longer available for the simplified layer. Before you simplify a vector layer, make sure that it looks exactly as you want it to appear in your final image.
You can't do other things to text and shape layers as well, such as using the painting, drawing, and retouching tools to modify their content. For example, you can't use the Smudge tool to smudge the lower portions of some text, making it look like it's dripping. Nor can you erase portions of a circle shape to create the eyes of a Halloween pumpkin, or add the stem and leaf tendrils by simply painting them (but you could paint those details on the layer above the pumpkin circle shape.) The key is to simplify the layer first before making these types of pixel-based changes.
Select the Layer
Open an image in the Editor in Standard Edit mode and save it in Photoshop (*.psd) format. In the Layers palette, select the text or shape layer you want to simplify. In this example, I selected the layer containing the text Winter Ice Storm.
Simplify the Layer
Choose Layer, Simplify Layer from the menu.
If you are creating a shape layer and you still have the Shape tool selected, you can click the Simplify button on the Options bar to convert the layer instantly.
View the Result
When you simplify the layer, the layer thumbnail on the Layers palette changes to reflect the fact that the layer is now an image layer instead of a vector layer. For example, simplifying a text layer changes the thumbnail from the Text layer icon to a thumbnail of the actual text on a transparent background.
When you're satisfied with the image, save the PSD file. Then merge the layers together and resave the result in JPEG or TIFF format, leaving your PSD image unflattened so that you can return at a later time and make different adjustments if you want. In this example, I simplified the text layer so that I could use the Paint Bucket tool (after selecting the letters I wanted to paint, using the Magic Wand tool and its Contiguous option) to change the color of different letters in the text. If you want to change the color of the text in a text layer, you must set the color before typing each letter, or go back and select each letter and change its color on the Options bar. If you simplify the layer, you can paint the color on each letter by locking the transparency and being careful to brush over each letter separately and not its neighbor. You can also select the same colored text quickly with the Magic Wand tool after simplifying it and then apply a gradient fill to create instant rainbow text, something you can't do with the Text tool.