Geographic Information Systems Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have no raster layers in my map document and no transparencies. Yet the map is rasterized when exported to AI. (Map frame and coordinate grid are vector graphics but everything in the map itself is a single raster image)

I've exported maps to AI before and I did not have this problem. This time the map is quite large (ANSI E @ 34"x44") Perhaps that is the problem?

I know that all layers below a raster layer get rasterized in the output, any transparent layers and layers below a transparent layers. What are the other factors that will cause the AI exported to rasterize all the layers?

share|improve this question
Brilliant. The arcpy python code detected a layer I had converted from a KML and within it had a latent tendency to transparency, even though I had 0% transparency, and once I kicked it out and replaced it with a cleaned up copy, perfect! Thanks! – user35139 Jul 28 '14 at 18:48
Issues with rasterization of vector layers seems to be based on transparent layers as other have said. When I order the layers I want to stay as vector layers in the AI output, above any transparent layers in the table of contents those layers come through in the AI file as vectors, while all other layers are part of the raster image. Thanks for the other posts who helped me figure out this issue. ArcGIS version 10.3 – user62405 Nov 15 '15 at 22:25
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Jakup: Here's a link to an ESRI page that has links to both the 9x sample and the 10x code:

9x had a Detect Complex Output sample that could alert one to the presence of a symbol, setting, etc. that was causing rasterization. I can't find a similar sample made for 10x and haven't tried installing it anyway to see if it would work. ESRI offers an arcpy script to do the same supposedly. The script looks odd here so here's the link:

import arcpy

def DetectRasterization():
  mxd = arcpy.mapping.MapDocument("CURRENT")
  df_list = arcpy.mapping.ListDataFrames(mxd)
  foundRasterization = False
  noneFoundMsg = "No rasterizing layers were detected."
  for df in df_list:
    lyr_list = arcpy.mapping.ListLayers(mxd, data_frame=df)
    for lyr in lyr_list:
      if lyr.isRasterizingLayer or lyr.supports("BRIGHTNESS"):
        foundRasterization = True
        if lyr.isGroupLayer and lyr.transparency > 0:
          print "In data frame '" + + "', the group layer '" + \
                   lyr.longName + "' is a rasterizing layer:\r",
          print "\tVisibility is " + str(lyr.visible) + ".\n" + \
                "\tTransparency is " + str(lyr.transparency) + " percent.\n"
        elif not lyr.isGroupLayer:
          print "In data frame '" + + "', the layer '" + \
                   lyr.longName + "' is a rasterizing layer:\r",
          if lyr.transparency > 0:
            print "\tVisibility is " + str(lyr.visible) + ".\n" + \
                  "\tTransparency is " + str(lyr.transparency) + " percent.\n"
            print "\tVisibility is " + str(lyr.visible) + ".\n" + \
                  "\tTransparency is 0 percent, but the layer may be a\n" + \
                  "\traster layer or contain rasterizing symbology such\n" + \
                  "\tas bitmap picture symbols.\n"
      del lyr
    del lyr_list
    del df
  if not foundRasterization:
    print noneFoundMsg
  del df_list
  del mxd

share|improve this answer
THanks @John. Sounds what I need to run. WOuld you be able to post the link to the 9x "Detect Complex Output" sample? if it contains source code in VB/VBA I can convert that to a version 10 add-in. – Jakub Jul 5 '12 at 14:43
The python script works well. Thanks! Now I have a different problem; Illustrator will not open the resulting file. (error; Can't open illustration.) – Jakub Jul 5 '12 at 14:59
Thanks John, this script worked perfectly on 10.0 as well – ChrisHamby May 16 '13 at 16:37

Raster images will also happen in AI if the layers you export are not shapefiles. For instance if you created a layer from selected features and then tried to export this to AI, it would open in AI as a raster image.

To fix this make sure to select data, export data,and save the output feature class as a shapefile.

share|improve this answer

I have sometimes had this problem when exporting from ArcGIS to Ai - it is normally because I forget to set the export tab to vectorize all the layers rather than rasterise. On the export window that appears go to the bottom of the window and look for the tabs - one of these has the option to set the output to vectorize layers rather than rasterise. Hope this helps anyone with similar problems.

share|improve this answer

Try exporting individual layers to ai (or group of layers). This way you can detect which layer is causing the whole map not to be exported as a vector. In doing so, I found out 3D character marker symbols was causing the problem.

share|improve this answer

I had a similar problem (ArcGIS 10), and couldn't undesrand why. Untill I discovered the following bug:

If a group layer has a sublayer that will be rasterized, it will rasterize the whole group, and all groups below it. Even (the bug) if the group layer is not shown at the current scale (scale dependent visibility).

share|improve this answer

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

As a new user please take the Tour. This seems like a comment rather than an answer. You say that it is a bug but my understanding is that this is a known limitation. However, if you have a reference and/or bug number then maybe my recollection is wrong. – PolyGeo Nov 19 '15 at 10:09

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.