Photoshop CC 14.2 update – Linked Smart Objects

Smart Objects have been progressing nicely for a while now, and up to now in Photoshop CC have really started to change the workflow options. Photoshop CC 14.2 update now takes Smart Objects to another level and provides Linked / Embedded Smart Objects.

Let me demonstrate how this works.

I’ve have already created a document that has my Photography signature that has been created using just 3D in Photoshop CC. I am planning to use this on my images, but I don’t want to embed this file into each document that I want to use it in. Embedding it will :-

  • Cause an increase in the file size of the file of the host file.
  • Give me the flexibility to change my mind and update the associated documents quickly, without having to re-embed each one.

Photoshop CC 14.2 update now includes Linked Smart Objects. I can now link to an existing file and Photoshop will update if it changes. If i am  editing the linked file at the same time as the host file (applies to Illustrator linked objects as well), the host document will update automatically (but they both need to be open). I can of course manually update later in my editing cycle, and Photoshop CC tells me if something has changed, once the document is opened.

Here is the logo that I have created.

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I would like to use this file in the following image. I can now use the “Place Linked” from the File menu and link this object rather than embed it “Place Embedded” into the document.


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You can see that the file is placed as per normal (I cannot access the layers of the linked object until i open it, also, if I embed it I will see only the result layer).

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You can see that the Object has now been linked (marked Red below), and is denoted by the small chain icon. The Smart Object layer now has properties associated with it (marked Yellow). The Object itself is displayed as it usually would be (marked Purple).

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As soon as I added the logo, I realised that the white background needs to be removed. I can edit the contents of the Smart Object direct from within the properties panel (marked yellow above), this is also available on the fly out menu on the layers panel (marked Blue in the image above). You can also see that once Photoshop recognises a change (marked Yellow) i can update the linked object. If the linked file is an Illustrator file, it will be opened in Illustrator.

Once I have opened the logo file, I can edit it and remove the white background layer and save it.

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As soon as I have made the modifications and saved the file, the original host file (still open) will be updated with the new contents. You can see the results in the image below.

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What if we had not edit the contents of the Linked Object direct from the host file, but instead, editing the contents direct within the logo file. The original object was a 3D layer, which I would like to change, maybe to refresh my presence. I can open the file directly and edit my 3D art work and re-render it.

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If I open the host file, you can see that Photoshop CC recognises that the file is out of sync with it’s linked object by showing an exclamation mark in the box marked in yellow. The contents can be modified by opening the fly out menu and choosing the “Update Modified Content” (there are also other places to update the linked content). You can also replace the contents at any point as well, also, it may be that you decide to embed the content rather than link it, you can click “Embed” (marked in the Yellow box below).

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Once updated, the new logo will be displayed (the white background was removed and the type face was changed).

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The Photoshop CC 14.2 update includes a Smart Object search within the layers panel (marked Red below), that can be used to find Smart Objects, Broken links, Content that needs updating etc.

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Photoshop CC 14.2 update – Perspective Warp

Photoshop CC (14.2 update) includes the new Perspective Warp feature. The idea of perspective warp is to transform an object within a scene or parts of a scene to a different perspective. The perspective warp is also fantastic when it comes to merging objects from different photographs into a single comp, where traditionally objects have different perspectives to each other.

What are the principle behind Perspective warp. There are existing tools in Photoshop for lens correction as well as vertical and horizontal alignment with the Adaptive wide angle tool. These tools are great, but don’t fix perspective. To fix perspective you need to define and tell Photoshop CC where the perspective is. As soon as Photoshop understands the perspective, it can than start to enable you to move the perspective!

There are two modes to the tool

  • Layout – Define the perspective quads
  • Warp – Move the quads to define the new perspective.

Perspective warp also works on video using the Photoshop Smart Object technology. To Demonstrate this new feature I have compiled two examples for you.

1. Example A.

Let us start with this example. I may want to blend this car (taken from another photograph) into the road scene. The car has been cut out of the other photograph already and placed into a layer. You can see that the car’s perspective is different to the road, therefore it needs to be modified to correctly fit in to the scene (please excuse the colour blending of the two scenes).


In the Photoshop CC Edit menu there is a new command called “Perspective Warp” (N.B. This command also works on Smart Objects).


Once we click this menu item, you will see it’s options appear in the tool bar (marked Red), and instructions will appear on the image. You will need to mark the perspective using quads, the quads need are mapped over the area that needs to be corrected/modified. To do this you are able to draw on the image using the mouse or pen and position the quad(s) to define the perspective (you can specify multiple quads if required). If you specify two or more, you have a choice to join the quads together, this has been designed to keep the whole image in perspective. However, sometimes you may want to isolate an area from change and alter another part, you can do this by drawing independent quads. Whilst drawing the quads you will need to keep the tool in Layout mode, move to the warp mode once the quads have been drawn. However, you can switch between the two modes as ofter as you like, and if you use a Smart Object you can re-edit the quad definition at any point in time.


In the example, the car needs to be kept in perspective, but the front needs lifting on the left hand side, the rear of the car needs to move down to give the illusion that it is on the road. I have used two quads (marked Yellow) that define the cars original perspective to achieve this. 

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Once the quads have been created the tool can be moved into “warp” mode.

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The quad pins can then be moved, until the car is in the desired location. When the car is in the correct position, the tick can be clicked and the change will be applied.

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If the layer was a smart object, then the Perspective Warp smart object filter will be displayed in the layers panel (marked Red).

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At any point the Perspective Warp can be re-edited. Also, with Photoshop CC (14.2) you can link or embed another file into this file.


2. Example B

Of course it will depend on what you ultimately want to do with perspective warp which will define the quads.

In picture below I would like to change the angle of perspective and move the building to the right. It may have been that when I got back to the studio from this shoot, I realised that I had missed the main graffiti on the left wall and, would like to show it off more. To do this is very  simple. We need to draw the quads that will define the 3D perspective of the wall. To start the perspective warp, (i would recommend turning the layer into a Smart Object, or if using Camera RAW, opening the file as a Smart Object from Camera RAW) move the tool into Layout mode.

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in this case, the first procedure is to make sure that the walls within the image stay vertical. To do this, i’ll turn on the guides (Menu item / View / Show / Guides) and draw out 3, one for each vertical line (guides are shown in Blue)

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Open the Perspective warp tool, Menu Item / Edit / Perspective Warp and make sure it’s in Layout mode. Then draw the quads over the image and join two together (a blue line over the quad will appear, once it does it’s connected to the adjacent quad). You will notice that when you reach the guides with the tool, the pins will snap to the guides.

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Move the tool to warp at this point. To make sure that the vertical lines stay in place, hold the Shift key down and click on each one of the vertical quads (you will notice that the vertical lines will turn yellow as you hover over them, clicking on the vertical line will change them to be yellow all of the time). The yellow shows that the quad is linked to the vertical axis.

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at this point, you are able to grab a pin and move the outer left hand quad and re-position it closer to the edge of the scene.  You are able to move the middle vertical to the right. This alteration will alter the perspective as desired.

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or the other way (if desired)

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Once you have complete the warp, you can press enter to commit (Remember that if you are using a Smart Object, you can re-edit at any point in time)

There are a few things to think about when defining the quads (see image below):-

  • Quads can be extended beyond the edge of the frame. This can help in the case above where you ideally need the lower and upper parts of the scene to move with the buildings perspective.
  • You are able to place many quads to stabilise an area if required and and more constraints.
  • When you join the quads a blue edge should appear (this will depend on the physical quad side sizes, if you don’t see a blue edge on the corresponding quad, then maybe the quad you are drawing is not large enough.
  • You don’t need to specify the vertical constraint, this can sometimes help, depending on what you are doing.
  • You don’t need to use the guides, but can be helpful to make sure that you keep the vertical perspective.

The image below shows when multiple quads are used to add more constraints to the warp (This will add more holding points therefore less of the image will move at any one time, so you will need to pull and push the pins around to achieve the new perspective.)

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NB. Perspecrtive warp requires the GPU and there are minimum requirements for this feature



 How much VRAM do I need to run the perspective warp feature?

Photoshop requires at least 512 MB of video RAM (VRAM) to run the perspective warp feature on 16-bit and 32-bit documents. If your GPU has 256 MB of VRAM, you can run the perspective warp feature only on 8-bit documents.

Also, the nVidia GeForce GT 120 video card isn’t currently supported for the perspective warp feature.



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#CreativeFriday – 3D Painting in Photoshop CC

Painting on 3D models in Photoshop CC was significantly improved in 2013 by moving 3D painting to the Mercury Graphics Engine. This improvement has significantly increased accuracy and time when texture painting in 3D. So, how does it work?

To demonstrate, let us take this model (shown below) and paint it with the GPU accelerated texture painting ability. You can see below I have loaded a simple .STL 3D printable object into Photoshop (Photoshop CC supports .STL files, as well as the usual Wavefront OBJ, 3D Studio, Collada DAE, Flash 3D, Google Earth KMZ formats, as well as C4D objects with the Maxon C4D plugin).

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When painting on the model there are two ways to start, one is on the model itself, the other is on the mesh. Photoshop CC has the ability to open the model’s mesh by double clicking it. The layers panel will need to be opened and you should see an entry under the Diffuse section of the layer properties (if there isn’t one then one will need to be created by choosing Menu Item / 3D / Generate UVs). If you hold the cursor pointer over this layer item, Photoshop CC will show you preview. Double clicking this item will open up the mesh in a separate window. Once you have this open you may want to have both windows open at the same time, you can do this by choosing Menu Item / Window / Arrange / Tile All Vertically (2 up Vertical will work just as well).

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At this point you should see something similar to the following.

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Photoshop CC is now able to track the brush painter across both panels, if you move the brush over the model you will see cross hairs appear over the mesh and viva versa, this is a great way to track where you are painting. You can also zoom into either of the documents for close work.

The combo boxes highlighted in Red allow you to paint different elements of the model.

By default you’ll be painting on the Diffuse element, but you can change this when you need to. For example you want want to paint on the Bump map.

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If the element does not exist when you start the paint, Photoshop CC will tell you that it does not and help you create it. You can see below that when I try to paint on the Bump map, it doesn’t exist and the warning dialog is displayed.

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Pressing OK will take you to the new canvas dialog box (just make sure that the bit depth is the same as the 3D model in this case)

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This method of painting in Photoshop CC is called Texture painting, you can still use the older Projection painting as well by changing the mode in the paint system selector.

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Before we start painting, you need to make sure that the bit depth of each object is the same, you are able to change the bit depth under the Menu Item / Image Mode / 8 bit / 16 bit or 32 bit, otherwise you will encounter an issue when you start to paint.

To paint, make sure that the brush in Photoshop CC is selected (you can use the B key to do this, there are multiple entries for the B key, so you will just need to make sure that the correct one is selected (highlighted Red below)).

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In it’s most simplest form, painting requires that you select a foreground colour from the colour swatches panel (foreground/background colours are shown in the Photoshop hud usually under the tools, (highlighted Red below)). Pressing the switcher icon (top left of the red box) or the ‘X’ key to swap foreground to background etc, and selecting a new colour from the swatch or colour picker will populate the foreground). The ‘D’ key is also handy to reset the foreground and background to black and white.

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Don’t forget that Kuler ( is a great way to experiment with new colours or by using the Kuler iPhone app you can create colours from your smart phone and it’s free for everyone, but also part of Creative Cloud.

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There is more of a deeper dive on Kuler in a previous post.

To paint on the object, I am going to use some colours that I took using Kuler on my iPhone a while ago, whist in the Purbecks (in the UK), and downloaded (highlighted Red below) as an .ASE file into Photoshop (you can download this from my Creative Cloud share here).

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To install into Photoshop, just open the Swatches panel and load new swatch or double click on the downloaded .ASE file.

As a painting decision, I am going to paint the 3D objects Pupils black, the eyelids dark green the the body a lighter green. For more control I am using my Wacom Intuos Tablet as opposed to a mouse, a Wacom Cintiq is even better.

To demonstrate this I have created a very short (3 minute) video that shows how it all works. Enjoy.  

If you enjoyed this video, there are many more on my YouTube channel, if you want to find out more don’t forget to subscribe.




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Photoshop CC Features Panel now available


Photoshop CC is a remarkable release but how do you learn what the new features are and how to use them? The answer is the Photoshop CC Features panel where you can access new tools and features and watch videos all within Photoshop CC and it’s available exclusively from Adobe Exchange.

Special thanks to Stéphane Baril of Adobe (@sbaril on Twitter) who created this panel with Adobe Configurator 4.

Launch the Photoshop CC app and then open the Adobe Exchange Panel by going to Window > Extensions > Adobe Exchange.


If you haven’t already, you need to apply the CSXS update to enable the Adobe Exchange Panel first – Details here.

Photoshop CC Features is available for free for Creative Cloud paid subscribers. If you are just trying out Photoshop CC at the moment but want this panel you can get it with the Samples included with the free Adobe Configurator 4. While you are there you can also edit the Photoshop CC features panel to make it even more tailored to your needs.


The Panel has just been updated to version 1.0.2 but don’t let the small version number fool you, it’s a big update with a number of usability improvements and includes the new Photoshop CC Generator feature. Existing users can get the update from within the My Stuff section of the Adobe Exchange Panel now.


Jonathan Ferman | Product Manager

P.S. Want to have fun learning Photoshop CC? Check out LevelUp, also available exclusively on Adobe Exchange.

- See more at:

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Creative Cloud Desktop App – File and Font Sync Now Available

If you are on the Creative Cloud then there is some amazing news! From today you should have have access to Creative Cloud Desktop File & Desktop Font Sync.

What does this mean.

  • You can sync and save files from your Desktop into your creative cloud storage area (it’s ok you won’t loose anything, as it will be on your computer already)
  • If anything that is added in the browser version of Creative Cloud Files, then they will appear on your desktop.
  • If you are running CC single Edition, Creative Cloud for Teams or Creative Cloud full then you will also get your selected Typekit fonts synced to your desktop as well.

You should be on the current version of Creative Cloud and have the following options available. This application will keep a track of how much storage you have available, as well as making sure that your desktop folder and the Creative Cloud folder on the web are in sync. You can access your web storage here (

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There are some configuration options that you can set up. Navigate to Preferences (click on the cog in the top right hand corner)


On the preferences menu there are options for Fonts and Files. On the Files tab, you can see the ability to turn on/off just the files sync  (marked Red), as well as the change local folder location (marked Purple). You can also control the transfer speed (both up and down).

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File sync can be paused independently as well, by choosing the Pause option directly from the Fly out menu.


On the Font tab you are able to control the individual sync.

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#CreativeFriday – Customise your Behance ProSite with TypeKit Fonts

If you are a full subscriber of Adobe Creative Cloud and are already using the Behance/Prosite platform for publishing your work, then did you know that you are able to make use of the Typekit ( font service to customise the Fonts that are used on your Prosite. If you are not using Behance/Prosite and are using the Creative Cloud, then Prosite is an additional feature that you are entitled to (Behance is already free), maybe it’s something to look into.

Behance is comparable to Linkedin for Creative Professionals, and as a result the quality of content is incredible, and as a result  provides a way to socially connect to your peers, feedback groups, as well as potential new clients or employers. Behance/Prosite are easy to use and configurable without having to write a single line of code (of course you can if you would like, as there is an open API available), this means that your presence/profile is always fresh and dynamic without the need to establish a large project for a website build. Both Behance and Prosite are used by creative pros from different disciplines including Photographers and Designers, with the idea being that there is inspiration everywhere. It’s a great way to show your work off to many different audiences and raise your profile in the Creative space. For help setting up your Behance/Prosite account then i already have a post here and a video here. There are other Behance/Prosite references here. There are integrations from the applications as well, namely Photoshop CC and Lightroom.

Having a platform that is simple to manage and refresh means that we are able to customise it with fresh Fonts via the Typekit service that comes with Creative Cloud.

Typekit is a platform that contains both web and desktop fonts for full Creative Cloud subscribers. Traditionally for a designer to use a font that they don’t own it would mean a trip to a Font foundry armed with a credit card. Adobe have teamed up with multiple Font foundries and provided an all access, easy way to use Fonts, for both web sites and desktop applications.  The Fonts are available at the Typekit website, and are accessed by your Adobe ID. Once you have logged into the Typekit service you can search and view Fonts, then either use them on your websites (including Prosite), or within your Creative Cloud applications like Photoshop CC, Illustrator CC, Premiere Pro CC or Indesign CC etc. Your Desktop applications, Fonts and Creative Cloud files are managed by the Creative Cloud Desktop App, this app (once installed and signed into) will synchronise any Fonts that you have selected to your desktops (you know you have an entitlement to two computers with Creative Cloud and it doesn’t matter if they are a combination of Windows/Macintosh machines). As of Creative Cloud version the synchronisation of Files and Font sync are individually controllable, see post.

It’s really easy to make use of Typekit on your Behance Prosite, just sign in to your Typekit page and grab the font and go!

Once you have logged into the Typekit site you should see a site similar to the one below. There are many options including search facility (right hand side of the screen) and the ability to mark your favourite Fonts using the heart icon. To select a Font, just click on it.

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Once a Font has been selected (in this case Calluna Sans), there is an option to show different weights as well as different renderings.

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Once a suitable font has been found, click on “Use Fonts”, you will be prompted with the following screen, then click on the Web tab.

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A Typekit kit definition is a way to protect your font from only being used on your site(s),  if you already have a kit set up, then you can able to use this, other wise you will need to create a new one.

Once a new kit has been created, you will be prompted to give it a free format name (i have just called mine Behance Prosite, as only i will see this description), you also need to specify the domains where the Fonts will be used. For Behance and Typekit you will need to always specify both * and *, as well as any other domains that you will refer to the web Fonts from (i have included * as this is the URL i use for my site).

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Continue will take you to the publish screen (you will need to publish the Kit to make it available to Prosite and Behance network). Click Publish (marked in Red), and once the kit has been successfully published, you will need to click on the Embed code link (marked Yellow) to get the Unique Kit code which Behance Prosite will use to reference the Font.

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Of course for normal web sites you can just embed the scripts that are displayed on this page. For the Behance/Prosite platform, just copy and past the Typekit Kit ID (marked Red), then navigate over to Behance /Prosite platform.

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There are different ways to get to Behance’s Prosite, One is via your Behance account ( (see left screen below)), or, via the Behance Pro Site URL ( (see the right screen below)).

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Once into Behance Prosite click on the “Settings” button (Marked Yellow), then “Custom Type Integration” (marked Pink), then enter the copied Typekit Kit ID to the ID box (marked Red). Once save is clicked the font will be made available for use on your site.

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There is an option under the settings menu that configures Global Styles used within Prosite (this option is turned on by default), however, if you would like to manually define each project page, then you will need to review it. To access this setting click on the Design button (marked Purple) / Styles (marked Light Blue) / Projects (marked Yellow) / Global Style Options (marked Red). The “Override text and & divider styles” can be used to style all projects that are created (note, this will only affect Prosite and not the Behance pages).

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Once the Global use has been defined, navigate to the Design tab (Marked Yellow), then open the Website elements / Global styles / Font. The Global styles will affect the whole site (managed by Global Style Options (marked Red) above). Now within the global Font definition the Type Kit fonts are available for use (marked Red), don’t forget to publish any changes by clicking on the Update Live Site button (marked Purple).

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Fonts exist in quite a few places on Behance Prosite, you will need to navigate around the design to make sure the pages behave in the way that you want.

Management of your Prosite is simple because by default there is no coding, so maybe this is a great point to refresh your sites look and feel. My final Prosite is available at, my Behance is at

This blog post would not have been possible without the pure awesomeness of Michael Chaize Adobe’s own Creative Cloud Evangelist.





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#CreativeFriday – Adobe Photoshop CC Generator Deep Dive and Options

The Photoshop CC Generator is a flexible, and easily customisable JavaScript-based platform with rich APIs and powerful capabilities. It has been designed to take layers from your Photoshop document and automatically create individual image assets (GIF, PNG, or JPG) on the folder system of your operating system. Photoshop CC Generator supports Layers, Layer Groups and Smart Objects.

Getting started

You are able to control if generator is available for use, by enabling/disabling it inside the preferences panel directly inside Photoshop CC.

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Generator will be available within Photoshop from, menu item, Generate > Image Assets. Once Generator is enabled it will run in the background and automatically create the assets when required.

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For each Layer, Layer Group or Smart Object, you will need to rename each Layer name to an appropriate file name, as well as a file format suffix (.png, .jpg, and/or .gif), this tells Generator how to name the created output asset.

You are also able to control the quantity, size and quality of each asset, as well as different names and formats.

Current Supported File format options

PNG: .png – Defaults to png 32. Supported options include: .png8, .png24, .png32

JPEG: .jpg – Default quality is 9 (or 90%). Options include: .jpg(1-10), .jpg(1-100%)

GIF: .gif – Basic alpha transparency, no options

Examples include : rad.png24 : middling.jpg5 : retro.gif

You also able to extend the formats by including % scaling as well as Dimension (n x n, where n denotes width and height). The default scaling will be set to pixels(px), but other units include Inches(in), Centimetres(cm) and millimetres(mm). You are able to use commas “_,_” to create multiple files from a single Group / Layer / Smart Object: N.B each tag must be properly formatted with a valid file extension.

Extended Tagging Examples include:

- 300 x 200 imagef.jpg or 50in x 10in huge.png

- 50% imaged.png, 1000% imagei.jpg

- “200% imagex.png, imagey.png” produces both a 2x and a 1x asset

- “400% imagea.png, 250px x 250px imageb.jpg40%” produces a 4x asset and custom scaled version with jpg compression

Where does Photoshop CC save the assets

Generated assets will be saved in one of two places:

- For saved Photoshop CC files, Generator saves to an asset folder created next to the parent file in the operating system.

- For unsaved Photoshop CC files, Generator saves to a generic assets folder on the desktop.

Saving files is handled automatically by Generator; any changes to Layers / Groups / Smart Objects will be automatically updated in their respective assets. So once Generator is enabled, the assets folder should always be in sync with the original layer. If the assets folder or the parent file is moved, Generator will create a new Assets Folder.

Smart Objects Support

As an example of how the smart objects can be used :-

In this example i am using an Illustrator file, but it could equally be other objects in a Smart Object and embed them into Photoshop CC.

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Here is how it looks in Photoshop (Don’t forget, this is a Smart Object, therefore, you can return back to Illustrator CC and modify it at any point in time).


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Notice that the layer has been given a name + jpg extension, and Generator is running, therefore the file will be created next to the .PSD file (see Rucksack.jpg below) (as this is a saved file).

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If anything happens inside Photoshop, the image will be updated. You can see that by adding a layer style onto the layer a red outline is added.

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The respective output asset has now been altered to reflect the change

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It may be that other items need to be included, i.e. Layer Groups. You can see in the screen shot below, the image and it’s components are highlighted in Red, and are grouped under a Layer Group. It’s easy to create the assets from this Layer Group by using Photoshop CC Generator, just make sure that the Generator is enabled and the Layer Group is given a name and file type (i.e. FeaturedLocation.jpg), as shown in the following example.

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Once Generator has completed, there will be an asset folder next to the original file

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However, if the image and in this case just the waves need to be created and the text does not (possibly due to a responsive web layout design), then you can group the appropriate layers, or can use a Smart Object to group them. I’ll use a Smart Object at this point to show the creation of assets on this layer type. The layers have been selected,then the layer fly out menu to choose “Convert to Smart Object” to selected.

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Rename the Smart Object Layer

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Photoshop Generator kicks into action and creates the final asset in the destination folder.

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The final output can be seen in the destination folder

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So hopefully you can see that the Photoshop CC Generator is a flexible and very powerful feature, which can be used in many situations (see this video for working with this feature in conjunction with web graphics and Adobe Reflow CC). Also, Photoshop Generator is open source and based on GitHub, so if you feel the urge, you can customise this function, or create your own solution.

Other ideas 

Open Source, Interoperable Technology

Photoshop CC Generator is a platform that can enable so much more, which is why we are excited to release the Generator technology platform and the image assets generation feature as open source projects. If you know JavaScript, it’s easy to modify the existing plug-ins or write your own. Check out this video from the The Engine Co., who used Generator to write a plug-in for their Loom gaming engine that allows game designers to change the UI of a game in Photoshop while the game is being played:



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Seasons Greetings from Adobe UK – Digital Imaging.

Seasons Greetings,

I would like to wish everyone that reads or stumbles upon this blog a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year. I look forward to either meeting you or hearing from you 2014.

Kind regards.


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#CreativeFriday – Ask a PRO – Photo Bundle post

A few weeks ago Adobe UK held a series of Ask a Pro webinars. The first was the re-touching session with Tigz Rice (UK Boudoir Photographer). The second was one that I hosted, around the new items in the Creative Cloud Photographers Bundle, comprising of Lightroom 5, Photoshop CC and Pro-site (Pro-site is an extension to the free Behance platform via subscription to the Creative Cloud), as well as publishing your images and content to Behance. It’s a little under an hour of content, as there is so much to cover. In the new year, i’ll be creating more regular shorter pieces on imaging, so here is your chance to ask topics that you would like me to cover, please let me know on the comments of this post.

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Photographing the Northern Lights

Are you looking to photograph the Northern Lights this Winter, if so here are some handy tips (apart from wear warm clothes ;-) ! )


When taking photographs of the Northern lights here are a few things to consider and experiment with.

1. Find a very dark area with no ambient light sneaking in the sky (between mountains is a good start). Near a road can be interesting as you have front and rear light trails to play with. Also, lakes can be amazing as the lights are caught in the reflections.

2. Use a sturdy tripod, if it’s windy you may need to weigh your tripod down to keep it stable.

3. Choose a wide angle lens 35mm of less (full frame, you may need wider if using a cropped sensor).

4.  Use fast glass. This is probably the most important one to consider, depending on what you want the results to look like. I.e. If you want the stars in focus, without any trails, then you will need to keep the exposure under 6 or so seconds. To do this, you will need fast glass (F2.0 or below, ideally F1.4 or F1.2).

5.  Choose manual focus and set the lens to infinity (usually represented by the infitinity symbol (to small circles joined in the middle).

4. Set the ISO to give you the lowest shutter speed (under 6 seconds or so, determined mostly by point 4), be careful of going to high, remember the higher the ISO the more chance of colour noise in the shadows.

5. If you want star trails, then go over the 6 or so seconds, You can use Tv (time priority) on your camera to apply a restriction on the time, however you may need to use the BULB setting to go over 30 seconds (depending on your camera).

6. I would strongly recommend a locking cable release to start and hold the exposure, or use a 2 second delay with or without mirror lockup mode enabled to reduce the amount of vibration and shake.

7. You may not be able to see anything through the view finder so you will have to guess on what you are shooting, you may also want to block off the view finder, as this could cause light leaks for long exposures.

8. Don’t forget to look around the sky, the Northen Lights are very unpredictable, if there is nothing going on in the front of you, there maybe something going on behind you. Also, if the lights are white in the sky (i.e. not very active (maybe a 2 on the activity scale),don’t panic, the camera will see the vivid colours and will record the different appropriately.

9. For a different effect and breaking rules, try hand holding the camera and go for something shaky. Or maybe zoom into the lights to get a “Zoom effect”


There are also some good sites for planning your shooting activity, after all, you want to be able to maximise your time when in the cold and in the night skit, but also pick the best location for the weather.

Alaskan Aurora Forecast – (this site has a short term forecast as well, as well as different types of maps, depending on where you are).

If you are heading to Iceland, this is a great site, as it shows the cloud cover, so you can plan your trip

There are loads of other resources around the web, when i find more links, i’ll update this post.




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