Fast Adobe Photoshop Workflow Tutorial

How using Artboards, Smart Objects and the Asset Generator plugin can help you deliver quick turnarounds

How many times have you created a set of graphics just to have the stakeholder reply back with the dreaded, “Can you make the logo bigger?” This can bring a feeling of melancholy to a designer, and as such you have to find ways to meet these inevitable requests without losing your marbles. One of the best things to do in Photoshop is learn about its productivity plugins, and explore what Photoshop can do beyond visual effects. The best Photoshop tutorials for advanced users are the one that help deliver faster results. In this tutorial I’ll continue where I previously left off in my Fast Adobe Illustrator Workflow Tutorial. Photoshop offers many powerful tools to achieve a faster workflow, as you’ll soon see.

Use artboards, folders and layers to set a dynamic workflow

Using the Artboard Tool, draw and lay out the sizes you need in a grid. For this example I’m using 300x250, 160x600, 300x600, 728x90 and 970x250 pixels. These sizes are commonly used by the Google Display Network. You can resize them for your own needs.

Artboards organize and act as containers for your work, plus open up other advanced features like generating image assets.
Measurement blocks come in handy for consistent spacing, here I use a 32px block to designate the margins.
Labeling folders and layers helps locating assets as projects grown in complexity.

How to use Smart Objects with Illustrator files

I’m using a vector illustration for the main product graphic. You can place, drag or copy/paste it into your Photoshop document and choose Smart Object in the Paste Dialogue Box.

Placing a Smart Object from Illustrator is as easy as copy/paste.
Keep alternate versions of your Illustrator (or Photoshop) graphics in separate layers for quick activation (turning on/off).
When files are dynamically exported, each linked instance is updated automatically.

Generate Image Assets using the Asset Generator plugin

The Asset Generator plugin is Photoshop’s equivalent to Illustrator’s Export for Screens. You can generate JPEG, PNG or GIF images by labeling layers, groups or artboards using its labeling convention. You can even designate the quality of JPG files, PNG bits (8, 24 or 32) and even export to your desired sizes using px, in, cm and mm formats. This tool has saved me countless hours. You can read about it in Photoshop’s Help Pages. To take full advantage of this plugin I suggest you learn all its capabilities, which are many.

When you generate image assets, a folder is automatically created with the suffix “assets”.
When files are updated in Photoshop, the files in the assets folders are also updated automatically.

Dynamic showcase for presentation

To show you how really cool the Generate Assets plugin is, let’s say that you want to present your work to your team — nice and neat, instead of rummaging through a bunch of files flinged into a folder.

  • This automatically links each Smart Object to the files in the assets folder under that same name.
  • Any changes you make to the file is reflected in the Assets Folder and immediately passed down to this new presentation file, all in one swoop. A new “assets” folder is created and your new presentation file is dynamically generated. Updates will continue to refresh as long as Image Assets has the checkmark displayed in the File Menu. Deselect it to prevent further changes while you work.

Always check your work before handoff

Check your files to make sure everything is in order. You can also export files in different sizes at the same time, but for this tutorial, the introduction should offer a glimpse to its usefulness. Refer to Photoshop’s Help Pages for the full rundown on this amazing plugin.

The finished presentation which can be updated in mere seconds.

Writer and editor of features, interviews and brand content with an emphasis on creative storytelling.