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Using Layered Photoshop Files in Indesign

In this sample chapter from Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign Collaboration and Workflow Classroom in a Book, author Bart Van de Wiele covers changing layer visibility, building and updating layer comps in Adobe Photoshop, and using layer comps to create multiple versions of a document in Adobe InDesign. By the end of the lesson, readers will have the skills to create dynamic layouts using Photoshop and Indesign.

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Photoshop layer comps let you create variations of an image within a single Photoshop document. This feature gains extra power when you place these documents in InDesign. The ability to control the visibility of Photoshop layers in InDesign lets you create layouts that incorporate the variants you set up in Photoshop.

Managing Photoshop layer visibility in InDesign

In the previous lesson you learned that layers play an essential role in Adobe Photoshop documents and are part of the DNA of that document. Showing or hiding a single layer in the layer stack can dramatically change the look and feel of a design. While the ability to show and hide layers in Photoshop adds flexibility when designing a document, it can also work to your disadvantage in some situations.

Version control

I’m sure we’ve all been there before. You are working on a design in Photoshop that needs to be placed in InDesign and you can’t decide which version of your design you like best. Do you go for a version full of special effects and extra detail, or for an alternate version in which all those special layers are hidden? Although it’s easy to quickly show or hide the special effects layers while working in Photoshop, it can be challenging to make that switch within InDesign.

So how do we solve this? One method would be to duplicate the Photoshop document and save both versions as separate documents. That way, your client can choose to place version A or version B in InDesign. And there is nothing wrong with that. However, this comes with a few disadvantages:

  • Duplicating your Photoshop document means you must manage two files for a single design.

  • Photoshop documents can take up a lot of storage space, so this scenario would double the amount of space needed to store the project.

  • Because both versions also have layers in common with one another, it can be challenging to update both Photoshop designs when a change is required to one of these shared layers.

  • Replacing version A with version B from within InDesign can require multiple steps, depending on the complexity of your InDesign document.

The InDesign approach

The solution to this problem lies within Adobe InDesign, which gives you the unique ability to decide which layers of a placed document should remain visible or hidden, without altering the original document. This is what we call a local layer override. And InDesign allows you to apply layer overrides when placing Photoshop documents, Illustrator documents, PDF documents, or other InDesign documents. The latter is what we sometimes refer to as document nesting, and you can learn more about it in Lesson 7, “Nesting Documents.”

The advantage of creating layer overrides is that it allows you to create different versions of your placed document by showing or hiding specific layers from that document without altering the original.

While all this seems amazing, there are a few risks you need to look out for. We’ll discuss them in depth throughout this lesson.

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