12 Top Tips for Perfect Photoshop Housekeeping

Working on a PSD file from someone else can sometimes be a nightmare: No names on layers, nothing grouped, all vector images flattened, all images cropped, no fonts saved, no colour swatches and so on.

Something that should have been a 5 minute job can often turn into several hours of work, resulting in a very stressed, annoyed designer. PSDs should always have a conventional structure that any designer can pick up and work on without a problem. Ask yourself this question: “What if my mum picked up this file?” (assuming your mum can use photoshop of course!).

The following tips should ensure those 5 minute jobs don't turn into hours of work... 

1) ALWAYS NAME YOUR LAYERS

Layer names should be meaningful and consistent. It will soon become second nature to you if you do this by default as you create new layers. Try to get into the habit of using cmd+shift+N when you need a new layer, that way you will force yourself to name the layer when you create it.

2) GROUP LAYERS

Group your layers by content, i.e.: all elements that make up a button or footer panel. It will make it easy to find/hide elements and it will make it simple to create layer comps.

3) USE SMART OBJECTS

Use smart objects for common components/elements. A button/icon can be saved as a smart object; it will give you the flexibility to change style and/or colour of all instances of your element in one go. The same can be done for a group of common components like a header and/or footer.

4) VECTOR OBJECTS

Never flatten vector objects, once its done you can’t go back. Later down the line, if you need to make a change you will have to re-create that object from scratch. If you have to do it, make sure you keep a copy and hide the layer - if you do this, make sure to name the layer appropriately so the next person to work on the file doesn't delete it.

5) DON’T CUT PIXELS

Use adjustment layers, smart objects and/or masks for altering images, this way you can keep it editable you won’t risk losing image quality. i.e.: if you need to change the aspect ratio of an image use a mask layer, don’t crop it.

6) USE GUIDES

Creating guides in your PSD file helps other designers to understand what grid you may have used for a design and how you have divided/sliced a layout. Anything that helps describe the underlying scaffolding of a design is going to be useful! If working on a layout for the web, it often helps to set your guides up using common breakpoints to set your widths and then dividing into columns. If working on a responsive layout, Photoshop CCs new artboard feature is a great way to show different breakpoints and how a layout/grid should respond.

7) DELETE UNUSED LAYERS

Remember that your file may be picked up by other designers that aren’t familiar with the project, and if you forget to delete an unused layer it can create a lot of confusion and make the file size unnecessarily large.

8) SAVE FONTS

Photoshop, unlike InDesign, isn’t able to save a “package” of assets. Remember to save any fonts you used in your design in a place that other designers are able to access.

9) SAVE ASSETS

Unless you are using Adobe CC 2015 which has a great library feature where you can save all assets and attributes and share the link with colleagues/collaborators. Remember to save any assets used in a folder with the PSD. These assets could be used in other projects/programmes, saving them in an accessible place makes it easier for other designers and developers to find them.

10) SAVE COLOUR SWATCHES

Such a simple thing, but very useful. Having colour swatches ready to upload into your file will make a massive difference and will save you time. If you are using Adobe CC 2015 you can save the project colours in your library and share the link with colleagues/collaborators. If not, consider creating and ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange) file straight from photoshop, illustrator or by using color.adobe.com.

11) NAME FILES APPROPRIATELY

Use the file naming convention that your company uses, or something that is understood and meaningful by someone needing to work on your PSD. NEVER, EVER append files with _FINAL, _FINISHED or _ DEFINITELYTHEFINALVERSIONOFTHISFILEFORSURE!

12) BACK UP YOUR PSDs

If you’re working in an agency or organisation that has a file server - use it. Remember to save your files on the server if you have been working locally. Don’t risk relying on your machine - you never know what can happen!

If you follow these steps and have a process in place for your .psd files you'll not only save a lot of time and stress, you will ensure you and your fellow designers wont be pulling their hair out.