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The 7 Commandments of Photoshop: How to Avoid Messy PSDs

Messy PSDs (aka Photoshop files) are a nightmare. While it may feel daunting, it is critical that web designers understand how to keep clean PSDs in order to facilitate a smooth process for all involved. Ready for a crash course in Photoshop etiquette? Let's get started!

Photoshop Commandments 101

1. Thou shalt name thy layers.

You must name all of your layers. Why? Because if you don't, you end up with a PSD that contains numerous layers that simply say, layer copy... and let's be honest, who's going to try to make sense of a mess like that?

Quick tip: People make mistakes; be sure to lock layers containing your background and other important design elements you can't afford to have accidentally edited or moved.

2. Thou shalt group thy layers.

After you've assigned names to the layers, you can begin grouping them in to folders. The benefit to using folders is the ability to view (or hide) certain sections without hassle.

3. Thou shalt name & structure thy files using logic.

Keep it simple: Client Name—Type—version (v1)

Example: luna-website-v1

It's clean, simple, easy, and above all, helps to avoid an irritated confrontation, phone call, or dreaded 'What the heck?!' face.

4. Thou shalt not stretch images and/or text.

Stretching vector shapes, text, and other images is not only a huge no-no, it's straight up unprofessional! Quality design is comprised of correct and consistent use of shape, styles and color. Stretching is not conducive to achieving quality.

5. Thou shalt align thy elements.

If you're not using rulers, it's time to start. Snapping to grid, layer, whatever... This ensures your design and elements are pixel perfect, which makes them more likely to be appealing to those who view it.

6. Designer, thy middle name is Grace.

Effects should be applied gracefully and with subtlety. Effects are there to complement your design, not overpower it. Your client(s) will thank you for a graceful touch.

7. Thou shalt not create a scavenger hunt.

Nothing strikes fear in to the heart of a person who's been tasked with sorting through a folder titled, 'Design Stuff' with files scattered about using no discernible order.

Upon finishing your design, you need to compile it in to an easily accessible location. This should include all of your web files, stock images, content... anything else that's relevant to the specific project.

Wait... isn't this kind of a huge pain?

I know, I know. And I'll be honest —changing longtime habits will be difficult if you've already developed your own methods and habits over the years. That in mind, by making the effort to change those bad habits you're investing in your clients, as well as increasing your marketability as a designer.


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