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Learn to composite graphics in Adobe Photoshop using variables and a simple text file. This Design the Web installment shows how to automate your production workflow by combining separate graphic files, typography, and Photoshop effects into custom, ready-to-use graphics. This workflow allows you to generate hundreds, even thousands, of unique graphics suitable for websites, interactive projects, or even print. All you need to begin is a layered Photoshop file.
The Design the Web series was created and produced by Chris Converse. We are honored to host this content in our library.
Now to begin our project, let's open up banner.psd from the exercise files. Now, the font family that I used in this composition is Helvetica Neue, and I used a series of different weights from this particular font family. But if you don't have access to Helvetica Neue on your system, you can substitute this with something like Myriad Pro, Frutiger, or Avenir. And of course you can use any font that you have on your particular system. And now with our Photoshop file open, over in the Layers panel, here you can see how this file is put together. At the top, there's a folder called travellogo. Inside of here, there's a vector shape and a Text layer.
These are set to a style of Multiply for the blend mode. We also have the Fill set of 65%, and they each have a stroke applied to them as well. This way regardless of the photograph that's showing up behind them, having a black logo with a white outline, should give us a logo that's pretty recognizable over a series of different photographs. We also have a Text layer called Aruba. We have our tagline here. We have our small Type layers inside of the white box here, are starting from and per person. Next we have a Text layer called View Deal in a black box.
We have a Text layer here that's showing the price. We have our white box, and we have a photograph in the background. So everything in here is just standard Photoshop layers. Now the first thing I want to do is I want to set this up so that the Type layer here is actually showing as a cutout through this white box. Now how we typically might do this, would be, we might select. Holding the Cmd key click on the Text layer, select the outer shape of the text. Hide this. Come over here to the white box. Add a layer mask. And with the layer mask selected, hit Cmd or Ctrl+I to invert that.
So this is the effect that I want. However, I do want to be able to set the type, and I can't use a live type layer as the mask for this particular shape. So let's delete the mask. And what I'm going to do instead is take this Photo layer. I'm going to hold the Option or Alt key, click and drag, and bring a copy of the Photo layer up above the Type layer. Now with that in place, let's hold the Option key or the Alt key. Let's click between the layers to create a clipping mask.
So what this does is give us the same effect of a cutout, but we're actually using two different photo layers and we can keep our type live. So if we come in here, for example, and change the type, let's change this to $0, we get the effect of the type acting as a cutout through that white box. So let's come back to the Layers panel. Let's take that layer that we duplicated called Photo, and let's rename this photo space clipped. Next, let's come over to the Text layer Aruba. Let's put in the word City instead. Next let's come down to our foreground color swatch.
Let's come in here and select a medium grey. Click OK. And then what I want to do is come down and select the Photo Clipped layer. Let's come up to the Edit menu, let's choose Fill. We're going to fill with foreground color just to make that gray. Next, let's come down to the Photo layer. Let's fill that with grey as well. You can use the shortcut Cmd+Option or Alt + Shift + Del. So now we basically have this generic file. Now we're going to come up to the File menu, let's first choose Save. Then we'll come up to the Image menu, let's come down to Variables, and let's come down and choose Define.
Now this dialogue box gives us the ability to take layers in Photoshop and assign them to be variables. So first here come here to the Layer drop-down menu, when I open this up, you'll see all of items match all of the layers in the Layers panel. So let's first come down to the city layer, and down here we can choose what type of variable this is. Let's come down here and activate text replacement. This means that we can reassign all of the characters that are used in the City Text layer. So let's come down here and give this a name, so I like to name these something that is going to make sense to me inside of my text file. So let's name this city, all lower case.
Next, let's come down and choose the $0 Text layer. We want to text-replace this as well. And let's name this Price. Next, let's come over to the Layers drop-down menu, let's come down and choose the Photo layer. Now this is a layer that has pixel data on it, not typography. So let's come down and activate Pixel Replacement for this. Let's come down and name this PhotoBase. Now we have some fitting options down here as well. So if we were to bring in a JPEG file that was not the exact size of our canvas, we can choose how Photoshop will fit this content.
So there's Fit, there's Fill, there's As Is. And when you roll over this, you'll get a little preview down in the lower right, and then we have Conform. And these fitting options are very similar to what you see inside Adobe InDesign if you use InDesign. So we're going to come up here and chose Fit because the JPEG files we're going to load in are going to be the exact size of this Photoshop canvas. Next, let's come up to the Layer drop-down. Let's come into Photo Clipped. Let's activate Pixel Replacement here, and we're going to call this one photoClip. Then we're going to click OK. Let's come up to the File menu, let's save our file one more time.
So now at this point we've taken our Photo layer, our Photo Clipped layer, our Text layer for price and our Text layer for city, and we've turned all these into variables. And with this in place, next we'll assign data into those individual variables so that Photoshop can then change the canvas based on that data.
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