Join Dennis Meyer for an in-depth discussion in this video Why use Photoshop variables?, part of Photoshop Variables: Game Production Art.
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- The single biggest advantage to using Photoshop Variables, is that you have the freedom to separate the work of design from the work of establishing your content. Managing several hundred different Photoshop files, can be exhausting and it can be very time consuming to make a systematic change across all of those files. By leaving the data management to a spreadsheet, like Google Sheets or Micrsoft Excel, you can create a separate row, for each file you want to generate.
You can take advantage of every feature that those programs have to offer, to help you manage your data. That includes mathematical and statistical functions, spell check, data validation, and all of the more complex functions that those applications are known for. Using Photoshop to design a variable template, allows you to maintain a single master file and a pretty small file at that. You can also maintain consistent layer styles across every file generated, using that template.
And best of all, you can make changes to your master and then reexport all of the files in your data set with no additional work. So what kind of data are we looking at? Well to begin with, we have text. Think of the kinds of information that you already store in spreadsheets, like contact information. We might have a spreadsheet full of employee names, their titles, the region that they work out of, their work addresses, their phone numbers, and their email addresses. By setting a variable for each of these pieces of information, we can load all of that information into our template and output a fully layered Photoshop file using that data.
Then, we can generate an entirely new Photoshop file for each employee who has a line in the spreadsheet. But we're not limited to just text and numbers in Photoshop. By attaching a variable to graphic layers, we can rapidly swap out individual components of a template to generate a full set of production graphics. For example, consistent branding for a whole range of products whether there are six or 600. You can use it to rapidly brand or rebrand all of your products.
If you're localizing a product, you can send off a single spreadsheet for translation, and then use that translated file to export a fully translated set of assets. You can use it to add barcodes, serial numbers, promotional codes and other numeric data into your files. Even if those barcodes use complex fonts. If you've ever worked in an environment where the evolution of your content affects the design of a product, you'll understand how powerful separating those two can be in allowing you to work simultaneously on both.
It's exactly for these reasons, that Photoshop Variables are such a powerful tool in game design. You can quickly outline different designs and start to finding some of the design elements during the Prototyping phase. Next, as you receive feedback during the Playtesting phase, you can instantly incorporate any design changes or even game balance changes to numbers and text and reexport the entire set of cards for further testing. Once you've got your final art and final designs in place, you can export everything for Release.
And there's nothing stopping you from coming back to refine it even further for a second addition or perhaps an expansion. You can rethink your design at any point in the development cycle, and not lose time to managing files and making sure they're all in sync.
In this course, Dennis Meyer shows how to create and manage the artwork for an example card game using Photoshop variables. He'll show how to organize a basic template in Photoshop, assign variables for the text and images, and build an external data source in a Google spreadsheet (taking advantage of calculations and other powerful spreadsheet functions). Then he'll show how to load data into the template, export artwork, and make the template available to others.