Let’s get something straight: Photoshop is NOT a page layout program!
While it’s been true that we could create text and vector shapes for some time in Photoshop, the addition of Paragraph and Character styles in Photoshop CS6 made me cringe—it’s like an endorsement of bad behavior.
I understand that someone who knows only Photoshop might be tempted to create projects with text in Photoshop. I recently heard of a photographyer submitting his files for an 80-page coffee-table book…as 80 layered Photoshop files. As we say here in the South, “bless their little hearts, they just don’t know any better.” But that’s no reason to encourage it. So I see these new features in Photoshop CS6 as tantamount to handing a firecracker to a baby.
Printers, you can now look forward to proud clients bringing their sell sheets to you as ginormous Photoshop files, bragging that they’ve used styles. And then you can look forward to explaining to them why their text looks pixelated on the proof. That’s because, even though text is editable in Photoshop, it’s rendered as pixels, whether you output directly from Photoshop, or place the image into InDesign and image from there.
But wait—all is not lost!
While it’s better to handle text and vector content in Illustrator and InDesign, there IS a way to render vector content correctly from Photoshop.
The trick is to save the file as a Photoshop PDF.
- In the General options, check “Preserve Photoshop Editing Capabilities.”
- In the Compression options, choose “Do Not Resample,” and turn off compression.
The result is essentially your completely editable Photoshop file—layers, vectors, text and all—in a PDF wrapper. To other applications (such as Acrobat or InDesign), the file is a PDF. But if you reopen the PDF in Photoshop, nothing is lost—the original Photoshop file is there for you.
While vector and text edges are nice and crisp, effects such as bevel and emboss (or the ubiquitous drop shadow) can only be accomplished by pixels. Such content will take on the underlying resolution of the image.
When you place vector content from Illustrator into Photoshop, it’s automatically converted to a Smart Object, which allows you to perform endless transformations with a fresh start each time. So you’d think that Smart Objects would be rendered with vector edges, but they’re not: while the vector reference is stored within the Photoshop file, it only serves as a source for pixels. Even saving as a Photoshop PDF will not force Smart Object content to render as vectors. Counterintuitive, I know, but that’s the deal.
Here’s a comparison of the fate of vector content in PSDs and Photoshop PDFs (click to enlarge).
Now that you know how to maintain vector and text content in a Photoshop file, just promise me you’ll use it only for good, never for evil (by which I mean something like a 24-page catalog in 24 Photoshop files; that’s just wrong).