Design 100 objects at once in Photoshop

Have you ever thought how awesome it would be to remove all repetitive routines from your daily design work? Or how to get build some kind of graphic assets library in Photoshop – similar to Flash, Illustrator, After Effects and other Adobe apps? And wouldn’t it be great to have a couple more hours a day to add final touches to your designs?

In this tutorial, we’ll attempt to address all three questions, exploring a cool trick that enables you to work on any number of variations of an image at once. This workflow is extremely useful for games assets, and for GUI designers creating icons. It enables you to work on one object, save it, and let Photoshop distribute all the changes you’ve made to any number of variant copies.

If you’re familiar with Smart Objects, you already know that you can have multiple instances of one element. This tutorial will show you how to use Smart Objects in an even smarter way. I developed the technique trying to mimic an awesome workflow in After Effects, and it turns out that it works pretty well in Photoshop, too.

This walkthrough assumes that you already understand how Smart Objects work, and that you’re familiar with Photoshop’s 3D toolset. If you get stuck, you can find a more detailed version in the download for this tutorial, along with the final PSD file.

This tutorial is written for Photoshop CS5. Please note that the 3D tools and advanced animations are only available in the Extended edition of the software, and that in CS6, the Animation and the 3D panels have been reworked. For example, there’s no Document Settings in the CS6 Animation drop-down menu: instead, you can change Frame Rate via the Animation panel. You may also have some problems opening CS5 PSDs with Photoshop CS6. However, the underlying ideas – and core workflow – of this tutorial remain the same for both.

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