The story behind the new export options in Photoshop
We introduced the Extract Assets option in Photoshop last October. Through that dialog you can export of one or more images per selected layer by clicking. In theory this sounded like a great idea, but our usage numbers and forum posts showed very few people were successful with this feature.
Today, I am excited to release the next iteration of that feature: Export Options. Export Options enable you to export selected layers/artboards or whole documents with or without previewing the images for export.
We did far more intensive testing of Export Options — testing builds with at least 2 users/week, ~20 users each on the Prerelease forums and usertesting.com — which makes us confident that we made more informed choices.
How to use it
- Upgrade to the latest release of Photoshop.
- Open a Photoshop Document.
- Select layers or artboards and right click to get the layers context menu.
- Click on ‘Quick Export as PNG’ or ‘Export As…’
What is improved
No more layer syntax
This was the biggest consistent gripe amongst all users of Extract Assets. We heard this feedback loud and clear. Going forward, layers will no longer be renamed to indicate they have assets associated with them.
In fact, assets are no longer associated to a layer. Instead, Export settings used to export a layer for the very first time using Export As… will persist when Export As… is invoked again on that layer.
Significantly improved performance
Extract Assets performed poorly on layers that led to large images, or when you had too many layers selected. We worked a lot on improving performance and fixing bugs. This was a big priority for us to ensure we looked and felt like a product that was powerful to use. The new Export As… dialog opens and exports much faster.
Option to export images without an interface
Many users complained Save for Web required at least three steps to complete (and a long time waiting for the dialog to load). “If I knew what I was exporting, why do I need to see the dialog?” This question also resonated with those who used Extract Assets.
This is why we introduced the Quick Export option. You can change preferences of your Quick Export in Photoshop > Preferences > Export… and change it to always export PNGs/JPGs/GIFs or even SVGs. This lets you use only two steps and no waiting around for a dialog!
If you want to reduce that work even further: You can also use an option to skip being asked where to save the image and have it always save to a folder next to your PSD (we are still working on what would be a good set of options to offer here). Presto! One-click export!
Set canvas size of image assets
Do you want to clip your exported images so that they will always be 50x50, whatever the actual layer size might be? You can now do that with Canvas Size:
We debated offering an interface to set which edge layers would be clipped from. Testing with users made us realize that this was an option that not many users used, so we decided to always clip from the center.
We also debated if we should offer this in terms of ‘padding’ as an addition or subtraction from Image Size or if we should just offer absolute canvas dimensions. Again, testing prototypes with users made us realize ‘padding’ was not the right solution.
If you would like to position the layer and set the exact bounds of a layer, you can do so by setting a layer mask on your layer which will be used to determine the canvas area for the exported image.
Export only selected layers/artboards
If you selected only one layer to export, Extract Assets will show you all the layers that had assets associated with them. This was really confusing to a lot of users — especially those who just wanted to export one layer.
Now the Export As… dialog will only show selected layers when invoked from the layers context menu (reached when you right click on selected layers).
Similarly, File > Export > Export As… will only show the export options for the whole document (consistent with other options in the File menu) or if the document contains artboards, you can change export settings per artboard.
If you choose PNG-8 as your default file format for export, then you can take advantage of PNGQuant — the same library that powers Tinypng, ImageOptim, or ImageAlpha for your exported images. Thank you, Kornel!
New consolidated menu
We moved all export-related features under a new menu called Export. Here you can reach scripts that allow easy export of layers or layer comps in addition to our new export options and the old Save for Web. Relax! The old Save for Web claw will still be available just as always.
User test, User test, User test
This release would have been impossible without testing with users. I read Stewart Butterfield’s interview with Firstround and was really inspired by how often Slack tested their ideas with customers. I then aggressively started recruiting users for our feedback sessions.
We talked with at least 2 designers each week as we built the feature. We started with high-fidelity mockups, then graduated to sending these designers builds and having them use them in front of us.
Our marketing messaging evolved from what our customers said when we tested these builds with them. Our decisions on which features to drop or scope into smaller chunks were all guided by talking to our customers.
In addition, we tested with new users, beginners and users who are rarely vocal on forums or twitter through usertesting.com. We shared high-fidelity mockups with these users and were able to get their valuable feedback.
Thank you users who participated in our feedback sessions!
What’s coming next
- Multiple Image Resolutions per layer: We have to go back to the drawing board on how to export more than 1 image resolution per layer. We didn’t have time to figure the right UI out for this. We hope we can get to this in the future.
- Convert to sRGB: We missed out on having this feature in for export. We hope to have this in the future.
- Embed Copyright & Contact Info: Until we shared our builds with the pre-release users we didn’t realise how useful photographers might find this tool.
- Fidelity of some smart objects: Most smart object should scale well, some of them don’t.
We remain committed to improving Export in Photoshop, and other features to help designers. So, if you have suggestions to help us do that, please tell us.
Thank you team!
I would like to thank the team that spent a lot of hours making this dialog as awesome as it is. Lori Tregoning, Irina Maderych, Colene Chow, Alnie Figueroa, Max Vujovic, Jared Wyles, Chris Bank, Vic Mitnick, Randy Edmunds, Joe Bowden, Nick Halbakken, Dave Alonzo, Talin Wadsworth, Seth Walker and Stephen Nielson.