I’ve noticed a pretty big change in how I’m using Photoshop lately. Much of my work consists of iteration through various solutions as I explore user interface for new and existing pieces of our apps. It is common for me to jump from working directly in HTML and CSS to Photoshop and back again. Working in code lets me immediately see my designs in context, in the browser, and often in the way it will behave when interacted with. It’s the most real way to work. But sometimes I want to quickly try an alternate direction or see a change that would be faster to mock-up as an image. That’s where Photoshop is most useful to me.

Photoshop layers Maybe I’m just drinking the Kool-Aid, but I’ve noticed that when I do use Photoshop I rarely save the PSD file anymore. It used to be that for every project I’d have one or more PSDs with tons of layer groups preserving each attempted direction. Those files became archives of my process that I kept, but never used again.

Now when I fire-up Photoshop, it is so that I can pull in a screen grab of the piece I’m working on so I can mock-up what I’m thinking. I’ll clone browser widgets, add some text here and there, try a different layout, etc. I don’t worry about naming layers or grouping concepts, but I do make screenshots. I’ll save a new image anytime I have something I might want to come back to later or that I want to get some feedback on. And those images I do keep. They become a sort of visual blog of my process. They make it easy to go back to an earlier idea and are handy to have available when we decide an exploration is worth talking about in more detail. The series of images shows where I went during the process and what I thought was notable. With a layered Photoshop file it was less clear what was what, what order it came in, and why it mattered.

Comp thumbnails

Now, when I reach the end of a project I don’t save the PSD, I throw it away. Like cleaning up your workshop after a woodworking project, you sweep up the sawdust and throw away the scrap wood. Photoshop files are scraps and pieces that I don’t need anymore.