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31 Flavors of az

Photoshop Personalization Tutorial

If you are viewing this story via an email we sent to you, it should include a miniature type poster featuring your initials to the left of this article (if we don't have your name stored with your contact information, or if you are viewing it on the Web, you may see "AZ" instead of your initials).

The image file featuring your initials was created using Photoshop's variables technology, which can be used to create personalized, 1:1 graphic images for either printed direct mail or broadcast email campaigns. This tutorial will walk you through the process, start to finish.

1. Create the original graphic with Photoshop

  • Place each variable element on its own layer
  • In our example, there are 31 different layers representing the 31 type styles
  • Be careful to evaluate the longest line of your data set since Photoshop won't copy fit an item that is too long for the layout

2. Create your variable(s) in the Photoshop file

  • Go to: Image > Variables > Define
  • We use t1 ... tn for text variables
  • Assign the layer containing the placeholder to the variable
  • If as in this example, you want the same value to replace multiple instances of the placeholder, then select each layer containing this variable's placeholder and assign it to the variable
  • Our placeholder occurred in 31 layers and we selected it 31 times, once for each font we planned to display

3. Prepare your data list with the variable name in the first row

  • A Photoshop data set is the equivalent of a database record
  • In this case, the data set needed to contain 676 items (AA - ZZ initials)
  • For each contact to be personalized, the correct personalized item must be assigned
  • There are two strategies you can use to name the image files that will be generated: Use a unique identifier or use a field
  • In this example, we created an "initials" field and built the value based on the first letter of the first name and the first letter of the last name fields
  • We did this because our list is much longer than 676 items; why render unique versions of the same two-letter combinations over and over?
  • If each graphic was unique to the corresponding contact record, we would have used the ID field from the database and would have generated two values for each contact: ID,Value
  • Once you have your data prepared, add the header row (it must match the name you gave the variable when you defined it in Photoshop)

4. Import the data set into Photoshop variables

  • Save your records as a comma-separated text file
  • Do not put spaces after the commas
  • The first column of the data set you save will determine the file name to be generated
  • Be careful when using fields that may contain spaces or illegal characters from a file naming point of view or that may be too long
  • To avoid these problems, we typically name files with a unique numeric identifier that corresponds to the ID of the contact record
  • This example was simpler: We just named the file the two-letter initials for each combination

5. Export your data sets

  • Go to File > Export Data Sets as Files
  • Choose the destination folder to save the various files to be generated and click OK
  • Note that this creates Photoshop files; for Web applications, you will need to batch convert these files to a Web format

6. Create a Photoshop action with the appropriate save settings for your medium

7. Finally, convert your Photoshop files to Web or Print graphics

  • File > Automate > Batch...
  • Choose the folder you exported the merged files into
  • Run the batch and you are done!


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