Creating captions in Photoshop for Adobe Captivate projects

Today we are going to create captions for Adobe Captivate projects. Although Captivate have impressive library with captions You may want something different, for example there isn’t pure black caption. Creating captions can be easy job with lot of fun but there are and some limitations and things you should know before start creating your own captions.

Take closer look to Captivate captions

Because we are going to create captions in Photoshop I assume that you have Photoshop installed and Adobe Bridge too. So lets see what we have first in Captivate captions gallery or what is offered with Captivate installation. Start Bridge and navigate to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Captivate 5\Gallery\Captions in Windows computers (I don’t know path for Mac but it should be \\Applications\Adobe Captivate 5 \Gallery\Captions). Here are listed captions which appears as Text captions in Captivate. Along with BMP raster images You can see and FCM files which contains information’s about text alignment inside caption. Not familiar with FCM extension? Don’t worry it is easy to set up what needed, its 4 lines of text only (for what I am going to represent in this tutorial) and this can be done in notepad or any other text editor. Note that More folder contains more text captions.

Take a closer look at all captions because they represents all what can we build with success (gradients, strokes and shapes). Probably you want place photographs and graphics across entire caption because some limitations. A limitation comes from our needs to have same captions in different sizes and captions are bitmaps. Bitmap images are limited to their resolutions in other words to exact number of pixels and if you try to increase number of pixels then you will have problem with quality even in best image editing program – Photoshop. Captivate deal with this problem by taking pixels from middle of X and Y axis and repeats them to the right and left and down and up from axis. Let me show you what I mean. I have created caption and insert it in Captivate as Text caption (Note that blue differ pixel is at exact center).

How Captivate deal with captions

Now I will increase size of caption (size can not be decreased). Captivate is taking pixels at middle of X and Y axis (green lines) and repeats them to the right and to bottom (because I am dragging to the right and down), black arrows on screenshot, while other pixels remains the same as they are created. In the middle we have blue color because in center of bitmap text caption (where X and Y axis make cross) we have blue pixel and that color is repeating in the middle of caption: to the right and bottom. So that’s how it works and limitation in your creations.

Another thing you should know is that top left pixel color will appear as transparent whenever that exact color is present in caption. Caption can contain gradients but background color must be solid. Let’s see an example: here is caption created in Photoshop. Caption is white but top left pixel color (background) is black. I have added and some black pixels inside caption.

When caption is inserted in Captivate, black pixels in body of caption appears transparent.

So do not crop captions to exact size and choose color that not appear in text caption for top left pixel (background color) if you do not want transparent areas in caption. If I have cropped caption to exact size (without black background pixels)
then caption will appear transparent when inserted in Captivate.

FCM files - text alignment options

Next thing to know before starting your creations is text alignment which is saved in FCM files. FCM files must have exact same name as caption and ends with .FCM extension. This file contains instructions for text alignment for example:

Left Margin=6
Right Margin=6
Top Margin=5
Bottom Margin=6

Below this instruction you can see and other instructions which are related to automatic captions (when FCM file for existing default caption is opened). MarginX is the number of pixels horizontally from the nearest corner to the tip of the caption callout.Margin Y is the number of pixels vertically from the nearest corner to the tip of the caption callout. The nearest corner is identified in the file open in a text editor under “Corner.” For example, Corner=right, top.


To open existing FCM file from Captivate captions folder, right click on file and choose Notepad or Notepad ++ (its free, I have it installed).
There is no need to open existing files, just open Notepad and type numbers of pixels for margins in this order:

Left Margin=
Right Margin=
Top Margin=
Bottom Margin=

Then save file in the same folder with bitmap caption and do not forget to name it properly: if caption is named My Black1.bmp then FCM file must be saved as My Black1.FCM. Off Course you can edit this file and change number of pixels for every margin if something wrong. Captivate offers Indent and Align controls but not and margins so that’s why is important to set up properly this file.

Order to save captions

Before you start creating captions keep in mind that captions must be saved in this order:

And named with exact same name followed with numbers 1-5. Take a closer look in C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Captivate 5\Gallery\Captions\. Also note that you can apply gradient to captions but this doesn’t mean that you can choose any gradient and apply to caption and I have previously explained why. Actually you can but will look ugly when enlarged in Captivate. 

Do not use transparency when creating captions

And last note and limitation for today: do not use transparency for captions. So with all mentioned limitations I will suggest you to take a look at captions folder and examine how they are build (size, position, order).

Creating captions in Photoshop

Now we are going to larger NO Limit Photoshop World. Captivate fortunately accepts PSD files and Photoshop layer comps. PSD files will be converted in PNG format but also accessible from Captivate with automatic update (or manual if needed). In addition all required features are present: positioning, transition, timing, even visibility and transparency if needed.

Copy background image in Captivate

Let’s start from Captivate. Open your project and click on slide that need caption. Go to Edit > Copy Background. Now you have slide background image copied to clipboard. In this example I am using software simulation. Slide background is nothing else then static BMP or PNG image if slides are recorded, if full motion is recorded then you have swf file but background can also be copied (first sequence). Caption or imported PSD files can be placed anywhere on timeline with transition and timing when full motion movies in question.

Paste background image in Photoshop

Reason for copying background image is to enjoy live preview in Photoshop. Start Photoshop and go to File > New. Photoshop automatically offers to create new image with clipboard content sizes, accept and paste copied background from Captivate (Ctrl + V or Edit > Paste as usual). Now that we have background pasted in Photoshop we can play. Yes, we can play and apply to our captions everything comes to our minds without any limitation and with live preview how it will looks like in Captivate presentation.

Create captions in Photoshop

Lets give you an example. Select Rectangle Tool and choose Shape layers from options bar. Draw rectangle on screen.

Select Pen Tool (make sure layer vector mask with shape is active), click on Add to shape area from options bar and draw triangle to point caption to something.

Now you can combine rectangle and pointing triangle so you can move them and with Path Selection tool but you don’t have to, because layer and its content can be moved and with Move tool. To combine this two paths, drag marquee to select both elements and click Combine button in options bar. By the way layer effects and styles will be applied to shape as it is, combined or not.

Add text

With or without combined paths select Horizontal Type tool (or Vertical). Position the pointer inside the path. When the type tool is surrounded by dashed parentheses , click to insert text. In this way you will use shape path to create text box for type. Type your text and control text alignment, position from Character and Paragraph panels. From this panels can be controlled paragraph indent, first line indent, baseline shift and many other aspects you may need to control inside text box.

Create more captions in Photoshop

If you need more captions duplicate shape layer. Alt + click and drag above type layer. Move new shape layer because newly created shape layer is above and covers shape and type layers beneath. At this moment my suggestion is to select first shape and type layer and group them. Give a name to group, for example: slide 3, or caption 1 or whatever can remind you. When you are done and precise positioning is needed, select group and enter free transform mode (Ctrl + T is keyboard shortcut). Choose upper left reference point (because Captivate use that reference point) and position your caption. Take a look at X and Y fields. You can use them to position caption in Captivate exactly as appears on screen in Photoshop. Also any other size, rotation and skew changes can be done from options bar, text is also affected if group is selected before entering free transform mode. Confirm transformation by clicking on confirmation checkmark in options bar (or Enter key). Use and Grid, Guides, Ruler Tool in Photoshop to measure anything you need.

Continue working and making new captions. What you can do is to select all on Layer 1 (layer with Captivate slide background) and delete so blank layer will remain. Go to Captivate and copy some other slide background if you want and paste it in Photoshop to have live preview.

Create Layer Comps and save file

When you are done creating captions, delete Layer 1 (layer with Captivate slide background) and hold down Alt key while clicking on group visibility eyeball in Layers palette. Now you have only that group visible. Open Layer Comps from Window > Layer Comps. Before creating layer comps enter free transform mode to remind about X and Y position if precise position is needed. Create new layer comp and give it a name. For example: S3,C1,X70,Y170. I think this is easy to understand: X70 is 70 pixels on X axis and Y170 is 170 pixels on Y axis. S3 is slide 3 and C1 is caption 1 but you can use anything else to name layer comp this is only suggestion. Layer comp name will appear in captivate Library and we are going to import this file into Library in this tutorial. Create and other layer comps off course for every caption you have. Save file on disc in PSD format.

Import PSD file in Captivate

Go back to Captivate (or start it and open project). Click on Library panel then on Import button and navigate to PSD file. In Import dialog I suggest you to choose Flattened Image and Multiple for Photoshop Layer comps. Select Photoshop Layer Comps to import and do not worry about flattening because you can edit and update everything.

Drag imported captions onto slides

Find imported files in Library and drag and drop them into slides. As I have mentioned earlier layer comps names are associated with imported files so you can use them to position captions on slides or to remind you for which slide is particular caption created.

Edit PSD source file

To make any changes, right click on file in Library and choose Edit PSD Source File or from Edit > Edit PSD Source File. Save file after editing (File > Save) and go back in Captivate. Right click on caption on slide and choose Update from Source or open Library panel and right click on eyeball next to folder where are stored files and choose Update from source. Eyeball is green when files are in sync and red when not in sync so you can check if you have any pending changes.
Right click on file and choose Properties in Library to see properties including and whole name of file if is not visible in Library panel.

With imported and placed files you can do everything what can be done with caption plus to control opacity, hue, saturation..

Creating captions in Photoshop will not increase final output file.

Examples of created captions in Photoshop

Some examples and ideas:

Using Captivate / Noninteractive Objects and Media / Text captions / Creating custom text caption styles

Products used in this tutorial: Adobe Photoshop CS5, Adobe Captivate 5


  1. Great tutorial Bojan, very impressive. Detailed and easy to follow. Fantastic job.

  2. Thanks Anita, if you say tutorial is good then I am sure that I did great job.

  3. Excellent, just what i was looking for! I've made captions in the past with mixed success but following this guide has made me understand where i went wrong... thanks for sharing.


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