Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 4)

Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 4)

In this post we will continue our exploration of Variables and Data Sets in Photoshop. This time we will work with Visibility variables which can give you more flexibility and options to work with.

Why use Visibility variables

First of all to give you information that Visibility variables can be assigned to individual layers or layer groups. You can combine Visibility variable with Pixel Replacement (pixel and vector based layers) and Text Replacement (Type layers) plus to assign it to adjustment layer or layer group. Note: only Visibility variable can be assigned to adjustment layer and layer group. With Visibility variables we are completing all options for variables that can be used to create Data Sets.

What is the benefit of using Visibility variables (and variables in general)
Using one or more variables you can create Data Set. In essence, each Data Set created is actually duplicated original template (after exporting Data Sets) with control over content. With Pixel and Text Replacement variables you are controlling image (s) /graphics and text in each and every duplicated original template. With Visibility variables you are controlling visibility of layers/layer groups in template.

Visibility variables are very useful to experiment with different design elements and effects. You can have as many design elements as you want on separate layers or inside layer groups and to control their visibility using Visibility variable. It is a great time saver with instant preview on screen.

Here is one example with photo downloaded from depositphotos. They have tons of similar photos which can be used for similar effect and purpose. It is really not difficult to create an effect as shown below. One shape (duplicated multiple times), Bevel and Emboss and Drop Shadow is all you need.

What I have done is to draw heart shapes and to clip layers for image to each of heart shapes. Next, I have grouped each heart shape and image clipped to it. I end up with Pixel Replacement variables assigned to layers prepared for images and Visibility variables assigned to layer groups. Then I started playing around with visibility variables assigned to layer groups.
Control visibility of layer using Visibility variables

Instead of placing images and showing/hidding layers and groups manually (or using Layer Comps), you can simply control which layers and groups are visible from Variables dialog. This can be also done using external text file prepared in advance, but that will come later. For now we will keep it simple.
Control visibility of layer groups using Visibility variables

How to assign and use Visibility variables

To follow along you must have at least one layer in your document which have Pixel Replacement variable. I will suggest you to download Old photo template and follow steps in the previous tutorial. In addition go and download actions provided in tutorial How to Use and Export Color Lookup Tables in Photoshop CC 2014. Export CUBE files as explained so you can use them with Old photo template.

We stopped in the previous tutorial with Pixel Replacement and Text Replacement variables assigned in our Old photo template. If you are following along then you should have at least a couple of Data Sets created. I have 3 Data Sets created, by the way. First, take a look how your Layers panel should look like.
Layers panel

Before we proceed select 4 adjustment layers below scratches layer and delete them.
Delete adjustments layers

Step 1 Add Color Lookup adjustment layer
You should have image layer selected. Go and add Color Lookup adjustment layer. I will load exported CUBE file as explained in the previous tutorial. You can use any of default presets which ships with Photoshop. After adding Color Lookup adjustment click on the first icon from the left in the Properties panel to clip the adjustment layer to image layer. We are using Color Lookup adjustment as sample because it saves time by itself since it is usually created from several different adjustment layers.
Clip Color Lookup layer to image layer

Add one more Color Lookup adjustment layer and do exactly the same: clip it to layer below (Color Lookup 1).
Clip second Color Lookup layer

Lastly, turn off visibility for both Color Lookup layers (hide layers) by clicking on the eyeball on the left side of the layer.
Hide both adjustments layers

Step 2 Assign Visibility variables to Color Lookup layers
It's time to assign Visibility variables. Go to Image > Variables > Define.

Select Color Lookup 1 from the Layer: drop-down list.
Choose Color Lookup 1 from drop-down list

Click on Visibility to appear checkmark and optionally rename variable using text field next to Name:. I will name my variable with OldPhoto_1. Note: no spaces are allowed in variable names.
Variable for Color Lookup 1 assigned

Variable name must begin with a letter, underscore(_) or colon(:). Variable name cannot contain special characters except for period (.), hyphen (-), underscore (_) and colon (:).

Do the same for Color Lookup 2 adjustment layer.
Variable for Color Lookup 2 assigned

Click Next button on the right side of Variables dialog and you are done in this step.

Step 3 Control visibility of adjustment layers
At this point you should see dialog with visibility variables added to Pixel Replacement and Text Replacement variables. I will assume that you are following along and continuing from the Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 3). If you do not see image loaded then turn on Preview on the right side of Variables dialog.

Both layers: Color Lookup 1 and Color Lookup 2 has Value set to Invisible because we turn off visibility before visiting Variables dialog.

Click on line with: Layer > Color Lookup 1 (or Name > OldPhoto_1) to select it then change Value: to Visible. Take a look at the Layers panel and you will see that eyeball in front of Color Lookup 1 layer is open what mean that an adjustment is applied to the image layer which is below.
Change visibility of OldPhoto_1 variable to Visible

Go and click on the arrow on the right side (Go to the next data set) of Data Set: to load Data Set 2.
Load the next data set

This time set Value for OldPhoto_2 to Visible. Select second line with Name > OldPhoto_2 (or Layer > Color Lookup 2) and change Value to: Visible. On Layers panel you will see that visibility of adjustment layer: Color Lookup 2 is turned on and you are seeing a photo with different look or effect applied to it.
Change visibility of OldPhoto_2 variable to Visible

Step 4 Continue changing visibility and confirm changes
You can continue loading Data Sets and changing visibility of Color Lookup adjustment layers. When you are done, click on OK to confirm and exit the Variables dialog. Now you can export all Data Sets as explained in all previous posts with Variables in title (parts 1, 2 and 3).
Do not forget to click OK button

Here is my final output result from this tutorial (continued with Data Sets from previous post as explained above).
Final result from this tutorial

To be continued

This tutorial was a simple introduction to how to use Visibility variables. Hopefully you can map this feature to your future projects. When you have more complex projects then you must have more layers and more Visibility variables. Obviously you will have some layers hidden in exported files and probably you will want to get rid of them. It is very simple to do with simple action and batch process. You can remove all hidden layers in a second or minutes. Not only that you can remove hidden layers, but you can use actions to rotate frames and images if that's final effect you are looking for. Of course, much, much more can be done when combining variables and actions and its extremely simple, easy and fast. Stay tuned, we will continue in the next tutorial.

All posts in this mini-course
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 2)
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 3)
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 4)
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 5)
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 6)
Easy Way to Automate Photoshop with Variables (Part 7)
Why and How to Combine Text/Pixel Replacement Variables With Visibility Variables in Photoshop

Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop CS6

Photoshop Help / Creating data-driven graphics


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