I'm a designer and have recently got a job creating merchandise for the music industry.

I have to create product ranges alongside our clients - creating PSD mock ups and technical sheets for perhaps 10 different products, that then need to be saved as PDFs so our clients can view them. Often i'm using art work that is already created by clients who are not designers, which i then have to make work for the product. I am showing mock ups to my client, team members and manufacturers who all want it in a different format.

Im faced with multiple changes (requested by the client) in both colour, design style and size - up to ten changes for a single logo on a hat. At the moment, i'm creating a new PSD file (V1, V2 etc) each version of a product (and saving as a jpg for the manufacturer who will only make one or two of the products). I then turn each file into a single document PDF using the batch option in photoshop for the client. This obviously creates lots of old versions of the PSD & JPG docs and PDFs and i have to go into each individual file and make multiple tweaks before resaving everything twice as PSD, reopening all the lastest PSDs and saving as a multi page PDF. It feels like a clunky way to manage the projects and makes it easy to miss a file and have an old document in circulation, leading to mistakes. I keep the old documents as clients sometimes revert back to a previous versions and i dont want to have to re-do work.

I have asked my bosses to send out a proper brief for the clients, giving me all the specific information so that we have less changes but they wont use it, as as i'm new i don't want to press to hard on this (yet!).

Im wondering if anyone has a better work flow for this kind of project? Or any tips or tricks to making this process easier?

6 Answers 6


Versioning will always be a thing, you'll rarely if ever get it done in one go.

Your method sounds good but if you are accidently getting an old document into circulation then that's on you to be more vigilant.

Always rename the "new" old file to become the newest file version. So if you revert to V2 and make changes or don't, copy it and make the newest V#.

File management is tedious and a hassle but it is necessary.

  • Thats good to know its just something we have to deal with! i wonder if basecamp or asana would help our team navigate the endless email chains full of old info and versions!
    – Betty
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:51
  • Email chains are a whole other beast...It really all depends on your main program. Outlook is fairly common and does a good job with chains and folders. Oct 19, 2017 at 19:23

Maybe I'm not understanding everything you're asking but one tip I could give is to click on the tab in your file explorer that makes it organize by date so you do not accidentally grab an old document if it really happens that much.

  • Yeah thats a good tip - its actually my work colleagues who don't realise i've made new versions and just go from whats in the chain email - im pushing for us to use base camp or another piece of project management software so i'm not constantly sending out emails to everyone and we have everything in one place!
    – Betty
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:49
  • How about maintaining a dropbox folder with always the latest files and never attach them to emails. Just share the folder link and give them a shout when files have been changed...
    – AAGD
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:56
  • I'm surprised you don't have a server in house for your team. Is everything really handled by email? If everyone had access to the same file server than it would be really obvious what is revision 1 or 2 because it would be filename-R1.ai I'm confused now because you mentioned emailing Oct 18, 2017 at 20:05
  • We do have a drop box but i'm finding my team keep going from older versions or missing emails with updates - it might just be that its an internal issue with our way of working - you can lead the horse to water...etc!
    – Betty
    Oct 18, 2017 at 20:07
  • Also instead of saying thank you as a comment you are supposed to upvote what answer you think is helpful. It doesn't have to be my answer but just upvote whatever answers help you. Comments are not for thank you. Its for clarification. Thanks! and welcome to stack exchange Oct 18, 2017 at 20:08

Usually in Photoshop what I do is, for example, I will create a layer group from all my layers and name that layer group version 1 and the date. If my customer wants edits, then I create another layer group and name it Version 2 with the date.. And so on and so on. The plus side is I have one file with all my versions. The downside is the file size can become huge

  • Thank you - i've thought about this - as im exporting to pdf in the long run this might be a great option!
    – Betty
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:47
  • 1
    You may also want to look into using "layer comps" in Photoshop. helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/how-to/layer-comp-updates.html
    – wch1zpink
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:57
  • Layer Comps can also be very useful to keep multiple things in a PSD file and export to different formats quickly.
    – AAGD
    Oct 18, 2017 at 18:58

Versioning is a big problem in software development but was solved by Git.

With git you only have 1 file but you can easily reset it to the state of a few seconds ago, days ago or even back to the first version of your file. These instances in time are called "snapshots".

It's clutterfree, safe and easy.

How to use git with Photoshop.

There is only one problem: Git works best with text-based files (source code) which results in a bit of a slow down with large files (basically every psd file). This problem can be solved with large-file mode.


A very easy and out-of-the-way method is using a file hosting service with file versioning. For example Dropbox.

You have your files online and every time your file changes Dropbox will keep a copy of the old file. You can restore any point in history by going into your dropbox folder, displaying your file details and restoring whatever point in time you request.

Dropbox removes file history for files which haven't changed in a few weeks so I don't know if this quite fits your needs. There are other hosting services out there. The Do-It-Yourself approach would be ownCloud. There you have full control over the file storage and you can adjust the amount of time a snapshot is being stored. I personally use ownCloud and I have years of history back thanks to some over-investment in harddrive space back when I set the system up).


For Photoshop, I would merely use internal layers, groups, or Smart Objects.

  • Duplicate existing layers/groups, to create new layers/groups, make the change and title the new layers/groups appropriately. That way you have a single .psd file with all the changes within it.

Of course it kind of depends on file size and how extensive the changes are.

I deal with this a great deal where InDesign files are concerned. But at times I treat larger Photoshop/Illustrator projects this way because duplicating layers/artboards isn't feasible based upon the file itself.

So, I use.....

.... file naming and OS directory structure. Each file is dated in the file name: Client_Project_Spec_17-10-18.sfx (client_project_versionidentifier_yr-mnth-day.sfx). The 'versionidentifier' would be something like "green" or some other unique aspect which may be needed to identify the versions. it's not always necessary. I only use it when it's helpful.

Then I use a directory structure:

[ Client ] [ Project ] [ Client Files ] -- stores anything the client has sent me regarding project [ Version A ] __yr-mt-dy.indd __yr-mt-dy.pdf __yr-mt-dyPDFx.pdf [ Older ] -- stores older version of .indd and pdf files [ Working ] -- stores custom graphic links for the .indd file [ Version B ] __yr-mt-dy.indd __yr-mt-dy.pdf __yr-mt-dyPDFx.pdf [ Older ] -- stores older version of .indd and pdf files [ Working ] -- stores custom graphic links for the .indd file

So, when I have a change to the .indd file, I copy the existing files to the Older directory and then change the file name on the indd file to today's date.

That way the directory has the "live" versions at the top level, but should I need to refer to an old version, it's in the Older directory.

This does all get backed up nightly. And since I'm copying and moving files, it can often mean the backup gets much larger than necessary due to file duplication. I will, yearly, erase and rebuild the backup to clear duplicate files. But I have triple redundancy backups... so I'll do one backup in Jan/Feb, then another in Jun/Jul, then the third in Nov/Dec. That way I pretty much always have a back up of anything I've done in a year should it be needed.

What I might do in your case, is create an InDesign file to configure the PDFs needed. Then place the .psd files in the InDesign file and set up layer visibility to show the various versions. Then you can open the InDesign file, double-click a link, make edits, save, the link updates, and export a PDF. This would certainly allow easier, visual, organization for me than a bunch of separate .psd files or a single .psd with a ton of layers would provide.

I always find it easier to option-double-click a link in InDesign to edit a file than to try and find that specific file in the OS file structure. It's easier to look at something and think "Yeah, that's the one I need to edit" for me. Then when it opens, I can note the specific file name for the link if needed.

This is all just general info. I assume there may be intricacies in your workflow that may or may not benefit from any of this. Truth is, unless I'm working on the same project with the same deliverables, it can be difficult to be definitive.

Beware of using name distinctions such as... "new" or "final". In my experience they are never actually that. There's always one more change. So you run into things like "New new" and "final final" or "new final" or "Final really", etc. Which doesn't do anything but confuse the matter. This is why I specifically place the date in the file name. If the file is worked on more than once in a day I use alpha characters, i.e. 17-10-18b, 17-10-18c, etc.

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