I am working on a project in which I am designing a top-down tile map (think about the GameBoy world of Pokémon for instance). In my main file I am using many "sections", for instance part of the map is a forest: each tile in this section is a copy of a forest-tile, or I have a house-tile that is placed in different locations on the map.

The thing is, that these tiles are based on custom PSD files. So each tile is a PDF file, and the world map contains copies of these tiles. To improve my workflow, I'm looking for a way to make the world map behave as a template with containers. E.g. it would be useful to say that a defined shape is actually a PSD file named forest.psd. So each time I change something in the forest.psd file, my world.psd gets updated with the new contents of the forest.psd file.

I have never seen or heard anything like this, but it seems like such a useful feature! For instance, let's say you are making a poser (poster.psd) and you want a logo in there (logo.psd) you would just be able to define a layer with a certain size and say source:logo.psd, which would then fill that layer in these dimensions. In this latter example it might not be all that necessary, but especially when using a PSD file as a source multiple times (as is the case in my tile example) this would allow designers (and especially teams of designers!) to work so much more productively.

Tl;dr: is it possible to define a "section" (layer) in a file, which would fetch the contents of another file? A way to embed a PSD file in another.

  • 2
    Use InDesign. It is made to have this functionality.
    – Vincent
    Nov 13, 2015 at 13:59
  • Oh, and welcome to GD.SE! Have a look at the help center if you have any questions, and feel free to ping any of us in Graphic Design Chat!
    – Vincent
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:00
  • 1
    Smart Objects, Linked Files, InDesign ....
    – Ryan
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:02
  • 1
    @Vincent Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't InDesign especially used for poster design? I know that I mention posters in my example, but Photoshop feels more natural when creating a 2D mock-up of a world map. Nov 13, 2015 at 14:05
  • 2
    Given that you're placing the tiles next to each other InDesign would be a better option as a Compositing Application. Photoshop is most powerful when doing raster editing and modifications. Make raster graphics in Photoshop, complex vectors in Illustrator, combine the elements in InDesign where you also add the text and any simple vectors.
    – Ryan
    Nov 13, 2015 at 14:09

1 Answer 1


I should've searched better before typing such a long post...

This is indeed possible in Photoshop CC! You can link files in Photoshop. See this great video tutorial on the Photoshop website.

Do note that there's a difference between linking and embedding a file. It's explained in the first part of the video:

When you embed an image into Photshop into a new layer, you're saying to Photoshop "Give me a copy of it, and you know what? When you're done; throw the original away, I don't need it any more!" When you link, you are saying "Keep an eye on the original for me, and if anybody changes the original, I want to see these changes reflected in this document. (Or documents!)

Basically, to import (link to) a PS file in your current file, go to File > Place Linked...

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