I am reusing a design element many times in a single file. Rather than duplicating all the layers each time I reuse the element, I set it up as a linked asset which I include multiple times.

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This is great but there's one limitation which I was hoping to find a workaround for. Each time I place the linked element I'd like to be able to change one piece of text inside the linked file. I was hoping it would be as simple as going to the Properties panel and entering the variable value for each instance.

I know that Photoshop supports variables in some capacity so I looked into that. However that feature seems to be designed for a different purpose. Is there any way of passing through a custom variable for each placement of a linked file?

  • I believe you either need to embed the link... or edit the link. Allowing editing of linked files would be a huge mountain of logic to overcome. I mean, if you could edit a linked file without breaking the link... what happens when the linked file actually changes??? In most, if not all, publish <> subscribe features in any app.. a link is a link and not directly editable.
    – Scott
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:11
  • @Scott I'm just wanting to change the text in one text layer. Sort of like a mail-merge. Photoshop does support variables in text layers already, it just seems to be for bulk exporting a file with different text in each, it doesn't seem let me change the variable per link instance.
    – Andrew
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:15
  • 1
    My only suggestion would be to add something to a layer above the link to cover the area... then add text on a new layer. Or remove text from the linked file and set up the live text in your editing file. Your link stays in tact, and you have live text (which can be a variable) in the file you are working on.
    – Scott
    Feb 20, 2017 at 3:17

3 Answers 3


It seems that this is not possible in Photoshop CC 2017.1.0

I did some digging around and this feature is possible in Sketch. In this case the feature is called Overrides and you can override default data in a shared Object (Symbol). If you require this feature then exploring Sketch is currently your best bet.


As others have pointed out there is no real way to do that in Photoshop, or Illustrator, although Illustrator has dynamic symbols, the text inside a symbol is not treated as a dynamic/editable attribute - perhaps Adobe will think about that for a future update.

Anyway, @Metis gave me the idea for this in his comment. Here is a workaround that might be useful in Photoshop.

  1. In your graphical element smart object, delete the text layer, leaving only the common elements that will never change. Save and close the Smart Object.

  2. In the main document, type your text layer above the smart object.

  3. Group the Text layer and Smart Object.

  4. Each time you want a new instance of the graphic+text, duplicate the Group. The text will be editable in each group, the Smart Object will remain untouched.

  5. If you need to edit the Smart object, the changes will apply to all instances of the Smart Object in the main document, but not the text, since the text is not contained in the Smart Object.

A variation on this workaround might work in Illustrator too. Something like a dynamic symbol plus text grouped together should also work.


The exact thing you desire is not possible, but I often use this as a workaround: create a smart object, then right-click -> New Smart Object via Copy.

Using this, you get a clone of the original element, but you can commit changes without affecting the original one. It really depends how often you want to edit common elements in your smart objects, because my method actually un-links the instances, so it can be contra-productive in the long run.

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