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Photoshop for UX and UI Design

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› Photoshop for UX and UI Design
  • Published on June 18, 2015

Even with the addition of multiple artboards in the latest release of the app, using Photoshop for UX design is not the best option for most UI and UX designers. Many UX and UX designers use Photoshop because they know the app, or at least they are comfortable using it. Yet comfort with a tool doesn’t make it the best choice for the job. Once you’ve advanced beyond the sketchbook and pencil with early designs, and are ready to move to wireframes and mockups, there are a number of reasons why Photoshop is not the best tool for efficiently creating UX designs, and why we won't be rushing to add more Photoshop skills into our UX courses :

  • Most UX projects created in Photoshop have too many layers to effectively edit and manipulate. Attempting to make even a minor revision to text or an object can become an ordeal in trying to identify and select the object.
  • Smart Objects in Photoshop, which are often used to tame unwieldy layers, become cumbersome to edit and revise.
  • Most artwork created in Photoshop isn’t scalable, making it difficult to create multiple sizes for various screens, such as mobile, tablet, and desktop.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use Photoshop for UX design. You absolutely can use Photoshop for creating wireframes, mockups, and user interface controls. Yet Photoshop is generally more time consuming than is necessary if you were working using other tools.

 Most UX designs for apps and websites that are being built in Photoshop can be created most efficiently using Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator makes it easy to select content without unwieldy layer management or smart objects. Additionally, in this age of responsive design, artwork created in Illustrator can be scaled and exported at multiple sizes with no loss of quality or fidelity, providing several good reasons for UX designers to learn Illustrator.

While Adobe’s addition of multiple artboards to Photoshop is seen as a nod to UX and UI designers working with this tool, this is a functionality that has been available in Illustrator for several years. We like both Illustrator and Photoshop, but each tool belongs at different places in a UX design workflow. Similarly, we’ve written many books on both Photoshop and Illustrator, and suggesting that one tool is better for a task than another isn’t playing favorites – each has its own place in a design workflow. In most stages of a UX design workflow, Illustrator is a better choice than Photoshop. The best UX design tools are those that help you to efficiently create, iterate, and share your designs

About the author

 is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.

Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.