Thanks for coming to, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

Editable, Formatted Text from InDesign to Photoshop

In the current issue of Layers magazine, a reader wrote in bemoaning the lack of a Glyphs palette in Photoshop. It’s hard to locate a unusual glyph without it, that’s for sure. Type expert James Felici replied that the “best bet” would be to set the type in InDesign or Illustrator and export it to Photoshop. (Otherwise, he said, you could try Window’s Character Map or OS X’s Character Palette, though neither is as useful or functional as Adobe’s Glyphs palette.)

I read that advice and wrote back to Layers, asking the editor to please ask Jim how exactly you’d set type in InDesign and export it to Photoshop, so that the text came in with the same formatting and was editable. I mean, think about it – sounds impossible.

But after I sent the e-mail, I figured out a way. It’s kind of a hack, but it’ll do until Jim (or one of you) tells me of a better way.

The Illustrator CS2 method is easy. In Illustrator, after setting your funky-glyph-laden block of text, you could choose File > Export > Photoshop and in the Options dialog box, turn on Write Layers and Preserve Text Editability. When you place that file into Photoshop, it comes in as an editable Smart Object, transparent background, all weird ligatures and such intact. When you edit the Smart Object, a separate Photoshop window opens with a live type layer containing all of your formatted text. Easy.

But InDesign has no “export to layered Photoshop file” function. You could export to JPEG or to EPS, but both of those methods rasterize the type in the end. (If you don’t care about editing the text after placing it in Photoshop, EPS works fine, I’ve found. Maybe this is what Jim was talking about.)

Okay, so what I discovered while fiddling with this was to export the text as a PDF from InDesign. That is, put the frame containing the formatted text on its own page and then export just that page to PDF. Place that PDF into Photoshop (choose crop to bounding box at the prompt so only the frame is placed). The text comes in as a Smart Object with its formatted type sharp with a transparent background just like an EPS, but when you double-click the Smart Object, instead of rasterizing the type as it will do with an EPS, it opens it up in Illustrator as live text!

What’s so hacky about this? Well, smart guy, when’s the last time you opened a PDF to edit the text in Illustrator? Yechhh. All the text gets broken up into small chunks of “point type” making it very difficult for anything but minor edits. Also, if you delete or add lines of text, then save your changes and return to Photoshop, watch out for some severe type distortion as Photoshop updates that Smart Object, rendering it unusable.

Wouldn’t it be better if we could, say, place an InDesign snippet in Photoshop? It would come in as a Smart Object, and when you wanted to edit it, it’d open in a temporary InDesign window, same as how it works now for placed Illustrator Smart Objects.

I don’t know how often I’d ever need to do that, but it seems like the missing link in the whole Smart Objects thing to me. Doesn’t have to be a snippet, of course. (It’s just that I feel sorry for snippets and am always trying to find ways to use them outside of InDesign…)

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at or on Twitter @amarie
Anne-Marie Concepcion

Latest posts by Anne-Marie Concepcion (see all)

  • - November 30, -0001
Related Articles

7 Comments on “Editable, Formatted Text from InDesign to Photoshop

  1. i feel everyone’s pain with this. the lack of a glyph palette in photoshop is a major pain. i even asked the photoshop developers at adobe’s conference in nyc (when CS2 was first launched) how i would get a custom glyph in photoshop without a glyph palette and they indicated i’d have to go into illustrator instead and that photoshop “was not a page layout app” so they didn’t add it.i also brought up the issue of pasting text between photoshop, illustrator, and indesign and the issues that existed there only to hear the response that “the 3 apps don’t share the same text rendering engine so they are not compatible.” here’s hoping for more compatibility in CS3.

  2. Hey, guys! I don’t know why Layers magazine is making it so difficult.

    Steve and I covered this in Real World CS2.

    If you need a glyph in Photoshop, just open InDesign or Illustrator and use the Glyphs palette in either of those programs to add the glyph on the page.

    Then copy the glyph and paste it into Photoshop.

    Photoshop may not have a Glyphs palette, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t understand glyphs.

  3. Sandee, you’re right, copying/pasting a glyph does work (couple minor caveats with that below). Thanks for adding that!

    But in defense of James and Layers mag, I’ve been exchanging e-mails with them … bottom line was he had an extremely limited word count in his reply in the Letters to the Editor column. So essentially, “set the type in Illustrator and export it or place it into Photoshop; or set the type in InDesign and cut and paste the type into Photoshop” could only be expressed as “set the type in Illustrator or InDesign and export it to Photoshop.” (and this was just one bit of a longer response).

    I think my brain got stuck on his “export from InDesign” bit … how to get a block of formatted text from InDesign into Photoshop with styling, uncommon glyphs and editability intact. It seems it should be possible, no?

    Anyway, copy/pasting a single glyph (or a block of text) works, with the following provisos:

    – You have to paste into an active text layer in Photoshop … it won’t create one for you.

    – Photoshop overrides the font with its current font for the text insertion bar. If you copy an Adobe Caslon Pro glyph and paste it into a Photoshop text layer where, say, Adobe Jenson Pro is the current selected/active font, the glyph comes in as Jenson, not Caslon. You need to select the pasted text and change the typeface manually in Photoshop for it. If you copied a pile of text set in various faces, it also all comes in as the current typeface.

    – Even if the typefaces are the same, Photoshop doesn’t automatically “turn on” Open Type features as necessary. Copy an Oldstyle number in Caslon from ID, paste into a Caslon text layer in Photoshop, it comes in as a regular number. You need to select the number and choose Oldstyle from Photoshop’s Character > Open Type menu. (I think that just Standard Ligatures and Discretionary Alternates are enabled by default for Open Type fonts in Photoshop CS2.) Ditto for small caps, ornaments, fractions, etc. This is probably a feature in an alternate universe, in mine I think of it as a bug. heh…

    But at least you can get it in there! While we wait for a Glyphs palette in Photoshop.

  4. I hear you on this one! i am trying to find a wayto avoid duplication in my workflow for my web work. I use In design create wireframes very quickly with all resources in the library, but then when I come around to creating visuals I literally haveto start them from the ground up. snippets and preserve layers (at paste or export) would certainly make life a lot easier. OK I could create wireframes I illustrator, but why should I! if these are suppose to be integrated then it shouldnt be a request for the wishlist. It should just WORK!

  5. Russell Brown has a (typically wacky but highly informative) tutorial on getting opentype features into a Photoshop layout on his website. The Quicktime file is called “OpenType and Photoshop CS2” and you can find it by scrolling waaaay down the page at
    He uses a combination of Illustrator and Photoshop that works for me in most situations without a hitch.

  6. Anne-Marie, I’ve never run into a problem with OT features not being turned on in Photoshop. Possibly that’s because I typically do most of the work in Photoshop and go to Illustrator only to adjust the OpenType features (alternate glyphs, etc.). When I paste the result back on top of the original, it retains the changes from Illustrator.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *