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Reagan Ray is the lead designer and resident illustrator for Paravel.

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Global Lighting in Photoshop

September 19, 2011

Most of you are Photoshop masters, so I expect all of you to know what “Global Lighting” is (in Photoshop). If, by chance, you do not fall under that category, Global Lighting is a feature that gives the appearance of a global light source that shines on the entire PSD file in a constant angle. It affects things like drop shadows, inner shadows, bevels etc. One could say that it is a pretty useful tool. I do not say that.

As you may have guessed, I have some serious beef with Global Lighting. Up until a few years ago I used it for every mock that I created. I was under the impression that this feature helped speed up my design process. Global Lighting’s main advantage (for me) is simple: after setting the global lighting for the first time, every new layer will automatically have the same angle and direction of lighting, saving the user time setting it up for each layer. Seems like a sweet feature, right?

Wrong! The problem with Global Lighting starts when you are working as part of a team and your PSD’s are coded or worked on by a different member of this team. That person may have their default Global Lighting set to something different, or better yet, they mistakenly (or not) change it. Though it might seem like a small thing, it changes the entire look and feel of a mock. Now imagine a front-end developer, mistakenly writes the mark-up based on a different Global Lighting setting. Going through the mark-up and comparing it with the PSD, reverting all that mark-up back to the original design with the correct Global Lighting, could mean a ton of work!

The good news is that this is preventable. “How?” you might ask. Well, it is simple - never use Global Lighting. It will mean that you will have to manually set the angle for each and every layer. “But what if I want to change the global lighting in the middle of the project?” you might also ask. In my work process (mainly interface design), style and global lighting elements are set pretty early in the process, rarely (never) changing later on. If your work process is different, then this answer will not apply to you and you might be better off taking your chances with Global Lighting. But if you do work in a similar manner, I would suggest to avoid it. It may save you some serious frustration in the future.

Produced By

Yaron Schoen

Interface Designer
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