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Working with Layered Photoshop Files in FCPX

Danny Greer

Round out your video editing skill set by learning how to optimize your Photoshop files for Final Cut Pro X!

Importing layered Photoshop files into earlier versions of Final Cut Pro was one of the quickest ways to give yourself a headache. Layers ended up as a nested clip and it was time consuming to identify what each layer was. If you applied an effect or changed any aspect of one of the layers, you’d be in for painfully long render times. To top it off, the Photoshop files led to all sorts of instability issues, occasionally causing FCP to give errors or crash.

Since the 10.0.3 release, you can now bring Photoshop files into Final Cut Pro X. A few of the above pain points have been addressed, but a few of these quirks still exist. Knowing how to prep your Photoshop files for Final Cut Pro X will keep you out of hot water.

The following two resources provide everything you need to know about working with Photoshop files in FCPX.

MacBreak Studio: Photoshop Files in FCPX

In the video above, the guys from Pixel Corp present an informative, entertaining primer on working with Photoshop PSD files in FCPX as part of their MacBreak Studio series. Discover how to bring Photoshop files in as layered graphics and how to add new layers to those graphics in FCPX (once new layers are added, they become compound clips). You can easily identify what elements are on each layer by taking advantage of the FCPX clip skimming feature. Other highlights from this video tutorial include:

  • How to identify your Photoshop files in FCPX
  • Transform and add effects to individual layers
  • Keyframe specific layers of the Photoshop file
  • Using transparency (alpha channels) from your Photoshop files

Here’s an important tip for success in FCPX: Rasterize all layer effects before saving your Photoshop file. Adjustment layers and layer styles will not be translated into FCPX unless they are rasterized or flattened first.

FCPX & Photoshop Best Practices

After the release of 10.0.3, Apple released a white paper on the best practices for creating a layered Photoshop file in FCPX. This is a lot of technical info, but here are a few standout points.

  • Photoshop files should be in 8-bit RGB color mode before being brought into FCPX. 16-bit color mode files will come into FCPX flattened, 32-bit won’t input at all
  • Use the default film and video frame sizes in Photoshop (files that are too big will cause FCPX to be sluggish or crash)
  • Photoshop blending modes are supported only if there is a FCPX equivalent
  • FCPX supports enabled and disabled layers
You can find tons of info and technical FCPX & Photoshop specs on Apple’s site. And if you’re looking to get better with Final Cut Pro X, our blog is loaded with tutorials, tips, and techniques — including our Final Cut Pro X Editor Kits, featuring free footage from Shutterstock and royalty free music from the PremiumBeat library!
How’s Final Cut Pro X working out for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!