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Photoshop Smart Objects explores the creation and use of Smart Objects, one of the most technically demanding tools in Photoshop. Deke McClelland walks through the four primary purposes of Smart Objects, and focuses on one of their most practical advantages, non-destructive transformations. This feature allows any object to be manipulated in any way, while still maintaining its original pixel information. Finally, Deke shows how to crop compositions without affecting a single pixel, even in masks. Exercise files accompany this course.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
Now, I said we are going to use a Curves adjustment layer in order to transform this cloud pattern into a kind of lightning effect and we are going to do that, but first I want to take a moment to answer a hypothetical question. Those of you who are paying very close attention might say, hey Deke, is there any advantage to applying the Clouds and Difference Clouds filters as Smart Filters, and what is the advantage and how would you go about doing it in the first place? Well, check this out. I am still working inside of the Smart Object. This is one of those times I can't provide you with a catchup file, so I am just assuming you are still working along with me.
I am going to create a new layer, Ctrl+ Shift+N, Command+Shift+N on the Mac and I am going to call it empty, because it's going to be empty and then I will click OK. Now, let's convert that to a Smart Object by going up to the Layers palette flyout menu and choosing Convert to Smart Object or pressing Ctrl+Comma or Command+Comma on the Mac, if you loaded dekeKeys and now it's a completely empty Smart Object, which affords us the opportunity to apply Smart Filters. Watch how this works. I will go up to the Filter menu, I will choose Render and I will choose Clouds and I apply a new Clouds pattern on top of the old one.
So, ignore lightning for right now. We have got empty up here. Now, I do get a filter mask. I don't want it. It's cluttering up the proceedings. So, I am going to right-click on that filter mask and choose Delete Filter Mask. We will see how great they are later when we are start getting into Smart Filters, but right now I want it out of there. Now check it out. Normally, when you double-click on a Smart Filter name, you're going to edit its settings. For example, Lens Flare down here, if I double-click on Lens Flare, then I will get the Lens Flare dialog box and I can modify the settings and then click OK in order to update things.
In my case, I am going to click Cancel, because I didn't do anything. Clouds doesn't have a dialog box. So, what happens when you double-click on Clouds? You regenerate the clouds. Is that not cool? So you can go hey, I like that better or hey, I like that better or something, and if you don't, you can back step. You can press Ctrl+Alt+Z or Command+ Options+Z on the Mac to back step to a former incarnation of Clouds. So you have basically infinite control. Now, you could have done that with a Clouds filter here as well with a static application of Clouds. Here is something you couldn't do though before.
Your Difference Clouds,you cannot change nearly as easily when applied to static filters as you can when you will apply them as dynamic Smart Filters. So, check this out. I will go up to the Filter menu and I will choose Render once again and then I will choose Difference Clouds and now I can say hey, I like those Difference Clouds or no, I don't. Double-click and try them again, double-click, try it again. If you double-click the underlying Clouds filter, notice you are going to get a warning that's telling you that Smart Filters stacked on top of this filter will not preview while this filter is being edited.
In other words, you are not going to be able to preview Difference Clouds while you are working on Clouds. You are only going to be able to see Clouds and lower. They will be applied after committing the filter parameters dialog. The only problem here is there is no dialog box. So, we just get this alert message for nothing, because as soon as I click OK, it regenerates. So, you are just going to have to wait it out with this alert message. Now, I don't recommend you say Don't show again at this point, because this is a valuable alert message in my opinion. Up to you though, but anyway you will click OK to let it rip.
All right, you don't have to do that though when you are clicking on the top filter in the stack. So that's a no penalty filter right there. All right, now I will press Ctrl+F in order to apply another round of Difference Clouds and Ctrl+F and Ctrl+F, that's Command+F on the Mac, and altogether we should have four rounds of Smart Clouds on top of Clouds and then I could just keep tweaking the effect by double- clicking on the top Difference Clouds to get an ideal effect at some point in time. Now that is pretty darn flexible. You may like it.
You may not like it. It does add to the file size. Because as I understand it, every single one of these filtered effects has to be cached inside the file. So, you are growing, growing, growing the file as you apply each round of filter. So that may be too much for you and especially where something like Clouds is concerned, is it really worth it when really you are going to get a random effect and no matter why you are going to be able to make it work? I am going to come down on the side of no. In fact I am going to go ahead and press the Backspace key to get rid of that empty layer.
However, you may come across a time when you find that extremely useful, but I am here to tell you this. The moral of the story is that's all you got to do to create that Clouds effect is just create an empty layer, turn it into a Smart Object, and start letting the filters rip. And if you want to change the random variation of Clouds or Difference Clouds, all you have to do is double-click on a filter and Photoshop updates the effect. In the next exercise, we will really create a Curves adjustment layer in order to bring out the lightning inside of this lightning layer.
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