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There might be times when you have multiple layers in your image and you want to filter them all at once. Let's take a look at these three small layers in this image. There is a Delta layer, an Ice layer, and a Sand layer. Now, these are already smart objects, because I wasn't sure the final size that these images should be. So certainly, I could apply a filter to each one of these layers individually. But, I can also select all three layers and then Right-mouse+Click and convert all three layers into a single Smart Object.
Now that all three layers have been combined into this single Smart Object, if I select Filter and then Distort>Ripple, I see my controls here, but I can't actually see the image. But, you'll notice that there are scrollbars. So if I scroll over, and scroll up and down, we can see all of these images. I could also fit this in the window, or I could use the Minus (-) to zoom out. I can control the amount of Ripple with the Amount slider. Then I can come down here, and choose whether I want Small, Medium or Large Ripples.
I'm going to go ahead with the Medium ones. The Large seem to be getting pretty abstract, and then I'll click OK. You can see that all three of these layers were filtered at one time. And of course I don't have to worry. If I want to make a change to any of the individual layers, I can always edit the contents of the Smart Object. As long as the Smart Object is selected, I can choose Layer>Smart Object, and then Edit the Contents. Photoshop brings up a warning dialog box. We'll click OK, and now you'll notice that I can work with each one of these layers independently.
What Photoshop has done is it's opened it up in its own window. Whatever changes that I make here, as long as I use the Save command, Cmd+S and then Close, Cmd+W, any of those changes would be updated in this master document. The other way to edit the contents of a Smart Object is to simply double-click on the Smart Object thumbnail in the Layers panel. We'll get that dialog box, but of course, we can click Don't show again. I'll choose OK, and this time let's actually do something to the image.
In this case, I want all of my images to fade off to the left. Instead of adding an individual layer mask for each one, I'll select all three and I'll group them together by using Cmd+ or Ctrl+G. Now that they're in a group, I can actually add a layer mask to the group. I'll click on the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. I'll tap the G key to give me a gradient. Where the mask is white, I can see the images. So I'll start about midway and then drag to the left in order to create a gradient that slowly fades out all three of these images.
I'll choose File>Save, and then File>Close or I could just click on the X and you can see that now all three of those images fade out. If I don't like what I've done, it's easy to put it back since that was the last step that I just did. I'll use Cmd+ or Ctrl+Z, and now we're back to where we started. If I decide at some point that I don't like the Ripple effect, I can go ahead and hide that as well. But, for now, let's leave it on. So, if you ever have multiple layers, and you want to apply the same filter to all three layers, just select all of the layers, convert it to a Smart Object, and you can filter non-destructively.
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