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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.
We are going to start things off by jumping feet first into the deep end of the Smart Filtering pool because I want to get a sense of how Smart Objects plus Smart Filters really facilitate the creative effects process. So I am going to take this image right here and by the way, it's called Young businessman.jpg. It's found inside the 05_smart_ filters folder and it comes to us from photographer Felix Mizioznikov of fotolia, about which you can learn more at fotolia.com/deke. I am going to apply the Color Halftone filter.
Not sure if you know about it, but you can render an image you're seeing gargantuan CMYK Halftone Dots, so that it looks like something out of the Sunday comics or perhaps a Roy Lichtenstein piece. And then though thanks to the fact that you applied it as a Smart Filter, you can turn around and customize the effect to your heart's content and that's what we will see here. So not a practical technique. Just a play technique. I am wanting to achieve a very specific effect though. I am wanting to get a highly graphical effect out of this image, the kind of thing I might use in an advertisement, for example.
All right, so step number one is to convert this image to a Smart Object as usual. Now, a couple different ways to work. We've seen how you can convert an image to Smart Object by going up the Layers palette flyout menu and choosing Convert to Smart Object. You can press Ctrl+Comma or Command+ Comma if you have loaded my dekeKeys. I will go ahead and escape out of there. You can also go up to the Filter menu and you can choose Convert for Smart Filters. Now all that does is it turns the image into a Smart Object but see, Adobe figured that not everybody would know, quite reasonably so I think, that in order to apply an editable Smart Filter, you first need to create a Smart Object which is the way it works.
So they went ahead and put this command here, so you would know if you want a Smart Filter, you got to choose this command to make a Smart Object. And in fact, when you choose the command, you get this alert message that says To enable re-editable-- what's wrong with just plain old editable-- Smart Filters, the selected layer will be converted to a Smart Object. And you go, hey okay, and you can if you want to say Don't show again on this one. I am just going to say OK and I will go ahead and rename this layer photograph, because it is my original photograph. All right, having done that, I am going to go up to the Filter menu, I'm going to choose Pixelate and all the Pixelate filters will go ahead and render the image out using various chunky affects.
You either can produce a circular pattern using Color Halftone. Pointillize also ends up delivering dots. Mosaic will give you big squares as if you've rendered the image at a lower resolution. Crystallize will give you sort of a stained glass look. Some of the others I really don't necessarily recommend. Facet sort of thickens the edges. Fragment makes it look jiggly. A couple of the worst filters in Photoshop frankly. Anyway I am going to go with this guy right there, Color Halftone. Just pretty darn exciting. And in by default, what you are going to see here, no preview.
This is one of those filters that doesn't give you a preview and by the way, most of the filters either give you no preview or bad previews. So that's just something you should realize when you're going into the Filter menu. There are some really great filters-- by the way, if you've seen my Photoshop CS3 Sharpening Images series, then you know the filters I really recommend. They are the edge detection filters, your Smart Sharpen, your High Pass, your Gaussian Blur, your Reduce Noise, that kind of thing. The others are effect filters and most of the effect filters are very difficult to predict and the only way to really come to terms with them is to spend some time with them.
If they're not working for you, there's a very good chance it's their fault because a lot of them aren't all that great. But anyway, here we are in Color Halftone. It's a super filter for what it does. By default, it's set to a Max. Radius of 8 pixels, meaning that you're going to have the circles that can grow to a maximum radius of 8 pixels. That's the diameter of 16 pixels, bear in mind. So higher values will give you bigger dots and the reason it says Max. Radius is because lighter areas are going to have small circles and darker areas are going to have big circles, just like halftone dots in commercial printing.
And so, for effect purposes, you want to go pretty big with this value typically. I don't worry about Channel 1, Channel 2, Channel 3, Channel 4. These are the CMYK channels incidentally. They are not real channels. They are channel in quote fingers, because we are still working inside of an RGB image here. But what they are is the screen angles and that's typically something you just want to leave to Photoshop because these screen angles are known to work well. They are actual professional standards, believe it or not. But if you want to achieve different effects, you can try different stuff. Just be prepared for the fact that you don't have a preview and you are going to have to probably modify your settings if you go playing with these guys, even if you just play with this.
In fact, let's go ahead and set this to 8, which is the default value, and I'll click OK and we'll apply the Color Halftone effect and I'll look at and I will think, hmmm, those dots aren't big enough. Well, the great thing about working with Smart Filters is it sort of takes care of that problem to a small extent where you can't preview the effect because the great thing here is you haven't really applied anything. It's a non-destructive application of filter because we have an underlying Smart Object here. So the original pixels are protected.
So all I have to do to change my mind, if I decide those dots are too tiny, all I have to do is double click on Color Halftone and then drag this out of the way so at least I can have a sense of what's going on there and then I could increase this value to 16 pixels. Let's try that again. It gets reapplied. Aha! That's looking better to me because I want this big, huge graphical effect. If that's still not what you want, you can double-click on the filter again. Try some new settings like let's try 20, what the heck. Click OK and see the size of the dots now and play around as much as you want.
Anyway, I am going to go back, set this to 16 and click OK, and I am done. Now I'm going to say one more thing here. I am not a big fan of having a filter mask by default because it takes up room inside of my Layers palette. It's not a problem to leave it there if you're happy seeing it, that's fine, but it's typically big and it's as big as the image thumbnail. It just consumes too much room. So, if you don't want it there, you just right-click on the filter mask and choose Delete Filter Mask. You can also go ahead and grab that filter mask, drag it and drop it on to the Trashcan icon if you want to but it's just so much easier to right-click and choose Delete Filter Mask, and there it goes.
If you ever decide you want a filter mask again later, which many times you will, then you right-click, not on the filter name but on Smart Filters above it there, right-click and then choose Add Filter Mask and your filter mask comes back. All right, anyway, we have applied a Smart Filter. We have edited the Smart Filter. But there are still things I want to do this filter effect. I am not happy with it yet and so we will experiment with the blend mode settings in the very next exercise.
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