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Adobe Photoshop is more than just an image editing application—it is a foundational staple in all the visual arts, from print design, to photography, to web design, to motion graphics and 3D graphics. In this course, Adobe Certified Instructor Chad Perkins covers the basics of Photoshop. Learn about the components of visual images, making selections, color correcting, fixing images, outputting images, and much more. This course uses Photoshop CS6, but the information presented is applicable to all versions of the application.
In this tutorial we're going to look at what a Smart Object is in Photoshop. And Smart Objects are actually really hard to explain cuz they do so many things in Photoshop. So we're going to look at mainly one or two purposes in this tutorial. I have these shapes here. I have the left shape and the right shape. We're going to focus on the right shape for the moment. I'm going to press Cmd+T or Ctrl+T on the PC to enter Free Transform mode and then I'm going to scale this down and click Return.
I'm going to do that again a couple of times. Ctrl or Cmd+T, scale it back up and it doesn't have to be perfect to constrain proportions. I just want to do this a few times to show you interesting concept while we're free transforming here. One more time should do it. Basically the point I'm trying to get here is that, when you free transform a layer, it destroys the layer a little bit. Every single time, it destroys the quality of the layer, just unavoidable you can't help it. As I zoom in here we have these same layers that were identical at one time and now the quality is markedly different even though they're the, still the same size.
I've just scaled it back down and then back up again. But all of that scaling has degraded the quality of the image significantly. We're still at 100%, it should be razor sharp and again on the left side it is razor sharp. It looks great. On the right-hand side we're starting to notice it's getting a little soft, a little ugly. And so what I want to do is start over again with this as a smart object. So I'm actually going to go to file>revert. Which will put this in the state it was when it was last saved. Delete everything I've done so far. And get back to a saved condition.
So I'm going to right-click on the Right Shape layer, and I'm going to choose Convert to Smart Object. And one of the things that happens as a result of it being the Smart Object, is now there's kind of a secret master stash of what the original image looks like, in its state right now. And then if we transform it, move it around it's just going to reference the original. So if I were now to Scale it down, Enter, Scale it back up and do this a couple of times, we will see that there is no loss in quality because it is constantly referencing the original. See, razor sharp, razor sharp, it's the same.
So that's one of the great benefits of Smart Objects. Another benefit of Smart Objects is if we apply filters to them, then it will not be a permanent change. If we apply filters to a regular layer, then the effect will be permanent on those layers. If we apply those same filters to a Smart Object, then we can go back and change our settings, or remove those filters altogether later on. Also, if I ever want to get access to the original file, I could go to the Layer thumbnail here, you notice this little smart object icon here.
I just double-click this, and this little dialog box comes up. I'll explain that in just a second. Click OK, and then we can work just on this image. If, let's say for example, I want to adjust the color of this image. I'll just go ahead and add Adjustment Layer>Hue Saturation, and let's play with the Hue of this for a second. And then I go back and I hit Cmd+S for save. Once I go back to my main document that is changed automatically. So I have access still to the original source content, of this Smart Object which is really cool. There's a lot of power here.
So not just with filters, and not just with scaling, but Smart Objects do so much more. If you drag in content from another document for example, and convert that to a Smart Object it will remember the document that it came from, and if you make the changes in source document, you could update that via the Smart Object here in Photoshop. So very powerful stuff working with Smart Objects. One other thing here, I have here I'm going to turn this on, I have a layer of left spikes. These little black and red, little spikes here.
And I've put these on different layers, and I've grouped them into a folder which I can do by clicking this little folder icon here and just dragging and dropping up layers into the folder. What I could do is right-click on this left spikes folder and convert the entire folder into a Smart Object, a single one Layer Smart Object. And if I ever want to access any one of these spikes independently. I could just double-click, go back to my Smart Object, and then here is my folder with all of the layers separate, I could click Save again, or Cmd or Ctrl+S, go back to my original document, and then that red spike is gone. So, again, Smart Objects give me so much power and flexibility when I'm working. And it makes sure that I can kind of explore and experiment and play around and not degrade the quality of my images by doing so.
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