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Most Adobe Photoshop artists don't make use of Smart Objects, and thus miss out on a potentially very powerful tool. With Smart Objects you can create a complex transformation once and then swap out the contents for any artwork you choose. In this workshop, Photoshop artist and author Steve Caplin shows you how you can use Smart Objects to enhance almost all your Photoshop work. Learn to simplify and speed up repetitive tasks, and create templates that can be repurposed as many times as you wish.
This image of a girl is a Smart Object, not a regular Photoshop file. It contains a camera raw image. And because this is a Smart Object, we can't erase the background using any of the standard Eraser tools. What we can do, however, is to create a Layer Mask for it. Now, all we're going to want of this image is the top half. So, let's start off by cropping just down to the waist. That gives us the much smaller image to work with.
Obviously, because this is a Smart Object, everything that had been cropped off still remains within that Smart Object file. Now, even though this is a smart object and we can't paint on it, we can still use the Quick Selection tool. So, let's drag this over our image, and we can see how the girl becomes entirely selected. If we've missed any pieces, like just underneath her arm here, we can hold the Shift key to add them. If, as happened here, we've taken in some of the background we didn't want, we can hold the Alt key on a PC, Option key on a Mac, and drag over this to remove it from our selection, and the Shift key to add this little bit here, and we're just about there.
Now, whenever we work with a Quick Selection tool, making the initial selection is just part of the story. We then need to open the Refine Edge dialog to make it look fine. Viewing it against white, we see a pretty good cutout but then we were looking at it against a white background initially. If we change the view to black, we get a rather a different story. We're getting good results around the body, but the hair needs addressing.
This is one of the huge strengths of Photoshop CS5, is the Edge Detection dialog and this is a new part of the Refine Edge dialog. If we check the Smart Radius button, all we need to do is drag our cursor over the image. And when we drag over the edge, we can see that Photoshop intelligently removes the background. Let's carry on with the other side of the head.
And once again, all that background is taken out, and we're left with this rather nicely cutout hair. If we want, we can shift the edge slightly downwards to contract our selection and that has the effect of removing any slight fringing that there may have been on the edge of this hair. We need to output this not to a selection but to a Layer Mask because we're working with a Smart Object. This is very important.
Let's say OK to this. So, there's our Smart Object with the Layer Mask. And as we can see, her head has gone a little too transparent. But it's easy to fix that by switching to the Layer Mask. We can use the Brush tool and I'll choose a small soft-edged brush and paint in white on here to paint that layer mask back in. The important area, these soft wispy bits of hair, I'm going to leave alone, because they are very clearly cut out by the Refine Edge dialog. You can easily paint this back to get a much more convincing hair cutout. And on this side, and the beauty of Layers Mask is that what we've taken away is hidden and not erased.
We can easily paint it white to bring that back again, and there is our completed cutout of this girl. Creating a Layer Mask is the ideal solution when we need to hide part of this Smart Object layer. It leaves all the original content intact so we can always return to it later.
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