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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.
Smart Objects don't behave in quite the same way as regular Photoshop layers. For one thing, we can't paint directly onto them. Here's our original pair of layers, the regular one on the left and the Smart Object on the right. Let's see how we can manipulate both of them. So, we'll switch to our original layer and let's Zoom in on him. Let's switch to the Color Replacement tool, and we'll pick a blue for our foreground color. With this tool, we can paint over his waistcoat, and as you can see, the color brush simply replaces the color underneath the crosshairs, a very quick and easy way to change the color of your waistcoat.
Let's move over to the Smart Object, and try this one here. So, we'll switch to the Smart Object layer and try painting. Well, the first thing we can see, is that there's a symbol showing us we can't paint on here. And in fact, if we try to paint on here, we're going to get a Warning dialog coming up that says, This Smart Object must be rasterized before proceeding and added contents will no longer be available. Well, we don't want to rasterize the Smart Object because that would turn it back into a regular layer. So, let's Cancel that operation.
And it tells us again, we can't use the Color Replacement tool because the Smart Object is not directly editable. And you may think, whoa, does that mean we can't edit it? Well, it doesn't, it means we can't edit it directly, we can't paint directly on it as a Smart Object. What we can do is to edit the contents. If we double-click the Smart Object layer, we get this dialog coming up. And it says, after editing the contents choose File > Save to commit the changes, and so on. We'll just click OK to that. What happens now is this Smart Object opens in a new Photoshop window and this is called mancopy, which is the name of the smart object, .psp. And psp is an internal Photoshop file format.
So, let's Zoom in on this. And now, we can use the Color Replacement tool to change the color of this waistcoat. And as you can see, we can paint directly onto the layer within this Smart Object. And there's the color changed. Now, we'll remove this out of the way. This is the content of a Smart Object but the actual Smart Object itself remains in the window behind. And we could see that it hasn't yet changed and that's because we haven't saved this file.
We can use the shortcut Cmd+S on a Mac, Ctrl+S on PC or go to the File menu and choose Save. And as soon as we do that, the contents of the Smart Object are updated. We can now close the contents and there is our Smart Object now updated to show the editing procedure we just carried out. But painting on Smart Object is just one of the ways in which we can edit the contents. We'll go on to see how we can take that editing a stage further.
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