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Photoshop CS4 offers an abundance of helpful shortcuts and hidden tricks that allow designers and photographers to get more done in less time. In Photoshop CS4 Power Shortcuts, Michael Ninness reveals hundreds of tips to boost productivity, including the top 20 power shortcuts every Photoshop user must know. He covers strategies for better document and panel management, and offers techniques for becoming quicker and more nimble when using layers, adjustment layers, and layer masks. Exercise files accompany the course.
Download the keyboard shortcut guide from the Exercise Files tab.
All right, let's talk about nondestructive transformations. So let's begin by getting this big layer active. I'm going to turn off the small layer, turn on the big layer here. We're going to Free Transform this. Command+T, Ctrl+T brings up Free Transform. Again this is a huge image. So I'm going to do Fit to Window, Command+0, Ctrl+0. Then I'll hold down my Spacebar so I can see a full bounding box for this large layer here. I'm going to go ahead and hold down the Shift key and scale this thing proportionately really small. I'll put in the center of our document here, like so.
I'll just go ahead and press Enter here to apply that transformation and then we'll do a Fit in Window again, Command+ 0, Ctrl+0. Looks great. Everything is fine. Then I decide that you know what that's a little bit too small. I want to make this a little bit bigger now. So I'm going to do Free Transform again. Command+T and then I'm going to hold down the Shift key and I'm going to scale it back up. Really, really big. Let's go back to fit to window here and we'll scale that a little bigger and then I'll hit Return. And then Ooh! Well that doesn't look so nice, right? Because Photoshop by default, when you do transformations, they are destructive. Now when you make things smaller, you tend not to see the degradations as much because you've still got enough resolution there and it's getting smaller. But when you take something small and make it big, things tend to get pixilated or soft or smudged, or whatever. It just doesn't look very good.
So I'm going to revert this file. File > Revert. Let's get us back to the beginning here. I'm going to turn off that small layer and go back to the big layer and turn that on. What I want to be able to do is be able to have the flexibility to change my mind. I may not know exactly how big I want my particular layer to be, and I want the option to be able to go back to a larger size after I've made something smaller and still have access to the original pixels. That's what Smart Objects are for. So before I do the Free Transformation, I'm going to right-click are Ctrl-click on the name of the layer and choose Convert to Smart Object from the pop-up menu. Now this gives the layer a special icon, little adornment here in the bottom right hand corner of the layer thumbnail. What this means is that Photoshop has now embedded a full version, a full copy, of this layer inside its document, which is going to come in handy when we change our mind.
So let's do the Free Transform again, Command+T. We'll do a Fit to Window, Command+0, Ctrl+0, and that's around again. Again, we'll go ahead and make this thing really tiny holding down the Shift key to do proportionally, hit Return and we'll go ahead and Fit to Window again, Command+0 or Ctrl+0. There is my small looking image. It looks good. But now I want to go back to a larger size. Okay. So we'll do Command+T again, Ctrl+T. This time we'll drag it bigger, holding down the Shift key to do it proportionally, I get, like so.
Then when I hit Return, or Enter, watch what happens? I don't end up with a soft squishy image. I get a nice sharp high resolution image again, because what it's doing is it's going back to that embedded copy of that original layer and resampling it from its original pixel data. So you're not up sampling a small version. Now you're actually going back to a large version and re-downsampling it to this new size. Now this does affect your file size. You are embedding a full copy of that large file. But you know, disk space is cheap. Buy a bigger hard drive.
When you're working inside Photoshop, you don't really care so much about the file size as long as you've got enough memory to handle it. Of course, when you print this out or you are going to take it to another application, you're going to flatten it down anyway and save it as a JPEG or TIFF or whatever. So there you have it. Nondestructive transformations in Photoshop, compliments of Smart Objects.
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