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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.
One of the great benefits of Smart Objects is when working with complex distortions. Here, we'll see how to make a label that wraps around this tin can that will then allow us to place any artwork we choose onto that can. I've already removed the original label and replaced it with a plain shaded version. So, let's begin by selecting the label itself. Or we can use the Quick Selection tool and drag it over this to make our initial selection. Now, one thing when using the Quick Selection tool, if we go into Refine Edge, we can see, actually this has made quite a rough selection.
That's not good enough. If we check the Auto Enhance button, then when we use the Quick Selection tool, and I'm going to use it here to remove the top of the can. After we release the button, it'll tidy up that edge for us. When we now go into Refine Edge, we can see it's a much closer fit. Still a bit ragged on the bottom, so let's Cancel, and let's add a little bit more of the can down here.
Don't worry about what's happening at the side, that won't matter to us. Back into Refine Edge, and that's not a bad fit. So, let's now take our selection and make it into a new layer using New Layer via Copy, and that will be the basis which we'll use for our Smart Object. Now, we could take the artwork we're going to want to end up with and distort that to fit our label. But because it's such a complex distortion, it's going to be quite hard to see what's going on.
Instead, let's use this regular grid. And this will enable us to see what's happening much more clearly. We can drag this into our image and then close the original. Let's call this grid and make it into a Smart Object. Now, let's make this smaller, and I'm going to make it smaller so that the sides are roughly the same size as the sides of the label behind. That looks about right, let's put that in place.
Now then, I could stretch the bottom so that the sides line up with the very edges of the label just where the base of the can turns the corner. And I'll say OK to that. Now, we only want this visible where it overlaps the layer beneath. So, let's make a clipping mask of the layer beneath by going to Layer > and Create clipping Mask. As you can see, we can only see the grid where it overlaps our label.
Let's go back into FreeTransform. The original handles appear, and now let's switch into Image Warp mode, and we'll Zoom in a bit. What we're going to do now, is to pull down on these top handles to make the shape of the top of the label more closely match the shape of the can. Now, because this is a 3-dimensional surface, as it bends away from us, so the sides will appear shorter from the front. So, let's pull our handles towards the sides to get the right kind of effect. And let's do the same thing on the bottom of the can, we'll pull the corners in so that they match the edges of the can and we'll pull these handles down through this label, now starts to follow the angle of this can. Now, we can't quite reach the bottom handles.
To do that, we need to press the F key to change our mode of view from a Standard window to a Full View against a gray background. But we can't do that while we're within FreeTransform, so let's hit OK to apply the FreeTransform. We can now press F and we can see our window now floating in a gray background. When we go back into FreeTransform, it's very gratifying to find it exactly as we left it with all our handles in place.
Let's pull this one down, and the other one, and we're never going to get a precise fit here, but this is about the best we can hope for. Now, let's Zoom out a bit. We can see at the moment, this can seems to buckle inwards and that's because as well as the control handles around the edge, we've also got control handles within the can itself. First, we need to adjust these side ones to make it follow the angle of the side of the can. And now, we need to grab these inner handles and move them outwards. Now, I'm moving this a little bit further than I need to because when I grab the opposite one, it's going to pull that one back a bit. And there's often a little bit of going backwards and forwards here because these handles do interact with each other to create a sometimes rather unusual and unexpected deformation.
This is quite a fiddly process, and it's somewhat irritating that these handles do effect each other. It would be much more easy if they acted completely independently. But with a bit of fiddling about and quite a lot of patience we find we're able to get pretty much a grid that matches the perspective and the viewpoint of this can. One thing we can do is hide the extras and that's going to hide everything except the layer itself. We can still drag on it and sometimes it's easier to see what we're doing without all those handles getting in the way and misleading us. Now, as I said, we're never going to get a perfect result this way, but that is just about good enough for our purposes.
There's a slight problem with the corners. We needn't worry about that. By the time we wrap our artwork on to this, it'll look just fine so let's say OK to that. Now, complex distortions such as this can take a lot of getting used to. So, it's a good thing that thanks to Smart Objects, we only need to perform this operation once.
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