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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.
In this gallery, all the images of the Mona Lisa have filters applied, but they're all copies of the same smart object. Let's see what happens if we replace one of these smart objects with another image. We'll use another famous painting, The Laughing Cavalier by Frans Hals. There's our image, let's Select All and Copy it. And with that copied to the Clipboard, we can now put it away.
Now, we want to change one of these Smart Objects, it doesn't really matter which one, so let's pick the first one we placed which comes in as layer one. When we double-click it, it opens up, and we can see the entire contents of the Smart Object. So, when we choose Paste, we can place Frans Hals on top of this. Now, because we have several images here where we can see the eyes clearly, let's position this so that the eyes overlap the eyes of the Mona Lisa underneath. To do that, we can lower the Opacity of this layer to 50% and that allows us to see through it.
If we make the window slightly larger, we'll be able to get to the edges of the new placed image much more easily. If we go into FreeTransform, we can pick this up, position it as a we want and maybe even rotate it slightly to make those eyes line up a little bit better. And now that these two faces line up exactly, let's return this to a 100% Opacity. Now, I'm going to Zoom out on this so that the picture appears very, very small.
So far, we've placed The Laughing Cavalier on top of the Mona Lisa within our image. What we haven't done is save it. So now, I'm going to go to the file menu and choose Save Image, and watch what happens. As it saves it, it saves it back into one of those Smart Objects, but every other one of the Smart Objects is automatically updated because they're all copies of the original. And you can see how the each filter that we applied to the Mona Lisa is now perfectly applied to our Laughing Cavalier as well.
It's fantastic that Photoshop is able to do this and able to do it so fast because it gives us great flexibility. When we duplicate the Smart Object by dragging, we're only duplicating an instance of that Smart Object, and so it remains linked to the original. This can be a tremendous benefit when placing multiple copies of a company logo, for example, only to find that the company changes its mind later. What if we wanted to make a copy of it that wasn't linked to the original? Well, rather than simply holding Option or Alt and dragging, what we can do is go to the Layer menu and choose Smart Object > New Smart Object via Copy. And there is a copy of our original.
If we open this one up, and, for example, we were to paint on this, let's switch to a hard-edged brush and scribble over the face. When we save this one, we can see that it only affects that copy and not all the others. That's because we chose Layer > Smart Objects > and New Smart Object via Copy. Doing it this way, means the copy is no longer linked to the original. Once again, we've seen how Smart Objects can make our working life in Photoshop that much more flexible and that much easier.
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