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Photoshop Smart Objects explores the creation and use of Smart Objects, one of the most technically demanding tools in Photoshop. Deke McClelland walks through the four primary purposes of Smart Objects, and focuses on one of their most practical advantages, non-destructive transformations. This feature allows any object to be manipulated in any way, while still maintaining its original pixel information. Finally, Deke shows how to crop compositions without affecting a single pixel, even in masks. Exercise files accompany this course.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
Yet again, I cannot give you a catch-up file. So, I am imagining that you are working along with me and having a happy time creating these sorts of static electricity trails. More than lightning I think because they are going in all different directions, here inside of this Smart Object. And we created these trails using a combination of Clouds and Difference Clouds filters that are modified using an arbitrary map, which is essentially an application of the Curves adjustment layer that is created using the Pencil tool and the Smooth function.
Anyway here we go. We are totally covering up the green to black lens flare in the background. So, I am going to turn off lightning for a moment, so that I can see what I am doing in the background here and I'm going to switch from the Rectangular Marquee tool to the Elliptical Marquee tool and I'm going to drag outward from the center of this lens flare. So, I begin dragging like so and then I am going to press and hold the Alt key or the Option key on the Mac. So, I am going from the center outward. Then I will also press the Shift key, so I'm drawing a circle, so I have Shift+Alt down, that's Shift+Option on the Mac and then in order to make sure that the circular marquee, the marching ants, are centered around the lens flare ring, I will go ahead and press the Spacebar, so I still have Shift+Alt down.
I know fingers are getting to work at it at this point. But I've got Shift+Alt down, Shift+ Option on the Mac and I am pressing the Spacebar, so that I can move that marquee independently of the image and then once I get everything centered the way I want it, then I'd go ahead and release the Spacebar and at that point I can return to scaling my marquee like so. All right, so when it gets to be about this big, so that we have a little overlap around the outer ring, go ahead and release and then turn the lightning layer back on.
And now I want you to click on lightning and I want you to drop down to the bottom of the Layer palette and I what you to click on the Add Layer Mask icon, which gives you this effect here. So, now we have gone ahead and masked the plasma effect inside of a ball. I want a softer drop-off than this. I want a nice feathering effect here. So, if you're using Photoshop CS4, you can go up to the Masks palette and making sure that your layer mask thumbnail is active, go ahead and enter a Feather value of 80 pixels.
Now, you can achieve the same effect in a static application of Gaussian Blur. If you're using Photoshop CS3 or earlier, select that layer mask, go up to the Filter menu, choose Blur, choose Gaussian Blur and enter a Radius value of 80 pixels. This is the same thing. It's just that Feather is dynamic/ parametric/nondestructive, meaning you can come back and edit it anytime you like. So, it's a more flexible solution. All right, we now have these wonderful tendrils. It's almost like we are building a world here.
One more thing we need to do. With this layer selected and it doesn't matter if the image thumbnail is active or if the layer mask thumbnail is active, go to the top of the Layers palette, click on the Blend Mode pop-up menu and change the mode to Screen and you'll get this effect right there. And we have now done it. We've now created a plasma ball effect of sorts and what I am going to do is I am going to click the Close box in order to close this Smart Object. And then Photoshop will ask me if I want to save my changes. I most certainly do want to save my changes, so I'll click on the Yes button or the Save button and in a moment, I'll have to wait for it, I am going to see this huge, super-massive Smart Object that contains all of the eight true clones, as you may recall and you can see that they are merging with each in this absolutely amazing fashion that we are seeing right there and it does look fairly electric at this point.
Now then, it's very important that you see this screen. You can't have already closed this Smart Object before you start working on the other one, because each nested Smart Object has to be saved in turn in order to get the information back to the larger image composition. So, you've got to keep all your nested Smart Objects open while you're working on the core Smart Object or the core image itself and then you close each one incrementally and save your changes to get back to the big composition, which is what we are going to do here.
So, I will close this super-massive Smart Object and then I'll click Yes in order to save out my changes. Save on the Mac, Yes on the PC. And then, I will return to 1st draft.psd and watch it happen. Just like that we invoke all of those plasma ball modifications. Now there is one more change I want to make to this composition. I want to click on SO combo light right there, which is currently set to the Screen mode, because I'm feeling like this is a fairly sort of diminished application of this plasma ball static charge here.
I think if there were really tendrils of plasma lightning, they'd appear a lot brighter than this. Maybe the colors would be more vivid as well and we can achieve that effect by switching the Screen blend mode out for either Color Dodge. I just will give that a try and see what that looks like. A very, very colorful effect. But I think the better option for our purposes is Linear Dodge (Add) because it's the same as the Add blend mode. And we get this effect here. Oh my gosh! That is it, folks. That is the final version of the effect.
Now don't expect it to look exactly like Final CD cover, because you can see that anything you do is random. So, here's Final CD cover that I saved before; here is my effect this time around. So, every time it's going to be different. But you most certainly are going to get symmetry. Notice the symmetrical effects going on here, because of all that flipping we did earlier and so on. And we are going to get some wonderful lightning effects as well. All right, so that gives you a sense of what you can do with nested Smart Objects inside of Photoshop. We will see much, much more in future chapters.
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