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What are Smart Objects? In this introduction, we'll look at how to turn a regular layer into a Smart Object and we'll see how it can give us the flexibility we simply don't get when working with a regular Photoshop layer. So here's a cutout picture of a man. And if we hide the background we can see it's a true cutout and he is on his own layer. The first thing I'm going to do is to duplicate this layer and the easiest way to do that is to use the Move tool and hold down the Alt key on a PC, Option on a Mac, and simply drag it and that makes a copy of the layer.
If we held the Shift key as well then it moves it directly horizontally. And we can see this appears in the Layers panel as man copy. We're going to turn this into a Smart Object, and we can do that by going to the Layer menu and choosing Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object. And there it is. When we look at the Layers panel now, we can see this little smart object icon in the corner. And that's our only indication when looking at it, that this isn't a regular layer.
So far we can see no difference, the two look identical. Here's the difference however. If we select the man and the copy, so I've held the Shift key down to select both of these. Let's now go into Free Transform. We can scale this down. Let's take it down to a small size. Let's rotate it. And in fact, let's scale it down much smaller so you've got a tiny copy of our two layers. And we'll hit Enter to commit that transformation.
So once again, we got our two layers shrunk down but we can see no difference between the two. Well, we now do see the difference when we transform this once more. So let's go to Edit > Free Transform again. Now let's scale these up to make them closer to their original size. And rotate them back to a normal orientation. We'll make them a bit bigger and we'll position them in the middle of the page. Now, while we're within Free Transform, you can see that the image on the left, the original there, is completely pixelated.
When we hit enter, Photoshop will perform its automatic interpolation to try and take that tiny version of the layer and blow it up. And here's what happens. We can see the result immediately. The image on the left is so degraded it's now virtually unusable. Whereas the image on the right is as good as the original, and that's because of the clever way that Smart Objects work. The entire original layer is stored within that Smart Object. We can rotate it, we can distort it, we can transform it, we can do anything we like to it and it always refers to the original layer. We've now created our first Smart Object, but we've only just scratched the surface.
We'll go to see how we can edit and manipulate the contents of a Smart Object.
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