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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.
When you place a file created by another application, such as Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop retains a link to the original file. Let's see how this implementation of Smart Objects works in practice. Here's a can, and we wrapped a label around this earlier in this workshop. So, let's double-click that Smart Object. To open it, we can see the contents, in this case, it's just a grid. What we're going to do now is place a file inside this. So, we go to the File menu and choose Place.
And we'll pick Label.ai with just an illustrative file I made earlier. We'll get a standard preview of the place of PDF, and we can just say OK to it. And here it is. Now, it's coming again much too big, but that's not a problem. We can easily grab a corner handle and simply scale it down. Because we haven't placed it yet, we're not going to lose any quality. And because it's coming in as a vector image, we can distort it as much as we want without ever losing quality.
There it is sized for the can, so we can just click OK to apply that transformation. Now, you'll notice that this Illustrator file has transparency with it. So, although the two red bars are objects added in Illustrator, there's no equivalent white panel behind this. We can fix that by going to our grid and simply filling this with white. So, there is our new label. And when we save this PSB, it'll save it onto the Smart Object and back onto the can.
Here we go. And there's our label wrapped around the can. Now, an interesting thing to notice here, if I close this down, there's the can, and here is our Smart Object showing up as layer 2. and you can see it's a Smart Object by the little icon in the corner. If I double-click it, it will open the contents of that Smart Object in the new window. And we can see the label is itself, a Smart Object, and that's indicated by this icon in the corner once more. So, this is a Smart Object nested within another Smart Object. What happens now when we double-click this Smart Object? What happens is it switches to Illustrator to edit this object, and we can see it's saying to us, the document's been modified outside of Illustrator, how do you want to proceed? Do you want to discard the changes? Do you want to keep the changes? Well, in this case, we want to discard the changes because they're all to do with the transformation we applied in Photoshop.
That's not relevant now. Let's just click OK. What happened here is rather interesting. It has opened the file as a straight up, but it is not our original label. Here's our original label behind. It has opened as a New Smart Object, as a new Illustrator file. So, although it's allowing us to edit it in Illustrator, it is not opening the original Illustrator file. Nonetheless, we can still change the colors. We could take these two boxes and change them to a green, and we could change the text if we want, and we can now save this.
And when we choose Save, it saves it back into that Vector Smart Object that was placed into Photoshop. Which means when we now go back to Photoshop, there it is updated within the Smart Object. When we now save this total Smart Object, it's saved back onto the can itself. Working with Illustrator objects isn't a question of editing the original, it always a copy of them. And that concludes this workshop on Smart Objects.
They're one of Photoshop's best kept secrets, but the power they hold is undeniable. Once you've started using Smart Objects in your everyday workflow, your Photoshop experience will never be the same again.
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