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Working with Smart Objects

From: Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

Video: Working with Smart Objects

Every time that you perform a Transform command on an image, like scaling or distorting or rotating, you're degrading the image and if you transform an image more than once, it really can start to look poor, blurry and pixelated and you may not want to use it. There is a solution to this problem and that is to convert layers into Smart Objects before you transform the content. You can make a Smart Object out of one or more layers. In this case, let's make a Smart Object out of the flowers layer and the black matte layer behind it.

Working with Smart Objects

Every time that you perform a Transform command on an image, like scaling or distorting or rotating, you're degrading the image and if you transform an image more than once, it really can start to look poor, blurry and pixelated and you may not want to use it. There is a solution to this problem and that is to convert layers into Smart Objects before you transform the content. You can make a Smart Object out of one or more layers. In this case, let's make a Smart Object out of the flowers layer and the black matte layer behind it.

I'll show you what's on those layers. The first layer has these flowers and the second has just this plain black rectangle. And then there is a book behind them. I'll select both the flowers layer and the matte layer by holding down the Command key on a Mac or the Ctrl key on a PC, and clicking the second layer. And then I'm going to combine those into one Smart Object by holding the Ctrl key as I click on a Mac and right- clicking on a PC to bring up this menu, where I see Convert to Smart Object.

I can select that command from here or from the Layers panel menu. I'll click that and now you don't see the matte layer here in the Layers panel. It's been combined with the flowers layer and put inside a Smart Object that's represented by this icon here on the layer thumbnail. Because this is a Smart Object, I can transform more than once without harming image quality. Let me show you. I'm going to press Command+T on a Mac, that's Ctrl+T on a PC, to bring up my Free Transform bounding box. And then I'm going to move my mouse over one of the corners of the box, hold down the Shift key to Constrain Proportions and drag down to make this image really small.

I'll release the mouse and release the Shift key and then I'll go up to the Options Bar, and I'll click the checkmark to commit the transform. So, let's say that later I decide gee, I don't like this. I'd like the flowers to be big again. So again, I'll press Command+T on the Mac, Ctrl+T on the PC, I'll hold the Shift key and I'll drag from one of the corner points to scale the image up. I just want to be careful not to go more than 100% up, because that would be asking Photoshop to create image information for me.

So, I'm keeping my eye on the W and the H fields in the Options bar to make sure I don't go higher than 100%. I'm going to click the checkmark in the Options bar and you can see that even though, I have transformed that image twice in a very extreme way, it still looks fine. What's happening here is that when I created that Smart Object, Photoshop took the image information about the original image and tucked it away or embedded it inside the Smart Object. And then when I transformed the Smart Object, Photoshop referenced that original information and rerendered the image.

You can see how useful Smart Objects are when you're transforming, but there are some things that you can't do to a Smart Object. For example, if I get my Paintbrush and I try to paint on this layer, I'm going to get a warning saying that I can't do it unless I rasterize the Smart Object, which means turn it back into a regular layer. If I don't want to do that, I'll press Cancel, and I have yet another warning saying that I can't use the Brush tool on a Smart Object. So I'll say okay. Basically you can't do any pixel-based editing directly on the Smart Object and you can't access the layers that have been embedded inside the Smart Object, unless you do this.

I am just going to double-click on the layered thumbnail on this Smart Object layer, and I get this message reminding me that after I edit the contents of this Smart Object I should save it to the same place so that my changes are updated in the file I'm working in. I'll say OK and Photoshop goes ahead and opens a second image for me. This one is called flowers2.psb and you can see it's different than plant.psd, which is the original image I was working in a moment ago. Here in this psb image, if I look in the Layers panel I see that I have my original layers back again, the flowers layer and the matte layer.

So, let's say I want to paint on the flowers layer. I've got my Paintbrush selected over here in the toolbox. In the Options bar I've set the Painting Mode to Color, so that I can paint on this image and still retain its shading. I've lowered my Opacity to about 50% and I'm going to come in with the blue paint that's in the foreground color box, and just paint a little bit of blue on this. I could do other pixel-based editing too. For example, I could get the Dodge tool and I could come in and dodge some here making the image a little bit lighter.

When I'm all done with my edits, I'll make sure to save in the same location. I'll choose File and Save and then File > Close. That takes me back to my original image, plant.psd, and I can see the changes that I just made inside the Smart Object here in my main file. I'd like to show you one more thing about Smart Objects and that's something new in Photoshop CS4. In the past if you added a layer mask to a Smart Object, the mask would not be linked to the object. And that would be a problem if you moved the object around, because the mask wouldn't go with it.

Now, in Photoshop CS4 layer masks are linked to Smart Objects. To show you that, I'm going to get my Rectangular Marquee tool here and I'm going to drag a rectangular selection inside of the photo. Then I'm going to add a layer mask, by clicking the Create New Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers panel. You can see the layer mask here and you can see its Link icon and in the image, you can see that it's hiding the edges of this image. Just to make that look a little better, I have my Masks panel open here.

This is a new panel in Photoshop CS4. If yours isn't open, you can open it from the Window menu at the top of the screen, and I'm going to drag my Feather slider over to the right to just soften the edge of that mask. Now let's say that I need to move the photo over a little bit. If I get my Move tool and I drag the photo, the mask goes with it and it still looks good. I can go the other way and the mask goes with it. The change is that in the last version of Photoshop, there was no Link icon here between the mask and its Smart Object.

So without that Link icon, which I've just turned off by clicking, if I moved the image the mask would not go with it and that doesn't look right, as you can see. So I'm going to undo that by pressing Command+Z on the Mac or Ctrl+Z on a PC and I'll link the mask back to its Smart Object by clicking between the two and then I'll drag my image back into place. And that's what I wanted to show you about Smart Objects. As you can see they come in really handy when you are transforming. Just be sure to convert layers to a Smart Object first and you can transform as many times as you like.

Show transcript

This video is part of

Image for Photoshop CS4 Essential Training
Photoshop CS4 Essential Training

103 video lessons · 67513 viewers

Jan Kabili
Author

 
Expand all | Collapse all
  1. 2m 31s
    1. Welcome
      1m 27s
    2. Using the example files
      1m 4s
  2. 25m 14s
    1. Touring the interface
      4m 25s
    2. Working with tabbed documents
      5m 15s
    3. Using tools efficiently
      3m 51s
    4. Arranging panels
      3m 53s
    5. Customizing keyboard shortcuts
      2m 50s
    6. Saving a custom workspace
      3m 0s
    7. Changing screen modes
      2m 0s
  3. 19m 3s
    1. Touring the Bridge interface
      6m 31s
    2. Opening images from Bridge
      1m 20s
    3. Reviewing images
      4m 42s
    4. Finding images
      6m 30s
  4. 44m 53s
    1. Setting preferences
      4m 23s
    2. Choosing color settings
      8m 11s
    3. Zooming and panning
      5m 27s
    4. Resizing and image resolution
      3m 17s
    5. Adding to the canvas
      2m 2s
    6. Rotating the canvas
      1m 44s
    7. Choosing color
      4m 49s
    8. Sizing a brush tip
      3m 4s
    9. Undoing and the History panel
      5m 0s
    10. Saving and file formats
      3m 29s
    11. Creating a file from scratch
      3m 27s
  5. 37m 58s
    1. Making geometric selections
      6m 14s
    2. Modifying selections
      4m 43s
    3. Combining selections
      3m 16s
    4. Using the Quick Selection tool
      5m 34s
    5. Refining selection edges
      4m 12s
    6. Using Quick Mask mode
      2m 18s
    7. Selecting with the improved Color Range command
      4m 32s
    8. Selecting with the Magnetic Lasso tool
      2m 28s
    9. Using the Background Eraser tool
      3m 7s
    10. Saving selections
      1m 34s
  6. 39m 56s
    1. Understanding layers
      5m 43s
    2. Creating layers
      5m 12s
    3. Working in the Layers panel
      2m 19s
    4. Locking layers
      4m 17s
    5. Working with multiple layers
      4m 6s
    6. Merging and flattening layers
      3m 55s
    7. Adding a shape layer
      4m 43s
    8. Basic layer masking
      4m 23s
    9. Using layer blend modes and opacity
      5m 18s
  7. 23m 19s
    1. Cropping
      3m 26s
    2. Straightening
      3m 17s
    3. Transforming
      4m 42s
    4. Working with Smart Objects
      6m 48s
    5. Using Content-Aware Scaling
      5m 6s
  8. 1h 10m
    1. Reading histograms
      4m 21s
    2. Using adjustment layers and the Adjustment panel
      6m 4s
    3. Adjusting tones with Levels
      7m 49s
    4. Limiting adjustments with layer masks
      5m 40s
    5. Using masks in the new Masks panel
      6m 9s
    6. Limiting adjustments by clipping
      3m 6s
    7. Adjusting with Shadow/Highlight
      5m 7s
    8. Adjusting with Curves
      7m 37s
    9. Adjusting with Hue/Saturation
      3m 42s
    10. Adjusting with Vibrance
      2m 16s
    11. Removing a color cast
      4m 26s
    12. Using the Black & White adjustment layer
      2m 39s
    13. Using the Dodge Burn and Sponge tools
      4m 11s
    14. Reducing noise
      2m 39s
    15. Sharpening
      4m 42s
  9. 38m 0s
    1. Using the Spot Healing Brush tool
      5m 17s
    2. Using the Healing Brush tool
      5m 51s
    3. Using the Patch tool
      4m 52s
    4. Using the Clone Stamp tool
      4m 8s
    5. Enhancing eyes
      9m 29s
    6. Changing facial structure
      5m 0s
    7. Softening skin
      3m 23s
  10. 44m 38s
    1. What's a raw image?
      4m 25s
    2. Touring the Camera Raw interface
      7m 35s
    3. Working in the Basic panel
      7m 54s
    4. Working in the Tone Curve panel
      2m 21s
    5. Working in the HSL/Grayscale and Split Toning panels
      3m 46s
    6. Looking at the other Camera Raw panels
      3m 45s
    7. Using the Adjustment Brush tool
      4m 2s
    8. Using the Graduated Filter tool
      3m 56s
    9. Working with multiple files
      6m 54s
  11. 21m 6s
    1. Using the Brushes panel
      8m 30s
    2. Filling with color
      3m 49s
    3. Replacing color
      4m 14s
    4. Using gradients
      4m 33s
  12. 16m 55s
    1. Working with point type
      9m 59s
    2. Working with paragraph type
      3m 17s
    3. Warping text
      3m 39s
  13. 25m 23s
    1. Adding a layer style
      4m 6s
    2. Customizing a layer style
      3m 35s
    3. Copying a layer style
      3m 5s
    4. Creating a new style
      3m 32s
    5. Using Smart Filters
      5m 22s
    6. Working in the Filter Gallery
      5m 43s
  14. 13m 14s
    1. Auto-blending focus
      4m 47s
    2. Creating Photomerge panoramas
      4m 2s
    3. Combining group photos
      4m 25s
  15. 23m 27s
    1. Creating an action
      7m 16s
    2. Batch processing with an action
      6m 36s
    3. Using the Image Processor
      9m 35s
  16. 29m 20s
    1. Printing
      11m 32s
    2. Making a contact sheet from Bridge
      6m 12s
    3. Creating a web gallery from Bridge
      7m 17s
    4. Preparing photos for the web
      4m 19s
  17. 30s
    1. Goodbye
      30s

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