Photoshop CS5 Smart Objects Workshop
Illustration by John Hersey

Photoshop CS5 Smart Objects Workshop

with Steve Caplin

Video: Working with multiple layers

Part of the power of Smart Objects comes from the way in which a single smart object can hold multiple layers. Let's see that in action by editing the content of our Smart Object once again. So as before, we can double-click the Smart Object in the Layers panel. We'll get the standard warning. In fact, now we've seen what it says, we can check the Don't Show Again button and we won't be bothered by it. So here's the Smart Object opened in its new window, and let's zoom in on this. What I want to do here is to reposition the legs so that both boots face in opposite directions.

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Watch the Online Video Course Photoshop CS5 Smart Objects Workshop
2h 13m Intermediate Feb 24, 2011

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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.

Topics include:
  • Editing Smart Objects
  • Working with multiple layers
  • Using Smart Filters
  • Replacing contents
  • Using multiple Smart Objects
  • Creating flexible cover shots
  • Complex distortion
  • Working with Camera Raw
  • Working with movies and Illustrator files
Subjects:
Design Photography video2brain
Software:
Photoshop
Author:
Steve Caplin

Working with multiple layers

Part of the power of Smart Objects comes from the way in which a single smart object can hold multiple layers. Let's see that in action by editing the content of our Smart Object once again. So as before, we can double-click the Smart Object in the Layers panel. We'll get the standard warning. In fact, now we've seen what it says, we can check the Don't Show Again button and we won't be bothered by it. So here's the Smart Object opened in its new window, and let's zoom in on this. What I want to do here is to reposition the legs so that both boots face in opposite directions.

So what I'm going to do is to make a Layer Mask for this layer. And we can do this by going to Layer > Layer Mask > Reveal All. Now I'm going to use the Lasso tool to make a selection around the original leg. And now I'm going to fill it with black on the Layer Mask and because black is the background color we can do this by pressing Cmd + Del on a mac, Ctrl + Del on a PC and anywhere we fill with black on a Layer Mask will be hidden from that layer.

It's not deleted of course. We can always disable the layer mask by Shift clicking on it and we can see the entire layer once again. So what I'm now going to do is to go back to the man layer, select the other leg, again just using the Lasso tool, and I'm going to choose Layer > New Layer Via Copy. And that now makes a new layer out of that leg. We can use Free Transform to move that across, flip it horizontally, and now position it on top of the original leg. So we get these two boots facing in opposite directions. Now we can see what happened here, there's a very small gap between the new leg and the old one.

And in fact, it is a slightly jagged line up there. We can mask that by moving the new leg behind the original one in the Layers panel. And we can go back to the layer mask itself. If we switch to the Brush tool, we can use a soft edge brush to paint on this mask. Where we paint in white, it reveals this layer again. So by painting with a soft edge brush on the mask, we can blend the original leg down into our new one. Now once again as we see, the original Smart Object layer remains untouched. But if we go to File > Save, it saves the contents of the Smart Object back into the Smart Object layer itself.

What's useful here is we've been able to make several layers out of our original object. We've got the man with the Layer Mask, that can be part of the Smart Object. And the new leg can also be part of a Smart Object. The ability for a single Smart Object to hold several layer within, is of huge benefit to the Photoshop artist. We could combine an entire complex photo montage into a single Smart Object, and then scale and manipulate it as much as we wish without ever altering the contents.

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