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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.
In this final exercise of the chapter, I'm going to show you how to trim away these white edges at the top and bottom of the composition, without harming a single thing we've done so far. That's a little bit tricky. The reasons are, there are two things inside of our composition that will get clipped if we don't take special precautions. One of them is the Background layer. The Background layer can never be any bigger than the canvas size. So if you trim the canvas, then the Background layer is going to get trimmed as well. The other thing that's going to get clipped is the channel right here. Any Alpha channels inside the Channels palette are going to get clipped away as well, whereas, if they're expressed as layer masks, we can avoid clipping them.
All right, so what do we do? I'm going to switch over to Layers palette. I've saved my changes as Big white borders.psd, as I've mentioned in previous exercise. It's found inside the 01_how_they_work folder. Now there is a few different ways we could work. You could go up to the Image menu and you could choose the Trim command. This Trim command is exceedingly useful for these purposes. The only problem is it's destructive, which is just so frustrating. But I'll go ahead and choose the command. How it works is it looks for a color. That color is either going to be in the top-left corner or the bottom-right corner of your larger composition.
Either of these settings is going to work for us, because that top-left pixel, and that bottom-right pixel are both colored absolute white, and that's what we want to trim away. We only need to trim it at the top and the bottom, so we could turn these two guys off, but it's not going to make any difference, because there are no white strips, along the left- hand and right-hand sides. So I'll go ahead and click OK, in order to apply that change, and we'll lose the top edge. That's fine. We don't lose all of the bottom edge. We've lost a little bit of it, but not quite all of it, because the woman shoulder drops into this area. The Trim command is not going to trim any other colors than white, in our case, because that's what it found in the top-left corner.
However, it is going to apply permanent modifications, not only to the Background layer, which I told you was going to get clipped, not only to the Alpha channel, which I told you also is going to get clipped, but also to the layer mask right there, and to this white layer, even though it's turned off. The only things that won't get clipped are the Smart Objects. Smart Objects can defy any cropping. They will survive anything, which is actually really great. However, the other stuff got damaged, so we can't use the Trim command.
You rarely want to, by the way, use the Trim command. It's like for screenshots and stuff. All right, so I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac to undo that modification. The other thing we could do is go in with the Crop tool. If you grab the Crop tool and you drag to create a boundary, then you can turn on this Hide option up here in the Options bar and that ensures that nothing that doesn't need to be clipped away, will be clipped away. So again, the Background layer will be clipped, but the other stuff won't. The Alpha channel, it will get clipped too, because there is no way around that, but none of the layers will get clipped.
Problem is, for our purposes, this doesn't work very well because we know exactly how many pixels we added to this image. So what are we're using the Crop tool, which is an approximate tool, in the first place. We can enter in specific values in advance of using the Crop tool, but it's a waste of time, for our purposes, once again. I'm going to press the Escape key in order to get out of that Crop mode. Switch back to my Rectangular Marquee tool. You may recall, several exercises ago, we increased the size of the canvas using, under the Image menu, the Canvas Size command.
We increased the Height of the image by 200 pixels. Well, now it's time to decrease the Height by 200 pixels. So go ahead and choose Canvas Size or press Ctrl+Alt+C, Command+Option+C on the Mac, and make sure Relative is turned on, as it is. So I'll go ahead and click in the Height value and enter -200, like so. We're going to see the arrows pointing toward the central chicklet. That's great. We do want to keep that chicklet in the center. Go ahead and click OK. We get this warning that's saying, "Hey, the new canvas size is smaller than the "current one. Some clipping will occur," thereby, potentially making you wonder, if you're clipping everything that can't get clipped.
In other words, the Background layer, the Alpha channel, the white layer and the layer mask, you can't clip the Smart Objects. But that's not actually what's going to happen here. I'll go ahead and click Proceed. What you've just got done clipping was the Background layer, because there is no way to avoid that, once again. You clipped the base mask Alpha channel, right there, because an Alpha channel cannot be bigger than the canvas. However, you did not clip white, because a layer, even a pixel-based layer, can be much larger than the canvas.
It can be any old size, and the Canvas Size command will not harm it. It will respect the original size of that layer. The same goes for the layer mask. That will survive the crop as well. Just to confirm that all that is true, I'm going to go up to the Image menu and I'm going to choose Reveal All, which is going to reveal all the original stuff inside the image. Again, that reinstates the 100 pixels up top and the 100 pixels down below, which add up to 200 pixels of height altogether. If I were to Alt+Click or Option+Click inside of this layer Mask icon, you can see that we have plenty of layer mask down here.
It goes as low as it ever did. Let's check out the white layer. If I turn it on, it goes all the way to the top and the bottom here. So it's still as big as it ever was. You can't see any checkers which would indicate transparency here inside of the thumbnail. Finally though, if I go to the Channels palette and I click on my base mask, it did get cropped. It got clipped right there. Remember, it went down farther and we should have a little bit of a right edge. That's what we had before. So we damaged it, and we don't want to.
Now we also clipped and unclipped the Background layer, but see, the thing is with this Background layer, I'll go ahead and Alt+Click or Option+Click on its eyeball so we can see it independently. We didn't care about this stuff we clipped away, which is white at bottom and white at top. So who gives a darn? But we do care about that Alpha channel. I'm going to switch back over to the Channels palette. Click on it to make it active, and now let's go ahead and revert the image. Go to the File menu and choose the Revert command. I think this is going to switch us over to the layer, so we're not going to see the Alpha channel anymore, but just remember what it looked like. Now I'm going to click on that base mask Alpha channel.
See this information down here? We did have more stuff down here that got clipped away. How do we retain it? Here's how. Go ahead and convert this Alpha channel to a layer mask. How do you do that? You press the Ctrl key, Command key on the Mac, here inside the Channels palette, and click on that base mask item, in order to load it as the selection outline. Now I'm going to switch over to the layers palette. I'm going to click on the white layer. Now why white? Because, it's just a holder. It will be a great place to put the layer mask, because it's turned off, and we're not using it.
Even though it's off, notice it's hidden right now. I'll drop down to my Add layer Mask icon and I'll click on it. There it is. There is my layer mask, just sitting there, ready and waiting if I ever need it. Now then, let's go back up to the Image menu, choose the Canvas Size command, Ctrl+Alt+C, Command+Option+C on the Mac, and I'll enter a Height value of -200, like so. Everything else is just fine as is. Click OK. Yes, some stuff is going to get clipped, but you know what, it's nothing I care about it. It's just this guy now.
Click Proceed, and in order to see whether the things got clipped or not, we'll go ahead and go to the Image menu and choose Reveal All, once again. Reveal All just goes ahead and increases the Canvas Size, so that it can contain everything it needs to contain. I'll choose Reveal All and I'll Alt+ Click on this Alpha channel, and you could see it comes down all the way to the bottom. I'll go over to the Channels palette and I'll click on base mask and you can see it got clipped. So, the deal is there, we don't need it anymore.
I'm going to go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+Z on the Mac, in order to undo Reveal All, just because we didn't need to choose it. I was just showing you what was going on there. It's the easiest way, just to make sure we get our original dimensions back. Let's go ahead and throw away that base mask. We just do not need it. I'm just going to drag it to the Trashcan there, because what's more important is that we have all that information intact here inside the layer mask for white, which is that same Alpha channel that we had just a moment ago. It's exact same information, the only difference is that it's all there.
Notice if I Ctrl+Drag upward or Command+ Drag upward on the Mac there, I can see all of this information is still intact. I'll go ahead and press Ctrl+Z, Command+ Z on the Mac to undo that modification and I will switch back to my RGB image just by clicking on the Background layer, in this case. I'm going to go ahead and zoom in and I'm going to press Shift+F to switch to the Full Screen mode. There is the final version of this particular composition here, a very real world composition, I have to say, achieved with the help of Smart Objects and layer Mask working together, entirely 100% nondestructively.
In the next chapter, we'll stick inside of this project and we'll explore some more real world modifications that incorporate Camera Raw and Illustrator. Stay tuned!
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