Join Deke McClelland for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating a Smart Object, part of Photoshop Smart Objects.
In the previous exercise, I showed you what happens when you apply a destructive modification to a pixel- based image inside a Photoshop. In these next exercises, I am going to show you how to replay those exact same modifications, but this time nondestructively, using Smart Objects. Now, just so that you and I are on the same page, if you are following along with me, I have gone ahead and saved my progress so far as Destroyed by scaling.psd found inside the 01_how_they_work folder. And what we have done is we took a pixel -based layer and then I transformed it.
And went ahead and scaled it down to 10% and then right away I scaled it up to 720%. So, in other words, we applied the Free Transform command more than once to a pixel-based layer, which is a recipe for disaster. And if we zoom in on his image here, you can see that she looks just tragic, which is a good thing because it means now we can correct for the problem. We know better than to sort of move along and accept what we are seeing here. What's more likely to happen in your case is let's say you are working inside of an image and you scale a layer down to 84% of its former size.
And then you work for another couple of hours inside that composition and then you think better of what you did before. When I say a couple of hours it could be a couple minutes. It could be any amount of time. And then you don't want to sacrifice any of the changes you made so far of course, but you do want to make the image layer a little bit smaller, let's say. Heaven forbid you want to make it bigger because that is going to look terrible, like it does right here. But you want to make it incrementally smaller, and you decide to apply Free Transform again. You know you are not supposed to, but you go ahead and do it again. You scale it down to 72% this time, and you get away with it.
It looks pretty good. The thing is, this is happening in the background, under the wire. You can't see it, but it's there, and you may end up bringing it out. It may come back to haunt you. Let's say that you decide to sharpen the image. You may end up bringing out some of those scaling artifacts, and things start to go kaflooey for you. Well, that's where Smart Objects come into play. If you go ahead and convert an image to a Smart Object before you apply a transformation, then you can do whatever you want later on down the line, without penalty.
So, in this exercise, what I am going to do is just show you how to generate a Smart Object and bring it into this composition. And then in the next exercise, I will show you how nondestructive transformations work. All right. So I have got these two images opened here, Destroyed by scaling and Sculptured hair. I am going to go ahead and switch to my 2 Up display, since I am working in the tabbed image window view, and then inside of this image here, inside of Sculptured hair.jpg, I can either drag her and drop her into the other composition, and then convert her to a Smart Object.
Or I can convert her to a Smart Object first, and then bring her into the other composition, either way is fine. I am going to go ahead and do it first. So a few different ways to work and I am going to show you all of them, and then later on I will show you some best practices. But I want you see all of the options that are available to you upfront. It is a little overwhelming, but I think it is the best way to work. So here are the various commands that are available to you. One is you can go up to layer menu, choose Smart Objects and choose Convert to Smart Objects. Not the most convenient solution, because it requires you to go all the way up to the menu bar and then go to submenu.
A simpler method is to just right-click inside of the image window like so, and if you don't have a right mouse button on the Mac, then you press the Ctrl key and click, and then choose Convert to Smart Object. That's very convenient. Then the other way to work is if you are working inside of the layers palette, and you have got the layer selected, as we do because this is just a one layer flat image, then you can go to the flyout menu and choose Convert to Smart Object, and then finally - and the reason I am showing you this last is so you can see the keyboard shortcut. If you loaded Deke keys, my Deke keys keyboard shortcuts, then you have available to you a shortcut of Ctrl+Comma.
That's Command+Comma on the Mac and just like that you now have a Smart Object. Now it doesn't look any different. It's a floating layer instead of being a background layer, but it's also got this tiny little icon there that shows you the image inside of a page. So sort of like a page layout metaphor, or you could read it as demonstrating to you that the pixels are now protected inside of a Smart Object container, and that's the way I want you to think about it, because that's the way it truly works. Let's go ahead and rename this layer, Smart Object, because that's what it is, and now, notice that the pixels are protected.
I cannot modify the pixels, and just to give you a sense of what I mean, I will go ahead and grab the classic pixel editor in Photoshop, the Brush tool. But any of these tools are not going to work, by the way, any of these pixel-editing tools here. I will just go with the Brush tool because it is the simplest. I will move over. Notice, if I try to paint inside the sky, I will go with a bigger brush by pressing the right bracket key a few times, and then painting away, no problem. I can paint this ugly brushstroke in the sky without difficulty. I will press Ctrl+Z or Command+Z on the Mac to undo that.
But if I switch over to this image with a Smart Object, I cannot paint. I will get a little ghost buster icon, and if I try to paint, then I am going to get this warning. And what it's telling me is that you need to rasterize before proceeding. So whenever you see the word rasterize, it means convert to pixels. So we didn't really convert the pixels to anything. We just put them inside of the Smart Object container. But now it is telling us, we got to yank him back out, turn him back in the pixels, and then we can paint on him if we want to. Now in my case of course, I don't want to do that, because I had already just put him in the Smart Object, so I don't want to say okay, because that would take him back out.
I will click Cancel, then I will get a warning that says, hey, you can't use the Brush tool, because a Smart Object is not directly editable, and that's a very important point. It is indirectly editable. We will come to that later, but not directly. So I will click OK in order to acknowledge if that's the case. Now let's go ahead with the pixels protected, which is a good thing for our purposes. Let's go ahead and move for into the composition, and I will do that by pressing and holding the Ctrl key on the PC or the Command key on the Mac, to temporarily get my Move tool. And I will do a Ctrl+drag and drop like so, into the other image window, and then I will switch back into the Consolidate view by going up here to this Arranged Documents icon, clicking on it and choosing Consolidate All, or if you loaded Deke keys, you can press Ctrl+ Shift+A, Command+Shift+A on the Mac.
And we now have a Smart Object right there. We have got the smart object layer above the pixels layer. In the next exercise, I will show you how to apply the nondestructive transformations. Stay tuned.
Download Deke's customized keyboard layouts and color settings for Photoshop from the Exercise Files tab.
- Preparing a composition for masking
- Manually adjusting problematic edges in a composition
- Combining layer effects and adjustment layers
- Roughing in a polygonal mask
- Cloning a super-massive Smart Object
- Applying Variations as a Smart Filter