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Smart Objects for Beginners

Lesson 3 of 8

Things You Can Do with Smart Objects

Ben Willmore

Smart Objects for Beginners

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

3. Things You Can Do with Smart Objects

Lesson Info

Things You Can Do with Smart Objects

All right, then let's look at a few of the things the things we can do with smart objects. In this particular file, all I have is a rectangle that I drew using the shape tool. Do you know, just above the hand tool you have this tool that you can click on and choose various shapes? And I know you guys at the back, you're trying to see what the heck I'm talking about. This is the tool. I can draw various shapes and I can choose this particular tool. And at the top of my screen, there's a little pop-up menu where I tell it what I'd like as my end result. And if I choose a shape, when I draw with that tool I end up just getting a brand new layer with a shape in it. Well, that's what I have here. But what I have on top of that I added a patterned overlay. Now, if you want to add a patterned overlay, you can take any layer. The layer can contain anything. It can contain a picture. It can contain paint, or anything else. And if you go to the bottom of your layers panel, there's some letters F...

X, and inside there is a choice called Pattern Overlay. When you choose Pattern Overlay, it comes up with some options. In this section right here in the middle let's you choose a pattern. And if I end up changing this... So I click here. I could choose a different pattern here and I can get all sorts of different things in there, right? All it is is a repeating image that fills that object. Okay, I'll click cancel because I already have one of those applied. Now let's see what happens with this, which is just a shape that's been drawn, and a pattern overlay that's been added. What I wanna do now is I want to scale and rotate it. Well, if you look at what we have here, just to show you what happens when I scale and rotate, I'll duplicate the layers so you can see the original right next to it. So if I go to the layer menu, there's simply a choice called Duplicate Layer. And I'll use my move tool. Move it over there. All right, let's scale and rotate it. Command T for Transform. And when I rotate, look what's happening So you notice the shape is rotating but the pattern's not. Because the pattern is applied afterwards. It's just a setting attached to the layer and it's applied after. Well, let's see how that might change. I'll hit the Escape key to say, "I don't actually want to transform it like that." And what I'm going to do is I'm gonna take this layer, which is a shape that has a pattern applied, and I'm simply gonna choose Layer, Smart Objects, Convert to a Smart Object. Now when you do that, it's gonna take whatever is selected currently in my layers panel, it's gonna put it in a protective bubble. So nothing can change what's inside there. And now I'm gonna type Command T. And now watch what happens when I rotate it. That's because whatever is inside that Smart Object, you can think of as being permanently applied. And now, whatever I do to it when I'm outside that Smart Object, is just going to scale or rotate it's results. And so there's a lot of things in Photoshop that are settings attached to a layer where when you try to do certain things to them, you try to rotate and scale, they just don't go along for the ride. And if you turn something into a Smart Object, it can go along for the ride. Another thing I could have done to this layer, instead of just doing a simple scale and rotate, is I could have what's known as warped it. Warping is another choice found under Edit, Transform. I'm not actually gonna do it because it would just take a little bit of extra time. But I'll show you the end result you would have a Smart Object versus not. When I warp it I can bend the image. And you see that the pattern that's applied to it bends along with it. Whereas up here, its just bending the shape, as if the Shape Tool that I used happened to be different. And then it updates my pattern. So it works a little different if you happen to be used to this thing called a Layer Style. Layer Styles are what you get from this menu. Let's take a look at other things we can do with these smart objects. I'm going to take a raw file. I'm just gonna double click on it. And if it's a raw file, usually Camera Raw comes up. And if I just hit Open Image down here, then whatever I apply here in Camera Raw is permanent, which means if I come over here and say, "I want this to be black and white," I hit Open Image because I need to do some retouching, or I wanna scale and rotate it in Photoshop, it's now stuck being black and white. And is there anything I can do here, in Photoshop, to get it back to color? Photoshop was never fed any color information, because the moment I opened the file it was fed black and white information. And so there's nothing I can do to get back. Well, let's open that a different way. I'll close this. I'm just gonna go right back to Bridge, Bridge is what I'm using to browse my pictures, then I'll double click on this once again. But this time when I open it watch the text down there, if you can see it. I know it's hard for some of you to see through heads. But right now it says Open Image. I'm gonna hold down the Shift key. It just changed and now it says Open Object. That means open this as a Smart Object. So, I'm holding down Shift at the moment. And I'll click there. When I'm done opening it, I can tell it's a Smart Object by looking right there. Do you see that icon? It's on the layer. That means it's special. Now because this particular Smart Object was actually created from Camera Raw, that's the screen I was in at the moment this layer was made, that Smart Object's contents is an exact copy of the original raw file. Every single bit of that original raw file is bundled inside that layer. It's just sitting in a little protective bubble. So what makes that special? Well, I'm no longer stuck with that thing being black and white because the entirety of the raw file is contained within that layer. And if the entirety of the raw file is there, all the color data is still there. But before we go in and change it, let me do something to the layer. I'll type Command T and let's say I want to scale it down, I'm gonna rotate it, maybe I'm gonna see if I can distort it here. To distort it like that, you hold down the Command key when you grab the corners, in case you want a little tip there. I'll do all that. Let's add some effects to it. Let's come over here and add a Bevel and Emboss. Make it a little 3D on the edge. We're getting schmancy here. And anyway, we'll do that. Let's also add Drop Shadow. Drag our Drop Shadow so we can kind of see it there. Click OK. And this could be just as easily adding a Layer Mask to limit where the image shows up. You could be adding a picture frame around the edge, transforming it and putting it on a wall. Three dimensional space, whatever it is. But check this out. I'm gonna now double click in one special spot. The special spot is the thumbnail for that layer in my layers panel. You know, the miniature version of it? And that's how you open a Smart Object and view it's original contents. So it's like, popping open that protective bubble and just looking inside. And any time you do that, it usually shows up as a separate document or in a separate window. But here goes, I'm gonna double click on it. In my Layers panel, right on top of the thumbnail, double click. Well the place it came from, where does it get created? I was in Camera Raw when it happened, so it brings me to Camera Raw. And in here I'm gonna go and say, "I want to make this a color picture." And then I'm gonna come in here and say, "Well, maybe in here I wanna see a little more shadow detail in there, I want to bring up my clarity to emphasize the details that are there, bring up my vibrance, and whatever else I want to do." When I click OK, it's going to update the Smart Object. It's just taking what was inside that protective bubble, slipping a new version of it inside. It closes up the protective bubble again and whatever was done to it, after it was turned into a Smart Object, it just re-does itself.

Class Description

Smart Objects is an easy, flexible, non-destructive way to work with layers. Because it preserves an image’s characteristics, Smart Objects allows you to resize, transform, add filters, make composites and more without affecting your original image. In this class, Ben Willmore will show you the basics of Smart Objects, including how to update one image and have those changes propagate to all duplicates, load linked raw files that update when you make changes in Adobe® Lightroom®, and build complex effects onto a placeholder image that can be replaced and then instantly updated. This class has the potential to completely change the way you use Adobe® Photoshop®.


Adobe Photoshop CC 2018

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Jeph DeLorme

Great class, extremely helpful for understanding smart objects... both creating and the full range of uses. Fun and engaging instructor, loved this class!

Amy Vaughn

Awesome overview of smart objects. This class may be geared toward beginners, but I think Ben did a good job of showing just how powerful and complicated they can be.


Such a useful and easy to follow class! Ben breaks down smart objects and makes the whole process clear and easy. Definitely a game changer with Photoshop.