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Smart Objects for Beginners

Lesson 4 of 8

Using Filters with Smart Objects

Ben Willmore

Smart Objects for Beginners

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

4. Using Filters with Smart Objects

Lesson Info

Using Filters with Smart Objects

Let's see, here I have a multi-layered document. Let's turn off the layers, see what we have. We've got a background. We have some text in here. And we got a layer that changes the color of some of the text. We got a copy of that text that's been blurred. Can you see it behind? It's opacity has been turned down. We got some flames and some different colors to put in the flames. This was the name of a book that I wrote a long time ago. I want to be able to go in here and work on multiple layers. Maybe I want to apply a filter to all of these layers. If I select all of these layers because that's what I want to apply my filter to, I go to the filter menu, everything is grayed out because the way filters work, is they can only work on one layer at a time. They can't work on more than one at a time. They just can't do it. Also, if you happen to have text in a layer, even if it's one layer, that filter can't apply because the text thinks it needs to be edited. So you can change the text at ...

any time and applying a filter would prevent that from being able to happen. I'm going to take all of these layers and, right now you see the filter menu is grayed out, well, I'm going to take them all and put them in a smart object. Now here I happen to have a folder that contains some; that doesn't matter. I could throw away that folder but just because that contains them, I'll make sure that's selected too. I'll go to layer. Smart objects. Convert to smart object. Now watch what happens in the layers panel. Look at how many layers are there. Those are going to go into a protective bubble called a smart object and all we're going to see in its place is one piece, which is what it would look like if you combined those layers together. So anytime you have more than one layer selected and you convert something into a smart object, it looks like you merged those layers together in to one piece. The individual pieces are still there, they're just inside the smart object and you just see a representation of it there as a single layer that shows hey, this is what it looks like if you were to permanently combine what's inside that smart object. Now check it out. If I go to the filter menu, all the filters are available and if I apply a filter to this, it can apply to all the layers. What's really nice though is whenever you apply a filter to a smart object, the filter's not permanent because whenever you have a smart object, it's protecting what's inside. You can't change what's in there. It can only add accessories to the outside, so look at how the filter shows up. Here it says "smart filters," and this could be a list of more than one, if I apply more than one filter. There's the filter I've applied and if I were to turn off the eye ball next to it, I'd see what it looks like without the filter applied. So I turn of that and you see it not changed. Turn it back on and you see it changed. But the other thing that's cool is, what if I thought the amount I used for that filter wasn't enough, I wanted it to be more or less? Well, all I need to do is go into my layers panel. I see the name of the filter there. It's just kind of like an accessory attached to that layer and double click on the name. It brings me right back into the settings for the filter, as if I never left. It remembers the number I had in there at the time I initially applied it and now I can increase it or decrease it. It's as if I never left that filter to begin with. Therefore your filters are not permanent any more. So we can do that to a single layer. Just turn a single layer into smart object or we can do it to multiple layers. Now I don't know if twirling is the best thing to do, but there are other things we could do in here that might be interesting. I'm going to come in and actually do, just pick on of these. Actually let's go to distort and I'll do a little rippling to ripple the edge. I'm going to get a little rippled edge like that. Click okay. Now if you look in my layers panel, do you see that I have two filters. I have ripple and I have twirl. Whatever was at the bottom was applied first and then it just builds it up the list. I apply this. I save my image. I close it. Usually that would mean it's permanent but we're using smart objects, which means it's not. What I can do here is see what it would look like if I never twirled it. All I have to do is turn off the eye ball next to the word twirl and now you see it still has the other filter applied and I can see, do I like it with or without? If I like it without, I can click on the name twirl and simply drag it to the trash can and now it's as if I never applied that filter before. Therefore I experiment with effects that might end up needing more than one filter. I can just stack them up on this thing and I don't have to worry about it. Maybe that first filter I applied was too strong by the time I got four other filters applied to get my end result. Well, all I have to do is go in here to my layers panel and double click on the name of the filter in that list and it's as if I never left. I can come in here and make it stronger or lessen it. Therefore applying and working with filters becomes a much more fluid process. You're not as afraid to commit to things because you didn't commit to them. You can always change them. Does that make sense? Now, what if I done this and this is what I want it to look like. I want it to look as if we're looking into some water and that's where my logo is but I don't like the T-O has color on it. I wish it didn't. Well, in my layered file, I don't know if you recall or not, when I turned layers on and off, one of the layers actually caused that text to turn yellow and I'd like to go back and look at the layers that it was originally made out of and hide that layer so that text is not yellow. Well, I can do that. What I need to do is crack open the smart object and look at what's inside. You always do that by going to your layers panel and you double click on the thumbnail image for the layer. Any time you do, it will show you that content separate from this document. If I double click, it creates a brand new document. This comes up, I always choose don't show again, it only comes up once if you do that, and all it means is when you're done, choose save. That's what it's telling you. Alright, there is the original layers in my layers panel. The exact same number of layers I had at the moment I created that smart object and if I look in there, one of the layers should be making the letters T-O yellow, I think it's the top one, and I'll just turn it off and maybe I'll also turn off another layer that changes the way the flames look. Maybe to that. Now all I'm going to do is close that and when I close it, it'll say, "Hey you made changes, do you want to save them?" I'm going to say yes, save them but when I choose save, most of the time in your head you think of saving something on your hard drive. This is saving it back to where came from. Where did it come from? Came from that layer I double clicked on. So all it's doing is saving it right back into that layer. It's not actually being saved on my hard drive. Hit save and now if you notice, those two letters are no longer yellow and the flames are different color. Now I can do things like apply filters that would usually be permanent to my image. I can apply more than one layer and I'm not stuck with that. If this was editable text, where I could type in something else, I could change what the text says and once I say save on that smart object, this is going to update so my effect can still be there. Therefore I can create and go much deeper with images before I commit to anything because that could just as easily be a photograph in there and later on, I'm like, "Man, we want a different photo." Usually you'd be stuck with it because a filter's been applied to it but you open up that smart object by double clicking, you just copy and paste or put a different picture in there. Save and close it and this would update. So it's pretty cool. Smart objects, love them. Takes a while to get your mind around them though if you're not used to them.

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.