Skip to main content

Using Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 4 of 7

Replace Contents

Ben Willmore

Using Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

4. Replace Contents

Lesson Info

Replace Contents

Then let's say I need to write a book, I've done that many times but it was a long time ago you can see here I wrote books back when Photoshop six, not CS six but six was out. (laughs) And here is one for Photoshop CS2. But what happened when I wrote books is the beginning of the book, in the introduction I would always feature a picture of the actual book they were reading. Well, it's impossible to take a picture of a book before it's printed and then insert it into the book that it shows in. So what I did is I made a mock-up. And this mock-up was just made in Photoshop, purely in Photoshop. The pages of the book that's just running the filter called add noise and then another filter called motion blur, which makes the spec go at an angle. That's what the pages are. But I would end up featuring the cover of the book. Well, the cover of the book it's designed and it shows up kinda like this and I wanna show you how I ended up transforming this into that mock-up of a book and how we can...

use that to maybe experiment with different book designs and decide which one we like. So here we have a book, this could be just a book you got from the bookstore, you slapped on a table and took a picture of and we're just gonna replace the cover. Then I'm gonna go over here and get my mock-up for a book that I haven't written yet. This is a book I never wrote but, I was going to. And what I could do is take this document, there's a lot of layers in here 'cause maybe there's a layer for each one of these pieces of text and one for the picture, here's another picture I might decide to use and so on and I'm just going to take all of those layers and select them and I'll say convert to a smart object and therefore it's gonna look like a single layer even though if I double click in the thumbnail for that layer I'll get a brand new document that has all the original layers in it so I can always go back and make changes. I'm gonna then use the move tool and drag this image over to the other document. Now that other document is in CMYK mode so that's probably gonna complain. Wow I'm surprised it didn't. And I get it over into this document and now all I want to do is to transform it so that it can conform to the shape of this book. Now I do notice that the image that's in there what happened is, it doesn't just crop it to within the documents bounds. If there is any part of any layer that was pushed so it went beyond the bounds of the document, it includes that. So I see some extra space up here on top. I can always double click on that layer to see the original layers it was made from. Looks like this. And I could add a mask. In this case, I'm gonna come in here and, take me just a moment because I don't want that stuff sticking up. I'm gonna put all this in a folder and I'm gonna put a mask on the folder. I'm just trying to get rid of the stuff that extends beyond the top and bottom. Like that. And fill with black on the outer part. Okay. I'm gonna close that, it's gonna ask if I wanna save it, I'll say save. It'll save it right back to where it came from which was that layer. And now that it doesn't extend beyond the edge, lets get it to conform to where the book was. It's a little on the big side, so I'm gonna go and choose free transform. I'm going to bring the handles. Although I'm not sure why they go out quite that far. And what I could do to get this to show up in that other area is I can use something called distort, the way distort works is if you go to the edit menu and you choose transform, right here's a choice called distort. And it will allow you to pull the four corners of an object and place them in different spots. Now usually this is gonna show up right on the corners of the object you're working with. But my assumption is that, that document here has other elements that are extending beyond the documents bounds, its just on layers that are hidden. So let me show you what it would look like if I actually did that and I finished and it showed up in the right spot. 'Cause I did this ahead of time. There it is. If you just have a normal rectangular object, nothing fancy going on, and you choose edit, transform, distort you can grab the individual corners and reposition them. And I did that for both the cover of a book and its spine. Well if those are smart objects then if you wanna edit the contents of the smart objects, maybe I wanna go in here and change the color of these letters or type in different text or potentially change the picture. Well all I'd do is I'd double click on the thumbnail for that particular layer and it shows up as a separate document. This is a different version of it because this one was made ahead of time. But here I could end up changing the photo that's there. I could come in and maybe in this case I'll need to make a selection, if I can find my right selection tool here, I'll use the magic wand. This would usually be a type layer I could just change the color of but in this case this is just a screen shot of a book cover. And so I'm gonna fill that. Make it kinda crazy, wild thing. I'm gonna close this and say save and it's gonna save it back to where it came from. Where did it come from? That layer. The layer I double clicked on. And it remembers all the transformations I've applied to it, it would remember any filters that were applied, any styles, it would remember all sorts of things and I can make a mock-up of a book and later on decide which cover I'd like. Then I can double click on this again and I can say well maybe I want a different version. I can turn off some of these eyeballs. Here's a whole nother version. Close that. Save. And it updates. So it can be very useful when creating mock-ups because you can later on make changes. Therefore I need to make this book cover once and as long as I use the smart object before I scaled down the cover, before I transformed it to get the corners in the right position then I can easily double click and change the contents and keep it as a nice little mock-up.

Class Description


  • Determine when Smart Objects should be used and when they are a bad idea
  • Non-destructively scale, rotate and warp
  • Create templates with easily replaceable images
  • Use linked Smart Objects across multiple documents
  • Retain camera-generated raw data when opening an image in Photoshop
  • Create multiple instances of a Smart Object and have them all update when you change the original


  • Beginner, intermediate, and advanced users of Adobe Photoshop.
  • Those who want to gain confidence in Adobe Photoshop and learn new features to help edit photos.
  • Students who’d like to take ordinary images and make them look extraordinary with some image editing or Photoshop fixes.


Adobe Photoshop 2020 (V21)


Kyosa Canuck

Many, if not most, of these classes (note I said class and NOT course), are excerpts from a full course. DO NOT get hooked into buying copies of these that you already may have from the full (and sometimes the full ones are actually missing pieces) course. Note that CL does not state that these are excerpts from other full courses. I bet, too, that some of them may actually not be in the course content of a full course. I have bought some full ones where the instructor says that a topic will be covered the next day or so but is never mentioned. Caveat Emptor, viewers.