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Using Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop

Lesson 3 of 7

Scale and Warp Smart Objects

Ben Willmore

Using Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop

Ben Willmore

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Lesson Info

3. Scale and Warp Smart Objects

Lesson Info

Scale and Warp Smart Objects

Let's take an image here of a mug. What I would like to do here is take a photograph and act as if it's been printed onto the mug. So let's go find a photo to use. And this happens to be a RAW file. Now with a RAW file I could just choose Open Image. It would open in Photoshop, and then I could convert it into a smart object. But there's a different thing I could do, which is, look at the button at the bottom right of my screen that's called Open Image. And watch what happens to it if I hold down the Shift key. You notice it changes to Open Object. That means open this as a smart object. When I don't have Shift held down it just says open image. So if I hold down Shift, and I click where it says open object, now I'm opening that image as a smart object from the beginning. And in the case of a RAW file, that's special. Because now when I double click on the thumbnail image for that smart object, instead of just opening another document that contains a picture, it's gonna open Camera RAW...

. Because that's what we started with was a RAW file, and whenever you open a RAW file it shows Camera RAW so you can adjust it. And therefore I can make changes to this image when it comes to the brightness and the colors later on. I don't think we're gonna utilize that in this particular example, but we will in a future one. Now I'm gonna use the move tool. I'm gonna click within this document, I'm gonna drag to the other document, and make sure my mouse is contained within the document before I let go. Now I would like to take this and act it as if it's been wrapped around the mug. To do so I'm first gonna scale this down. So I'm gonna type Command + t, that's Control + t in Windows, and that's the same as going to the Edit menu and choosing free transform. I'm gonna make this just a little bit smaller so I can easily see the mug that's behind it. And then I'll return to the Edit menu. I'll choose Transform, and I'm gonna warp this. Warping is gonna allow me to bend it. Now this time instead of choosing a preset Warp, like what I did before from this menu, I'll leave it set to custom. And what I'll do is grab the four corners of the image one at a time, and place them where I think it would be if this image was actually printed on the mug. I think this corner would be somewhere up this way. This one would be contained within the mug itself, and maybe a down about there. This one's in a relatively good position to begin with. Then I'll grab this corner, drag it up, and I think it would be about there. After doing that I'm gonna click on the line that makes up the edge of the photograph, maybe right about in the middle, and see if it will allow me to move this around. Looks like it didn't like it when I was right on the line, so just maybe be the tiniest bit below. And then here I'll be just the tiniest bit above, and I'll drag down trying to get the angle to look good. I can fine tune where these corners are if need be. And these little handles that come off of the corners. They determine what angle the edge of the photograph will be at right when it leaves the corner. So if you point it straight down the photo will go straight down immediately when it leaves that little corner point. If I were to move it this way it would start going over towards the right. Well I'm just gonna tell that to mimic the edge of the mug and I can do the same thing with the other one. I can also click on the left edge, pull it in and out if needed to bend it. And near the right edge as well if I needed to fine tune it. But I'm just trying to get this to look like a reasonable idea of it being bent in here. You can also click in the middle and drag up and down if you need to reposition a portion of it. Maybe about like that. Then I'll press Return or Enter, and that doesn't really look like it's printed on the mug though because the shading of the mug is not showing up. So I'm going then go to my layers panel and I'll change the blending mode for this layer. We have a whole separate lesson on blending modes as part of Photoshop The Complete Guide. And in there you would learn that multiply mode acts like ink. And if so it's gonna be like printing this on the mug. And at anytime I can always go back to Edit, choose Transform, and choose Warp again and it's going to act like I never left there and I can fine tune this as much as I want even after saving the image, closing the image, it can still be fine tuned. All you gotta do is reopen it. So I'll get that to be set up. Press Return or Enter. And let's just say that's good enough. But now I think the image looks a little on the dark side. I wish I would brighten it up. And it be best if I could brighten it up before I even opened it, like, it's a RAW file. Right when I was in Camera RAW. Well we can. Remember when we opened it we double clicked on it, it was a RAW file, it brought us into Camera RAW and right there we had a button where we could open it as a smart object. So if I double click on the thumbnail for this layer watch what happens. It brings me into Camera RAW. Now it doesn't show it to me on the mug, but I can come in here now and bright up the shadows slider, maybe bring up the overall exposure a little bit, and then I can click OK, and it updates. I think that's nice. All right, but then let's say that I took the original picture, I closed it, I'm not gonna save the changes. And maybe, for some odd reason, I lost that file. I took this file and in my case, I see if I can drag it to the trash. It's gone. Imagine I emptied my trash. And for some reason, that file, I just lost track of. Well at any time, you can take the contents of a smart object and have it literally generate a separate file of whatever's inside. And in this case what's inside this layer is a RAW file. So if I go to the Layer menu, and I choose Smart Objects, you're gonna find a choice called Export Contents. And that means, do the equivalent to double clicking on the thumbnail for that layer, and whatever opens up, go to the File menu and choose Save As and make it a separate file. But in the case of a RAW file, it's just gonna spit out a brand new RAW file. I choose Export Contents, I'm gonna tell it to put it on my desktop, and up here you can see it's gonna be a RAW file. So now if I look on my desktop, there's an extra file right there that I just generated and it was taking it right out of the smart object. And actually it quite frequently used that because I'll create some sort of project that is complex, and that might have something like this, and I might double click on this layer to change it's name, and if I do, then it's going to be difficult for me to remember the name of that file, so that I might not know where it is. But it's just so easy to say export contents. And it will generate a new file. But the other thing I can do, is if I have another file that happens to be the same size, then let's see if this will work, I'm not sure if I have one of the same size, but if I go to the Layer menu, and I choose Smart Objects, there's also a choice called Replace Contents. And if I choose Replace Contents I can come in here and try to find an image that would be a good replacement. No, not that one. Might be just a moment to see if I have one. Needs to be approximately the same dimensions otherwise it's not gonna line up. Let's try that one. I'm gonna hit place. It's a RAW file so it brings up Camera RAW, but all I have to do is click OK. And now notice that it brought it in and it remembered the warping. It will remember any settings that were applied to it. But I can tell you that the file was slightly larger. That's because it's taking up more space here. They need to be the same pixel dimension, it's the same number of pixels in the width and height in order to do that. But that means I can set up a template that does something complex, masking this picture, bending it, doing all sorts of things, and later on, decided I'd like to use a different picture as long as that picture is of the same dimensions.

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.