What are Smart Objects in Photoshop

I talked a little about using smart objects in album design recently and wanted to give a little more info on what smart objects are. Smart objects were added in Photoshop CS2 and are a way to have a layer that preserve the source content of the image so when you are editing that image as a smart object everything is nondestructive. Just like with editing on programs like Lightroom when editing in a non destructive way you won’t loose quality when performing certain changes to the image.

There are a lot of great benefits to using Smart Objects:

  • The main is everything is nondestructive. You can do anything to the image like change the size, skew it or do any type of transform and will not loose any image quality.
  • You can use Photoshop’s Smart filters which i’ll cover more about in a post soon
  • You can work with vector data like a illustration from Adobe Illustrator right as a smart object.
  • Since you are referencing one original image if you use the image in multiple places and edit the smart object it will automatically update all of the places you are using that file.
  • If you are trying to work quick on a large collage or album design you can design the layout with low-resolution images and then later replace with the large resolution images.
  • Lets look at how to create a smart object

    There are a few different ways you can create a smart object. First you can simply go to File –> Open as smart object and then select any file to open.

    You can also Control Click on a layer and from the menu choose “Convert to Smart Object”. You can also access this through the Photoshop menu by going to Layers –> Smart Objects –> Convert to Smart Object.

    Once you have converted a layer to a smart object you will see a little icon on the layer panel on the bottom right to indicate that layer is now a Smart Layer.

    You can edit this layer now totally nondestructively so if I transform the image and make it tiny, then transform it again and make it large I won’t loose any detail in the image. As well as editing this layer you also can edit the Smart Objects actual file that it is referencing. You can do this a few different ways:

  • You can Double-click the Smart Object’s thumbnail in the Layers panel.
  • Also you can Control click (mac or right click pc) the Smart Object in the Layers panel and choose Edit Content.
  • Or you can also select Smart Object in the Layers panel and choose Layer –> Smart Objects –> Edit Content.
  • When you choose to open up the original document Photoshop will open this Smart Object file in a separate Photoshop document. You can edit this original file and then then save it. Once it has been saved Photoshop will updates the Smart Object with your changes. If you used the file as a smart object in other Photoshop files it will also reflect on all of those files as well so you can make changes to one master file once and it will reflect on everything else automatically!

    That’s it, smart objects are pretty easy and have a lot of benefit to using them. If you have any questions just let me know in the comments below!

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    Author: Mark

    Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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