I’ve got a very cool and extremely helpful bit of information to offer you today. If you’ve ever attempted to duplicate a Smart Object layer in Photoshop and then had some issues working with the duplicate, I think I may know just what’s going on. Typically, when you duplicate a Smart Object layer the same way you duplicate a regular traditional layer, the source images are one and the same. So, if you edit the source image (or file) of one of the Smart Objects and save your changes, you’ll see both the original and the duplicate Smart Object update with the same effect. Not just one, but both will be updated. The reason for this is because, duplicate or original, each and every Smart Object that’s copied from an original has its contents linked to that original’s source files. I’ll tell you the truth here – this is a frustrating revelation to contend with right after you think you’ve figured out a way to work on multiple copies of the same layer.
In today’s post, I’m going to run through a few examples to demonstrate exactly what I’m referring to in Adobe Photoshop. I’ll first duplicate a Smart Object the old way, show you the results and then I’ll duplicate a Smart Object the new (correct) way and show you some different results. If you work with Smart Objects (or Smart Filters) a lot, this may be the one tip that can save you tons of time and frustration.
Opening Camera Raw as a Smart Object
Okay, I’m going to start things off by launching a demo image into Photoshop as a Smart Object. To accomplish this, I’ll find the image in Bridge and open it into Camera Raw. From there, I’ll make any necessary adjustments to the image and when I’m ready to move into Photoshop, I’ll hold down the Shift key on my keyboard and when the Open Image button turns into the Open Object button, I’ll click on it. The image I was just working on will open in Photoshop already converted to a Smart Object.
The beauty of this approach is that if I want to make future edits to this image using Camera Raw, all I would need to do is double-click on the layer thumbnail in the Layers panel and Camera Raw will open right up, all of my previous edits intact. This truly is a great way to work between Camera Raw and Photoshop and vice-versa. It’s also a great alternative to using the Camera Raw as a Filter option under the Filter menu.
Here’s the photo.
And here’s the layer already converted to a Smart Object.
Now, if I had gone about converting this layer to a Smart Object the regular way, by right-clicking on the layer and then choosing the Convert to Smart Object option, when I double-click on the thumbnail, the original image file would open up in a new tab as opposed to Camera Raw opening up for me to continue editing the photograph and making changes to it.
Duplicating a Smart Object
As I mentioned above, there are two ways to duplicate Smart Objects in Photoshop. One method will give you multiple Smart Object layers that link to the same original content and the other will give you multiple Smart Object layers that link to distinct content. Depending on what you want your duplication result to be, you can use either of these methods.
By the way, For this section, I’ll be continuing on using the same image I already opened up in the previous section.
The first method for duplicating a Smart Object is to use the traditional method for duplicating any layer. You can click and drag the layer down to the Create a New Layer button at the bottom of the Layers panel or you can click to select the layer in question and then use the keyboard shortcut of Ctrl (Command for Mac)+J. Both methods accomplish the same thing. They’ll give you a duplicate Smart Object layer.
The only issue with this method is that, for each new layer, you’re still locked into the original image. Let me show you what I mean. I’ll go ahead and copy the original layer so I have two duplicates. Then, I’ll double-click on the duplicate because I’d like to make some edits to that one. Camera Raw will open up after I double-click and I’ll reduce the exposure so the image is darker overall. Then, I’ll click the OK button to return to Photoshop. Let’s take a look at the two thumbnails in the Layers panel now.
Well, it certainly looks like the duplicate is darker, but it also looks like the original is darker in exactly the same way. So the moral of this story is that by copying a Smart Object the regular old way, you can’t make distinct edits to the copy. If you want that, you’ll need to use this next method.
To move on in this section, I’m going to undo the edit I just made and I’ll also delete that duplicate.
Now that I’m back at the beginning, I’m going to select the Rectangular Marquee Tool, or any of the selection tools for that matter, and I’ll right-click on the image somewhere. When I do that, a menu will appear. I’ll choose and click on the New Smart Object via Copy option.
This will create a copy that looks exactly like the one I made in the previous section. The difference will be that when I double-click on one of the thumbnails to make an edit to the image in Camera Raw and return to Photoshop, the edit will be distinct from its duplicate. Take a look at the screenshot below. This is precisely what I did.
I told you this was a cool tip that could save you lots of time. So now, after reading this post, you know how to open an image into Photoshop as a Smart Object so you can jump back and forth between Camera Raw and Photoshop very easily. You also know how to duplicate that Smart Object in such a way as to perform distinct edits to each Smart Object layer. This is just so helpful.
If you have any questions regarding this post, please ask me down in the comment section below or in the Photoshop forum. Thanks for reading!