In the past, I’ve written quite a few posts that discuss Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop. In these posts, I talk about many different aspects of them and how they can help during editing projects. I even talk about what the difference between two widely used methods for duplication is. The reason I focused on this last topic specifically is because duplicating objects in Photoshop is a very common task. And since converting different layers to Smart Objects makes a lot of sense, the topic seemed to be relevant.
As much as I’ve written, there are some areas I missed (I’m sure there are a lot of areas). With this in mind, I thought I’d write a quick post today to fill in some of the gaps.
In today’s post, I’m going to walk through a small demo project in Adobe Photoshop where I’ll perform a variety of functions that may make your workflow more streamlined and efficient. Off the top of my head, I can think of three such tasks right now that not only have to do with Smart Objects, but a few other areas as well. I’ll explain everything down below, so let’s get going.
To keep this post brief, I’ve already gone ahead and opened three photos into Photoshop. I resized them so all three images have the same dimensions. Then, I moved them into the same tab. I created two vertical guides; one was placed at the horizontal 33% mark and the next was placed at the 66% mark. Using those guides, I trimmed each photo so it only comprised one third of the entire canvas area. Finally, I created two vertical white lines and moved them so they covered the seams between the photos. The result of my efforts are below.
Now, I want you to know that what I created is merely for demonstration purposes. I chose three random, yet related, photos and stuck them together in this file. I’ll cover the point of this post below, but I wanted to first begin with laying the groundwork.
Creating a Multi-Layer Smart Object
Okay, let’s take a quick look at the Layers panel to see what’s going on. It’s pretty straightforward.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that I tried to organize things a bit. There’s the background layer at the bottom and then two folders. I named the top folder White Lines and the one under that Pics. Inside the White Lines folder are the two white lines I made and inside the Pics folder are the equally sized, trimmed photos.
When working in projects such as this, I tend to create Smart Objects. The benefits of doing this are many.
One such benefit is that I get to group clusters of layers into one Smart Object layer that not only organizes the Layers panel, but preserves the high quality of each layer contained in the object. Since I have two folders and five layers in this project, I think it’s time to contain them in a Smart Object.
To do this, I’ll go ahead and select all the working layers and folders. I’ll leave the background layer out. Once the layers and folders are selected, I’ll right-click in the gray area of one of them and, from the menu that pops up, select Convert to Smart Object.
When this is finished, I’ll see the layers collapse into the Smart Object and I’ll also see the little icon in the lower right corner of the layer thumbnail that indicates what it is.
I wrote much more on how to create a multiple layered Smart Object in one of my past posts. If you’re interested in this type of thing, by all means, give it a read.
Copying the Smart Object
The goal of this project is to have two identical Smart Objects, one sitting below the other. Once the first Smart Object is copied and the copy is positioned, I’d like to swap the two end photos of the copy and save the file out. Basically, I’m creating sort of a mock up for approval from an imaginary editor (human). I’m creating both versions in this same file for simplicity.
The problem here is that there are two methods for copying Smart Objects. One will create a pure duplicate, which, when changed or altered in any way, will also cause a change in the original. The other method will allow me to make changes while leaving the original alone. This second option is what I’d like to take advantage of here.
To make my copy, I’ll make sure the Smart Object in the Layers panel is selected. Then, I’ll use the Layer > Smart Objects > New Smart Object Via Copy menu item.
After I do that, I’ll see that I have a new Smart Object in the Layers panel that looks a heck of a lot like the one I just copied.
I just wanted to mention that these Smart Objects are still named “White Lines.” Photoshop decided to name them that and I never changed it.
Positioning the Smart Object Copy
I can now treat these layers as I would any other. Since I want to see both layers stacked, I’ll need to select the copy of the original Smart Object and drag it down so it’s completely off the canvas. I want the top edge of the copy just touching the bottom edge of the original. If I do this and look at the Layers panel, it’ll appear as if the copied layer is empty. It’s not. The visible portion of the layer is just off the canvas.
Revealing Both Layers
Since the person who is going to be looking at this file won’t be able to see both layers, the way things are right now doesn’t do me a lot of good. I’ll need to reveal both layers so I can see what’s going on. A really neat shortcut that gets this done is to use the Image > Reveal All menu item. This feature will alter the size of the canvas so anything that sits outside of it gets included in the new size. It’s pretty cool, if you ask me.
Let’s see what the canvas looks like after I do this. I’ll also press Ctrl+0 on my keyboard to automatically resize the canvas so the entire thing is in view.
Now things are starting to look good. They’re just the way I want them.
Altering the Copied Smart Object
The final task of this project is to swap the first and the third photo in the copied Smart Object. The issue with doing this is that both Smart Objects appear as single layers in the Layers panel. To open either one of them up so they are editable layers again, I’ll need to double-click on the layer thumbnail of the Smart Object I’d like to edit. So, in this case, I’ll double-click the thumbnail of the top layer. This will open a new tab that, in this case, is called WhiteLines1.psb. The contents of the tab will look just like the original layers of the first Smart Object.
The next step is to swap the image positions. When I’m done with that, I’ll “X” out of the tab, which will prompt Photoshop to ask if I’d like to save the work. I’ll click the Yes button, which will allow the tab to close. Please be aware, this step doesn’t actually save a document somewhere. It merely saves the process you just completed in the primary file.
Once I’m done with that, I’ll see my work, just as I should, in the original file – changes and all.
As you can see from the screenshot above, even though I altered the copied Smart Object, the original stayed the same, which was the entire point of this post.
There we have it. I hope I clearly conveyed a few points in this post. First, I wanted to show how you can set up layers inside of folders in the Layers panel and then I wanted to explain how to go about creating and properly copying a Smart Object in Photoshop. Finally, I wanted to demonstrate how to reveal all contents of a file in the canvas and how to edit the contents of a Smart Object and save those changes out. I think I’ve done my job here.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding this post, please let me know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!