Smart Objects are one of the most powerful features added to Photoshop. If you don’t use them, you really should. They come in handy for a variety of situations and only have one real drawback which I’ll get into at the end of this post. For now, lets look at 6 great uses uses for Smart Objects.
To turn a layer or group of layers into a Smart Object, select them and then right-click and select “Convert to Smart Object” on the dropdown. The layers are now protected inside the Smart Object and anything done to the object will not damage the layers.
- Scaling and Rotating an Image – the below video shows what happens when you scale a standard layer versus a Smart Object. The smart object retains the resolution it was created at while the standard layer becomes pixilated. This is great when working on a project that requires you to scale the graphics to compensate for text content. Scaling a regular layer slightly may not show any visible changes but the pixels will be modified and eventually the clarity of the image will deteriorate.
This also applies to rotating an image. Rotating a regular image anything but 90 degree angles will affect the pixels. See the following link to view an experiment I made on the adverse effects of over-rotating an image
- Smart Filters – Filters applied to Smart Objects become Smart Filters and retain their settings. So later on, you can open up your Gaussian blur and increase or reduce its effect instead of having to guess what the prior setting was.
- Cropping – Cropping a document won’t destroy a Smart Object. You can crop a document to the size you need and still have the non-visible areas of the Smart Object available if you need to resize or move the image.
To see these first three bullets in action, click here to view my Video about Smart Objects.
- Color Conversions RBG – CMYK – All the color information is also protected inside the Smart Object. So, converting a file back and forth between RGB and CMYK for instance, won’t damage the colors. I did a photoshop experiment here that shows the affects of converting a image too many times.
- Duplicate Smart Objects – A smart object can be duplicated several times and any changes made to one of the objects will update all of them. This could be used for pedals in a flower or stars in a sky for instance.
- Image Warp – This deserves a tutorial on its own. Warping a smart image allows you to maintain the warp settings so that you can modify and tweak them later on. Anchor points and handles remain in place so repositioning the wrap doesn’t require you to start over. The Smart image allows you to change the graphic inside of it as well if you need to warp several layers in the exact same way. For instance, you can warp a graphic to appear as if its on a book page and have the ability to apply that same warp to other images.
Ok, so what’s the drawback? Well, smart objects tend to make large file sizes. For instance, if you’re working on a little 100kb icon and drop a 9mb high resolution image in as a smart object…that little PSD file will now be 9.1mbs. In these situations, I’ll usually resize the high resolution image down to about 3 to 5 times the size of the icon. So for a 200 pixel icon, I’d resize a photo to around 600 pixels to 1000 pixels, just in case I need to scale it larger in the future.
Let me know if you have any questions.