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2.2 Smart Objects

Smart Objects are Photoshop’s best tool for enabling a non-destructive workflow. Smart Objects allow most operations that would be destructive to be non-destructive. In this lesson we will see how to leverage that technology to our advantage.

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2.2 Smart Objects

Hello everybody, welcome back to advanced Photoshop techniques. We're going through our chapter on advanced tools and techniques in Photoshop. This is lesson 2.2 where we take a look at smart objects. Smart objects I feel are probably, behind masks, the second most important tool in a non destructive work flow in Photoshop. And let me show you why. We're back here in Photoshop, and I've got two identical layers lined up here. This is a extract one of the city images that we will ultimately be using for our final project. Both of these are just simple pixel layers. And one's just a simple duplicate of the other one. Now this top one, both positionally and layerally, I'm going to turn into a smart object. I do that by right clicking and say convert to smart object. You can find that also through the layer menu. Through smart objects, convert to smart objects. Now there's three main advantages that smart objects brings to us when we think about a non destructive workflow in Photoshop. The first of which is that you can scale and transform this layer without losing any pixel information. Let me demonstrate that. First of all I'll take this bottom one here. I'm gonna bring up my transformation handles with Ctrl or Cmd+T and then I'm gonna scale this down, really small. And I'm gonna warp it a little bit too. So I'm gonna right click, and say warp. And then we'll just pick one of the standard warps in here. We'll pick like the flag warp. And let's apply that. Now let's do the exact same technique for the smart object. Ctrl+t, scale down, right click for warp, select the flag warp and apply. Now at this point both of these layers look absolutely identical but what's happened is that the non smart object layer we've destroyed some pixel information when Photoshop squeezed this down. It actually had to throw some pixels out. Because it had to put a whole bunch of pixels in a much smaller space and it couldn't all fit so some of them had to be discarded. That doesn't become apparent until you try to pull it back up again. So let's try to do the reverse. Hit Ctrl+t and I'm going to scale this back up again. Right click, and let's try to undo that warp now. So we could probably do a decent job by going back to flag and putting the bend to negative 50, that would usually make sense, right, on how to unwarp this. Now it doesn't really look like it did a great job there, so maybe I'll bring it down I'll then apply that. Now that's looking a little pixelly. Kind of crumbly. Watch what happens when we do the same thing to the smart object. Once again, let's scale this back up. Right-click for warp. Now this time, let's take this warp and say none because these warp handles, they're still alive. They're still there. And then refill that space that I knew it was in, and apply that. And look how much clearer and cleaner this image looks, as compared to the image below it. We have thoroughly destroyed a lot of the pixel information from this bottom pixel layer, but this top one, the smart object, remains as clean and clear and pristine as intact as it was originally. That is one of the primary advantages of using smart objects. The second main advantage to smart objects is that it is essentially a file within a file. It's sort of like Photoshop file-ception in that sense. And while that might seem a little confusing, the advantage that it brings really is very, very useful. To demonstrate that, I'm gonna start warping these once again. Now, I know ultimately in our project, we want to put a city on the back of a tortoise. And usually, Tortoises' shells are not flat, so let's say we arch this a little bit. Again, I'm using the transformation handles. I'm gonna warp it to just a very slight arc. And pull this down some so it's not a huge arc, especially just for our illustration here. And apply that so now this city has some arc to it. Once more let's do that to the smart object too. And now that we've got both of these city layers with a bit of an arch to them, what would we do if we wanted to do some editing to these buildings, like if we wanted to use, say, the clone stamp tool and copy a building from one area to another. For example, if we wanted to copy this building here. I use my clone stamp tool, sample it from there. If I wanted to put it over here, that angle is all wrong. Oh my word. It looks like it's falling over. That doesn't work at all. But with the smart object, well we can't use the clone tool directly on it, because it is a smart object. What we have to do is edit this content, so we double click on it and we get the original layer again that the smart object was a part of. Now I'm gonna use a fresh new layer here, sampling current and below, and do that same idea. Sample from here and put a copy of this building over on the other side. I'm not going to worry too much about how it blends in right now. This is just an illustration for smart objects. So with this open, I can either close it or hit save. And back in our original project it updates to include this building and look how it fits in there just right because now it gets inserted to this image before the image gets warped. So we don't have to worry about the angles in there. Also notice, there's two layers in this. So this file can be more than just a single layer and that is a huge advantage. For using smart objects when we're trying to do a very deep and complex project with a non-destructive workflow. One more, real quick, this is knowns as smart filtering. Smart objects allow you to use the filters in a smarter way. You've used filters before. You know what happens if you pick just this regular pixel layer, and we got to Filter. Let's say Blur > Gaussian Blur, one of our favorites. And let's just put a bunch of blur in there, put it up to, say, maybe 10 pixels or so. What a nice blurry city. Great for a little background area, right? Let's do the same thing for the smart object. Filter, blur, Gaussian blur. Notice that at the top of the filter menu is the previous setting, so you could just do that. The hotkey for that is Ctrl+f. So Gaussian blur of 10 pixels, this looks exactly the same, but notice the layers panel over here. We get a smart filters entry underneath the layer. And you can see the filters that have been applied. It's not just one filter, you can apply any number here and they'll just continue to stack up. Which means that these filters are still active, they're still alive. If we look at our pixel layer, there's not much we can do to unblur that. We could try to sharpen it, and just watch what happens when we do that though. We go to filter, sharpen, smart sharpen. It doesn't matter how much sharpening you try to put in here or how you set this. Are even if the fact you set that to remove Gaussian blur, that looks like it should work right? Yeah really, there's nothing you can do once you've blurred the pixels to this amount. See, they're still blurry, you're not getting that back. But if you use it as a smart filter, look at this, you can just turn it off. It's perfectly clear once again. Not only can you just turn it off, you can double click it, and you can get that blurred dialog box back again, so we can dial it down. Let's say we were too ambitious with our blurring, and we really wanted it down at about four pixels, or something like that. Well, that looks a lot better. We can do that easily. There's even a mask, so that we can fade out the filter. Now that's something that we've never been able to do before we could use smart filters, so I can add a gradient to the mask that's attached to the smart filter and actually fade out this blur. So you see that? The bottom of it is sharp, the top of it is blurred, because the filter has been faded. All thanks to the magic of smart objects. Smart objects are a great addition to your non-destructive work flow. Next lesson, I've got one more addition to it, and that is using adjustment layers.

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