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Tools & Tips: Smart Objects and Smart Filters

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It's time to get smart. Smart objects and smart filters are two nondestructive techniques available to those that own recent version of Photoshop. If you haven't learned the nuances of these techniques, then now is the time. This article has collected a plethora of tutorials on this subject. Let's add some "smarts" to our Photoshop workflow.

Smart Objects and Smart Filters

Smart objects were introduced into Photoshop in CS2. Smart filters were added in CS3. So you'll need a current version of Photoshop to take advantage of these types of nondestructive techniques. Smart objects and smart filters allow for a flexible workflow. Smart objects point to an original vector object, raster image, or RAW file. Using smart objects means you're working with reference images. So when working with smart objects, the changes applied to them do not affect the original image. You can even save these effects and swap images. Smart filters are also not permanent effects, but can be edited or removed. Normal filters are irreversible, at least after saving the document.

Smart Object Basics

Getting to know smart object basics means working with both raster and vector objects. You can also create groups of objects. Getting to know the basics involves being able to create, manipulate, and edit smart objects.

  • Perform Nondestructive Transformations

    This tutorial covers the basics of creating a smart object. It reviews the difference between a smart object and a normal image. It shows how scaling smart objects preserves original image data. This is a simple introduction to this subject.

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  • Adobe Creative Suite Podcast: Photoshop Smart Objects

    This video tutorial is a great overview of working with smart object images. It reviews the benefits of scalability. It also demonstrates how to create smart objects and smart objects made out of multiple groups. It does a great job of reviewing editing smart objects. After watching this video, you'll understand how smart objects can reside within other smart objects.

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  • Vector Smart Objects

    This video tutorial covers placing vector smart objects from Illustrator into Photoshop. The advantages of using this are reviewed. The ability to scale the object and edit it in Illustrator is an advantage shown. The project used in the video is placing a vector logo into a CD cover design in Photoshop. It's a good quick review of this subject.

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  • Photoshop and Illustrator Integration: Vector Smart Objects

    This is another basic introduction to using vector smart objects in Photoshop. This one uses the example of grunge type. It also uses opacity masks made in Illustrator. It reviews editing the type in Illustrator. It shows how you can click on the Photoshop smart object layer and it will open itself in Illustrator. Then after editing and saving it in Illustrator, the file updates in Photoshop automatically. The tutorial also reviews how Photoshop effects can be applied to a vector smart object.

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Smart Objects Workflow and Creativity

Smart objects are powerful. Once you understand how they work, you will look for ways to bring them into your workflow. You'll want to know ways they can improve the work you do in Photoshop. They're great at adding flexibility to your workflow. Also, by creating multiple instances of the same object, you can easily edit the reference file and apply broad updates across multiple objects, a time-saver for your Photoshop workflow. In special circumstances, a smart object will give you the editing you need, like when warping text.

  • Photoshop Smart Objects, Smart But Not Always That Smart

    In this overview of smart objects, Veerle covers her typical workflow when creating Web sites. She reviews how beneficial using multiple instances of the same smart object can be. It allows for editing one object, and then all instances get updated. She also reviews the flexibility of smart objects. She also reveals a problem in the workflow that you may encounter.

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  • Warping Text Using Smart Objects

    This video tutorial covers an instance in your workflow where using smart objects for text is useful. Warping text is handled differently than when warping a pixel-based object. If you want your text to have the advantageous multiple warp handles, then you could convert it to a smart object. It retains the ability to edit the text, but you get the advantage of being able to warp the text more freely.

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  • Photoshop How-To: Get Smart About Smart Objects

    This tutorial covers how to use smart objects to place RAW files into your Photoshop workflow. With this technique, the image remains changeable throughout the editing process. Smart objects allow for a RAW workflow where you can open the RAW file at any time during the editing process. Without it being a smart object, you would be stuck with the files RAW setting or have to start over. This tutorial reviews the process of working with RAW files placed as smart objects in Photoshop.

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  • Pixels and Vectors

    This tutorial reviews the process of an Illustrator working with smart vector objects in Photoshop. The artists shows how flexible it is to edit the illustration that has been placed into Photoshop. The file is placed to check composition long before it is finalized. The file can be clicked in Photoshop and will open in Illustrator. The artist makes changes, and after saving them, the Photoshop illustration updates. This is a good, flexible workflow.

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Using Smart Filters

    Smart filters are a great addition to the nondestructive workflow. Learn how they work. They are flexible, unlike applying normal filters. They also work with layer masks to limit the effect of the filters applied, though there are limitations you'll have to work around.

  • How To Apply A Smart Filter In Photoshop CS3

    This is a series of three articles covering the basics of working with Smart Filters. It's a good introduction to the topic. Part one covers the basics of applying a smart filter. Part two is titled, How To Edit Smart Filter Settings in Photoshop CS3. Part three is titled, Photoshop CS3 Smart Filter Blend Modes And Opacity. Below is the first in the series.

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    Photoshop Tutorials: Photo Effects Templates In Photoshop CS2 / CS3

    This tutorial covers the use of smart objects and smart filters to create photo templates. By applying all your effects and photo adjustments "smartly", you can have a reusable template. The author shows us how to create the template. He uses the example of swapping in different wedding photos.

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  • How to Use Photoshop Smart Filters

    This tutorial reviews how to apply smart filters to smart objects. It also reviews editing smart filters. The download files include the vector objects and Photoshop files. It reviews using smart filters to apply masks as well, thereby lessening the filter effect on parts of the image.

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  • Working With Smart Filters In Photoshop CS3—Adobe Photoshop CS3 Video Tutorial

    This video tutorial shows you how to use smart filters to apply masks. It shows using a paint brush to paint out parts of the applied smart filter. It mentions the limitation of only being able to apply one mask to all filters you apply via smart filter.

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Smart objects and smart filters are a great addition to your nondestructive Photoshop workflow. Take the time to understand how they work. It's fairly simple. Once you grasp how smart objects are references of the original image, you'll be well on your way. Look for ways that smart objects will improve the work you do. Let me know if you're already using smart objects or smart filters in your workflow. And if so, share any tips you have, especially if they aren't referenced in this article.

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