In earlier versions of Smart Objects, we embedded image data into the PSD file. Now, Adobe has upgraded Smart Objects in Photoshop CC 2014 so we can also link them to external files. In this tutorial, we will use new features from the latest Linked Smart Objects to design a flexible brochure. We will use Photoshop as our main tool and Illustrator to design its logo.
We are going to use some royalty-free images. You'll find them inside the completed PSD files. You can use it to compare with your final work. We are also going to use the free font Alef from Google Fonts.
In the process, we will use Adobe Bridge to browse asset images. Remember to update your Adobe Photoshop, because we are going to use the latest features from version CC 2014.
1. Preparing the Canvas
First, we will start by making a new file (Control-N) for our brochure. Select the preset International Paper with size A5.
The default setting uses 300 pixels/inch for its resolution. It means that every 1 inch × 1 inch square contains 300 pixels. This is the ideal setting for printing. However, since this is just a simple tutorial, we may want to lower the resolution a bit. Set it to 150 pixels/inch. Lower resolution means fewer pixels. Fewer pixels mean faster processing time for Photoshop.
Here's the canvas we have.
Hit Control-R to reveal the rulers on the top and left side of the canvas. These rulers will help us to identify the cursor's position and to place design elements accurately. Right-click the ruler and then select Millimeters to change its unit.
Activate the Marquee Tool. Make a new rectangular selection measuring 11 mm × 11 mm on the top-left corner of the canvas. To make a perfect rectangular selection, drag the cursor while holding the Shift key.
Click and drag the ruler onto the selection edge to make a new guide right at 11 mm horizontally and 11 mm vertically.
Do the same in the lower right corner of the canvas. Draw a 11 mm × 11 mm rectangle in the lower right corner and create new guides around it.
2. Add a Background
Open the stock photo available inside the source files. This photo was provided by deathtothestockphoto. Click File > Save As and then save this as a PSD file. Select Photoshop in the Save as Type option. We save this in a PSD format (not JPG) for easier modification in the future.
Drag the PSD file onto the canvas we have created in Photoshop. We drag to place the file in the canvas. Remember that we don't intend to copy the image and then paste it, but we intend to link the file in the canvas. We can call this canvas a container file.
You can also use the menu, File > Place Linked. In the next dialog box, select the file you want to insert.
After the image file is placed inside the canvas, you will see a bounding box. You can resize the image file dimensions by dragging its handles around. No need to worry about making a mistake while transforming it. Since the image file is saved as a Smart Object, you can always redo or apply another transformation without destroying the image quality.
To resize while maintaining the image aspect ratio, drag the handles while holding down the Shift key.
Hit the Enter key to confirm the transformation process. If you're still not satisfied with the result, apply another transformation by hitting Control-T. Now, take a look at the Layers panel. The background layer that we added previously has a small icon in the lower right corner. This icon indicates that the layer is linked to another file.
3. Add Content
Let's add a footer into our design. Open the logo file available with this tutorial. The logo file comes from deathtothestockphoto. It is an EPS file, so you should open it in Adobe Illustrator to retain its vector capabilities. Select one of the logos. Copy it by hitting Control-C.
Make a new file in Adobe Illustrator (Control-N).
Hit Control-V to paste the logo.
Save the logo file in the same folder as our brochure.
Let's go back to our brochure PSD file. Place the vector logo into the canvas using the menu File > Place Linked. In the next dialog box, select the file. Open it as a Smart Object with Crop To Bounding Box selected.
Change the size of the vector logo. Place it in the bottom right corner of the canvas.
Activate the Type Tool and then click and drag to make a new text box. Fill it with two or three short paragraphs, followed by the company website address in large text. For the font type, use Alef from Google Fonts.
Add another text box on top of the canvas. Use the same font for consistency. Set its font size to be bigger, since this is the brochure's main title.
4. Edit the Linked Smart Object
For now, we have two Smart Objects, in the logo and the background. We are also aware that the Smart Object layer is linked to the original file. Let's try to modify them and see what happens.
First, change the background content. Activate the Smart Object background. Open the Properties panel. Click Edit Contents. You can also directly double-click the layer to edit its content.
You may find this dialog box. Photoshop will request you to save the file in the same area. Just click OK.
The background layer will be opened as a separate PSD file. The next thing that we are going to do with the background is to edit a portion of the photo to add more contrast in the text. Take a look at the following image. The black text is very close to the window.
In the background layer file, select some parts of the background and then hit Control-J to duplicate it.
Hit Shift-Up Arrow to move it upwards.
Select the lower part of the image using the Marquee Tool.
Hit Control-T and then change its size until we have a cleaner table surface.
Erase unneeded areas using the Eraser Tool with a soft, big brush.
We're done editing the background layer file. Save and then close it. The brochure's background is automatically updated.
Let's try another way to edit the background layer. Close the brochure file. We know that the background layer is linked to a PSD file. So, why don't we edit the PSD file directly? In Adobe Bridge, double-click the background PSD file to open it in Photoshop.
Grab another image from deathtothestockphoto—you will find it with the source files of this tutorial. Paste it to our PSD file. Save the PSD.
Let's open the brochure file in Photoshop and see what happens next.
In the Layers panel, you will find an exclamation mark icon inside the background Smart Object layer. This icon warns us that there's a problem with the layer. In Properties panel, you will also find a similar exclamation mark icon.
We know that the content of the linked file is already updated. We can instruct Photoshop to update the data layer by clicking Layer > Smart Object > Update Modified Content.
Take a look at the canvas. The background is automatically updated.
Click the Edit Contents button to edit the file.
Perform a transformation (Control-T) into the new image.
Save the background file. Return to the brochure file and then update the background smart layer.
To add contrast in the footer, add a simple rectangle at the bottom. Use the same color as the color of the logo.
So far, here's the design we have.
If you want to, you can still edit the background and maybe move the image a bit.
5. Different Color Scheme
We have changed the background image. Now, let's change the color scheme. In this version, the color of the logo and the text will be inverted. First, we want to add a simple rectangle for the text background. Use the Shape Tool with the Shape option selected in the Option Bar. Set the Fill to
Click and drag to draw a simple rectangle in the bottom of the canvas.
Change the text color to white.
We also want to edit the vector logo and change its color.
We can do this by activating the vector logo Smart Object in the Layers panel. From the Properties panel, click the Edit Contents button.
We can also browse for files associated with the logo vector and then open them in Photoshop.
Right-click the brochure file and then select Show Linked Files.
Adobe Bridge will show you a list of files that linked to the container file. As you can see below, there are two files that are linked to this PSD, background and logo. Double-click the logo file to edit it using the appropriate program, in this case Adobe Illustrator.
Select all the background shapes.
Change their color to black. Do this again to all of the shapes behind the text.
Invert the text color to white. Save and then close the vector file.
Let's return to our brochure file. We now have an inverted logo that matches our current color scheme.
6. Organizing the Files
By linking files, instead of embedding files, we use several connected files in our design project. Of course, we don't want one of them missing. Therefore, we need to organize them carefully. Make sure you put all of them in one folder. As you can see below, they are all placed in a folder named brochure package.
You should also understand how Photoshop handles all related files. From the official help site, Photoshop will first search the files in the last absolute position. If Photoshop failed, it will search again in the same folder as the container file.
Let's see what happens if one of the linked files is missing. Remember that currently we have two files linked to the main PSD file.
What if we accidentally remove the logo from the place of origin, which is in the same folder as the file container?
Right-click the main PSD file and then select Show Linked Files. A warning message appears, and reminds us that there are files missing.
If we open the container file in Photoshop, a dialog box will pop up and tell us about the missing files.
Click the Choose button to try searching for the missing file. Once you have found it, select it and then click the Place button.
A check mark icon indicates that the missing linked files have been found.
You can choose to ignore the warning dialog box. If you do so, inside the Layers panel and Properties panel, you will find a question mark icon tells you about the loss of the associated file.
Click the Edit Contents button or double-click the layer and then try to find the missing file manually.
So, make sure to always put the container file and associated files in the same folder. Another advantage of using the related file is a smaller file size. As you can see on the status bar, the container file size is 14.43 MB.
You can always use the earlier method with Smart Objects, which is to embed the files. Embedding means you place the image data directly in the container file.
You can embed all Smart Objects by clicking Layer > Smart Objects > Embed All Linked.
You won't see a link icon in the layer's thumbnail or the Properties panel. Instead, you will see a regular old Smart Object icon.
You will also notice the difference in the file size between the Embedded and the Linked Smart Objects. Because embedded means you place all the image information in one container file, you will get a very big file size. In this case, Embedded Smart Objects generate 70 MB while Linked Smart Objects generate 14 MB.
7. Linking One File to Several Design Files
In this tutorial, we have linked two files, PSD (Photoshop) and AI (Illustrator), to a brochure file. Actually, you can also link those files to another file for a multiple design project, for example linking the vector logo to a business card file.
This way, we can simply edit the vector logo, and the result will automatically be updated in both container files, brochure and business card. In this case, we change the text logo from a to s.
The vector logo in the brochure is automatically updated too.
From this lengthy tutorial, we can see that the new Linked Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop offer us more freedom to work non-destructively. This new feature will be very helpful for those who work as a team. For example, one can focus on the layout, the other on the logo, and the other can focus on photo manipulation for the image background. I hope you can find new tricks to use this new feature. If you succeed, let me know in the comments area.