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Transcript for Smart Objects -- Part II Video

Transcript by Ron Bigelow

Photoshop CS4 Used in this Tutorial

In the first video, we learned about the power of Smart Objects when combined with Camera Raw. However, this is not the only advantage of Smart Objects. In this video, we will look at an image that was not created as a Smart Object by Camera Raw. In fact, at this time, this image of a beach scene isn’t a Smart Object at all. How can we tell? The only layer in this image is missing the Smart Object symbol in the lower right corner of the layer icon

Of course, we would like the advantages of Smart Objects when working this image, so the first order of business is to convert this image into a Smart Object. There are a number of ways to initiate the conversion. One way is to choose Layer/Smart Objects/Convert to Smart Object. We can now see the Smart Object symbol on the layer, so we know that our image is now a Smart Object. Great, we now have a Smart Object. So, what does that buy us? Well, I am glad you asked. Let’s take a look.

One of the key advantages of having a Smart Object is that transformations are nondestructive. Let’s take a look at what that means. Notice that I actually have a copy of this image called, not too imaginatively, Beach Copy. If we move over to that image, we can see by looking at the layer icon that the image is not a Smart Object. So, let’s do a little transformation on this image and see what happens.

I think that we should scale down this image. So, we will carry out a scale transformation by choosing Edit/Transform/Scale. Grabbing one of the corners and dragging, we can make the image extremely small. Hitting the Enter key completes the transformation.

Now, I want the image back to its original size, so let’s transform it back again. We repeat the process and drag the corner back up. It is obvious that the quality of the image has been significantly reduced. What in the world happened? Well, since this image is not a Smart Object, transformations are destructive. After the first transformation, the image quality was severely degraded. Then, we tried to enlarge the degraded image, and well you saw what we got.

Did I just hear you say there must be a better way? So right you are, and that better way is called Smart Objects. Since we will not need this degraded image anymore, let’s close it by pressing Control+W on a PC or Command+W on a Mac. That brings us back to our original image that we converted into a Smart Object. Let’s repeat the same process that we just completed except that we will now perform the process on a Smart Object.

First, we make the image very small. Then, we take it back to its original size. Wow, that is quite a difference, wouldn’t you say? If fact, the image now has the exact same quality it did before we started. In other words, the transformation was completely nondestructive.

Now, this example was rather dramatic, but it is probably of limited value. In other words, you most likely don’t have much of a need to make your images very small and then take them back to their original size. Rather, this exercise was done simply to demonstrate the power of Smart Objects. You might be wondering if there are more practical uses of transformations on Smart Objects. Well, let’s look at one.

If you take a close look at this image, you can see that I was a bad, bad photographer. Can you see the problem? Look at the horizon. It is quite tilted. We need to correct this. The first thing we need to do is place a horizontal guideline by choosing View/New Guide and choosing Horizontal. Using the Move tool allows the guide to be moved into place so that we have something with which we can line up the horizon.

Now, it is time to choose Edit/Transform/Rotate. Grabbing the corner allows us to rotate the image. Now, in order to emphasis a point, let me do something really stupid. I am going to rotate this image way too far. Like this. Then, I hit the Enter button to finish the rotation. Okay, that looks really, really bad. We obviously need to correct this. Now, in the old days, that is in the days before Smart Objects, you may have been advised to never perform multiple rotations. That is, if you didn’t get the rotation correct the first time, you would undo the rotation and start all over again. That was because each rotation degraded the image. Multiple rotations caused multiple degradations of the image detail.

On the other hand, we are editing a Smart Object whose transformations are nondestructive. So, we will just perform another transformation to correct the bad job that I did on the first transformation. The guide is now removed by choosing View/Clear Guides. Selecting the Crop tool, drawing a box on the image, and hitting the Enter key creates a leveled and cropped image.

Now, it is important to stop for a moment and think about what has been done to this image. It was scaled down very severely. Then, it was scaled back up to its original size. That was followed by two rotations. The important point here is that this has all been done nondestructively. Without Smart Objects these actions would have caused considerable damage to the image detail.

Before we complete this video, I would like to show you one more thing about Smart Objects. In order to do this, I think that our next step should be to burn in the sand in the foreground in order to darken the sand just a bit. So, we select the burn tool from the Tools palette, and what happens? I get a symbol that essentially says, “Hey, dummy, you can’t do that”. This is because Smart Objects can not be edited directly. However, you don’t need to worry, because we can still edit our image. We just need to first open the Smart Object by double clicking it.

We quickly get this warning message. Just click Okay. Now, I want you to notice two things. First, Photoshop has opened what looks like a separate copy of the image. The great thing is that this image can be edited. So, we can now take the burn tool and darken the sand.

The second thing that I would like for you to notice is that this image is not a Smart Object. Rather, it is the source content of the Smart Object. We could convert this image to a Smart Object if we wanted for more advanced editing, but that is beyond the scope of this video. However, you don’t need to worry that I am leaving something out as I will show you how to do that in a later video in this series.

So, the sand has been darkened, and it’s time to get back to the original Smart Object. This is done by closing the source content. This is most easily achieved by pressing Control+W on a PC or Command+W on a Mac. Up comes this message asking if we want to save the changes. Clicking Yes gets us back to the Smart Object.

It’s important to understand that what Photoshop did was save the changes back to the Smart Object. It did not save the file to our hard drive. For this, we would have to carry out a separate Save step.

That wraps it up for this video. In the next video, we are going to look at duplicating Smart Objects, vector graphics, and linked vs. non-linked Smart Objects.