Why You Should be Using Smart Objects

Don't be Stupid with Smart Objects...

Using computers to create stunning pieces of art has many advantages.  It's faster, can be done anywhere with laptops or tablets, cleaner (no paint under fingernails), and can be easily edited when needed.  Unfortunately a lot of designers are not using one of the most powerful tools within Photoshop when creating their masterpieces, and that is smart objects.

 

Adobe defines a smart object as "layers that contain image data from raster or vector images, such as Photoshop or Illustrator files."  Now you may be saying to yourself why should I use smart objects when I'm already using separate layers in Photoshop, and I always use masks instead of deleting pixels.  If you are already using non-destructive techniques such as masking, layering, and adjustment layers, you might as well go ahead and use smart objects as well.  Let me show you a few ways in which they are really helpful, and will cause less frustration, and open up the door for even more interesting design techniques.

 

Vector Art 

 

As we all know, Photoshop is a raster based program, which means that no matter what you do, there is always a chance that your artwork can become pixelated, especially when being viewed up close.  Since we are all knowledgeable designers, we will use a vector program, such as Illustrator when creating large shapes, text, or any other "drawing" we want to include in our designs.  The great thing about vector art is that it will retain its quality no matter how big or small we scale it, which is perfect for any type of large format designs.  When using smart objects with vector art inside of Photoshop, you can actually retain the vector information, and edit it whenever you want inside of its native program.

 

What I will do is create my shape or artwork inside of Illustrator, then copy and paste it into Photoshop.  When you do it this way, Photoshop will ask you how you want to paste it, and at this point you should always say smart object.

 

smartObject 

 

What this will do is paste your artwork into Photoshop on a new layer that contains the smart object.

 

Smart Object Layer

 

Now that your vector artwork is a smart object, you can do all sorts of cool things to it with filters and effects, but yet the original artwork will not be affected.  If you need to change anything at all about the art, all you have to do is double click the layer thumbnail, and it will open that piece of work in it's native program.  You can then make your changes, save the document, and it will automatically update inside of Photoshop.  Pretty cool huh!

 

Photoshop Art

 

Turning your Photoshop artwork into smart objects has many advantages, but the biggest advantage is creating a truly non-destructive workflow.  When turning Photoshop layers into smart objects, you will be able to apply effects, and be able to change those effects whenever you feel like it.  Have you ever followed a cool tutorial on how to make some type of text effect in Photoshop, only to realize that you spelled the word wrong, or you wanted to change the word at the end?  If you had turned that text into a smart object, you would have no worries, as the only thing you would have to do is double click the layer thumbnail, which would open the text in a new Photoshop document, change the text since it is still editable, save it, and go back to your tutorial piece.

 

Turning layers, or multiple layers into smart objects within Photoshop is really easy.  All you have to do is select the layer, or layers that you want to convert, then click on the pop out menu, and convert to a smart object.

 

Convert to Smart Object  

 

Making Changes

 

The absolute best part about smart objects is that they are completely non-destructive, and will allow you to change an effect once you have made it.  For example, let's say that you want to blur a layer, so you go to filter > blur > Gaussian blur, then make your selections on how strong the blur will be.  It looks great, and you continue on with your design project, saving it multiple times and finally sending a proof to your client.  Now let's say that the client thinks the blur is a little too much, and wants to lower it just a little, but still keep it blurry.  If you did not turn that layer into a smart object before applying the blur, you will be out of luck, and basically have to re-create that part.  If you had however turned it into a smart object first, you will still have full control over that filter, and be able to change it anytime you want, without affecting the original art.

 

Editing Smart Objects

 

Conclusion

 

This is just a quick introduction to smart objects, but hopefully you can see smart objects are essential when using a non-destructive workflow.  When you can create a piece of art and still have the ability to change it whenever you want without deleting, or re-doing any effects you might have added is invaluable.  As I create more design tutorials in Photoshop, you will see that I use them extensively so I always have full control over everything I do (I'm a control freak like that).  If you use smart objects, or have other cool ways in which to use them, please post a comment below.

 

 

 

 

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