Smart object in Photoshop: description, purpose, tips for working

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Smart object in Photoshop: description, purpose, tips for working
Smart object in Photoshop: description, purpose, tips for working

The concept of a smart object in "Photoshop" is associated with a non-destructive process when working in the program. In other words, you can adjust the image without worrying about data loss, which is inevitable when dealing with bitmap graphics in normal layers.


Smart object in Photoshop allows you to save the original characteristics of the imported object. To understand how this happens, it is necessary to remember the differences between bitmap and vector images.

The first one consists of pixels, their number is responsible for the quality of the image (when the image resolution is low, zooming in allows you to see them). The second is formed by vectors that are calculated mathematically by technology. Because of this, they do not lose quality (each time the calculation is performed anew).

bitmap enlargement
bitmap enlargement

The difference between vector and bitmap images

Returning to smart objects, you should pay attention that they allow you to work with raster graphics in the same way as with vector graphics, i.e. without losing image data, keeping the original ones.

To understand the user of the program that the work is not with the usual raster layer, the thumbnail of the smart object in Photoshop, displayed in the window ("layers" - bottom right), helps.

window thumbnail
window thumbnail

Smart Object Icon

The positive features of smart objects are as follows:

  • The ability to make non-destructive changes.
  • Actions in "Photoshop" with vector graphics without first converting it to raster (for example, post-processing of an image).
  • Apply filters without loss of information and quality.
  • Use associated and non-smart object masks.

In this case, actions related to the replacement, destruction of pixels cannot be performed (for example, lighten, darken, draw, etc.).

Creating a smart object

Below and below will be considered Photoshop CC. In earlier versions, the sequence and actions themselves may differ.

In general, the creation of a Smart Object is done through the "Open as Smart Object" option. In Photoshop, you can also use the steps below using the top list.

open smart object
open smart object

In the top menu:

• "File" - "Place Embedded" - import as smart objects into the workspace;

• "Layer" - "Smart Objects" - "Convert to…" - accordingly, modifying the existing layer into the required one, similarly for several layers - for them, the first step will be the selection.

• PDF documents and vector graphics automatically become Smart Objects.

Creating a smart object

Creating a Smart Object
Creating a Smart Object

It's worth noting that by simply dragging and dropping from AdobeIllustrator you can get a Vector Smart Object in Photoshop.

The main positive feature of linked smart objects is that when changes are made in the source file, the linked ones are updated. To create them, you need to select "File" - "Place linked". After that, the object will be displayed as a layer with a link mark.

Linked Smart Objects

working with layers
working with layers

In the case when the document is large, the smart object will allow it to be reduced. Working with smart objects in "Photoshop" is carried out by linking to the source. A linked smart object, in other words, refers to a file, and in the end acts as a link and stores a scaled version. Thus, it will speed up the process of opening and saving a file while working with it.

If you make changes to the initial file while opening Photoshop, you should synchronize: selecting the layer that is the carrier of the smart object, right-click to open the menu, then click "Update changed content". In the same menu, you cansolve the problem of a broken link: "Fix broken link" - choose a new address in the store.

A smart object in "Photoshop" has its own properties, which can be called in the following sequence: click to make a selection, then select "Layers" - "Properties" at the top, and you can find the required information.

Finally, it is possible to include linked Smart Objects in the file. The user will need to call the "Layer" menu, from which, in sequence, the positions "Smart Objects" and "Embed Related". The reverse transformation is performed in the same way, only the last action will be "Convert to Smart Object".

In recent versions, the workflow with Smart Objects in Photoshop has been greatly facilitated by the introduction of filters in the "Layers" section, which include selection by them. This is very helpful if a large number of combined layers have formed during the work.

Duplicate smart object

Abstract pop art
Abstract pop art

It is very often necessary to duplicate a layer at work. Like normal objects, Smart Objects also have this capability, but there are differences.

To create a copy of the linked smart object on the main panel, select "Layer" - "New" - "Copy to new". Do not forget that changes to the source will also be synchronized.

Duplicate an embedded Smart Object is done in a similar way and works like a smart layer.

Editing the source of a smart object

Edits to the original file affect the associated smartan object. In "Photoshop" added the ability to switch to the so-called primary source and work with it in the appropriate program (for example, a vector image - in Illustrator). To do this, you need to call the aforementioned "Properties" - "Edit Content" window. After the required edits, save.


In the process, you may need in-depth, or rather, standard work with the image. The smart object option will not allow you to do this, due to the fact that the set of tools used is limited in the field of data saving. Therefore, for full-fledged work, you need a regular raster layer. For this purpose, Photoshop provides a rasterization function. It is called by right-clicking on a smart object and selecting "Layers" - "Rasterize" on the top line. As a result, we will have a standard layer with the ability to use the full set of tools (the smart object thumbnail will disappear accordingly).

Advanced smart object adjustments

However, adjustment layers will work with smart objects, even more: they will work at the same time as adjustments. You can call them in the menu "Image" - "Correction". The applied filters and adjustments will appear below it in the layers panel. To expand the work with them allows the imposition of a mask and subsequent work with it. It is worth noting that you can apply only one mask that works on all adjustments.

Another help can be the correction parameters, which are located on the right side of the layers panel. There isthe ability to adjust the opacity and select the blending mode.

The above will already allow you to get an image with an HDR overlay from one existing object through a series of actions. To do this, you need the original object using the option called by right-clicking on the object and choosing "Create Smart Object by Copy". Here it is necessary to make an explanation about the difference between this and the standard copying of the layer: if you perform the second, then when you make edits to the newly formed object, they will be duplicated on the original one (this was mentioned above). The first one allows you to work with smart objects in Photoshop during their initial creation, as well as with an independent smart object. By performing this operation, each time we will get a new independent layer.

Working with smart object adjustments

image adjustment
image adjustment

Already further, you can work with the exposure on individual smart objects, increasing or decreasing accordingly. The subsequent blending of all layers and the use of masks in the end will allow you to get the HDR effect without losing quality and data.

Some people forget how to change the size of a Smart Object in Photoshop. As with standard layers, "Transform" will help with this, which automatically appears when you insert an object into the working field or call "Edit" - "Transform" in the top menu.

Also, the use of smart objects is very useful when working in related programs of the Adobe family, such as Lightroom and Illustrator. Here it is appropriate to use the connection onsmart objects, which makes it possible to work almost seamlessly in these programs (for example, in Photoshop - make the necessary edits and transfer back to another program without any delay and loss of information).

In "Photoshop" it is possible to export smart objects (only without link). To do this, select it in the "Layers" window, then follow the sequence in the top list: "Layers" - "Smart Objects" - "Export Content". You can save the file in its original format (the same one that is inserted into Photoshop), or if it was formed directly during the actions performed in the program from different layers, then in PSB.

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