How to use Smart Objects in Photoshop

Smart Objects are a great way to employ non-destructive editing in Photoshop. The idea is that Photoshop “remembers” what was applied to a layer rather than apply an effect.

Take a background image with a blur effect applied for example. You could simply select the layer, head over to Filters – Blur – Gaussian Blur and apply the effect. However if you decide you needed a little more (or less) blur on your image, then you’re stuck – unless you’ve made a copy of your original image first.

This is where Smart Objects come in handy: before you do anything destructive with a layer, head over to Layer – Smart Objects – Convert to Smart Object.

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Notice that little extra icon at the bottom right corner of your layer thumbnail. This shows you that a layer is indeed a Smart Object.

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Now apply a filter, just like you always do: head over to Filter – Blur – Gaussian Blur (for example). And there we have it: your layer isn’t just blurred, it now gets another editable tab applied so you can modify the value of your filter later. Simply double-click on the effect and you get the filter settings dialogue again.

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Smart Objects work for other image editing options as well, for example transformations, scaling, distortions, warps and all the other good tuff.

If you ever want to get rid of a Smart Object and apply the effect to the layer, head over to Layer – Smart Objects – Rasterize. It’s like applying the operation directly to the layer.

There’s a ton of other stuff you can do with Smart Objects. This Adobe article explains more:

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