Photoshop is a tool that is versatile far beyond what many of the programmers can ever think of. When they introduced the smart object into the CS series it revolutionized the way I do things, here’s why it should do the same for you.
- Unlimited Undo.
When you’re applying filters it used to be that there was no real way to undo a string of actions unless you had a high system memory that allowed for a long ‘undo’ list. Either that or you would have to duplicate a layer before you worked on it to keep one that you could always go back to. With Smart Layers and Smart Filtering you can apply filters at your heart’s content and non-linearlly undo them. For istance if I started my object with a ‘Blur’ then I applied a ‘Poster’ effect, I can rearrange the order in which they were applied to the image.
- Unlimited Scale.
One thing I do for photographs or scanned illustrations and art is make the actual image I’m working with a Smart Object at the highest resolution. That way when I’m working with composition, scaling things down, warping them and editing, the ‘Smart’ layer never looses any fidelity.
If you move between Illustrator and Photoshop a lot, smart objects are especially useful. Dragging a vector object from Illustrator to Photoshop will result in the vector being preserves as a smart object. Now you can use non-destructivly edit, change it’s colors, or size.
- Recursive Actions.
Another use for smart objects is for creating layers that reference the same source file. This allows you to update your one smart object and have the actions recursively distributed through all the ‘copies’. One real world examples is for people who create web page mockups. you might have one style of button that appears all over the. what if you want to change the color of all those buttons at once? Well if these button layers were all duplicates of the same Smart Object, when you update one, you update them all!
- Recycling Designs.
If you use Masks in combination with Smart Objects, Smart Filters and Unrendered Text for a design, you’ll never have to “recreate” a design. You can simply go in and replace one ojbect and instantly all the effects and filters you applied in the past are now applied to the newer image. I’ve included an example below. A client wanted me to change the “X” in one picture to a “S” in another picture. Updating the design literally took me about 15 seconds, but I still got paid for a ‘redesign’.