The Power of Smart Objects for Image Editing in Photoshop

One of the most powerful tools for non-destructive editing in Photoshop is converting a layer to a Smart Object. A Smart Object permits you to make changes to a layer – for example, using a filter – and go back to that layer and adjust the filter or other effect again and again. When you click on a layer which is a Smart Object, it re-opens the filter or other dialogue, right where you left off. Read on…..

There are other kinds of Smart Objects, but we’ll stick to this one for now. In my next article, I’ll be writing a review of Silver Efex Pro 2, and Smart Objects can play an important role when using that plug-in for Photoshop.

We want to make a “Smart” Unsharp Mask adjustment layer for this image. First, however, we have to duplicate the background layer. (You can convert the Background Layer to a Smart Object, but I like to keep it handy.)

Duplicate the Background Layer

Next, go to the Filters menu, and select Convert For Smart Filters.

Use the Filters Menu

Photoshop will convert the layer, and mark it with a “tag” in the layer icon. The Smart Object tag is indicated by the red circle.

Smart Object Layer

Next, go back to the filters menu and select Sharpen>Unsharp Mask. A dialogue box will appear. Note that I’ve made an adjustment that is much too strong to illustrate my next point.

Sharpening The Layer

Close the Unsharp Mask by clicking OK. Your sharpening adjustment is applied. However, we will want to re-adjust this filter, so double-click again in the layers palette (see red arrow) and…

Click On The Layer to Re-open Smart Object Filter

the Unsharp Mask dialogue reappears right where we left off! I’ve made a more reasonable adjustment, and then I’ll click OK.

Filter Re-Opens, and Adjustments Applied

If you want to make additional edits to this adjustment, just double-click again on the layer (and again, and again!) to get that filter dialogue back.

This is one of the really cool features of Photoshop. In a coming article, I will post a review of Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 (for Black & White) – and I’ll show you how to use Smart Objects with this great plug-in. Flexibility and power – what more could you ask for?

I also have a Workshop coming up: Studio Lighting: Portraits with Style!, on March 19 – – here’s a link for info and registration. Just scroll down the page, and look on the left side….

One thought on “The Power of Smart Objects for Image Editing in Photoshop

  1. Pingback: The Power of Smart Objects in Photoshop | shootplex

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