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How to Create and Use Smart Objects in Photoshop

I’m sure you’ve seen and used Smart Objects in Photoshop for a long time, but you haven’t yet seen their purpose. I’m saying this because I’ve been in this situation myself and most likely, you are or will be soon, too.

That’s why in this tutorial I will show you their true power and how they can turn several hours of work into just a few minutes. The technique is quite simple and it shines particularly when you want to modify multiple designs containing similar objects,such as mock-up sets for laptops, smartphones and displays.

What is a Smart Object?

In simple terms, a Smart Object is a fully layered file within a .PSD file, but embedded into a single layer. You can edit, replace and export them at will or import an existing file as part of a larger design.

In the Layers palette, you can recognize it by the “new document-ish” icon in the lower right corner of the layer thumbnail.


What’s a Smart Object’s purpose?

The fact that you can embed compact editable documents into larger designs is a unique feature itself. Imagine having a document, let’s say, an array of 7-8 images, nicely arranged into pattern or placed at random in your design and you want to replace that particular image. Wouldn’t it be easier to replace just one, and all the others to change by themselves?

How do I create or embed Smart Objects?

There are a few ways you can embed or create Smart Objects. Let’s start with importing existing files as Smart Objects.


Create a new document (File > New…) of any size or open an existing one you want to use as a test subject. Don’t worry, you won’t harm the file in the process 🙂



Go to File > Place…, select an image, a vector or a .PSD file and hit OK. In your document, hit Enter to place it in. You will now see that instead of a normal raster layer, there’s now a Smart Object.


To create Smart Objects from existing layers, you have to go through the following steps:


Select the layers or the layer groups. Hold the SHIFT key and click the layer thumbs to select consecutive layers or CTRL to select specific layers.


Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Convert to Smart Object.

Yes, it’s that easy. The purpose is to make everything simpler, not complicate them even further.

How do I use the Smart Objects?

Here comes the interesting part!

After you’ve imported/created one, you can duplicate it (Layer > Smart Objects > New Smart Object via Copy and use them within the same document. Even if you scale down, reflect, rotate or transform the smart object, you will still be able to edit it as if it was flat. Let’s see how that works!

For this test, we’ll use the Smart Object created earlier.


Select the Smart Object layer and go to Layer > Smart Objects > New Smart Object via Copy (CTRL+J). This will create a duplicate of the current Smart Object.


Next, go to Edit > Transform > Free Transform. Hold CTRL and click-drag the corners. Make a random transformation and hit Enter.


Repeat STEPS 1 and 2 to create multiple Smart Objects across your design. Transform them randomly.


Now you have so many images placed in your design and let’s say you don’t like it anymore, you want something different. If those were raster images, you’d have to start all over again, but since those are Smart Objects, you’ll only have to edit just one. Let’s see how it works!


Select one of the Smart Objects and go to Layer > Smart Objects > Edit Contents… A message window will appear. Hit OK.


Now you have a new document open, labeled the same as the Smart Object layer from your document, with the .PSB extension. Let’s edit it a bit, shall we?

Open an image of your choice, copy it (CTRL+A > CTRL+C) and paste it into our .PSB file. Either that, or draw something in it.


Go to File > Save, close it (File > Close or CTRL+W). If you have multiple files open, hit CTRL+Tab to go back to our document.

See how every Smart Object in the file changed with just a few clicks? Even the transformations remain the same, Imagine starting all over again, editing all those images, again and again.

How do I use the same Smart Object in other projects?

You can export the Smart Object in a separate file, which you can access and import at will. To export a Smart Object, follow this step:


Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Export Contents… You will be prompted to change the name and choose the location where to save it. I recommend you save it in a specific folder and not labeled “asdf1.psd”

A more practical method to import Smart Objects from one file to another (I use this one myself) is to minimize one document and click-drag the layer into the other document. Here’s a graphic illustration of how I do this.

Practical purposes

All that theory is useful, but wouldn’t you like to see it in action, in specific design? Let’s take this “Display Mock-Up Set” and make it our practice dummy!


Unzip the files and double-click the .PSD file to open it in Photoshop.


You now see a front view of a display with a mock-up of our website. In the Layers palette, there is a Smart Object labeled “Screen” and currently selected.


Go to Layer > Smart Objects > Edit Contents. Paste in an image of your choice, save it (CTRL+S) and close it (CTRL+W).


Turn on the visibility of the other “view” layer groups. Now the mock-ups changed by themselves and are ready to be used.


Now imagine editing each image, distorting them to fit the perspectives and placing them in the right locations. In this case, there are not many views, but think about having to deal with 10 or more views. Would have been a nightmare!

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One Response

طراحی وب سایت

i, thanks for many nice site
Check out our website /
Good luck

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May.24, 2012
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