A Smart Object is simply a container for holding a composite version of a raster or vector file. When the Smart Object is modified in the originating application and saved, Photoshop updates the embedded composite in line with the modifications. For example, you can create a composite version of an Illustrator vector file as a Smart Object and have it update automatically each time you make changes to the file in Illustrator.
You can create a Smart Object by placing a file or by converting an existing layer. When you place a file in a document, it's automatically converted to a Smart Object for you, and the layer thumbnail changes to indicate that the layer now contains a Smart Object (Figure 6-3). Similarly, when you convert an existing layer to a Smart Object, though the only visible indication is the change in the thumbnail, the content is wrapped inside a container, ready for you to open and apply edits.
NOTE Because a file or a layer is being embedded in the document, the file size can increase proportionally, so it's something that you need to be aware of.
Smart Objects can be created and modified as follows:
■ To create a Smart Object from a layer, select the layer and then choose Layer ^ Smart Objects ^ Group into New Smart Object, or choose the same command from the palette menu.
■ To create a Smart Object for a placed file, first choose File ^ Place. Next, locate the file, resize the composite data, and press Enter (Windows), Return (Mac OS).
■ To replace a Smart Object, first select the layer containing a Smart Object. Next, choose Layer ^ Smart Objects ^ Replace Content and then locate the file on your hard drive.
■ To edit the layer containing a Smart Object, first, double-click its thumbnail, edit the Smart Object when it opens as a document, and then save it. Next, select the parent document to apply the changes.
If you intend to transform a layer but you are not sure whether it will be transformed again, create a Smart Object; then, you can resize it as many times as you like without fear of losing quality, provided that you do not resize beyond its original pixel dimensions. This way of working requires thinking ahead but can bring enormous benefits when, for example, you're showing soft proofs to a client whose mind might not be made up yet, or you are creating composites and want the freedom to change your mind.
TIP When you edit a Smart Object created from a layer by double-clicking it, the child document that opens has its own history states, independent of those of the parent document. You can take advantage of this feature to revert the Smart Object while keeping any edits that you may have made to the parent document since the Smart Object was created.
NOTE You might have noticed that when you try to edit a layer containing a Smart Object, a number of commands are not available. The commands are available only for the Smart Object. They also become available for editing the layer after the layer is rasterized. However, then the layer will lose its connection with the Smart Object and be effectively demoted back to a normal layer. To take advantage of the added functionality provided by a Smart Object, always double-click the thumbnail and then apply the commands to the Smart Object. Should you need to rasterize the layer, you can do so by selecting the layer containing the Smart Object and then choosing Layer ^ Smart Objects ^ Convert to Layer; alternatively, Right-click (Windows), Ctrl-click (Mac OS) on the layer tile and choose Rasterize Layer from the contextual menu.
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