Before I decide what to write about for the Q&A on Wednesday I look through the searches that brought people to the site. Without a doubt, the number one query has to do with Smart Objects. I've written about the wonders of Smart Objects several times and people are directed to one of the posts. For the past month, day in and day out, someone has been putting in a search string trying to find out how to "get rid" of Smart Objects. At first I thought it might be one misguided soul who couldn't figure out what to do with Smart Objects. In my opinion, the alpha and the omega of working in Adobe Photoshop CS5. As the days wore on and the search sting was persistent I came to realize that someone really does need some help. Not necessarily getting rid of a Smart Object, but understanding what a Smart Object is and how to use them. I sat down over the weekend and tried to figure out "why" anyone would want to get rid of one. The easiest explanation I could conjure up was that it could be someone new to CS5, who's not familiar with Layers (no one, on their first day, knows about Layers) and did a little right click exploring. He/she right clicked on the Background Layer and saw that Convert For Smart Objects was available. I'm also surmising the fact that where was considerable work put into the image the person had been working on. Clicking on Convert For Smart Objects got her/him in trouble. To find out how that caused trouble and how to get out of it, hit the "Read More"
Let's go back over where we are. New to CS5 person, doesn't have an understanding of Layers, had done major work on the Background Layer, went exploring and clicked on Convert For Smart Objects. When the person went back to try to do almost anything to the image he/she found out they were locked out of, pretty much, everything. The first rule of Smart Objects is that you can't do anything directly to them. You can put Adjustment Layers on them and play with all sorts of things that way. You can add another, blank Layer, and use that for things like retouching skin on a portrait. You could add a blank Layer, fill it with 50% gray and use low Opacity black and white brushes to Dodge and Burn the image. You could, certainly, add any number of filters or make Shadow and Highlight (Image/Adjustments/"Shadow/Highlight") or HDR Toning (Image/Adjustments/HDR Toning) behave like Filters. But, you can't do anything directly to a Smart Object. Think of it as an "in progress RAW file". You cannot directly alter it. Where does that leave our lost soul?
If, for some reason, something "must" be done to the original image that was converted into a Smart Object, you can always double click on the Layer icon. That'll bring you back to the original image. Do whatever you feel "must be done" to the image. When you're finished, Save and Close the file. Not Save As, just plain Save (File/Save then File/Close). That will update the Smart Object and anything that was done to the original image will show up in the Smart Object. You can then continue on with whatever you want to do that can be done using additional Layers, Adjustment Layers, Filters, etc.
If, and I mean if, you're hell bent on removing the Smart Object and getting back to a flat image, it is easy. Go back to what got you in trouble in the first place. Right click on the Layer panel. Rather than having Convert For Smart Objects as an option, you'll see Rasterize Layer. Click that and your Smart Object is gone.
A better solution would be to learn how to use Smart Objects. As I said at the start of this post: they're the alpha and omega (the beginning and the end, the be all and end all) of working in Photoshop CS5.
To the person who is persistently doing the search: if you're still unsure, send me an email and we can go through it one on one.