It happened again on Thursday. I watched an online tutorial and the person was pushing the fact that whenever you got to a place using Adobe Photoshop CS6 to retouch a photograph that you wanted to have a place you could go back to you should use the keyboard shortcut CTRL/ALT/SHIFT/E (CASE) to create a composite of all the work you'd already done. What CASE does is Merge all the Layers and put the result on its own Layer. The tutorialist (is that a word? It is now. Somebody's got to make up new words.) said this would save all your Layers so you could go back and make any changes at a later time. Bullsh**. What CASE does is put a line in the sand that says "you can't go back further than this point without scrapping all the work you did above". If you've done five Layers of work and made the CASE move, then another nine and CASE, then seventeen and another CASE and found out you had to make a change on Layer three, you're screwed. You'd have to dump twenty six Layers worth of work to make that change. Depending on what you were doing, that could be hours of work down the drain. I can think of one way to go back to Layer three and fix the mistake/error/oversight/whatever. Eliminate each of the composite Layers. If that's the case, why would you bother creating them in the first place? Dumb! There is a way to have your cake (make a composite) and eat it (make changes to any Layer at any time) too. To find out what this magic trick is, hit the "Read More".
You may have guessed. There is no "trick". The simple way to have a fully editable multiple Layer retouched image is to use Smart Objects. Smart Objects are not only for being able to have Filters that are adjustable. They are also like containers, or boxes, or folders where you can save all the work you've done so far and be able to go back to any Layer at any time and make any changes or additions you'd like. You can think of it like Russian Nesting Dolls. Each doll (Layer grouping) goes into the next until you have a place that's nice and compact and has all your Layers in the uppermost container.
You can spread the Smart Objects out like boxes on a table. The first Box (Smart Object) might contain six Layers dealing with touching up the skin of a model. In that box you'd have a Layer for pimple remove. Another for fixing up the eyebrows. Another getting rid of stray hairs. One for brightening the iris of the eye. One for enhancing the lips. Another to remove the bags under the eyes. Okay, there's six things that all have to do with the face. So, click on the Layer at one end of the set. Shift click on the Layer at the opposite end. Right click somewhere (anywhere) within that set. Chose Convert to Smart Object.
Do the same type of thing for other similar pieces of the puzzle. The color and drape of the clothes. The background. The lighting. Anything else you might think of. We'll wind up with some number of boxes (Smart Objects) laid out across our Table. Select all the Smart Objects. Do the right click thing and pick Convert to Smart Object. Now we have Smart Objects inside of Smart Objects (just like the Russian Dolls).
Any time, any Layer can be accessed and changed. The big thing to remember is to walk you way back up to the top. Save and Close, Save and Close until you're back up to the top Smart Object. (Going down would be like unstacking the Russian Dolls. Going back up to the top Smart Object would be restacking the dolls. That's the trick to using nested Smart Objects. Save and Close (File/Save) (File/Close) Your final image will be completely editable, down to the last pixel.
BTW: take a look at today's image and then take a look at the previous post. Today's image is one of the set that was used to take all the cars off the highway.