Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wednesday Q & A: Photoshop Smart Objects In The Real World

For the past month or so in the Wednesday Q & As I've been talking about Adobe Photoshop CS6 Smart Objects.  If you go back through the posts you'll see the What, the Why, and the How of using Smart Objects.  In my opinion it's the number one most powerful feature of CS6 (and CS5).  But what would be a "real world" use of a Smart Object that wouldn't be totally abstract in the explanation?  Well, over the weekend our Granddaughter called and said her high school science project had been selected to complete in the state science fair.  All the work on the project was done and she needed to produce a "project board" .  An ~4' x 3.5' three fold board that described what she had done, her methodology and the results.  Her idea was to lay the whole thing out in Photoshop CS4 (her current version), print it out and mount it to the store bought presentation board.  I have a wide carriage printer, but not that wide.  The three sections were 11", 22" and 11" wide.  She brought the finished layout over on a USB drive.  To learn how Photoshop Smart Objects helped immensely, hit the "Read More".

Today's image is "sort of" a representation of what the screen looked like as we "cut" sections to send to the printer.  We needed to have a fixed "final" layout that couldn't be changed, but also needed to be able to make corrections if necessary.  She had all of her Layers and she could access any Type Layers, image Layers or data Layers to correct spelling, change positions, etc.  So, (since it was a science project) the "problem statement" was how to get a fixed layout that was also editable.

It was actually a simple process using a Smart Object.  With my "guidance" she clicked on the top most Layer.  She then Shift clicked the Background Layer.  She right clicked on any of the Layers and choose Convert to Smart Object.  That put all the Layers in "a container" (a Smart Object).  From there it was a matter of laying out the cuts that would be needed to make the panels.  Four wide by two high.  You can see the "layout lines" in today's image. 

Guides were pulled out from the left for the verticals and from the top for the horizontals.  The rectangular Marquee Tool (M) was used to select each panel as it was needed to print.  Having the Snap To set to Guides (View/Snap To/Guides) each drag of the Marquee Tool locked onto the sides of each panel.  Control J copied the selection up onto its own Layer.  By turning off the visibility of all others Layers (Click on the eyeball icon for the Layer in the Layers Panel) the targeted segment only would be available to print.  Each segment was printed by keeping the vertical offsets the same.  That kept the alignment the same for each panel. 

After review by her science teacher the inevitable changes and corrections needed to be made.  Double clicking on the Smart Object icon opened the original document with all of its editable Layers.  Corrections were make and the Smart Object updated (File/Save then File Close).  The printing layout was unchanged and the segment could be reselected and reprinted without fear of shifting parts of the overall board.

Smart Objects are killer.  They make it possible to travel back and forth, up and down your project (science or otherwise) and make corrections anywhere along the way.