Adobe Photoshop Smart Objects are still the number one query that brings readers to The Kayview Gallery. We've had a dozen difference posts (check out the archive list in the right hand column) discussing Smart Objects covering a period from 2011 through today’s post. Today’s “image” is a little test I’ve created that you can replicate to prove to yourself that CTRL-ALT-SHIFT-E doesn’t work and Smart Objects do. Once you’ve done the four finger salute to the left side of your keyboard, you’re stuck. Sure, you can go back under the red line you see in the middle Layers Panel in today’s image. You can make all sorts of changes to the Layers below. Only problem is that they won’t be reflected back to the Layer above the red line. The red line is “a line in the sand”. You can’t cross it. Take the test. Set up a couple Layers that look like the Panel captioned “This is the basic layout for our discussion”. You don’t have to follow it exactly. Do whatever you’d like to set up a test. Follow along with what you’ll find by hitting the “Read More”.
Once you have your test set up (a couple Layers and a Type Layer), position your curser on the top Layer and press the keyboard shortcut (???) CTRL-ALT-Shift-E. That’ll put a composite of the visible Layers on top of the Layer stack. The thought (and explanation given by proponents) is that you’re preserving the underlying Layers just in case you ever need to access them again. Only problem is you’ve locked them under the line. Now, go back to the Layers under the composite. Make some wild changes. An easy change would be to change the colors. In today’s image, they are Red and Green. Make them “something” else. No matter what you do, the CTRL-ALT-Shift-E composite stays Red and Green. Change the word to another word or phrase. Still nothing. It’s still a Mistake. Try doing anything. Anything at all. The composite Layer remains just as it was before you made any changes to the lower Layers.
Now, let’s turn our attention to the fourth and fifth Layer Panels (the two on the right side of today’s image). To make the Panels into a Smart Object you need to select the Layers you want to include. Click on the uppermost Layer and Shift Click on the lowest Layer. That selects all Layers in between. Now right click anywhere on one of the Layers (except on the image icon). A dropdown list will have all sorts of options. One says “Convert To Smart Object”. Now look at the fifth Panel. That’s what it will look like when the three Layers are made into one Smart Object. Look in the lower right hand corner of the image icon. The little icon within an icon means the Layer is a Smart Object.
Feel free to go back and forth between the Smart Object Layer and the original three Layers. Just double click on the Layer icon. You’ll get a dialog box letting you know how to get back out to the Smart Object Layer. The secret handshake is File/Save (not Save As) and File/Close.
To prove how this works, do the same changes you tried on the CTRL-ALT-Shift-E trial. Change the colors around. Change the word. Do something to the Mask. Whatever you like. When you Save and Close the Layered image, all your changes will be reflected in the Smart Object Layer. Now you have a two way street that is always open.
Any time you consider doing CTRL-ALT-Shift-E, make the Layers into a Smart Object. I’ve gone about six Smart Objects deep. You open them like Russian nesting dolls. When you’re finished, don’t forget you have to close them back up in order (just like the nesting dolls).
Hope this little “test” helps. Try it yourself and you’ll see.