February 2021 // The Post-Production Edition

Unlock the Power of Smart Objects in Photoshop | David Byrd

When we transformed the image and hit Enter to accept that transformation, Photoshop did a couple of things that can be devastating to the data. First, to enlarge the image, it had to make up new information based on the existing data. Remember, there is a finite amount of data in the file—a finite number of pixels. So, when we enlarged it, Photoshop had to create new pixels and new data and it did that by averaging the available pixels. It looked at each pixel and those around that pixel and took an average of the color, the light and more—and created new pixels so your image could be bigger. That process is like mad Photoshop scientist level stuff, but it’s not perfect. Secondly, Photoshop then deleted all of the original data in favor of this new Frankenstein set of data you’ve selected. Now let’s say you decide that the resize of the image is too much and you want to reduce it a touch. When you transform the image again, Photoshop will once again create new pixels and new data and delete the information it had in favor of the new set. Go through this process a few times with one image, and you’ve drastically changed the data from what it was originally when you captured it in your camera. This process is called working “destructively” in Photoshop. You are making significant, major alterations to the pixels of the image and in many cases you cannot return to the original state of that data, unless you close the image and begin anew. Smart Objects save you from that destructive art-making and provide you an infinite number of creative possibilities. Smart Objects preserve all of the original data of the image, regardless of what you are trying to do to it. The file format of a Smart Object is one that allows you to alter the object, not the actual image, meaning changes to the image don’t affect those pixels. Think of it as a catalog, like you would see in Adobe Lightroom. You are creating a list of things that you want done to the file, but the Smart Object is receiving the instructions of that catalog, not the pixels of the image itself.

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