Continuing on with last weeks Photoshop Foundations, we were going over how to set-up and prepare files when starting a new project. I always go through this “Project-Prep” ritual. I actually have grown to enjoy this part of the project. It takes a little time to get everything set up, but it really helps to get my mind in a relaxed and focused mode. Going through these steps really will save you valuable time in the whole scheme of things. The last post was about new document set-up. If you missed that post you can go back and catch up on that here… as, it is a valuable part of the set-up process.
Once I have created my new document, I start gathering all of the images I’ll be needing to complete the portrait. This is similar to how a person preps to work a jigsaw puzzle. When you start a new puzzle, you layout all the pieces, stack together the edge pieces, group things by color etc… that is how I imagine this “Project-Prep”. I get everything organized and stacked and ready to go. Everything is at my fingertips and I don’t have to get up or search for anything. It’s all there. When I plan a conceptual portrait shoot, I have a numbered check-list of all the images I will need to complete the artwork. I use this list during the actual shoot. Once I’m ready to set up the file, I pull out my list and, one by one, place the images I want to use, in my new PS document.
Now, there are a million ways to do this.
A lot of artists will open each image they want to use, select the portion of the image they need with one of the PS selection tools (i.e. lasso tool, magnetic lasso tool, quick select tool, magic wand tool, or any of the various pen tools) and then either copy and paste the selection into their new file OR use the “move tool” and drag their selection into their new file. Both of those methods are fine. However, I prefer to do it a little bit differently for one main reason and that is “Smart Objects”
What the heck is a smart object and why should I care?
I’ll spare you the long version and just cut to the chase. Have you ever dropped an image into your composite and it was too large, so you scaled it smaller? Then, you went too far and made it too small and you scaled it back up? All the sudden your layer has become this fuzzy, pixilated, blurry mess. THAT is why I love smart objects. When you make a layer into a “smart object”, you can size it up, size it down, size it up, size it down and because this object is “linked” to it’s original file, it won’t mess up the resolution and get fuzzy.
Here is my method of gathering all my images into my new file…
1. Choose File>Place – By choosing “Place” PS will automatically make anything you place in your new document a smart object.
Note: If you commonly use one of the other import methods I listed above (by copy/paste or using the move tool to drag and drop) you can go back and make those layers into a smart object, after the fact. Here’s how…
1. Select your object layer, click the little arrow in the upper right corner of your layers panel…
2. Choose “Convert into Smart Object”
3. It will covert your layer to a smart object and add a little symbol in the bottom right corner of your thumbnail that looks like a sheet of paper with the corner folded. Like this…
That way you know at a glance which layers are smart objects and which ones are not.
Now, a word about Smart Objects.
The reason smart objects were added to PS is so artists could apply manipulations “non-destructively”. You will hear that term a lot. Artists are a fickle bunch. I know because I am one. 🙂 I change my mind a lot. Before there were smart objects, an artist would apply all these effects and manipulations on a layer and if they changed their mind they had no choice but to delete the layer and start all over. The layer was destroyed and they couldn’t get it back. Smart Objects save you from that frustration. You can apply all these effects and filters and the original file stays intact. That means you can “scale, rotate, skew, distort, perspective transform, or warp a layer without losing original image data or quality because the transforms don’t affect the original data” You are not stuck. You can just go in and change the settings. Nothing is destroyed. Happy!
An important side note: There are some tools you will not be able to use on smart object layers. You can’t perform operations that alter pixel data. That means things like painting, dodging, burning, or cloning cannot be applied to a layer that is a smart object. If you are applying one of those actions a little message will pop up like this…
If you want to do any of those actions on that layer you have to “rasterize” it – that means you have to convert that layer back to a regular layer and any action you apply to it is destructive again. If you run into this problem, here is how you can work around it…
1. Choose the layer you want to edit and duplicate it. (Hotkey: Command J)
2. Right click on the duplicated layer and choose “Rasterize Layer”
Now you have two layers. One is still a smart object and the duplicate is rasterized. Now you can apply your actions and if you change your mind you still have an untouched layer available to you.
Another side note: There is a way to dodge, burn and paint etc… “non-destructively”. However, that is a whole other topic and I will have to save that for another post.
That’s it for today! I’ll continue on with this “Project-Prep” Ritual on the next post!
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