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4) Smart Object layer stack

Things get really complicated and a layer stack unclear when you make a single Smart Object out of many Smart Objects. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, I suggest that you avoid this.

There’s More Than One Kind Of Smart Object

Perhaps some of the confusion surrounding Smart Objects stems from the fact that there are three ways to make them and that the way you make them affects the functionality.

1. You can create a Smart Object when you acquire a RAW file, which will allow you to change and/or update any applied RAW development settings at anytime.
2. You can create a Smart Object from a rasterized layer. It won’t be able to access the full shadow and highlight detail of the RAW file or undo any artifacts previously created during conversion; however, it will allow you to apply Smart Filters, including using Adobe Camera Raw as a Smart Filter, to achieve similar effects.
3. You can create a Smart Object from multiple rasterized layers, which will allow you to take full advantage of Stack Modes.

Two Ways To Duplicate Smart Objects

There are two ways to duplicate Smart Objects and the way you do this affects their functionality.

1. Use Layer > Duplicate Layer to make two linked Smart Objects. What’s done to one will happen to the other. Reset ACR settings on one and the same change will be made to both of them. This is useful when you want to keep multiple copies of one or more image elements in sync with one another.
2. Use Layer > New Layer Via Copy to make two unlinked Smart Objects. Individual adjustments can be made to each Smart Object. This is useful when double processing the same file; for instance, process one light and one dark version and mask one to create a combined effect that exceeds what can be achieved by processing a file once.

The Limits Of Smart Objects

Smart Objects have always had limitations, though the list of their limitations is steadily shrinking. Here’s their current status.

Files that require rasterizing while they’re being opened in Photoshop, such as HDR merges and panorama stitches, can’t be opened as RAW Smart Objects. You can convert the resulting rasterized layers into Smart Objects, but you won’t be able to reaccess RAW conversion settings without going back to the original files and merging them again. (Note: Apply Lens Corrections before merging. For panoramas, render full shadow and highlight detail before merging; this includes rendering HDR merges to separate cells of an HDR panorama.)

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