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5) New Layer Via Copy Smart Object

New Layer) and place the retouching on this new layer instead of the Smart Object. Many brushes like the Spot Healing brush will simply work on the new layer. If a brush needs a source defined, like the Clone Stamp tool, first highlight the Smart Object, next click and define the source, then move to the new layer and finally paint the retouching on it. For retouching tools that won’t work on blank layers, like Content Aware Fill, duplicate the Smart Object (Layer > Duplicate Layer) and rasterize it (Layer > Smart Objects > Rasterize) before using the feature.

These two workarounds—make a new layer or duplicate and rasterize a Smart Object—are useful for most of the other features that won’t work on Smart Objects. This includes Fill, Stroke, Content Aware Scale, Auto-Align Layers and Auto-Blend Layers.

A constantly dwindling number of filters won’t work with Smart Objects: Filter Gallery, Vanishing Point, Lens Blur, Smart Blur, Lighting Effects, Extrude, Tiles and Wind. Note that only one mask is provided for all of the Smart Filters applied to one Smart Object.

With the exception of Shadows/Highlights and HDR Toning, most adjustments can’t be applied to Smart Objects directly; instead, apply them as adjustment layers, which are more flexible and more easily masked. For Auto-Tone, Auto-Color and Auto-Contrast, use the duplicate and rasterize Smart Object workaround. When making adjustments to Smart Objects, there will be instances when you can only preview the adjustments you’re making to a Smart Object instead of the combined effect of all other layers and adjustment layers.

Smart Objects come at a price; they increase file size quickly, so use them sparingly, but do use them. At a minimum, acquire all non-merged files as a RAW Smart Object so you can quickly change or update RAW conversion settings.

Smart Objects aren’t simple, but they’re extremely powerful and flexible. For this reason, I consider them essential components of an optimum Photoshop workflow. Exactly how and when you implement Smart Objects will depend on the specific challenges you face with a given image. An optimum Photoshop workflow is flexible and can accommodate both changing needs and changing technologies. While everyone needs to be aware of the possibilities Smart Objects offer, make your use of Smart Objects as simple as possible, but not simpler. You’ll find that even the most minimal implementation of Smart Objects will be extremely helpful.

John Paul Caponigro, author of Adobe Photoshop Master Class and the DVD series R/Evolution, is an internationally renowned fine artist, an authority on digital printing, and a respected lecturer and workshop leader. Get PDFs and his enews Insights free at his website,

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