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Use Photoshop's Smart Objects and Smart Filters for streamlined versatility

Added on Tuesday 12th of October 2010 05:24 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5, Adobe Illustrator, CS2/CS3/CS4/CS5

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows



Print and web content can change frequently and if it’s your job to make the updates, it can quickly become tiresome when using one application to create the graphic and a different application to publish the content. Instead of having to jump from program to program, you can manage some of these tasks from within Photoshop through the use of Smart Objects.


To help you use and understand the significance of Smart Objects, we’ll:

     Explain how Smart Objects preserve the integrity even through countless transformations.

     Make changes to embedded Illustrator vector art from within Photoshop without harming the original Illustrator file.

     Apply Smart Filters to your Smart Objects for greater artistic versatility.



Smart Objects and Smart Filters significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to make graphical changes—without destroying the original image—allowing you to concentrate on designing. To clear up any confusion you may have between the two, let’s explain their relationship with each other. Smart Objects are layers containing either raster or vector image data, which preserve the integrity of that layer throughout countless scaling and transforming attempts to allow nondestructive editing. Smart Filters, on the other hand, are any filter(s) applied to a Smart Object.


A non-destructive way to work

Like we mentioned earlier, you can create a non-destructive Smart Object from pixel or vector data in Photoshop. When you modify your document in the original application you created it in (for example, a Camera Raw image or an Illustrator vector logo), Photoshop re-renders the Smart Object based on the source data.


Paste art as Smart Objects

One common task is pasting an Illustrator file into Photoshop, but with Smart Objects you have more non-destructive editing possibilities if you paste it as a Smart Object. The ability to choose how you want to paste Illustrator art into Photoshop is controlled by preferences settings in Illustrator. The AICB (No Transparency Support) options are selected by default in Illustrator CS and later.


To paste Illustrator vector art as a Smart Object in Photoshop:

1.       Select the item in Illustrator and choose Edit > Copy or press [command]C ([Ctrl]C in Windows).

2.      Open a Photoshop document and choose Edit > Paste or press [command]V ([Ctrl]V in Windows).

3.      Select the Paste As: Smart Object option button, as shown in Figure A. You could also select the Shape Layer option button to preserve paths. For a full explanation of Illustrator’s pasting options, see the infobox “About your Paste options.”

4.      Click OK.

5.      Scale and position the Smart Object.

6.      Press [enter] once you have the Smart Object where you want it.




About your Paste options

When you use the Paste command to paste Illustrator vector data into a Photoshop file, it can be translated a few different ways: as a Smart Object, as a raster image, as a path, or as a shape layer.

        Paste As: Smart Object. Select this option in Photoshop to embed the Illustrator file as a Smart Object. As a Smart Object, Photoshop retains the vector data and other characteristics of the art, so you can edit and transform the object without degrading its quality.

        Paste As: Pixels. When you select this option, the Illustrator art is converted to a resolution-dependant raster image and saved on a transparent layer in the Layers panel.

        Paste As: Paths. When you select this option, just the paths o...