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Creating Flexible, Updatable Composite Images using Smart Objects

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This post is part of a series called Creating Realistic Composites With a Green Screen.
Creating Realistic Composites, Part 2: Processing and Compositing
Creating a Realistic Composite Photo with Displacement Mapping

A little while ago, I created a promotional image for the second season of the web series Job Hunters. We spent weeks planning the shoot and then, on the day of the photoshoot, I was given an unexpected challenge: the final image needed to include five actors instead of the planned four. We were able to adapt and managed to include everyone in the shoot. Unfortunately, pressed for time, we gave the added actor a prop, throwing darts, that were not the specific kind of dart that needed to be in the photo. Smart Objects to the rescue!

In this tutorial you'll learn how create a flexible, updatable composite image with Smart Objects in Adobe Photoshop, just like I did for the series poster.

Because of the sheer size of this final composite, loading times were a huge issue, and my computer is no slouch. Replacing the new darts (not including rendering time) was quick and easy because I used Smart Objects when I first built the image. This technique saved me hours. If you'd like to get a closer look at the image, here's the image at full resolution.

Key Tips to Remember about Smart Objects

  • Adding filters creates Smart Filters, which can be edited later by double clicking the filter name.
  • Double clicking the thumbnail in the Layers panel opens the original object
  • Duplicating a Smart Object creates a "linked" object that will follow any changes you make to any linked objects
  • Use New Smart Object via Copy to create an "unlinked" object.
  • Using Smart Objects makes your file size smaller.

Smart Objects are super useful in a wide variety of situations, but I hope it was helpful to see a real world example of how it saved a lot of time.

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