Saturday, March 9, 2013

Smart Object Tutorial

Just watched Scott Robertson's awesome "Rendering reflective surfaces" -tutorial. Around 20:00 he warps a texture around his shape - this is a nice trick where photoshop really speeds you up compared to doing it manually.

Anyways, here's something that speeds you up even more if you like this technique! Imagine you did all that warping, and then the client says he doesn't like the pattern, or that he (or you) would like to see variations with different patterns? That would be a lot of warping, and you'd always have to try to match the previous warp..  Well, there's a thing called "Smart Object" (smart layer?) in Photoshop that does all of this for you! We use this at work in CG/photo retouch, but it can easily be used for concept art or illustration, if you want to try out different patterns on your shape.

Here's the first step, place your pattern on a new layer, right click the layer and choose "Convert to Smart Object".

You end up with a layer thumbnail with a small black and white icon added on top. If you now double click the layer thumbnail, a following window pops up. Click OK.

Clicking OK will open your smart object for you. You notice it looks just like any document in PS, which it is - it has a layer stack, and can be manipulated like any other file. It contains the same information that was on your layer which you just converted, nothing more, nothing less. However, with this technique, we do NOT want to mess around with this file now, so get back to the workfile.

So, go ahead and warp your smart object in your workfile. This is the key and the shortcut as you will see. When you're happy with it, hit enter to commit the warp.

Now if you want to change the pattern, just open your smart object by double clicking on the layer thumbnail again.

Place your new pattern on the layer stack. You can use different blending modes, adjustment layers, opacities etc on the layer stack if you want. The final output to warp will be just a flattened version of this document.

Then click close file, and it asks whether you want to save this changes. We do, so click yes. Photoshop will then AUTOMATICALLY apply all changes you've ever done to the smart object, in this case the warp, to this new file.

And this is what you get.

And here's just some variations that you could do with it. Random shape generation, anyone? You can also mix them all together, because they follow the same "form". Your choice what to do with it.

Hope this is useful to someone, if you have any questions feel free to drop me a line, or if something needs to be explained better. And if you do something cool with this, also let me know!

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