Learn how to link Smart Objects so, when one changes, they both change and how to un-sync them so they are separate. I’ll also show you how to replace the contents of a Smart Object with another image. Useful for wedding photographers and for creating albums in Photoshop.


Hello, I’m Helen Bradley. Welcome to this video tutorial. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how to work with smart objects in Photoshop. In this video I’m going to show you how you can use smart objects to assemble complex images, and you can do it in a way that harnesses the value of the smart objects. For example, I’m going to create a smart object for this background and then a smart object for this couple. This will allow me to go to this smart object and choose Replace Image. This will allow me to go to this smart object layer, right click and choose Replace Contents. And I can then replace the contents of that smart object with any of the images from that album. And so I can quickly and easily create images for an album with a background in place. But there is a catch and you’ll want to use the right tool for creating these smart objects so I’m going to show you that too.

Let’s just hide this away and let’s go and get our starter document. I’ve already got a vignette that I’m going to use, but we’re going to put in here the original background. So I’m going to choose File and then Place because that’s a way of getting an image in as a smart object. Here’s the portion of this image that I want to use as my background. I’ve already extracted it as a separate image so I’m going to click Place. And I know that this needs to be enlarged a little bit so I’m just going to enlarge it to 75 percent and then click the checkmark. So it’s now in place and it’s a smart object. It has a special little smart object icon. And I’m just going to show you that you have this vignette which is separate and it just goes over the top.

Now we want to create another smart object, but we want this smart object to be unhooked or unlinked to this one. So I’m going to right click and I’m going to choose New, Smart Object via Copy. And what that does is makes a copy of the existing smart object as a separate layer,  but it is not linked to the original layer. So now if I go into this and resize it, I’m just going to link these two together, this gives us a new smart object layer in the image which is not linked to the background layer although the two share the current image. I’m just going to add a drop shadow to it. So if we were creating a bridal album we could use this as the starting point for our album. I’m just going to get a slightly nicer drop shadow here and pull that vignette down so that it’s over the top of the background and not the image here. So having created this, this could be the first image in our album. And we can then go ahead using the same background image and just change the smart object out without having to recreate this document, right click, choose Replace Contents.

This time I’m going for an image of the bride and groom, and here they are in place. They’re a little large so I’m just going to choose the transform tool with Ctrl or Command T. I know they need to be taken down to about 10 percent so I’m going to scale them down to 10 percent and just move them into position. You can see that the drop shadow is still in place, the background is still in place, the vignette is still in place, and we’ve got another page of our album already created. If I right click and choose Replace Contents I can go and select yet another image to go in here. And again, the border and everything are already on that image. So it gives me a smart way of creating an album very quickly.

I’m just going to discard that for now and let’s have a look at what you might want to use and which would be a bad choice in this situation. And that would be to right click and choose Duplicate Layer. Now that would give us on the face of it exactly what we had before, a smart object with a second smart object layer over the top. Let’s just go ahead and select that and let’s add our drop shadow to it. Let’s position it where we want it to be above the vignette. And here’s what we had, an image over the background. And we’re ready to print that out.

But look what happens if we go to replace the contents of this image with our bride and groom. Not only do we replace the contents of the image with our bride and groom, and we can scale them back down to the 10 percent size that we were using before, but let’s just link that so that it’s going to be 10 percent in both directions. But look what’s happened to our background. These two smart objects instead of just being a duplicate of each other are in actual fact an exact copy of each other. And so anything that happens to this background smart object is also going to happen to this one and vice versa. If we change this one we’re going to change this one. So if we want the ability to create a smart object from another one but to unlink it so that they’re no longer the same image each time, we need to right click and choose New Smart Object via Copy.

But if we do want two smart objects that are linked and they’re always going to be the same image even if they’re different sizes of the same image then we would simply use Duplicate Layer. Smart objects are a really good tool to use when you’re assembling an album like this because it gives you the ability to create a background image and a smaller image on top and to easily replace that image and create an album very quickly.

I’m Helen Bradley. Thank you for joining me for this YouTube video tutorial. If you liked the tutorial please like it and feel free to add comments to the video tutorial. I encourage you to subscribe to my video YouTube channel. We release videos twice a week at the very least and you’ll be alerted to the new video releases. And don’t forget to visit my website at projectwoman.com. There you’ll find more tips, tricks and techniques for Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator and lots of other programs.

Helen Bradley