Photoshop Smart Object

How Photoshop Smart Objects and plug-ins can work together

Just in case anyone thinks I have something against Photoshop… I don’t! Photoshop is really good at what it does, it just doesn’t do everything I want from a digital imaging application.

But it is really good ‘host’ application for plug-ins. One reason is that I’m having a few problems with Aperture and Google Nik plug-ins at the moment, but the more important one is that Photoshop CC can create ‘Smart Objects’.

These enable you to apply a filter effect to an image layer which you can then go back and change later. And you can apply more than one filter to a Smart Object, each of which is added in the same ‘non-destructive’ way.


To show how it works I’m using this abstract close-up (above) of a helicopter windshield, and I’m going to apply a film effect from Alien Skin Exposure 5 and a frame from Nik Color Efex Pro.

01 Launching from Aperture

Photoshop Smart Object

I’ve got Photoshop CC set up as my external image-editor in Aperture (via the Preferences), and I can either right-click an image and choose ‘Open in Adobe Photoshop CC’ from the menu or use the shift-command-O keyboard shortcut.

02 Create a Smart Object

Photoshop Smart Object

In Photoshop CC, you open the Layers palette, open the drop-down menu in the top right corner (circled) and choose ‘Convert to Smart Object’ from the menu.

03 Alien Skin filter

Photoshop Smart Object

Now I apply my first filter in Alien Skin Exposure 5. It’s one of the plug-in’s Lo-Fi cross-processing effects, but that’s not really the most important thing. The key point here is that when I click the Apply button, the effect is applied to the Smart Object ‘virtually’. You see the filter’s effect on the image, but it can be undone or modified at any time. It’s almost like adjustment layers for filters.

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