Lesson 12. Smart Objects and Layer Comps

In our final Photoshop lesson, I want to share two invaluable Photoshop tools. Thes tools will help to make you more prodcutive and allows creative frredom in the way you work with the Adobe graphic programs.

Topics for this week include:

Points: 50 (+ 8.33 participation points)

Estimated assignment time: 5 hours

Due: Friday, March 30, 11:59P

12.1 Embedding vs Linking Images

In this lesson we learn about using embedded images in our Photoshop work Lessons include:

  • Understanding that embedding an image will increase it's file size.
  • Learn that embedding is the same as copying an image into your file.
  • Learn that embedding and linking will vary depending on the version of Photoshop you are using.
  • See the use of smart objects.
videoWatch Video | 7:23 minutes

12.2 Introducing Smart Objects and Using Vector Images in Photoshop

In this lesson we learn about smart objects which allow us to create layers containing vector or bitmap images. This allows another method of non-destructive editing in our Photoshop work. Lessons include:

  • Understanding what a smart object is.
  • Learn the difference between embedding an image and linking an image.
  • Understand the benefits to using smart objects.
  • Understand the use of vector images as smart objects.

To follow along, download the images used in the demo video here.

videoWatch Video | 9:31 minutes

Do ItPractice the lesson.


The smart object icon is shown in the illustration below.
For additional information on using smart objects, check this site: See the Adobe page on smart objects There is a great video available from the page above: If you only check one online resource, make this be the one!

12.3 Introduction to the Layer Comp Panel

In this portion of the lesson I demo how to create layer comps. This technique allows us to create multiple versions or "states" of a file within one master document. Lessons include:

  • Understand what a layer comp is.
  • Learn how to create layer comps in your document.
  • Understanding you may control the visibility, position and appearance (layer styles).
  • Realize how the flexibility of layer comps allows for experimentation in layout and coloring.
  • Learn how to cycle through the various "states" of the document.
  • Be aware that you must update a layer comp after you have made changes.

To follow along, download the images used in the demo video here. Approximately a 16mb download.

videoWatch Video | 8:02 minutes

Do ItPractice the lesson.

12.4 Do It!
Practice the Tools From the Lesson

Using the tools learned in the lessons, you will create a file using the tools from the lesson to submit. You will be creating a flyer to educate your audience on a subject of your choice. I want to see how you can use imagery and text to help your viewer learn. Your file should include:

  • Create a document 8.5" x 11", portrait or landscape as you see fit.
  • Layer a minimum of three images (one must be a vector smart object) in your composition (imagery is your choice, I suggest trying to find decent shots to work with).
  • Use a minimum of 100 words of body text in your document to describe the content.
  • Use at least one vector smart object. You may wish to use a vector logo, or perhaps set your headlines in Illustrator for this.
  • Show at least three versions of the layout using layer comps. Use menu File > Scripts > Layer Comps to Files (in CS6) and then choose the file type and set the destination.
  • Use the design principles to create a layout that is visually interesting with a focal point to catch the viewers attention.

Do ItPractice the lesson, save your files.

You should save your work frequently. This is just good practice. Save a "working" file complete with all layers and channels as a .psd using your name as the file name (i.e. - Ronworking.psd). This is the file you will submit for grading. I need to see your layers, channels,etc. Use menu File > Scripts > Layer Comps to Files (in CS6) and then choose the file type and set the destination. See TIDBIT below.) Name them with your name (i.e. - Roncover.jpg).These are the three files you will post to the learning community.


The resulting dialog box for "menu File > Scripts > Layer Comps to Files" is shown in the illustration below in CS6.

Grading Criteria

50 points for the Photoshop file
  • 6 points.
    Letter size (vertical or horizontal), submitted correct file format, named with your name in filename, follow instructions.
  • 6 points.
    Use a minimum of three images, one must be a vector smart object.
  • 8 points.
    Show the use of 100 words of body text.
  • 10 points.
    Use layer comps and save three versions to post to the online community.
  • 10 points.
    Use and application of the four design principles to catch the viewers attention and guide their eye through the composition.
  • 10 points.
    Complexity, originality of concept, creativity.

12.5 Post the three examples of your work and comments to the Google+ online Community

After you have completed the assignment, visit the course's Google+ online community and post your comments about the assignment. I am also asking for you to post the three .jpgs layer comps of your work on the Google+ site. Look @ your classmates posts and critique their work. Use the terms we have discussed in the course so far to describe what you see and offer suggestions for improvement. Don't just say "I don't like it", offer suggestions on how to improve the layout. Visit the Google+ online community here. Once you have posted, copy the link from the Google+ site. Go the Learning For Life portal, and paste the link in the text field and attach your layered .psd file. Hit submit.

12.6 Review and Checklist for the Week's Lesson Assignment

Grading Check List

watch the embedding/linking video
download the images for the demo
watch the smart object demo video
practice the lessons using the images provided
visit the Adobe webpage from the TIDBIT
download the images for the demo
watch the layer comp demo video
practice the lessons, create your files for submission
post your three .jpgs file to the learning community and make comments about the assignment and your classmates efforts
make a note of the link to your post to submit for grading
submit your .psd file via the Learning For Life portal and provide the link to your post
complete quiz 12 on Learning For Life portal
complete the 50 question final exam on Learning For Life portal
complete the course survey on Learning For Life portal


Testable Items

  • What is the visual clue to know the image you have selected will become a smart object when you hit enter/return?
  • Does embedding a image within your Photoshop file increase it's file size?
  • Can smart objects be both bitmap/raster and vector images?
  • Is it a benefit to be able to use vector data within a bitmap file?
  • What are the three checkboxes in the "New Layer Comp" dialog box?
  • What is the basic function of layer comps?
  • Which icon on the layer comps panel allows the updating of the layer "state"?
  • What is the greatest benefit to using layer comps?
  • What file formats are available to use menu File>Scripts>Layer Comps To Files?
  • How can you visual determine a layer includes a smart object?