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How to Use Photoshop Smart Objects to Automate Multi-Object Editing

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Ever lay out a page of multiple business cards (or other project) to print, only to have to come back to perform dozens of annoying edits? Photoshop Smart Objects can automate this process and turn dozens of annoying steps into an easy few.

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We’ll make an example of a business card design I’ve done for How-To Geek. Standard American business card sizes are usually 3.5″ x 2″.

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This is the product I came up with. All the text is editable at this stage, even the “How-To Geek” headline. You can start with whatever design you want, business card or not.

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Select all of your layers by holding Ctrl and clicking each one. You want to have a solid color layer behind your entire card. Don’t pick the “Background” layer, and leave your text editable.

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Press ctrl G to group them all together.

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Right-click your new group and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”

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The business card has now painlessly become a Smart Object. You can’t directly edit the text or images anymore! But what do we gain from that? Let’s take a look.

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Go to Image > Canvas Size or simply press Ctrl Alt C .

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Resize your page to 8″ x 10″. This is a standard size that nearly any desktop inkjet or laserjet can print without cropping your image.

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We’ve got plenty of room to lay out our cards on this page for print. Make eight copies of your business card and arrange them on your page.

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Normally there are proper, exact steps to laying out cards for production, but I’ll leave these out for the time being. For now, these cards are laid out by eye, and more-or-less evenly. (I can better show this technique in another How-To, on another day. But for now, this will suffice.)

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At this point, fellow author Trevor Bekolay asks that I make him a set of these How-To Geek business cards. Do I edit the cards eight times? Thanks to my smart objects, I edit them only one time.

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Right click any of your eight business card smart objects. Pick “Edit Contents” from the contextual menu.

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You’ll get this warning if you’ve never edited a Smart Object before. You can safely tell it to never show you this again, but read the warning!

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Smart Objects are sort of like Photoshop files within Photoshop files. The group of text and graphics we made earlier has become “Group 2.psb” buried within our file. You’ll find that all your layers and graphics are here and editable again.

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I edit the text to change Trevor’s name and qualifications, as well as his URL. Seems simple enough.

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I close the file and save it,when asked. Remember, nothing you’ve changed in this object will remain changed unless you save these changes!

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All eight of my business cards have become Trevor’s, instantly. When you edit the original smart object, it changes all the copies you have made of it.

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With nearly no additional time invested, I can create cards for everyone in the entire company. Keep in mind, you can change more than simply text—any changes to your graphics, colors, etc. will change once you edit the source Smart Object.

Eric Z Goodnight is an Illustrator and Graphics Geek who hopes to make Photoshop more accessible to How-To Geek readers. When he’s not headbanging to heavy metal or geeking out over manga, he’s often off screen printing T-Shirts.

  • Published 10/11/10

Comments (3)

  1. Sam

    Great Photoshop articles. Keep them comming. I archive them and read as soon as I have time.

    I would love to see some on printing and how size effect it.

    Keep up the good work.

    Sam

  2. mikycomputers

    Thanks, good article.
    Im going to use this.

  3. Heistman

    Thanks Eric for this great article which am sure will be useful should i get to mass print.

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