Most graphics programs use rasterized images. When applying transforms like resizing or such the original pixel information is lost. Most of you know you can’t play around with an image in Photoshop and preserve the pixel information of the original image. Well, this is where Smart Objects come into play. They don’t call em’ Smart for nothing.

Smart Objects can be placed or imported as a layers. Smart Objects allow the designer to transform the original image using  – scaling, distorting, skewing etc. all the while maintaining the original pixel resolution of the original image. A dream for designers. One can scale the image to the size of an icon and then back to its original size without a loss of image quality. No rasterizing is taking place until the final output when you “flatten” said image.

Here’s a quick example…

Create a Smart Object… there are a couple ways

1. Using Photoshop click File > Open as Smart Object. This is for when you want to open an image directly as a Smart Object.

2. You can paste from Adobe Illustrator. You will be able to choose to past as a Smart Object in a the dialogue box.

3. The other way is within a Photoshop image document, click File > Place – then choose the image file you want to place as a Smart Object. This is for placing an image as a Smart Object layer into an existing project document.

After creating a Smart Object, you will notice in the Photoshop layers palette that the layer looks a little different than a normal layer. It is now easy to tell the difference between Smart Object layers and normal layers. There will be an inset or “badge” in the Smart Objects layer.

Smart Object Layer

Once this Smart Object is created you can go ahead with all your transforms back and forth without losing the resolution of the original image that you placed in as a Smart Object.

Here I placed a Smart Object layer next to a normal layer. They are both the same image, but the one on the right was placed into the document as a Smart Object. Here they will look the same on the canvas except for how they are shown in the layers palette.


Now, After I a re-sized the canvas to 25% then back to its original size, then back to 10% then back to it’s original size you can really see where the Smart Object does it’s magic. Notice the pixelation that has occurred with the normal image layer on the left. You will notice the Smart Object layer on the right has maintained it’s original resolution throughout all the transforms that I put it through! Awesome.

3smartobjectsStransformsRemember, both these images are layers in the same document canvas. The Smart Object clearly shines. The normal layer is highly degraded. The Smart object holds it’s original quality because during the resizing transformations that I put it through, each time I transformed the image the Smart Object re-sampled the original Smart Object image.

This is just a prime example on why the usage of Smart Objects is a wonderful thing.