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Transcript for Smart Objects -- Part VII Video

Transcript by Ron Bigelow

Photoshop CS4 Used in this Tutorial

One of the nice things about Smart Objects is that we can apply multiple filters to a single Smart Object. However, up to this point, any mask that we apply to the filters on a Smart Object applies to all of the filters. What happens if we need to apply different masks to different filters? For that, we need to use nested Smart Objects. So, let’s take a look at nested Smart Objects and the flexibility that they provide.

Here we have an image. I like this image, but it needs some work. In fact, it needs three filters applied. First, if we zoom in to 100% by pressing Control+Alt+0 on a PC or Command+Option+0 on a Mac and move to the sky with the Navigator, we can see that this image has some noise in the sky. It doesn’t look too bad now, but after applying some edits such as Curves, it will become more noticeable. Therefore, we need to apply the Reduce Noise filter to reduce the noise. Second, we need to sharpen the edges of the image, so we need to apply the Unsharp Mask filter. Last, we can do a final sharpening just before printing. For this, we will use the High Pass filter

This is where the problem sets in. Each of these filters requires a separate mask. Furthermore, we need to use some adjustment layers, and some of the adjustment layers may need a separate mask. Lucky for us, we can use nested Smart Objects to resolve this dilemma. So, let’s take a look at how nested Smart Objects work.

The first filter that we need to apply is the Reduce Noise filter to reduce the noise in the sky. Now, there is a problem with using the Reduce Noise filter. This filter does reduce noise, but it can also reduce the image detail, and that is something that we do not want to do. So, we will need use a mask that will allow us to apply the Reduce Noise Filter to the sky, where there is little detail, but not to the rest of the image, that does have detail.

What a great Idea you say. On the other hand, there is one problem. This mask can not be used with the other filters.

No problem, we will just create a nested Smart Object. The first thing that we need to do is to turn this image into a Smart Object by choosing Layer/Smart Objects/Convert to Smart Object. As you can see, the image is now a Smart Object. However, we do not want to apply the Reduce Noise filter to this Smart Object. Instead, we need to apply the filter one level down. To do this, we double click this Smart Object. We now have our image contents. Notice that the image contents are not a Smart Object. In other words, once we opened our Smart Object, we no longer have a Smart Object, but we started this entire process so that we could apply the Reduce Noise filter to a Smart Object. No problem, we simply convert the image contents to a Smart Object by choosing Layer/Smart Objects/Convert to Smart Object. We have just created our first nested Smart Object. In other words, we have a Smart Object inside of a Smart Object.

We are now ready to apply the Reduce Noise filter. First, let’s zoom in to 100% by pressing Control+Alt+0 on a PC or Command+Option+0 on a Mac and move to the sky again with the Navigator. We call up the Reduce Noise filter by choosing Filter/Noise/Reduce Noise. Some experimentation that I did before showed that these settings work pretty well, so we will use these.

We now have our Reduce Noise filter in place, but we need a mask so that the filter will be applied to just the sky. Let’s zoom out to Screen size by pressing Control+0 on a PC or Command+0 on a Mac. We can use the Quick Selection tool to select the Sky. Now, we can use the Refine Edge tool by clicking Refine Edge. We need to contract this selection by about 50% so that it doesn’t apply Noise Reduction to the edge of the mountains. We can also apply a five pixel Feather. We now click on the filter mask to make sure that it is selected. Then, pressing Shift+Control+I inverts the selection. Last, pressing Control+Backspace on a PC or Command+Delete on Mac will create the mask. Now, you might be wondering why we inverted the selection before turning it into a mask. The key here is that the Control+Backspace or Command+Delete keystrokes that we used to turn the selection into a filter mask fills the selected area with black. So, if we did not invert the selection, the sky area on the mask would have been filled with black. Thus, the Noise Reduction filter would have been applied everywhere except the sky – which is the exact opposite of what we wanted.

While we are here, we should darken the sky a bit with a Curves layer. We will need a selection that isolates the sky. You might be thinking, “Hey, why not use the selection that we just created for the Noise Reduction filter?” However, this will not work. The mask for the Curves layer needs to have different characteristics where the sky meets the mountains. The noise mask does not touch the mountains while the Curves layer mask needs to overlap the mountains a bit.

The easiest way to handle this is to delete the current selection by pressing Control+D on a PC or Command+D on a Mac. Next, we use the Quick Selection tool. Subsequently, we use the Refine Edge tool again. This time, we expand the selection by 30% and use a fifteen pixel feather. Finally, we choose Curves from the Adjustment panel and apply a curve.

We now have a filter and an adjustment layer each with a different mask. At this point, it is time to close this window and head back to the original Smart Object by pressing Control+W on a PC or Command+W on a Mac. Pressing Control+0 on a PC or Command+0 on a Mac brings us back to screen size.

At this point, we have created two layers of smart objects, and we have applied two masks. However, we are not done yet. We have more filters and masks to apply, and we will apply them in the next video.