Keep Your Photoshop Work Editable With Smart Objects

Working as a designer can be a challenge, because there are things to consider, such as budget and revisions. One realistic scenario that happens everyday is that you may design something in Photoshop, and then the client likes it, but wants to change the wording. If you have rasterized the design or the type in order to apply effects to it, then you have to go back and do everything all over again. There is a great way to keep your work editable, and that method is called Smart Objects.

Start by creating a new document and fill the background layer with black. You can make your document any size, but mine is 1024 x 768. Create a new layer and select the Marquee Tool and create a rectangular selection over a little more than the bottom half of the canvas. Select a dark blue color, as your foreground color and hit Alt/Option + Delete to fill the selection with your foreground color.

draw water

Select the text Tool and select a bold sans-serif font. I chose Frutiger, but you could use anything, such as Helvetica or Arial. Select white as the color and create the text that you would like for your design. Double-click the text layer to bring up the Layer Styles options for the text layer.

Add text

The first thing we want to apply is and Inner Glow. Select a medium-light blue color and set the size to around 2-3 px. It may be more depending on the resolution of your document.

layer styles

Select Color Overlay. Set the blend mode to normal. Select a very light sky blue and make sure that the opacity is at 100%.

layer styles 2

Next, we will add a soft glow to our text. Select a medium blue, keep the blend mode as normal, and set the size between 7-10px. make sure that it is set to softer as the technique, but don’t change the contour of the glow.

layer styles 3

Select Drop Shadow and set the mode to screen. This will give the appearance that the letters are emanating light. Select the same blue as before and set the spread to 2-4px, and set the size between 15-20px. We really want to give this text a prominent glow. Next, set the contour to half round.

Layer styles 4

Below shows the results of what our layer styles should accomplish. Next we will create a reflection.

layer styles result

Duplicate the text layer by hitting Command/Ctrl + J. Then, right-click on the duplicated text layer and select Convert to Smart Object. We want to do this, because we will be applying otherwise undo-able effects to our text, or we will have to rasterize it, and we want to avoid that.

convert duplicate to smart object

With the duplicate text layer now set as a Smart Object, hit Command/Ctrl+T to transform the text, but rick-click on it in transform mode. Select Flip Vertically to flip the text upside down.

reflect duplicate

Now, we are going to apply a Motion Blur to our text layer. We want to blur it vertically, so that the text will optically be distorted by the water, ans you would see in a typical reflection. Change the angle to 90° and increase the distance to around 30px. The goal here isn’t to have a readable reflection, but to create a realistic one.

Run motion blur filter

When you apply filters to a smart object, it becomes a Smart Filter, which allows you to double-click it and go back and edit it. Notice the Smart Filter, the Smart Filter mask and the ability to turn visibility on/off.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.06.43 AM

Next, we want to transform the text in perspective, so that it matches the direction of the water and looks as if it is a reflection on the surface of the water. Hit Command/Ctrl+T, then rick-click on the bounding box to bring up and hidden menu, and select Perspective. Click the bottom right corner point and while holding shift, drag outward. This will change the plane that the text is on.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.07.37 AM

We need a sample image that shows rippling water. Go here and download the image shown below. Resize it and position it to where the darker portion of the water is shown over the bottom half of our image. Order the layers in your Layers Panel, so that the water layer is right above the blue rectangle layer. Change the blend mode to Overlay.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.12.27 AM

The back edge is too crisp, so now we need to click the layer mask icon and create a Layer Mask on both the blue rectangle layer and the water layer. Select a normal black and white liner gradient and fade the back edge of the water so that it isn’t so prominent.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.12.52 AM

If the type in the water doesn’t fit within your water area, reposition it so that it does.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.14.54 AM

With the text positioned, now we can apply a ripple effect to our text. Go to Filter > Distort > Ocean Ripple. Set the amount to taste visually. The amount that worked here was -57. Set the size to Large.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 3.15.10 PM

The effect is less than desired, because it really doesn’t match the ripples below. The glow is too strong and it just doesn’t  look how we want it to. However, we can fix this easily.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 3.21.12 PM

Simply duplicate the water image layer, and move the copy above the reflected type layer. Change the blend mode to multiply, and clip the image layer to the shape of the text below by holding Alt/Option and clicking between the two layers. This drown out too much of the reflection, so lower the opacity to around 50%.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 3.41.21 PM

If you want to edit the text, the floating text is just an editable text layer, but the rippled water text is a smart object, so double-click the smart object icon in the Layers Panel and a new document will open, where you can edit the text. This is a “temporary” file and when you are finished, Save it to make the changes permanent. Close the temporary file and when you go back to the original, the text has been updated.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.24.43 AM

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.25.29 AM

The sky looks a little flat, so we can add some stars to finish it off. On the black background layer, Go to Filter > Add Noise and make sure that it is monochromatic and Gaussian.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.27.09 AM

Create a 1px blur to soften and randomize the stars a bit. then, hit Command/Ctrl + L to bring up the levels Dialog box.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.27.52 AM

bring the white and black sliders (outside) inward toward the center until the stars look how you want them too.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.29.03 AM

Next, create a new layer above the star layer and select the gradient tool. Select the spectrum gradient and drag out an angle gradient from the center to show all types of different colors. Change the blend mode to Soft Light and lower the opacity to around 13-15%. This give you subtle color variations in your starry sky.

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.30.31 AM

Screen shot 2012-08-30 at 10.31.30 AM

Conclusion

A lot of time and work goes into our work, and it is important to set up your files so that you can make changes later if you need to. It is much easier and more efficient to spend 15 seconds creating smart objects to keep things editable, than it is to come back and redo whole sections over again from scratch. Smart Objects and Smart Filters should rank highly among your tools in creating artwork and design work quickly and efficiently.

 

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