Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Yup. Smart.

Remember how I said Photoshop was smart?  And I promised to share what I did?  Well, I'm finally back (okay, so I had a five-day weekend away with family, so that's my excuse for not posting until now).

So, here's the layout that I was struggling with:

(click on layout image for credits)

At first glance, it looks like a pretty simple template, right?  When I clear a few things away, this is what I'm left with for the pieces inside the pockets:

... and herein was my dilemma.  Each "square" comprised multiple layers of mini journaling-type cards: templates within a larger template.  I had clipped my papers to the larger sections of the template, but how did I clip a ... well, clip? LOL  Let me explain with another example.

This card or mini-template comes from Deena Rutter's Layered Life cards.You'll see that I've added a photo and I want it to clip to (or take on the shape of) the layer immediately below it, what I've labeled "photo mask".  The problem is, there's only one level (for want of a better word) in the clipping function. What I essentially want to do is add another indent.

Through some trial and error, I came up with a solution - and it was a tool or function in Photoshop that I didn't even know existed ... okay, so it was there all the time; I just didn't know what to do with it.

When I un-clipped all of the items in the template, I could clip the photo to just the mask, and then group these two items (select or highlight the two layers, and then press Ctrl-G - I'm using a PC and Photoshop CS).  This created "Group 1", but it was still not clipped on the original card template base.

Now, that light-bulb moment :)  I kept thinking there just HAD to be a way to clip a group.  I mean, if I could do individual layers, why not a group of layers, right?  Well, normally I'd hold my mouse on the line between the layers, holding the down Alt key and click ... yeah, that doesn't work for grouped items. Boo!  Buuuuuut, if you right click on the Group name in the Layers Palette, there's this option (in the pop-up menu) that says "Convert to Smart Object".  I was like, "Huh? What the heck, I'll give it a go."  Voila!  Now I had a 'new' layer design and I could use that old Alt-Click option to layer the group. Yay! I've added a black background here, just for illustrative purposes - see the right-hand edge of the photo? On the un-clipped version on the left, the photo spills over the edge of the template base; the clipped version on the right has the photo right where it should be.

To be honest, I was thinking this was all that smart objects could do. Okay, so there was a little icon added in the lower right corner of the thumbnail image, and I could layer a clipped item with another clipped item - a template within a template. The more I thought about it, the cooler this was getting.  But wait, there's more (and no, it's not a free set of steak knives!). 

Let's say I didn't like something in the photo.  If I double-click on the smart object thumbnail, a little pop-up window appears that indicates that I can make changes, select File > Save ... and whatever changes I make will transfer, immediately, to the original layout. Let's say I wanted to add a warming filter - I could do that.  Resize things. Yup. Move items around. Yup.  Replace them ... yes, that too!

The smart objects screens look exactly like the other Photoshop layers and structure, and even all the menu items, filters, etc. are available, so there's nothing new to learn; all the same functionality as a 'regular' Photoshop menu item.

Now, back to my original layout. 

See how these smart objects were helpful?  I was able to clip individual photos, patterned paper, and wordstrips within each mini-template and make them work into my larger page.

So glad that I was patient enough to keep trying a few things 'cause now I've found a new tool to explore even more.  Yeah, I'm such a geek - but I hope you've learned something new, too.

Oh, remember when I said I was visiting family over the weekend?  Here's a few pics of the weekend, just to round out what has become a somewhat lengthly blog post (see, no activity for ages, and them BAM!  I bombard you with information ROFL!)

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