August 08, 2009
Linked Smart Objects (kinda)
Geoff Badner, the art director to whom I owe the start of my career, recently asked a good question:
I know I can do multiple iterations of the same Smart Object within the SAME document and have it change all instances, but what about Smart Objects placed across DIFFERENT documents? That would be pimp.
I ask because I’m designing an iPhone app and it uses the same modules over and over across different screens. There are dozens of screens and each time I needs to change a button or text field in a module, I need to fix it one at a time in each file. Sucks!
I know. My quick advice: You can convert any layer to being a Smart Object (or place a file as one), then choose “Layer->Smart Objects->Replace Contents…” That way you can suck in another file as an update/replacement. If it’s a command you perform frequently, you can assign a keyboard shortcut to it.
Upshot: Edit your external file, then hit Shift-Cmd-R (or whatever) once per Smart Object instance to replace each. Kinda clunky, I know, but depending on the edits you do per SO, this approach may be more efficient.
Someday Photoshop needs to support proper linked files, period. (Dirty-ish little secret: it already does, in the form of video layers; your MOV, etc. source files are never embedded in a PSD.) For that to happen, it needs the right infrastructure–a Links panel, the ability to resolve broken links, etc. None of that is rocket science, but it’s worth taking the time to get right.