Linked Smart Objects and Libraries Panel in Photoshop CC 2014

Linked Smart Objects and Libraries Panel in Photoshop CC 2014

Libraries panel is one of the coolest new features in the latest update for Photoshop CC 2014. This panel is changing the game and it will change the way we work and the way we think about Photoshop. It is really amazing how much one panel and one feature can change things, make everything much easier and save tons of time, searches and frustrations. Creative Cloud and Photoshop users will celebrate the day when this feature is introduced and you can expect in upcoming weeks and months tons of tips on how to use this amazing new feature. However, in this post I want to give you a tip how to combine Libraries panel and another amazing feature recently introduced: Place Linked.

Why to store Linked Smart Objects in Libraries

There are three major reasons:
  • File in Libraries panel can be updated with one click if you make changes to the original file.
  • To reduce file size. Linked Smart objects can heavily reduce file size. You certainly want the flexibility to scale up and down without penalty and you will always want smallest possible file size.
  • Layer Comps are available and can be used from Properties panel on per layer/document basis. Changing Layer Comp on one layer or in one document will not reflect in another document with the same placed and linked files.

In addition, you can edit the original file from any document in which is placed and, for example, to create Layer Comps, if you do not have created them yet. You can also use the Edit command from Libraries panel and to make changes to stored files or to original on your disc. Sounds confusing? It won't be when we break things down to understand how all this works.

How to save Linked Smart Objects in Libraries panel

First thing first. You should have Linked Smart Object in your Layers panel before adding it to the Libraries panel. You can use File > Place Linked command to place the file in any open document. After placing file, ensure that you have Libraries panel visible (Window > Libraries) and Linked Smart Object layer selected in the Layers panel. Create new library if you want from the Libraries panel menu > Create New Library.

Click on Add Graphic icon in the Libraries panel. That's it, the graphic will be added and synced, you can start using it almost instantly.
Add graphic to Libraries in Photoshop CC 2014
To add graphic to library do the following: 1) Select layer(s)/group(s) in the Layers panel 2) Click on Add Graphic button in Libraries panel.

After adding graphic elements you can right/Cmd + click on it for context menu with several options: Use in document, Edit, Rename and Delete. It is very clear what each of command allows you to do.

Edit saved graphic in Libraries

In essence, this command will open stored file which is linked to original if you have added Linked Smart Object to your library. You can read more about Linked Smart Objects from here.

To be clear: if you have image on your drive 4000x3000px and you have used File > Place Linked to place that image in smaller document like 1800x1400px then placed file is most likely something like 1800x1200px because during the place process file was automatically scaled to match document dimensions (document in which you are placing file). I will assume that you haven't scaled any further placed file. This is due to Resize Image During Place option in Preferences > General section. I will guess that most of users have this option turned on, in fact, many of you haven't paid attention to it.

So, in essence, you are editing scaled version (in the scenario described above) of the original image. It is linked to original and will ask you to update it if there was any change in original. It is not original file, one more time to repeat, it is an image created from the original. To access original file on your hard drive you must click Edit Contents in Properties panel or to double click on Smart Object thumbnail.
Editing file stored in Libraries

If you make any changes in Edit mode (take a look at document tab and you will see some numbers as a file name) and save changes from File > Save then you are saving image created from the original with adjustments or filters applied to it during editing session. It is basically the same thing as applying some filters to Linked Smart Object before adding item to Libraries panel. When you click on File > Save it is the same in this case as Add Graphic button in Libraries panel. Since the graphic is already added it is actually Update added graphic.

Other uses of Edit command in Libraries panel
I have discovered that Edit feature can be useful in several different ways: as described to adjust or modify what is available from the Libraries panel without to make changes to original file, but also and to use it as a starting point.

You can save the multilayered file as a graphic in Libraries panel. It can be template, for example. Instead of using File > Save command after entering Edit mode, you can use File > Save As to save as a new document and to continue working on it. To ensure that everything is ok, just take a look at document tab which will have document name (name you typed when saving) instead of numbers which appears after using the Edit command to edit files from the Libraries.
Create new document from edited file saved in library

The benefit of saving Linked Smart Objects in Libraries

Some of you will wonder what is the actual benefit of adding Linked Smart Objects to Libraries. You can speed up process and to reduce file size.

When and why to add Linked Smart Object to Libraries

You should use Linked Smart Objects for files that usually you do not need to access and manipulate layers even if layers are present in the original file. Example is the logo. You have your logo, which is layered file, but you won't change it often. What you need is to scale it up or down depend on the project or position of your logo in the document. Another example, are images that you are using for various templates. Sometimes you will need 900x600px, other times 600x400px and so on. You always want flexibility to scale up and down without penalties so you can experiment. This is possible only with Smart Object Layers. If you save images in the Libraries  then you must convert it to Smart Object Layer after inserting images in the document from Libraries panel. Converting image to Embedded Smart Object will double the size because Photoshop will keep original embedded in the current document. If you scale down the image after converting it to Embedded Smart Object then you will reduce the overall size, but you still have original embedded in the document which is unnecessary.

It is still possible to convert image to Linked Smart Object, but that will add one more step and probably one more file on your drive. You must be careful when converting to Linked Smart Object. There is option to save over original file to not duplicate same image, but keep in mind that this action will permanently override original file and you must be sure that image in your document is exact same as original.

Let's say that you have saved 3000x2000px image in Libraries. After inserting that image in any document you need to convert it to a Smart Object for flexibility. You convert it to Smart Object (right click > Convert to Smart Object). You need in your document image that is 600x400px. You scale down Smart Object to that dimension. Original 3000x2000px is still embedded in your document and it is adding to document size. That is unnecessary because you can have the same flexibility to scale image up and down with Linked Smart Object without to have original, huge image embedded in the document you are working on it.
Difference Linked vs Embedded Smart Object
Here is the difference Embedded vs Linked Smart Object. Both documents has the exact same content with only one image. The only difference is that document on top has Embedded Smart Object with image scaled down while document at the bottom has same image scaled down on Linked Smart Object.

When adding Embedded Smart Object Layers to Libraries you have the same situation with one step less: image is already converted to a Smart Object, everything else is the same and you will always have an original image embedded in the document what will add, sometimes heavily, to the document size.

Using Layer Comps with Linked Smart Objects

One of the big advantages with Smart Object layers is ability to change the Layer Comp from Properties panel. This feature works in the exact same way with Embedded and Linked Smart Object Layers. If you haven't realized, changing Layer Comp for Linked or Embedded Smart Object Layer will not reflect on the layer with content generated from the same source. For example: you have Linked Smart Object in your Layers panel. You can choose Layer Comp 1 to be applied. You can duplicate that layer and to choose Layer Comp 2 to be applied without any effect on base layer which is duplicated. Changing or applying layer comp to any of Linked Smart Objects will not reflect on any other layer or document which is using the same source file.
Insert graphic from library and change Layer Comp for duplicated graphic layer
Multilayered file with Layer Comps (Social buttons) is added as a Linked Smart Object to the library:
1) Right click > Use in document 2) Duplicate Linked Smart Object inserted from library 3) Change Layer Comp for duplicated Linked Smart Object



Product used in this tutorial:
Adobe Photoshop CC 2014

Reference
:
Photoshop Help / New features summary

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