Smart Object Layers and Selections from Parent Document

Smart Object Layers and Selections from Parent Document

You can find on the internet and on my blog, lot's of articles about Smart Objects: what are smart object layers, how to save disc space using Linked Smart Objects and so on. There is one interesting situation and question that I have encountered recently: how to, basically, use selection created in the parent document in editing mode (double click on SO thumb to edit content). There are a couple of ways to use already created selection when editing Smart Object content and I will describe a couple of them.

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How to use already created selection from parent document when editing Smart Object content

The first thing I want to inform you is that content on Smart Object will be edited with original dimensions which can be much larger (also and smaller) than current document dimensions even though current document is parent and SO is a part of it.

Method 1 drag selections
The first method you can use is to load selection in your document and then to drag it as you are doing with any other layer when moving it from one document to another.

Here are the steps:

  1. Double click on the Smart Object layer to edit content in a separate tab.
  2. Switch back to parent document and load selection.
  3. Activate selection tool like Rectangular Marquee Tool and ensure that New selection is active in the Options bar.
  4. Click inside the selection and drag it onto the tab with Smart Object content which you are editing. Hold down Shift when releasing a selection to maintain the position of the selection - this works only when parent document and Smart Object content which you are editing have exact same dimensions, otherwise selection will be centered.

Drag selection onto tab with SO

Method 2 duplicate Alpha channel
The second and quick way is to duplicate Alpha channel (saved selection) from parent document to a document which is actually Smart Object content which you are editing. Here are the steps:

  1. Double click Smart Object thumbnail to open it in a separate tab (editing mode).
  2. Drag tab with Smart Object content to make it floating window.
  3. Switch back to parent document.
  4. Click on a channel in Channels panel and drag it onto the floating window with Smart Object content. Dragged Alpha channel will be copied.
  5. Make a selection using Alpha channel by Ctrl/Cmd + clicking on it.

Drag alpha channel into floating window with SO

Method 3 Layer mask
In case you are creating Smart Object within a parent document you can create a layer mask which will become part of the Smart Object layer and available to load selection when editing content of SO. By the way, you can create and hide layer mask before converting layer(s)/groups to Smart Object. In this way you will have a mask or alpha channel which is doing nothing but waiting for you to load selection based on mask in case you need that.
Create and hide layer mask before converting layers to SO

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