The Benefits of Smart Objects for Designing Infographics

By Justin Beegel, MBA, The Infographic World Team

Smart objects in infographics can be raster or vector images, but the important feature is that they can be transformed (scaled, skewed, rotated, warped, or distorted) without losing any of the original image data.

Have you ever scaled down an image in Photoshop, but then changed your mind and scaled it back up only to find that the image had become low resolution? That doesn’t have to happen anymore. And vector images never have to be rasterized. They can keep Illustrator’s power to scale them and edit them, indefinitely.

You can make a smart object by

  • Pasting the content into Photoshop and selecting Smart Object in the dialog box that appears.

  • Converting one or more selected layers by choosing Convert to Smart Object from the flyout menu at the top-right corner of your Layers palette.

Smart objects behave a lot like symbols do in Illustrator. You can duplicate smart object layers, scaling and transforming each one separately. You could make a tank full of fish that way, for example.

To continue our running example, go ahead and make — then make copies of — a smart object.

Then double-click any of the smart objects or copies in your Layers palette to open and edit the image. If the image is an Illustrator vector, the smart object will open up in Illustrator. If it’s a raster image, a separate Photoshop editing window will open up.

You can apply any of the regular layer effects, filters, or Illustrator changes you want. For example, you could change the color, and then save and close the editing window. The change you made to that smart object will have been made to all the related smart object copies at the same time. This figure shows how you can apply these changes.

The fact that those changes are layers within the smart object means that the process is nondestructive as well as fast. If you don’t want that filter or color applied anymore, just open an instance and turn off the effect layer.

Change properties easily with smart objects.

Change properties easily with smart objects.

You can also use smart objects as a tool for cleaning up your Layers palette. You never need to merge or flatten layers again. Just select several layers at once and convert them to a smart object, and they essentially become one still-editable layer.