How to Copy Smart Objects in Photoshop

by Jun 16, 2022Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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How to Copy Smart Objects in Photoshop

This tutorial explains two ways to copy Smart Objects in Photoshop. One method maintains a link with the contents of the Smart Object and the other breaks it. If you’re not too sure about how to use Smart Objects, read my Photoshop Smart Objects tutorial first. This tutorial assumes you already understand Smart Objects, how to create them, and how to use them for photo editing.

Option 1: Retaining the Smart Object Link

With this first method, we will copy the Smart Object in Photoshop and retain the link to the contents of the Smart Object it was copied from. This is best explained using an example.

Example image inside a Photoshop Smart Object

Here you can see an image contained in a Smart Object in the Layers Window. There are no other layers and if we were to open the Smart Object by double clicking, we only see the image layer.

Let’s now copy this Smart Object by selecting “Layer | Duplicate Layer…” in the Photoshop menu. Alternatively, we can right click on the Smart Object layer in the Layers Window and select the “Duplicate layer” option. We then have two Smart Objects in the Layers Window.

To demonstrate what’s happened, open one of the Smart Objects (either one) to edit the contents by double clicking it. When the Smart Object opens, add a Black and White Adjustment Layer by selecting the “New layer” option at the bottom of the Layers Window.

After adding the black and white layer inside the Smart Object, save the change and then close the Smart Object. You will now see are the two Smart Objects (copies of each other) and both have been converted to black and white.

Smart object and copy smart object in the Photoshop Layers window

If we open the other Smart Object by double clicking it, we find that it also contains the same Black and White Adjustment Layer. Any changes we make here also appear in the other Smart Object when we save them.

When we copied the Smart Object by duplicating it, we produced a second smart object that links to the same data or contents. Any changes we make in one Smart Object also appear in the other.

Option 2: Breaking the Smart Object Link

Now let’s look at the opposite situation. This time we will copy the Smart Object, but we will break the link to the contents. As in the previous example we will start with a single Smart Object in Photoshop which contains the image and a Black and White Adjustment Layer.

This time we will create a copy of the Smart Object by selecting “Layer | Smart Objects | New Smart Object via Copy” in the Photoshop menu. Alternatively, we can right click on the Smart Object in the Photoshop Layers Window and select the “New Smart Object via Copy” option.

The thing to remember about this is that we have created a NEW Smart Object rather than duplicating one. Now when we open either of the Smart Objects, we can make changes to it without affecting the other. Here’s a screenshot showing the Black and White Adjustment Layer has been disabled in the copy Smart Object but not the original.

Copy Smart Object where the two Smart Objects can be edited independently

Summary of How to Copy Smart Objects in Photoshop

In this tutorial we’ve looked at two ways to copy a Smart Object in Photoshop. One method will break the link with the Smart Object data whilst the other maintains it. Both methods have their use when editing in Photoshop. For example, by copying a Smart Object and maintain the link, you can easily make the same change to all Smart Objects that share the data. Alternatively, by breaking the link, you can edit the two Smart Objects independently of each other which can be used for techniques like Double RAW Exposure Blending.

More Photoshop Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Adobe Photoshop Tutorials page.

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