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Photoshop CS3 : Precomps

Not groups, real nested comps in your project By Ko Maruyama
If you're an After Effects user, you know all about "precomps" or "nested comps".  It's basically a set of layers that creates a single image that you can use in your animation.  In Photoshop CS3, you can also make precomps.  They're called Smart Object layers, and you're gonna love 'em.

Most Photoshop users - especially pros who have been using the industry standard since pre-"CS" versions have been doing just fine without some of the new features.  Relying on the way you used to work isn't a good idea.  There are hundreds of new ways to work in CS3.  One of my favorites is to use Smart Object layers.  It has several beneficial effects, primarily the ability to apply non-destructive filters on layers.

Let's say you start out with a single image. Traditionally, (and even currently in some shops), you'd duplicate the layer and add notes and effects to  remember what the values might have been.... because client changes might require you to revisit the project.

click any image for larger view

When you add an ADJUSTMENT LAYER, you get a non-destructive filter that floats in your layers.  You can group it with the layer below it, but one really nice option is the ability to mask the effects of that adjustment layer.  What I mean is - - it doesn't change the pixels of the image under it.  If you turn it off, your image is still in its "original state".

However, when you try to do the same by applying any of your standard filters to a layer, you don't get the same ability to toggle on/off the effect.... until CS3.

Before you add that filter - - convert the layer into a smart object.  It's easy.  You can do the conversion through several menus, including the filter pulldown.  Personally, I like to right click : CONVERT TO SMART OBJECT before I head up to the filter pulldown.

Cool!  Now you can go ahead and apply your filter without worrying about it destroying the original pixels.  They've been saved to a file that piggybacks your CS3 project.  IT'S NESTED!  IT'S PRECOMPED!  Also, it's non-destructive, so if you decide (or if the client decides) that changes need to be made, you don't have to go backwards 3 steps just to modify that filter.  Simply double click the filter name, and the dialog comes back up so you can modify the parameters.
PLUS - - a masking layer for all of the effects that you pipe onto the layer.


Non-destructive filters (effects) are just the tip of the iceberg for the massive bits of coolness that lie under the surface of smart objects.  These are PRECOMPS.  And as any good After Effects animator/compositor will tell you - you can double up precomps as instances (or clones), and get more control over your duplicates.  You might also save some time in the process... check it out on the next page....

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Related Keywords:Photoshop tutorial, smart object, smart layer, after effects, precomp, pre compose, photoshop filter, layer mask,

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