Learn the best way to merge layers in Photoshop past merging them as editable smart objects, and how smart objects make information technology easy to work with merged layers not-destructively!
A popular manner to work not-destructively in Photoshop is to merge our existing layers onto a new layer above them. By merging layers onto a separate layer, we can apply sharpening or make other changes to the entire image, without the need to flatten the prototype and throw all of our existing layers away.
Merely fifty-fifty merging layers onto a new layer withal isn’t the best way to work. Whatsoever time we demand to make changes to the underlying layers, we demand to delete the merged copy, make our changes, and so merge the layers again. A meliorate way is to merge our layers as a smart object. That way, if we need to make a modify, nosotros tin can merely edit the contents of the smart object, save the change, and then have our changes instantly appear in the document. And, since we’re working with smart objects, any filters nosotros apply will be added as smart filters, which means we can sharpen the image or brand other changes non-destructively. Allow’due south see how it works.
I’ll be using Photoshop CC but everything is fully compatible with Photoshop CS6. Let’southward get started!
The trouble with merging layers onto a new layer
To assist us see the benefits of merging layers as smart objects, let’s apace look at the problem with merging them onto a new layer. Here’s an effect I’one thousand currently working on in Photoshop. I downloaded the original image from Adobe Stock:
The paradigm open in Photoshop. Photo credit: Adobe Stock.
If we look in the
Layers panel, we run across the layers I’ve used to create the issue. I started by converting the original image on the bottom layer into a smart object, and then I blurred the area effectually the woman’s face up using Photoshop’s Blur Gallery, which was applied as a smart filter. I converted the paradigm to black and white by adding a Blackness & White adjustment layer. And finally, I changed her eye color past adding a Hue/Saturation aligning layer at the superlative:
The layers used to create the effect.
Related: How to create smart objects in Photoshop
How to merge layers onto a new layer
To merge all of my existing layers onto a new layer above them, I’ll make sure I have the height layer selected (the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer). Then, on my keyboard, I’ll utilize the secret trick for merging layers onto a new layer, which is by pressing
(Mac). This merges all three of my layers onto a new layer at the top:
All 3 layers have been merged onto a 4th layer.
Applying sharpening to the merged layer
At this betoken, I tin can utilise sharpening to the entire epitome by applying information technology directly to the merged layer. With the merged layer selected, I’ll go upwardly to the
bill of fare, and and then I’ll cull
Sharpen, and then
Going to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen.
In the Smart Acuminate dialog box, I’ll have my current settings and I’ll click OK:
Applying sharpening to the merged layer.
And here’s the paradigm with the sharpening applied:
The image after applying Smart Sharpen to the merged layer.
The trouble with merged layers
But hither’southward the problem nosotros run into. Merging the layers onto a new layer made it easy to acuminate the epitome. But what if I demand to brand a change at this signal to the effect? Maybe I want to adjust the blur amount, or remove the Black & White adjustment layer, or even modify her center color. To make whatsoever of these changes, I would first need to delete my merged layer. And since I’ve already applied sharpening to the layer, I would lose my sharpening effect. Once I’ve made my changes, I would then demand to merge the layers again onto another new layer above them, so reapply my sharpening. And, if I decided to make another change at that point, I’d again have to delete my merged layer and redo all of the steps.
How to merge layers as a smart object
A amend way to merge layers is to merge them as a
smart object. Smart objects are entirely not-subversive, so we can brand any changes nosotros need, whenever we need, without having to delete any merged copies, and the changes will instantly announced in the document. And, when we sharpen the paradigm, or apply any of Photoshop’s other filters to the smart object, the filters will be added as smart filters, which means they remain fully editable!
Deleting the merged layer
To see how it works, I’ll delete my merged layer by dragging it down onto the Trash Bin at the lesser of the Layers panel:
Deleting the merged layer.
Merging layers as a smart object
To merge all iii of my original layers into a smart object, I’ll click on the peak layer (the Hue/Saturation adjustment layer) to select it. Then I’ll press and agree my
key and I’ll click on the lesser layer (the “Photo” layer). This selects all three layers at one time:
Selecting all iii layers.
With all iii layers selected, I’ll click on the
in the upper right corner of the Layers console:
Clicking the Layers panel menu icon.
And then I’ll choose
Catechumen to Smart Object
from the bill of fare:
Choosing the “Convert to Smart Object” command.
This merges all of my layers into a smart object. Nosotros know information technology’s a smart object by the
smart object icon
in the lower right of the thumbnail:
All three layers take been merged into a smart object.
Editing the merged smart object
To make changes to the upshot, I can simply edit the smart object by double-clicking on its
Double-clicking on the smart object thumbnail.
This opens the contents of the smart object in a separate document:
The smart object opens in its ain document.
If nosotros look in the Layers panel, nosotros see all of my original layers still intact:
None of the original layers have been lost.
Restoring the color in the image
I’ll turn off the Black & White adjustment layer by clicking its
Clicking the Blackness & White adjustment layer’s visibility icon.
This restores the original colour in the epitome:
Turning off the adjustment layer restored the original color.
Irresolute the eye colour
Then, dorsum in the Layers panel, I’ll select the Hue/Saturation aligning layer:
Clicking the Hue/Saturation aligning layer to select information technology.
And in the
Properties console, I’ll change her middle colour from blueish to dark-green by dragging the
slider to the left:
Changing the eye color with the Hue slider.
And here’s the result with the new eye colour:
The issue subsequently irresolute the eye color.
Saving the changes and updating the smart object
To have our changes appear in the main document, we need to relieve and close the smart object document. To salvage it, I’ll go up to the
carte du jour and cull
Going to File > Relieve.
Then to close the smart object, I’ll go back up to the
carte du jour and I’ll choose
Going to File > Close.
Back in the main document, the smart object instantly updates with our changes. And because nosotros merged the layers as a smart object, there’s no need to merge them once again at this point if I want to apply sharpening. I tin merely apply the sharpening directly to the smart object:
The smart object updates with the changes.
Sharpening the smart object
To sharpen the paradigm, I’ll do the aforementioned affair I did before by going upwards to the
Sharpen, and and then choosing
Going over again to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Acuminate.
In the Smart Sharpen dialog box, I’ll use the same settings and I’ll click OK:
Applying sharpening to the smart object.
Photoshop applies the sharpening to the effect, simply as did when nosotros were using a merged copy of the layers:
The paradigm later applying Smart Acuminate to the smart object.
Applying the sharpening every bit a smart filter
But this fourth dimension, because the sharpening filter was used on a smart object, Photoshop converted it into a
smart filter, which we see in the Layers panel:
Photoshop converted Smart Acuminate into a smart filter.
Merely like smart objects, smart filters are non-subversive. If you need to edit the sharpening amount, you can just double-click on the name “Smart Sharpen” to reopen its dialog box and make your changes. And, because the sharpening is beingness applied direct to the smart object itself, not to the layers inside information technology, it will remain applied even if you reopen the smart object and make further changes.
I’ll reopen my smart object by double-clicking once again on its thumbnail:
Reopening the smart object.
This once more reopens the contents, with all of my layers, in the divide certificate:
The smart object reopens.
I’ll plough the Blackness & White adjustment layer back on by clicking in one case once again on its
Turning the Black & White adjustment layer back on in the Layers console.
This converts the image back to black and white:
The paradigm is dorsum to black and white.
Saving the new changes
Again I’ll save my change by going up to the
menu and choosing
Going to File > Save.
And so I’ll close the smart object by going back to the
menu and choosing
Going to File > Close.
Back in the chief document, the smart object once again updates with my latest change:
The smart object again updates.
And if we wait in the Layers panel, we see that in that location’s no demand to re-sharpen the epitome considering the Smart Acuminate smart filter is nevertheless being practical:
The sharpening filter remain fifty-fifty later editing the smart object.
And there we accept it! That’s how, and why, to merge layers equally smart objects in Photoshop! For more on smart objects, cheque out our tutorials on how to create smart objects, how to edit smart objects, how to scale and resize images without losing quality, and even how to warp and distort text using smart objects! And don’t forget, all of our Photoshop tutorials are available to download as PDFs!