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Video Training Review: Photoshop CS4: Smart Objects with Deke McClelland from

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Photoshop CS4: Smart Objects is the latest offering from Photoshop expert Deke McClelland and it explores the creation and use of Smart Objects, one of the most technically demanding tools in Photoshop. In this training video Deke McClelland walks through the four primary purposes of Smart Objects, and focuses on one of their most practical advantages, the non-destructive transformations that they provide.

Deke McClelland is a well-known expert and lecturer on Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and the broader realm of computer graphics and design. To date, he has written 85 books that have been translated into 24 languages, with more than four million copies in print. In Photoshop CS4: Smart Objects takes you deep inside the world of Smart Objects. This video is 8 hours and 10 minutes in length and is divided into six lessons.

"Introduction," gives a brief overview of what a Smart Object is and how it can be used. At its basics, it is a container that holds an image and keeps it from harm. In this intro he shows you how to install dekeKeys, his custom keyboard short cuts, he explains what all he will teach you in this training, as well as giving you some tips for setting up Photoshop.

Lesson 1, "How Smart Objects Work," shows you the four primary purposes of Smart Objects. He then explains what he considers the most important feature of the Smart Object, their non-destructive ability. In this series, he intends to focus on three real-world projects that you can work on from start to finish giving you the full effect of what can be done with Smart Objects.

Lesson 2, "Camera Raw and Illustrator Objects," are bound to Photoshop by Smart Objects. If you place either of these kinds of files into Photoshop, they arrive as Smart Objects automatically. In this lesson you will work with both types of objects, making adjustments, modifying, working with layers, and combining layer effects with adjustment layers to create your project.

Lesson 3, "Working with True Clones," looks at how each duplicate of a Smart Object references the same source information. This means that when you update the source data, all linked objects are updated as well. Here you will work with what the instructor calls "True Clones" by first creating one, then you will edit the root image, and then update all of the true clones. Then you will explore upsampling, parametric Feather and Glow, Smart sharpening, adding highlight and vibrance to the image, as well as luminance blending.

Lesson 4, "Exploiting Nested Smart Objects," allows them to work as grouping tools. By combining several Smart Object into one super-massive Smart Object, you can apply layer effects and create true clones making a much more flexible composition. In this section you will create a super-massive Smart Object and explore all of the things that it can be used for.

Lesson 5, "Applying Smart Filters," will let you apply a filter like unsharp mask or Gaussian blur to an image, then you will make adjustments all within the non-destructive container of the Smart Object.

Lesson 6, "Non-Filters and Filter Masks," takes a further look into Smart Filters by taking a look at the two non-filters that can be applied as Smart Filters; shadows, highlights and variations, as well as filter masks which allow you to limit your filter effects to specific portions of an image. In this lesson you will work with the Filter gallery, adding filter masks, work with the non-filters, as well as merging the effects of combinations of filters together.

As always, I really like Deke McClelland's presentation and his gift to make the complex simple. He takes what could be a complicated topic — Smart Objects — and breaks it down to into easy to understand dialog. Smart Objects are a feature that has been around for a couple of versions, and in fact this training can be used for Photoshop CS3 as well, since the instructor points out differences between the two versions when necessary.

Again, I really like the fact that the introductions to each chapter are films of the instructor explaining what the lesson is all about. I think that it makes the instructor more real than just hearing them talk in the voiceover, not to mention that he has a great sense of humor throughout.

This training is only available online at Photoshop CS4: Smart Objects in the following packages:

  • For $25/month or $250 per year, you get all of the videos that are available online (approximately 44,599 videos on 711 topics at this time).
  • For $375 per year (Premium), you get all the videos as well as all of the exercise files.

You can use Photoshop CS4: Smart Objects as a training program for the individual student, as well as the college or vocational teacher looking to supplement their educational materials. It is of benefit to anyone who needs help understanding the basics of Illustrator. You can also try out some sample lessons for free at

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.