Photoshop: Do everything I did to this image to a different image!
February 21, 2020 1:01 PM   Subscribe

I'm using photoshop to make fake illustrations based on composite photos. I'm saving the composite photos and then going through and applying various filters to turn them into illustrations. The problem is, sometimes after I've done all that and it looks great as an illustration, I find a problem with the photo. Now I have to edit the photo and redo the illustration. Is there a way to tell photoshop "take whatever I did to that photo and do it to this photo"?

I generally don't remember exactly how I did this one (because there's some fiddling involved) and of course the history doesn't give details (e.g. it says I faded this effect, but not how much) I can't just make an action because it's different every time, and I can't just substitute in the new photo as the base layer, because the editing involves merging layers and rasterizing and the like. Oh, and often I will have saved and sometimes closed and re-opened since making the illustration.
posted by If only I had a penguin... to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you record a new Action each time, the details of each change are recorded in each Action step.
posted by humboldt32 at 1:12 PM on February 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

At work we do a lot of mockups for garments, and the photoshop file we use has a "smart layer" that opens up a separate PSB file, where we can paste our artwork, and then save it, and it will automatically be applied to our open mockup file. The smart layer has a displacement mask, clipping mask and filters applied to it, in our case, so that the art design looks somewhat like it will once screen printed. We never need to manipulate that layer, we just swap out the artwork in the psb that opens when you double click the smart layer.

Unfortunately, I've yet to need to create my own setup from scratch and have just been modifying existing ones as we need them. I can send you a copy of the base mockup to tinker with if you want. I know you're not doing shirt mocks, but might help to pick apart their smart layer.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:29 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's possible to automate Photoshop externally with scripts in various languages. I have no specific tutorial recommendations, because I don't actually use Photoshop, but various written and video tutorials are available, if this is a rabbit hole that you'd be interested in exploring.
posted by confluency at 1:35 PM on February 21, 2020

This sounds exactly like what Photoshop actions are for.
posted by Aleyn at 1:45 PM on February 21, 2020

It sounds like we use Photoshop to do very similar projects. I save every step I do as a separate layer (I know this sounds weird, but I taught myself Photoshop years ago so I have some quirky work arounds for things) in the layer name I type notes like "50% oppacity soft light layer". I make a copy of the layer to use in the next step and save the original layer. Once the file is done I have a neatly stacked pile of layers with instructions and the layer on top is the finished artwork. I know that doesn't exactly answer your question but it might help a little next time.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:51 PM on February 21, 2020 [4 favorites]

Using Smart Objects is the right way to do this. Open your image in Photoshop, in the layer palette right click on your image, and click 'Convert to Smart Object'. Apply filters as needed. If you need to re-edit some part of the image right click on your layer and click 'Edit Contents'. It will open a second unfiltered copy of your image, make the changes, and then save/close the image. The filters will then reapply on top of your edited image.

You could use actions for this, but actions are really sensitive to initial conditions. If you for example had two layers when you created your action, and then you tried to redo the same action but started with one layer things typically won't work.
posted by gregr at 3:05 PM on February 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, am I missing something with how smart objects work? Like I need to do things like take the original image, duplicate it, apply a filter to one copy, change the blend mode and then merge the original and the copy, and then apply filters to that merged version. Some adjustments only work on rasterized layers. After doing that the original smart layer where you can just double-click the original image to edit the file just doesn't exist, does it? I know you can add adjustment layers or smartfilters, but does the smart object survive duplication and merging or rasterizing?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:00 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

My vote is a flat no, Photoshop cannot do what you are asking.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 9:50 PM on February 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Also voting no. Smart Objects don't survive the merging process.
posted by oxisos at 5:33 PM on February 22, 2020

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