Photoshop can be a power hungry beast. For the most part, a decent mid-level computer is enough to do 99% of what the majority of photographers will need. Inevitably, however, there will come a time when you need to squeeze every bit of computing power out of your current rig. Perhaps you’re trying something a little more complex and Photoshop begins to slow down. This tutorial from Square Mountain aims to help with just that issue giving us a great tip to improve Photoshop’s speed and to help photographers doing complex composites.

Square Mountain is operated by our very own Max Bridge and specializes in producing unique still life photography. In this video he imparts, as he puts it, “one of the best Photoshop techniques I’ve learnt in recent years”. Linked Smart Objects are a rarely talked about but invaluable Photoshop technique which can both speed up your complicated edits and also provide some much needed help with organisation.

photo shows a baileys bottle inside photoshop with lots of guides up for liquify. Demonstrating the use of Linked Smart Objects


While this video is primarily aimed at those creating complex composites, the technique of Linked Smart Objects has far reaching possibilities. Let’s say you were working with graphics, creating a series of posters for an organisation. By placing the company logo within all your PSDs as a “Linked Smart Object”, every time you make alterations to the “logo PSD” those changes will be automatically reflected in every other document. In other words, if you have one element which will appear in lots of documents, by using Linked Smart Objects you can edit that element once and have it reflected in every single document in which it appears. If you’d like to see more from Square Mountain check their newly created YouTube channel here.

Some important points to note about this technique:

  1. Make sure you work with PSDs not TIFFs
  2. You cannot delete a Photoshop document you have linked to. Your master document references all files you’ve linked to. It needs to know where they are, so don’t delete them.

a screen grab of Photoshop showing a cloud of smoke and lots of layers. Demonstrating the use of Linked Layers in Photoshop

In the video, Max explains the technique while taking us through one of his recent images. The image is constructed using three Linked Layers. Each Photoshop document is made of up of a large number of layers and adjustments. Max uses this to demonstrate the other powerful features of this workflow; the ability to split your edits up and assist with organisation while creating complex composites.

One of the most interesting parts of this technique is not having to merge layers when you want to make global adjustments. In the past, when you’d made a bunch of adjustments to an image and then wanted to Liquify, for example, you’d have to create a stamp visible layer, thus making it impossible to go back and make adjustments. With Linked Layers that problem is a thing of the past!