A better way to convert text to a smart object in Photoshop

A Better Way to Convert Type to a Smart Object in Photoshop

Learn a simple trick for converting type to a smart object in Photoshop that makes editing your text inside the smart object a whole lot easier. For Photoshop 2023 or earlier.

Written by Steve Patterson.

Converting type to a smart object in Photoshop has lots of great benefits. One of them, which we'll look at here, is that we can apply filters to our text and still go back and edit the text even with the filters applied.

But the usual way of converting a layer to a smart object does not always work with text. At least, not if you’ll need to edit the text later. Let me show you the problem you can run into when editing text inside a smart object, and then I’ll show you an easy solution.

Which version of Photoshop do I need?

I’m using Photoshop 2023 but this applies to any recent version. You can get the latest Photoshop version here.

The document setup

I’ve gone ahead and added some placeholder text in front of a simple background image. We’re going to convert the text into a smart object, apply a filter, and then edit the text and see what happens (background image from Adobe Stock).

The original Photoshop document with placeholder text.
The original document with placeholder text.

In the Layers panel, we see my type layer above the Background layer.

Photoshop's Layers panel
Photoshop's Layers panel.

Let's get started!

Converting type to a smart object the usual way

The usual way to convert type to a smart object is to right-click (on a Windows PC) or Control-click (on a Mac) on the type layer itself.

Right-clicking (Win) / Control-clicking (Mac) on the type layer.
Right-clicking (Win) / Control-clicking (Mac) on the type layer.

Then choose Convert to Smart Object from the menu.

Choosing the Convert to Smart Object command.
Choosing the Convert to Smart Object command.

A smart object icon appears in the lower right of the layer’s thumbnail.

The smart object thumbnail.
The smart object thumbnail.

Learn more: How to Create Smart Objects in Photoshop

Applying a filter to the text

With our type now converted to a smart object, one of the things we can do is apply a filter to the text.

I’ll go up to the Filter menu in the Menu Bar.

Opening the Filter menu
Opening the Filter menu.

From there I’ll choose Blur and then Gaussian Blur.

Selecting the Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop
Going to Blur > Gaussian Blur.

In the Gaussian Blur dialog box, I’ll set the Radius, which controls the amount of blur, to around 60 pixels and click OK.

The Gaussian Blur filter dialog box
The Gaussian Blur filter dialog box.

And we now have some blurry text. So far so good.

The text with Gaussian Blur applied.
The text with Gaussian Blur applied.

Opening the smart object

Back in the Layers panel, the Gaussian Blur filter appears as a smart filter, which is another benefit of working with smart objects.

If I wanted, I could double-click on the smart filter's name to reopen its dialog box and make changes.

Filters applied to smart objects become editable smart filters.
Filters applied to smart objects become editable smart filters.

But what we’re more interested in here is that the text itself is also still editable, even with the filter applied.

All we need to do is double-click on the smart filter's thumbnail to open it and view the text inside it.

Double-clicking on the smart filter’s thumbnail.
Double-clicking on the smart filter’s thumbnail.

Photoshop stores the contents of a smart object in a separate .psb document, which we can see up in the tab.

The smart object document.
The smart object document.

The smart object’s canvas size

But notice the size of the canvas in this document. It’s much smaller than the canvas in the main document. Instead of having lots of room around the text like we had in the main document, Photoshop has cropped the canvas in the smart object’s document to the exact width and height of the text itself.

This can be a problem if we need to edit the text. We’ll see why in a moment.

The canvas is cropped to the exact dimensions of the text.
The canvas is cropped to the exact dimensions of the text.

Editing the text inside the smart object

To edit the text, I’ll first make sure I have the Type Tool selected in the toolbar.

Selecting the Type Tool.
Selecting the Type Tool.

Then I’ll double-click on the text to highlight it.

Highlighting the current text.
Highlighting the current text.

And I’ll change the word from "TEXT" to "BLUR".

Changing the text.
Changing the text.

To accept it, I’ll click the checkmark in the Options Bar.

Clicking the checkmark.
Clicking the checkmark.

The problem: The new text does not fit on the canvas

And here we see the problem. The canvas in our smart object document was sized to the original text. But my new text is a bit larger than the original text. So the new text does not fit entirely on the canvas.

To make it easier to see, I’ll temporarily change my text color from white to black.

Notice that the top and bottom of the letter B are cut off because the round parts of the letter extend outside the canvas. Same with the bottom of the letter U and the right side of the letter R.

Parts of the letters extend off the canvas.
Parts of the letters extend off the canvas.

I’ll change the text color back to white. Then to accept my changes, I’ll close the smart object by clicking the "x" in the document tab.

Closing the smart object document.
Closing the smart object document.

And when Photoshop asks if I want to save my changes, I’ll click Yes (Windows) or Save (Mac).

Saving the changes to the text.
Saving the changes to the text.

Back in the main document, the smart object updates with my new text and with the Gaussian Blur filter still applied. But we also see those missing parts of the letters, especially the letter R on the right.

The smart object updates, still missing parts of the letters.
The smart object updates, still missing parts of the letters.

If I turn off the Gaussian Blur filter for a moment by clicking its visibility icon:

Smart filters can be toggled on and off.
Smart filters can be toggled on and off.

The problem is easier to see.

The text with the blur effect off.
The text with the blur effect off.

A better way to convert type to a smart object

And that’s why the usual way of converting a single type layer to a smart object does not always work. At least, not if you need to edit the text later.

What we need is a way to convert our type to a smart object that keeps the full canvas size of the main document, so that if we need to edit the text inside the smart object, the new text still fits on the canvas.

And here’s how to do it.

I’ll press Ctrl+Z (on a Windows PC) or Command+Z (on a Mac) a few times to undo my steps and return to my original type layer above the Background layer.

Returning to the original type layer.
Returning to the original type layer.

Step 1: Make a copy of the Background layer

Before converting the type to a smart object, click on the Background layer to select it.

Selecting the Background layer.
Selecting the Background layer.

Then press Ctrl+J on a Windows PC, or Command+J on a Mac, to add a copy of the Background layer above it. We’re going to include this "Background copy" layer in with our smart object.

Making a copy of the Background layer.
Making a copy of the Background layer.

Step 2: Select the type and Background copy layers

With the "Background copy" layer selected, hold Shift on your keyboard and click on the type layer. Both layers will be selected.

Selecting both layers together.
Selecting both layers together.

Step 3: Convert the layers to a smart object

Right-click (on a Windows PC) or Control-click (on a Mac) on the type layer and choose Convert to Smart Object, just like we did before.

Choosing Convert to Smart Object.
Choosing Convert to Smart Object.

Step 4: Open the smart object

Then open the smart object by double-clicking on its thumbnail.

Opening the smart object.
Opening the smart object.

And this time, because we included a copy of the Background layer with our type layer, the canvas in the smart object document is not cropped around the text.

Instead it remains the same size as the main document.

The smart object document.
The smart object document.

Step 5: Delete the Background copy layer

Now that we’ve solved the problem with the canvas size, we don’t need the "Background copy" layer anymore. So click on the layer in the Layers panel and press Delete on your keyboard to delete it.

Selecting and deleting the Background copy layer
Select the "Background copy" layer and press Delete.

This leaves us with our text surrounded by transparency, with lots of room to edit the text.

The text now has lots of canvas space around it.
The text now has lots of canvas space around it.

Step 6: Close the smart object

Close the smart object by clicking the "x" in the document tab.

Closing the smart object.
Closing the smart object.

And make sure to save your changes by clicking Save (Windows) or Yes (Mac).

Saving the changes.
Saving the changes.

Back in the main document, we again have our text converted to a smart object.

Saving the changes.
The main document.

Applying a filter to the text

I’ll quickly apply the same Gaussian Blur filter to the text by going up to the Filter menu, choosing Blur and then Gaussian Blur.

Choosing the Gaussian Blur filter.
Choosing the Gaussian Blur filter.

In the dialog box, I’ll again set the Radius to 60 pixels and click OK.

Setting the Radius to the same value.
Setting the Radius to the same value.

And we’re back to the same blurry text.

Same text, same blur effect.
Same text, same effect.

Editing the text inside the smart object

Now let’s try editing the text again. Open the smart object by double-clicking on its thumbnail.

Opening the smart object again.
Opening the smart object again.

And just to make the text easier to see, I’ll change the type color from white to black.

The text inside the smart object.
The text inside the smart object.

Then with the Type Tool active in the toolbar, I’ll double-click on the text to highlight it and I’ll again change it from the word "TEXT" to "BLUR".

But this time, because we have the full size canvas to work with, the entire word fits easily on the canvas with no letters cut off.

The new text still fits on the canvas
The new text still fits on the canvas.

To accept it, I’ll click the checkmark in the Options Bar.

Clicking the checkmark.
Clicking the checkmark.

I’ll change the type color back to white. Then I’ll click "x" in the document tab to close the smart object.

Closing the smart object.
Closing the smart object.

And I’ll click Save (Windows) or Yes (Mac) to save my changes

Saving the changes.
Saving the changes.

Back in the main document, the smart object once again updates with the changes to the text and with the Gaussian Blur filter still applied.

But we’re not missing any parts of the letters. The entire word is visible.

The result after editing the text.
The result after editing the text.

Centering the new text in the document

The only problem after editing text is that it’s no longer centered in the main document.

So I’ll select the Move Tool in the toolbar.

Selecting the Move Tool.
Selecting the Move Tool.

Then I’ll hold Shift on my keyboard to make it easier to drag in a straight horizontal line, and I’ll drag the text back into the center.

Centering the text inside the Photoshop document.
Centering the text.

And there we have it! That’s a better and more flexible way to convert type to a smart object in Photoshop.

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