Painting with Smart Objects.

Painting skins for racing games, or any other game for that matter,  is very time consuming. Especially when you need multiple versions. 

iRacing is a racing simulation in which, like in real life, you can drive your own designed race car. As in most games the painting of these ‘skins’ are done on UV maps. For the official iDWC broadcast Team Redline needed several cars. The basic scheme was the same for all, however each driver has his own colour, flag and name on the car.

This can be accomplished in several ways. One is to save a PSD file for each driver. This will leave us with several big files and the perfect opportunity to make mistakes when you need to edit them one by one. You can also create several layers in your PSD and organize them with layer folders. This is the old way but you end up with one huge file with an enormous amount of layers in it.

With the introduction of Smart Objects in Photoshop there is a new and more controllable way. Smart Objects are layers that contain image data from raster or vector images, such as Photoshop or Illustrator files. Smart Objects preserve an image’s source content with all its original characteristics, enabling you to perform nondestructive editing to the layer.

With Smart Objects, you can:

– Perform nondestructive transforms. You can scale, rotate, or warp a layer without losing original image data or quality.
– Work with vector data, such as vector artwork from Illustrator, that otherwise would be rasterized in Photoshop.
– Perform nondestructive filtering. You can edit filters applied to Smart Objects at any time.
– Edit one Smart Object and automatically update all its linked instances.

Especially the last bit is important because it gives the option to adjust multiple objects at once.

Step 1


Open up the template file and make a nice skin for your car.

Step 2.


Create a new Folder in the layer pallete. You can name it and give it a nice colour for easy reference.

Step 3.


In the folder create a text layer for the driver’s name and import several flags.  Make them pretty large, it will be downscaled later on.

Step 4.


Select all the layers within the folder. Right-click and select ‘Convert to Smart Object’.

Step 5.


Duplicate the newly created Smart Object and hide the original. Leave the original Object at the same size, it will now act as the source for all new objects.

Step 6.


Transform and scale (ctrl-t / cmd-t) the object into place. Remember; you can always downscale but upscaling will always transfer in loss of data. Thats why I have the source always large.

Step 7.


Duplicate the last object, give it a new colour and transform it to the other side of the car. Even though this is not a copy of the original object it is still linked to it.

Step 8.


To make it a bit more interesting we’re going to duplicate it once more and change the the appearance of the object. In this case I’m giving it a white Color Overlay from the layer effects panel. (Note; make sure you don’t have a solid background layer in your original object otherwise this will not work.)

Step 9.


Scale and move the object to the rear wing. I made a white overlay so the text will be visible on the black underground.

Step 10.


To remove the unneeded flag create a Layer Mask and marquee the flag.

Step 11.


To show the power of the Smart Objects I duplicated the object once more and applied a Warp Transform.

Step 12.


Now we are going to edit the source Smart Object. Double click on the object and it will open as a new document.

Step 13


Edit the contents to your liking. I changed the name and the flag.

Step 14


When done close the object and make sure you save it!

Step 15


Back to the original document you will notice that all the Smart Objects are updated. Even the heavily distorted ones.

The non destructiveness of Smart Objects makes them really powerful in designs. This is just a simple example but it can be used for a lot more. In symmetric designs such as UV maps of race cars you can for example paint only one side of the car while the other side is automatically updated.

1 Comment

  1. Andy Kirschetorte


    Excellent article and something for me to work on. Thanks again….


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