GameDev Photoshop workflow Tips – Smart Objects

One of the new steps in my workflow lately has been creating Smart Objects for each art element in the Photoshop files for my games.  Smart Objects are a lot like prefabs if you have an understanding of the Unity game engine.

Smart Objects are like child Photoshop documents nested inside of a parent Photoshop document. You can turn any layer, selection of multiple layers,  or group into a smart object by right-clicking it in the layers menu and selecting “Convert to Smart Object”.

Photoshop gamedev workflow smart object
How to create a Smart Object from any layer, layers, or group in Photoshop CC


To edit the contents of a smart object you simply double click the layer, it will open up what looks like another photoshop file and you can make your edits.

When you are editing a smart object; saving will update the parent document.

You can close the smart object you are editing (be sure to save if you need to) and you will see the changes instantly in the parent document.

The great thing about this workflow allows me to make duplicates of a spike or a wall piece for example and repeat it to create a simulated screenshot of my game, then when I edit the Smart Object all the other copies update as well.

Simulated screenshot of Kick Bot DX by Two Scoop Games in Photoshop
Simulated screenshot of Kick Bot DX by Two Scoop Games in Photoshop

In the screenshot above of  Kick Bot DX, the walls were created using duplicate smart objects that will all update if one of them is edited.

Smart Objects act like their own Photoshop files but are stored int he parent .psd file so there are no extra files to manage.

Smart Objects can also have their own Smart Objects inside of them, BUT I recently tried to share a child of a child of two children of a parent and it unlinked them. This means Smart Objects inside of children cannot be shared.

If you would like to learn more about Smart Objects here are some great resources:

Kick Bot DX pixelart overhaul during Indie-pendence day at Warp Zone Louisville

Kick Bot Dev Log July 5th, 2017
-Alex Bezuska

On July 4th a group of game creators in the Louisville Makes Games community decided to do an impromptu “Indie-pendence day”. We hung out at Warp Zone Louisville all day and jammed on our projects for Kentucky Fried Pixels (game jam that will end next weekend on July 9th).
I put Summer Games Done Quick on the projector and hung out with Barry, Loi, Josh, and Allen and worked on a ton of art for Kick Bot DX.

Kick Bot old art (left) new art (right
Kick Bot old art (left) new art (right

I have had a bit of a block on the new character designs Kick Bot so I worked on updates for the existing art including backgrounds, walls, hazards, and the classic Kick Bot character. I found that creating a mockup of a game screenshot in Photoshop really helped me see how everything would look together.

New Kick Bot DX art, now with twice the pixels!
New Kick Bot DX art, now with twice the pixels!

I imported the existing Kick Bot artwork, laid out a mock screenshot, and doubled the pixel size of everything. My goal was to add more detail while still retaining quick readability of all elements in the game. The other concern was keeping the exact sizes of all game elements while upping the detail. I did this by making the new sprites exactly 200% the size of the original giving me twice as many pixels of detail to work with and setting the “Pixels Per Unit” for the changed sprites to 2 instead of 1 as they were before.(this setting is specific to our game)

Pixels Per Unit in the Unity Inspector
Pixels Per Unit in the Unity Inspector

Below are some screenshots of the new artwork:

Kick Bot DX by Two Scoop Games Kick Bot DX by Two Scoop Games Kick Bot DX by Two Scoop Games

I use Adobe Photoshop for all of my pixel art.

Kick Bot DX is being created for the Kentucky Fried Pixels (KFP) game jam which ends July 9th, we will be releasing a pay-what-you-want bundle of games on August 17th!

Sign up here to get an email when the KFP bundle is released

Who is Alex Bezuska?

Alex is a game artist and developer at independent games studio Two Scoop Games. He is passionate about making art and technology work together for a purpose through games and other interactive art. Alex is also a director for the non-profit Louisville Makes Games! where he helps to further an inclusive and encouraging local game creation community in Louisville, Kentucky. He is also an avid lover of ice cream.

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