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Place commands are among most useful and most used commands in Photoshop. Those commands are commonly used to import image or images into existing document to combine multiple photos and to create composition like photo collage. By default, Photoshop will create Smart Object layer when placing the image and resize layer to fit into existing document. There is nothing wrong with this behavior and it is desired behavior in most cases. However, sometimes you will want to get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer in Photoshop without resizing it.

 

I will use the latest version at the moment which is Photoshop CC 2018. Same options which will be mentioned are available in previous versions of Photoshop CC. In earlier versions like Photoshop CS6, some options are not available but you can still follow instructions in this tutorial.

Video tutorial

Here is my video recording which explains requirements and steps to get Smart Object layer in Photoshop with actual pixel dimensions when placing images. For more info continue reading the post below and click on links on this page.

 

 

Quick solution to get layer at actual pixel dimensions

If you want a quick solution which will work all the time to get actual pixel dimensions in the document without to change preferences and additional steps (when required) do the following:

 

  • Open image or multilayered document in Photoshop.
  • Select layer, Smart Object layer or multiple layers in the Layers panel.
  • Open Window > Libraries panel. Choose library where you want to save the image (layers) which you want to place at actual pixel dimensions in any document regardless of its resolution.
  • Drag layer or multiple selected layers onto Libraries panel and release mouse button.
  • Open or create a document in which you want to place the image (layers) previously saved in Libraries panel.
  • Right click on the thumbnail in Libraries panel and choose Place Layers.

quick-solution-to-place-image-at-actual-pixel-dimensions.gif

Quick and easy solution to get actual pixels placed in any Photoshop document is to save the image in Libraries panel. From Libraries panel use command Place Layers. This will ensure that you will get placed actual pixel dimensions regardless of preferences and document resolution.

 

Placing images in Photoshop

You can place or import the image into existing document using Place commands from File menu, using Adobe Bridge, to simply drag and drop an image into open document or to use Place commands from Libraries panel.

 

What and how image/document is imported depends on:

  • Instructions in Preferences > General dialog (Always Create Smart Objects when Placing & Resize Image During Place).
  • Resolutions of placed image and document in which is placed (When using Place Embedded, Place Linked, drag and drop into document operation which is creating embedded Smart Object, and Place > In Photoshop from Adobe Bridge).
  • Which place command you are using (Place Layers from Libraries panel will always place actual pixels).

 

Preferences which affects how image is placed and requirements to get actual pixel dimensions on layer with placed image

Let's start with preferences which hold key requirement to get a layer with actual pixel dimensions using drag and drop (creates embedded Smart Object), Place Embedded, Place Linked, and Place In Photoshop (Adobe Bridge) commands. Command Place Layers from Libraries panel does not depend on settings in the Preferences dialog.

 

In Preferences > General you can instruct Photoshop how to treat or what to do with placed objects.

 

One of the options which are determining how the image is placed is Always Create Smart Objects when Placing. I will suggest you keep this option always turned on.

 

Note: you won't be able to change the resolution of the image which is placed to match document resolution as explained below when this option is turned off.

 

Requirements to get actual pixel dimensions on layer with placed image

This is the first requirement. Photoshop can resize or fit the image into existing document during import or placing process. That job will do Resize Image During Place option. In case that you want to get actual pixel dimensions on the layer in the Layers panel, this option must be turned off.

Resize Image During Place turned off
To get actual pixels on Smart Object layer when using Place Embedded, Place Linked, drag and drop file you must visit Preferences > General and turn off option Resize Image During Place.

 

 

The second requirement to get layer at actual pixel dimensions is matching resolutions of placed image and document in which image is placed. If resolutions do not match, Smart Object layer in the document will be upsampled or downsampled. Original image with original pixel dimensions will be preserved in Smart Object and you can access the original image at any time to change resolution and to get actual pixel dimensions on the layer. This is true when using drag and drop (creates embedded Smart Object), Place Embedded, Place Linked, and Place In Photoshop (Adobe Bridge) commands.

 

Placing image when resolutions are matching

When placing image which has the exact same resolution as the document in Photoshop, you will get actual pixels on Smart Object layer (assuming that Resize Image During Place is turned off).

 

Below I will describe what is happening when placing an image with exactly same resolution as a document in which image is placed.

 

The document which is used for demonstration is 2000 by 2000 pixels with the resolution set to 72 pixels per inch.

 

File > Place Embedded command is used to place image which is 1300 x 800 pixels and resolution is 72 pixels per inch.

 

From the point of getting actual pixels on the layer, everything looks good. Smart Object layer with the image has pixel dimensions exactly same as the image which is placed what can be confirmed in the Properties panel. Properties panel is displaying pixel dimensions of selected Smart Object layer (with Smart Object layer selected in the Layers panel).

Smart Object layer with placed image which has matching resolution with document in which is placed
When you place the image with the resolution which is matching document resolution you will get actual pixels on Smart Object layer. This is true when Resize Image During Place is turned off and you are using Place Embedded, Place Linked, Place In Photoshop commands or drag and drop method.

 

Placing image when resolutions do not match

Below I will describe what is going on and how to get actual pixel dimensions of Smart Object layer in case that resolutions of document and image which is placed does not match.

 

I will use the same document from the previous example (2000x2000px) with the resolution set to 300 pixels per inch.

 

Same command File > Place Embedded is used to place exactly same image from my hard drive, so an image with the same pixel dimensions 1300x800px and resolution 72ppi.

 

This time Smart Object layer appears much larger of what is expected with much larger pixel dimensions. Properties panel shows that layer is 4 times bigger in pixel dimensions of what is the original image. Photoshop has detected a difference in resolution. In that case, Photoshop will enlarge Smart Object layer. It behaves as when increasing resolution of the placed image from 72 to 300 with Resample option in Image Size turned on. That's how developers set things to work.

Smart Object layer with placed image which does not have matching resolution with document in which is placed
When you place the image with the resolution which does not match document resolution you will get Smart Object layer with pixel dimensions which are different from the original image which is placed. This is true when Resize Image During Place is turned off and you are using Place Embedded, Place Linked, Place In Photoshop commands or drag and drop method.

 

Fix mismatching resolutions to get actual pixels on layer


To fix the problem and to get Smart Object layer at actual pixel dimension in situations with mismatching resolutions, you need to check learn document resolution, to edit Smart Object layer and to change the resolution to match document resolution (watch the video at the top of this post for visualization).

 

Here are the steps:

 

  • Double click on Smart Object layer or use Properties panel > Edit Contents.
  • In new tab with originally placed image go to Image > Image Size. In Image Size dialog turn off Resample and change the resolution to match the resolution of the document in which you have placed the image.
  • Click OK and close document with Yes to save changes.

 

So, that's how to get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer when resolutions of the document and placed image differ. There is and faster way of doing the same thing using actions what will be explained later.

Difference when editing embedded and linked Smart Object layer

Let me remind you about The Difference Between Linked and Embedded Smart Object Layers in Adobe Photoshop. When you edit the content of Linked Smart Object layer changes will be written back to the original image on your hard drive or in the library. In case that you are using Place Embedded command, and you have embedded Smart Object layer, changes will be written only to image which is embedded in the document.

 

Placing images from the Libraries panel

Now let's see what is going on when placing images from Libraries panel. By the way, you can open Libraries panel from Window > Libraries.

 

When using Place Linked command everything will work as when using File > Place Linked, the resolution will determine if you will get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer or not. You can edit the content of linked smart object layer to match resolution with hosting document resolution. Changes will be written to the original file which lives in Libraries panel.

 

When using Place Layers command that will save you time and you will always get actual pixel dimensions. It works as copy/paste between documents in Photoshop. Only actual pixels will be copied and pasted, the resolution does not play any role.

 

Automate process to match resolutions between document and placed image

There is a way to automate the process of changing the resolution of a placed image using simple action. If you are new to Photoshop actions please read posts from Photoshop Actions Mini Course.

 

Here is what steps you need to record in action:

 

  • Step to edit the content of smart object layer.
  • Step to change resolution with Resample turned off because you do not want to alter original image.
  • Step to save changes and exit editing mode.

 

Here is how to record action:

 

  • Place image in Photoshop document. The image should have different resolution then document in which is placed. Ensure that you know the resolution of your document.
  • Create a new action by clicking on page icon at the bottom of Actions panel. You can give a meaningful name to your action like Change resolution of SM to 300. You will be in recording mode.
  • Double click on Smart Object layer to edit it.
  • In Smart Object, editing tab go to Image > Image Size.
  • Uncheck Resample option.
  • Change resolution to match the resolution of the document in which image is placed.
  • Click OK to confirm.
  • Click x in document tab and then confirm on Yes.
  • Stop recording action.

 

That's it. You can check that everything is ok by expanding Image Size step.

Photoshop action to change resolution of Smart Object layer
Steps which should be included in Photoshop action to match resolution of the placed image to resolution of the document (300ppi in the screenshot above). Smart Object layer must be selected before playing action.

 

 

To test action do the following:

  • Learn about the image that you want to use to test action. Figure out pixel dimensions and resolution. The resolution should be different than the resolution of the document in which you want to place the image to test action.
  • Place image. With Smart Object layer selected take a look at Properties panel. Pixel dimensions of Smart Object layer should be different than pixel dimensions of the original/placed image.
  • Play previously recorded action. Check that Image Size step is matching the resolution of the document in which image is placed.
  • Take a look at Properties panel where you should see pixel dimensions of Smart Object layer. Pixel dimensions should be exactly the same as pixel dimensions of the image which is placed.

 

Congratulations! You have recorded an action to match the resolution of the placed image with document resolution.

 

Add additional step to automate import using Place command

If you want to automate entire process then add step Place at the beginning of your action. Here is how:

  • Select the action to which you want to add Place Embedded/Linked step.
  • Click on Actions panel menu and choose Insert Menu Item...
  • With Insert Menu Item dialog on your screen go to File > Place Embedded or Place Linked.
  • Click OK in the Insert Menu Item dialog.
  • Drag Place/Select Place menu item step at the beginning of the action.
Select Place menu item at the beginning of action
After recording additional step to automate image placement drag it at the beginning of the action.

 

Download Photoshop action to change the resolution of the placed image to 300ppi


Here is the link to download my action which is recorded while writing this post to change the resolution of the placed image to 300ppi. Use downloaded action free of charge or to compare with your action. Note: Select Place menu item step is turned off so you need to select Smart Object layer then to play action.Download Photoshop action to change the resolution of the placed image to 300ppi

Record actions for multiple resolutions

The next step is to record multiple actions for multiple resolutions. Repeat steps from the above explanation and change what is recorded in Image Size step.

 

Download actions to pace image and match different document resolutions (300ppi, 150ppi, and 72ppi)

 

Here is the link to download 3 actions to place image and match document resolution what is the second requirement to get actual pixel dimensions on Smart Object layer. Use those actions free of charge or load them and compare with your own actions.

 

Bonus tips

Here is bonus tip how to use recorded action(s)

 

So far we have recorded an action to place the image and to change the resolution of the placed image. What if you have placed several images as Smart Object layers and you have action with Place command at the beginning?


Exclude not required step from action

With already placed image and Smart Object layer in the Layers panel, you will need all steps from recorded action beside the first one. The simple solution is to exclude step from playing in action by clicking on Toggle item on/offcheckmark on the left side of Select Place menu item step. When checkmark disappears that means that step won't be included in action and you can run it with already placed Smart Object layers.

Turn action step off
To exclude step from playing in action uncheck checkmark on the left side of step. The red checkmark will appear on the left side of action and action set to remind you that some step(s) won't be executed.

 

Assign keyboard shortcut to play action

Another bonus tip is to assign a keyboard shortcut to action. Double click on action name then in Action Options dialog choose a shortcut to play action. You must choose Function key and to include optionally Shift and Control/Command.

Assign keyboard shortucts to quickly play Photoshop action
Keyboard shortcuts can be assigned to quickly play Photoshop action. Double click empty space on the right side of action name then choose a combination of keyboard keys to play action.

 

 

Product used in this tutorial:

Adobe Photoshop CC 2018