Linked Smart Object - disable saving pixel data to .psd/.psb file

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Is it possible to have a Photoshop document containing linked smart objects which only saves the file reference in the .psd/.psb file?

We're a VFX house using Photoshop for matte painting - often with 10000 pixel wide images with several layers, and have been looking at ways to reduce saving times.

We've been investigating linked smart objects, but have discovered that every layer is flattened and scaled and the resulting pixel data written into the .psd/.psb file.

Being able to turn off this behaviour would make linked smart objects a massive benefit for us.
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Jonathan Hearn

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Posted 1 year ago

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Photo of Max Johnson

Max Johnson, Champion

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First thing that comes to mind would be to make a layer comps in the linked files called "on" and "off", with the image visible and not visible... then set the layer comp on the smart object to "off" when you want to save a fast, small file. You would have problems if you needed the saved psd to actually look like final output, though.

I did a test and a 3000x3000 image with a psd as linked smart object duplicated 4x times is:
Control:  ~40mb
FX overlay of white applied to all layers: ~35mb
Linked PSD with comps for on/off, main psd with smart obj comps set to "off": 600kb

The big disadvantage is that you'd need a script that ran through your layers and checked for a layer comp "on" and "off" to toggle for you or you won't have any workflow benefits... just a bunch of extra clicks.