I'm using a smart object at two places (in the same file), and I need them to be linked, so that if I edit the content of one, the changes are applied on the other.

And it's working fine… until I use one of these smart objects inside another smart object. From the moment I create this third smart object, the link is broken, and the content doesn't update anymore.

One workaround is to use an external file imported as a link, but is there a way not to break the link in the first place?


Screenshot of my layers to clarify:

complete artwork The complete artwork: "hex" and "bg" are both in the main picture and in the "bg copy" smart object, but the link is broken…

inside 3rd smart object Here's the content of the 3rd smart object (the one called "bg copy" in the previous capture).

  • Could you simply include both of the cloned smart objects inside the third one?
    – 13ruce
    Mar 5, 2018 at 13:25
  • No because I apply an effect on the third on that must not be applied on one of the clones.
    – gregseth
    Mar 5, 2018 at 14:30
  • Can you put all of it into a group and convert that group to a smart object?
    – 13ruce
    Mar 5, 2018 at 15:07
  • A screenshot of your layers and effects might be helpful.
    – 13ruce
    Mar 5, 2018 at 15:07
  • 1
    Embedded Smart Objects have to be in the same document in order to maintain the link. Technically the contents of an Embedded Smart Object are in a separate .psb file. It's pretty much exactly as Scott was saying. What you should do is copy the contents of bg copy Smart Object back to the main document and make a new copy of the bg Smart Object to replace that old copy and maybe group them if you feel you need that. This wouldn't change anything visually, but the SO link would not be broken anymore.
    – Joonas
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:45

2 Answers 2


To expand a little on what I said in the comments.

In order to retain the Embedded Smart Object links, you need to keep them in the same document. Technically the contents of an Embedded Smart Object are in a separate .psb file, so that is a no-no.

What you should do is copy the contents of bg copy Smart Object back to the main document and make new copies of the original Smart Objects to make sure they are in sync.

So something like this:

enter image description here

  • Ok, we agree on that. Now, my problem is that if I create a new smart object from the group you named "Copy" in your example, the link between "bg" and "bg copy" and the link between "Hex" and "Hex copy" is broken.
    – gregseth
    Mar 6, 2018 at 15:30
  • @gregseth, do we? The whole point of this answer was that you don’t make a smart object from that group because it breaks that link. You need to keep them in yhe same document to maintain the link. — Why would you do that? Do you just want to break the link no matter what?
    – Joonas
    Mar 6, 2018 at 16:29

Copying smart object layers, by default, makes the copy the same reference as the original. If you merely duplicate the smart object layer, you have 2 layers both with the same smart object contents. Edit one, the other will update to reflect the edits.

I don't see the problem unless you are using New Smart Object Via Copy command by mistake. That particular command creates a new, unlinked, smart object. So, don't use that command if you want the smart objects linked to the same contents.

  • And that's the case, until I create a new smart object with the copies inside: this action "breaks" the link. It's like Photoshop uses "New Smart Object Via Copy" to put the objects in the new one. And I'd like to avoid that.
    – gregseth
    Mar 6, 2018 at 5:52
  • I'm not understanding.. so you have a smart object inside a smart object inside a smart object? Is there a reason you can't merely use layer grouping rather than nesting smart objects?
    – Scott
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:04
  • No, as shown in the captures I've only two levels : a smart object, and a smart object (which is a copy of the first one) inside a smart object.
    – gregseth
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:13
  • Sorry I don't understand anything about those screen captures. They appear to be different configurations entirely. To me.. it looks like (and I could be wrong) you are unnecessarily creating too many smart objects and they aren't all needed. Your bottom screen shot has a clipping mask active.. the top screen shot has no clipping mask.. they are completely different. I also have no clue which image is even the desired appearance. Your question is unclear.
    – Scott
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:23
  • The first one is my main document. The second one is the content of the smart object selected in the first one.
    – gregseth
    Mar 6, 2018 at 6:27

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