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  • Restoring a lost Smart Object in Photoshop (on a Mac)

  • Jonathan Capra

    July 25, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    I had a problem come up that I couldn’t find a solution for. I saw many posts in Google results by folks with the same issue, but none of them seemed to have a resolution. I figured it out, so I figured this might be a suitable place to document it for others that might run into it.

    What happened was… I had a Photoshop document with many layers. I made a composited design within this document that involved many layers and then turned that bunch of layers into a single Smart Object.

    I later duplicated that Smart Object layer and used the Replace Contents option to swap it out for another logo file. However I later realized that, by doing this, I replaced EVERY INSTANCE of that particular Smart Ojbect. In effect, all the compositing work I did on those few layers before merging them into a Smart Object were ostensibly gone.

    I made the discovery well after both the threshold for my maximum History steps and the last Auto Recovery save. So this thing seemed really gone.

    When searching the net for solutions, I found a lot of debate on whether when you create a Smart Ojbect from ORIGINAL material (layers created from scratch within the parent document), that material gets embedded within the parent document file? Or is it merely linked to some .PSB file somewhere?

    In contrast, I typically don’t make smart objects this way. I usually import them from other existing files, so I am conscious of where they live on the hard drive and where they link to.

    Most seemed to theorize on the former (embedded data), which would imply that the material was just gone. However, a day later it occurred to me to do this:

    I created an empty layer within a document. Then I turned it into a Smart Layer. Then I right-clicked the layer and chose EDIT CONTENTS. A new document opened in Photoshop. I then chose SAVE AS and this let me discover that Photoshop does create a temp PSB file for every Smart Object created and see exactly where it stored them.

    On my machine it lived in /private/var/folders/b1/v2_frrfn29s3xzgf1kn_v731c7c99v/T/TemporaryItems/

    However I performed the same exercise on my colleague’s machine and found on hers they lived in /private/var/folders/7z/1ytgdgd15fv1nbfrjr_3fpgrzw7v9x/T/TemporaryItems/

    So you can see it at least fits a general pathname structure of /private/var/folders/xx/yyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy/T/TemporaryItems

    Here’s the trick though. The top-level directory in that path, ‘private’ is (you guessed it) hidden. So to get to where you need to be, you have to go to the GO menu in Finder and choose GO TO FOLDER. Then just type: /private and hit Enter. This will open up the ‘private’ folder and you can start exploring from there.

    When you make it down to the TemporaryItems folder, you will find PSB files (hopefully one of which represents your lost work).

    From there you can open it, copy it elsewhere or do whatever else you need to retrieve and relink.

    I’m guessing there is a corresponding folder somewhere in Windows but maybe someone else can confirm its location.

  • Herbert van der wegen

    July 27, 2014 at 8:31 am

    In Windows 7 you can find the psb files in the c:\Users\your_user_name\AppData\Local\Temp

    Unfortunately Photoshop deletes those files as soon as you close the application.

    System: Win7 64bit – i7 920@3.6Ghz, p6t Deluxe v1, 48gb (6x8gb RipjawsX), ATI 7970 3gb, EVGA 590 3GB, Revodrive X2 240gb, e-mu 1820. Screens: 2 x Samsung s27a850ds 2560×1440, HP 1920×1200 in portrait mode

  • Joshua Preiswerk

    August 19, 2014 at 6:41 am

    Thanks alot Jonathan !

    The private folder trick did it for me. I was able to search once in there, and find my PSD hidden smart object !

    Cheers !


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