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A Comprehensive Guide to Photoshop Filters

Photoshop Filter is one of the most important features of Adobe, which holds the potential to modify the entire look and feel of an image by adding special effects. It is mainly used by professional photographers, graphic designers, and photo editors to enhance the quality of the image by eliminating distortions. Besides, it is also used by amateurs and hobbyists for their respective projects. You may come across many third-party filters that are usually present as plug-ins on the web. However, the software itself provides a wide range of filters that you can use to address your needs.

How to Use a Photoshop Filter?

The filters provided by Adobe Photoshop can be found in the Filter menu. There are two ways of applying filters, one is from the Filter Menu and the other from the Filter Gallery. Go through the following instructions to learn how to use it:

  • Applying from the Filter Menu

    • Select the desired layer or the particular area of a layer or the Smart Object.
    • Select the desired filter from the sub-menus.
    • If a dialog box or Gallery appears, enter the desired option and click OK. If not, you can be assured that the effect is already applied.
  • Applying from the Filter Gallery

    • Choose the desired layer or the particular area of a layer or the Smart Object.
    • Select the Filter Gallery.
    • Click on the filter name of your choice to add it. You can also click on the inverted triangle icon to see its complete list.
    • Enter the desired values or select the options.
    • For a cumulative application, click on the New Effect Layer Icon and then choose the additional filter. For rearranging the applied filters, drag it to a new position in the applied list that is present in the lower right corner of the Gallery dialog box. For removing the applied filters, select them and then click on the Delete Layer option.
    • Once everything is done, click OK.

Types of Photoshop Filters?

There are a lot of things that you can do with Photoshop filters. You can create compositions that are attractive and realistic. You can create new images from scratch, retouch photos, develop unique transformations, or even imitate a painting or sketch that is hard to recognize. Most importantly, Photoshop filters are easy-to-use tools.

You can add awe-inspiring effects to your images by using various types of Photoshop filters, which are mentioned below:

  • Blur Filters

    It is a set of filters that are mostly used for retouching purposes. It can be applied to a particular area or to the whole image. Besides, you can also control the magnitude and type of blur according to your choice.

    • Average

      It will help you in identifying an image or a selection having an average color so that you can fill it with the desired color to give it a smoother look.

    • Motion Blur

      It is used to add realistic motion effects. For example, this effect can be used to make an image appear as though it is containing a moving object having a fixed time exposure.

    • Shape Blur

      You can create the blur with the help of a kernel, which can be chosen from the list of shape presets. For adjusting its size, use the radius slider.

    • Surface Blur

      With this filter option, you can create a blur while preserving the image edges. It is generally used to remove grain and noise from the pictures.

    • Lens Blur

      It provides the effect of a narrower field-depth to put focus on the main objects present in the pictures while blurring the unimportant things.

    • Gaussian Blur

      It gives a blurry or hazy effect to the selected area of the image with an adjustable amount. Besides, it also gives a low-frequency detail.

    • Radial Blur

      You can add a soft blur to the zoomed-out or rotating camera by selecting the Spin option, and then specifying the degree of rotation.

    • Smart Blur

      Here, the filter option will enable you to blur the image with accuracy once you have specified the desired threshold, radius, and blur quality.

  • Sketch Filters

    These types of filters are used to create 3D effects in images using textures. Besides, you can also use it for achieving a hand-drawn or fine arts look and can be applied through the Filter Gallery.

    • Stamp

      This filter makes an image appear as though it is created with a wood or rubber stamp. Besides, it can be best implemented for black and white images.

    • Graphic Pen

      It offers fine ink strokes to capture the image details. Here, background color is used for paper and foreground color is used for ink.

    • Photocopy

      With this effect, an image appears as though it is photocopied. Here, dark areas are copied around the edges and midtones are either solid back or white.

    • Conté Crayon

      It gives the exact texture of conté crayons on the picture. Here, the foreground color is used for dark areas and background color for bright areas.

    • Note Paper

      This effect makes an image appear as if it is developed from a handmade paper. Its dark area is used for showcasing the background color.

    • Chalk & Charcoal

      The charcoal effect will be given to the foreground color and the chalk effect will be given to the background color in the image.

  • Brush Stroke Filters

    It comprises of different brush and ink stroke effects to enhance the appeal of the photographs. By using the brush stroke filters, you can add various features such as noise, texture, edge detail, paint, etc. to the images.

    • Splatter

      This effect is similar to that of the splatter airbrush, which can be used to simplify the overall effects of the image.

    • Dark Strokes

      It will enable you to paint the lighter areas with long, white strokes, and the darker areas with short, dark strokes, respectively.

    • Sprayed Strokes

      Using Sprayed strokes, you can use dominant colors for repainting a picture by applying sprayed and angular strokes.

    • Angles Strokes

      It will help you to repaint an image by applying diagonal strokes, i.e., strokes in the opposite direction, to the lighter and darker areas.

    • Crosshatch

      It will help you to add texture and roughen the edges of the colored areas of an image by incorporating simulated pencil hatching.

  • Distort Filters

    It is a filter set that can modify the overall geometry of the picture by reshaping it in 3D or other forms. However, these types of effects are memory-intensive and will require sufficient RAM to run.

    • Spherize

      It will give a 3D effect to the image or the selection by distorting it and wrapping it around a spherical shape to fit the curve.

    • ZigZag

      Here, you need to specify the radius of the pixel and understand how you should displace it so that the selected area of the image will be distorted accordingly.

    • Ripple

      In this case, you need to specify the size and the number of ripples depending on which an undulating pattern will be created in the desired section.

    • Ocean Ripple

      By using it, you can add randomly-spaced ripples to the surface of the image to produce a feel as if the picture is located underwater.

    • Glass

      This effect looks as if you are viewing the image via different types of glasses. You can either use it or create your own glass effect for applying.

    • Displace

      Using this feature, you can choose from the different default settings provided for the displacement map to create distortions for an image or a particular selection.

  • Noise Filters

    The noise filters play an important role in adding and removing pixels or noise by distributing random color levels in the photograph. With its help, you can develop extraordinary textures and eliminate the unwanted areas.

    • Reduce Noise

      It will affect the picture as a whole or the individual selections by reducing the noise and preserving the edges.

    • Add Noise

      By adding random pixels, you can give a realistic look to the images that are retouched to a greater extent.

    • Dust & Scratches

      In this case, you can reduce the noise and achieve a balance between image sharpening and concealing flaws.

    • Median

      It blends the pixel brightness within the selection to reduce noise. You can also use the filter for reducing motion effects.

  • Stylize Filters

    This effect will displace the pixels and heighten the contrast for instilling a painted effect on the image selection.

    • Diffuse

      You can use it to soften focus by shuffling the pixels in the selection according to different options such as normal, lighten only, darken only, etc.

    • Wind

      This filter can give a windblown kind of effect to the images. It includes different options such as Wind, Blast, and Stagger.

    • Find Edges

      This effect will help you to locate the particular sections of the image that underwent different transformations while emphasizing on its edges.

    • Tiles

      It can break the image into a series of tiles where the area between them can be filled with different options such as reverse image, foreground color, background color, unaltered image, etc.

    • Glowing Edges

      It can be applied cumulatively by identifying the color edges of the images and adding a neon-like glow to it.

  • Render Filters

    This filter can be used to create different types of 3D shapes (cubical, cylindrical, or spherical), various refraction and reflection patterns, cloud patterns, lighting, etc.

    • Clouds

      It can create a soft cloud pattern by using random values that vary between background and foreground colors.

    • Lighting Effects

      You can use this filter to create infinite lighting effects on RGB images by varying different styles, types, and properties.

    • Fibers

      This filter makes use of the background and foreground color to create the appearance of woven fibers in the image.

    • Lens Flare

      In this case, you can shine a bright light into the camera lens for generating the appearance of refraction inside the image.

  • Artistic Filters

    These effects will replicate the natural or traditional media to give your images an artistic or painted look. It can be applied through the Filter Gallery and is mostly used for fine arts or commercial projects.

    • Film Grain

      It can remove blend banding and give a more saturated pattern to the shadow tones and mid-tones.

    • Plastic Wrap

      It generates the effect of a liquid or a shiny plastic coating that is best for highlighting the surface detail of the image.

    • Paint Daubs

      It gives a paint effect to the images while allowing users to select from a wide range of brush sizes and types.

    • Watercolor

      This option has a medium brush loaded with colors and water to give a watercolor effect to the images.

    • Colored Pencil

      This effect provides a rough crosshatch look to the images with the use of pencil colors present on a solid background.

    • Palette Knife

      With this option, you can decrease the image details, thereby providing the effect of a thinly-painted canvas.

    • Cutout

      This type of option produces the exact appearance of the roughly cut-out pieces of colored paper on an image.

    • Neon Glow

      With this option, you can add various types of glows to an image to colorize and soften its appearance.

    • Smudge Stick

      Try using it with short diagonal strokes to blur the darker areas. If applied to lighter areas, it can lose detail.

    • Dry Brush

      This feature adds a dry brush effect while painting the image edges by reducing its color range to the common color areas.

  • Texture Filters

    You can make use of the texture filters to add more depth and substance or to give an organic look to the image.

    • Grains

      Different types of grains, such as clumped, stippled, regular, vertical, and horizontal grains are simulated for adding texture to the image.

    • Stained Glass

      In this type of effect, the picture is repainted as single-colored adjacent cells that are outlined in the foreground color.

    • Mosaic Tiles

      With this effect, a photograph appears as if it is made up of small tiles or chips.

    • Patchwork

      This filter breaks up the image into predominantly-colored squares while increasing or decreasing the tile depth to recreate shadows and highlights.

  • Pixelate Filters

    These sets of filters are used to define a selection by grouping similar color pixels in the cells.

    • Color Halftone

      It generates a feel as though a larger halftone screen is used on each channel where the image is divided into rectangles and later replaced with a circle.

    • Facet

      With this effect, you would find solid or similar color pixels gathering together to form like-colored pixel blocks. It is generally used to give a hand-painted look to the scanned image.

    • Mezzotint

      With this filter, you can convert completely-saturated colors into a color image or a normal image into a random black-and-white pattern.

    • Pointillize

      In this type of effect, you can break up the image colors into dots that are placed randomly, just like what you will find in a pointillist painting.

  • Others

    In this sub-menu, you can click on ‘Others’ to create your own filters, balance the image selection, adjust the colors, and modify the image masks.

    • Maximum and Minimum

      These are used to modify masks. The ‘Maximum’ filter will give the effect of a spread whereas the ‘Minimum’ filter will give the effect of a choke.

    • Custom

      Using this option, you can customize your own effect and adjust the brightness of each pixel according to convolution, i.e., a predefined mathematical operation.

    • High Paas

      This effect will help you to retain the image edges according to the specified radius while allowing you to conceal the rest. It’s just the opposite of the Gaussian Blur.

How to Enhance the Filter Performance?

Some filter effects can be memory-intensive. For example, if you don’t have sufficient memory space to process an effect, then you would not be able to apply it and will get an error message. Similarly, these effects cannot be applied to Bitmap-code or indexed-color images. However, for improving filter performance, you may want to check out the tips that are mentioned below:

  • Improve the speed of memory-intensive filters such as Cutout, Chrome, Ripple, Stained Glass, Splatter, Lighting Effects, Glass Filters, etc. by modifying the settings.
  • If possible, add more RAM to Photoshop and exit from other running applications to make more space available.
  • Before running the filter, try to free up the memory space by using the Purge command.
  • If you are going to print the image with a grayscale printer, then first convert the copy to grayscale before applying the effects.
  • If you need to process a high-resolution image, you can apply the effects to individual channels.
  • Try applying the effects or settings to a small portion of the image.

Photoshop filter is one of the basic features that you should get acquainted with for mastering your Photoshop skills. Without having any prior knowledge, it would be impossible for you to leverage the full potential of filters for instilling the desired effects in an image. Even if you are choosing third-party filters, getting an overall idea of Photoshop’s filters would help you perform picture transformation in a more creative and efficient manner.