Apply Smart Filters

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Any filter applied to a Smart Object is a Smart Filter. Smart Filters appear in the Layers panel below the Smart Object layer to which they are applied. Because you can adjust, remove, or hide Smart Filters, they are nondestructive.

You can apply any Photoshop filter (that has been enabled to work with Smart Filters)—except for Lens Blur, Flame Picture Frame, Trees, and Vanishing Point—as a Smart Filter. In addition, you can apply Shadow/Highlight as Smart Filters.

To work with Smart Filters, select a Smart Object layer, choose a filter, and then set filter options. After you apply a Smart Filter, you can adjust, reorder, or delete it.

To expand or collapse the view of Smart Filters, click the triangle next to the Smart Filter icon, displayed to the right of the Smart Object layer in the Layers panel. (This technique also shows or hides Layer Style.) Or, choose Layers panel Options from the Layers panel menu, then select Expand New Effects in the dialog box.

Use filter masks to selectively mask Smart Filter effects.

Apply a Smart Filter

  1. Do one of the following:
    • To apply a Smart Filter to an entire Smart Object layer, select the layer in the Layers panel.

    • To constrain the effects of the Smart Filter to a selected area of a Smart Object layer, make a selection.

    • To apply a Smart Filter to a regular layer, select the layer, and choose Filter > Convert For Smart Filters, and click OK.

  2. Do one of the following:
    • Choose a filter from the Filter menu. You can choose any filter, including third-party filters that support Smart Filters, except Extract, Liquify, Pattern Maker, and Vanishing Point.

    • Choose Image > Adjustments > Shadows/Highlight.


    If you apply one or more filters using the Filter Gallery, they appear as a group in the Layers panel named “Filter Gallery.” You can edit individual filters by double-clicking a Filter Gallery entry.

  3. Set filter options and click OK.

    The Smart Filter appears under the Smart Filters line in the Layers panel beneath the Smart Object layer. If you see a warning icon next to a Smart Filter in the Layers panel, the filter doesn’t support the image’s color mode or depth.

After you apply a Smart Filter, you can drag it (or an entire group of Smart Filters) onto another Smart Object layer in the Layers panel; press Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) Smart Filters. You can’t drag Smart Filters onto regular layers.

Edit a Smart Filter

If a Smart Filter contains editable settings, you can edit it at any time. You can also edit blending options for Smart Filters.


When you edit a Smart Filter, you can’t preview filters stacked above it. After you finish editing the Smart Filter, Photoshop again displays the filters stacked above it.

Edit Smart Filter settings

  1. Double-click the Smart Filter in the Layers panel.
  2. Set filter options, and click OK.

Edit Smart Filter blending options

Editing Smart Filter blending options is similar to using the Fade command when applying a filter to a traditional layer.

  1. Double-click the Edit Blending Options icon  next to the Filter in the Layers panel.
  2. Set blending options, and click OK.

Hide Smart Filters

  1. Do one of the following:
    • To hide a single Smart Filter, click the eye icon  next to the Smart Filter in the Layers panel. To show the Smart Filter, click in the column again.

    • To hide all Smart Filters applied to a Smart Object layer, click the eye icon  next to the Smart Filters line in the Layers panel. To show the Smart Filters, click in the column again.

Reorder, duplicate, or delete Smart Filters

You can reorder Smart Filters in the Layers panel, duplicate them, or delete Smart Filters if you no longer want to apply them to a Smart Object.

Reorder Smart Filters

  1. In the Layers panel, drag a Smart Filter up or down in the list. (Double-click Filter Gallery to reorder any gallery filters.)

    Photoshop applies Smart Filters from the bottom up.

Duplicate Smart Filters

  1. In the Layers panel, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the Smart Filter from one Smart Object to another, or to a new location in the Smart Filters list.

    To duplicate all Smart Filters, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the Smart Filters icon that appears next to the Smart Object layer.

Delete Smart Filters

  • To delete an individual Smart Filter, drag it to the Delete icon  at the bottom of the Layers panel.
  • To delete all Smart Filters applied to a Smart Object layer, select the Smart Object layer and choose Layer > Smart Filter > Clear Smart Filters.

Mask Smart Filters

When you apply a Smart Filter to a Smart Object, Photoshop displays an empty (white) mask thumbnail on the Smart Filters line in the Layers panel under the Smart Object. By default, this mask shows the entire filter effect. (If you made a selection before applying the Smart Filter, Photoshop displays the appropriate mask instead of an empty mask on the Smart Filters line in the Layers panel.)

Use filter masks to selectively mask Smart Filters. When you mask Smart Filters, the masking applies to all Smart Filters—you can’t mask individual Smart Filters.

Filter masks work much like layer masks, and you can use many of the same techniques with them. Like layer masks, filter masks are stored as alpha channels in the Channels panel, and you can load their boundaries as a selection.

Like layer masks, you can paint on a filter mask. Areas of the filter that you paint in black are hidden; areas you paint in white are visible; and areas you paint in shades of gray appear in various levels of transparency.

Use the controls in the Masks panel to change the filter mask density, add feathering to the edges of the mask, or invert the mask.


By default, layer masks are linked to regular layers or Smart Object layers. When you move the layer mask or the layer using the Move tool, they move as a unit.

Mask Smart Filter effects

  1. Click the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel to make it active.

    A border appears around the mask thumbnail.

  2. Select any of the editing or painting tools.
  3. Do one of the following:
    • To hide portions of the filter, paint the mask with black.

    • To show portions of the filter, paint the mask with white.

    • To make the filter partially visible, paint the mask with gray.


    You can also apply image adjustments and filters to filter masks.

Change filter mask opacity or feather mask edges

  1. Click the filter mask thumbnail or select the Smart Object layer in the Layers panel, and then click the Filter Mask button in the Masks panel.
  2. In the Masks panel, drag the Density slider to adjust the mask opacity, and the Feathering slider to apply feathering to the mask edges. See Adjust mask opacity or edges.


    The Mask Edge option is not available for filter masks.

Invert a filter mask

  1. Click the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, then click Invert in the Masks panel.

Display only the filter mask

  1. Alt-click (Windows) or Option-click (Mac OS) the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel. To show the Smart Object layer, Alt-click or Option-click the filter mask thumbnail again.

Move or copy filter masks

  • To move the mask to another Smart Filter Effect, drag the mask to the other Smart Filter Effect.
  • To copy the mask, Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) the mask to another Smart Filter Effect.

Disable a filter mask

  1. Do one of the following:
    • Shift-click the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel.

    • Click the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, then click the Disable/Enable Mask button  in the Masks panel.

    • Choose Layer > Smart Filter > Disable Filter Mask.

    A red X appears over the filter mask thumbnail when the mask is disabled, and the Smart Filter appears without masking. To re-enable the mask, Shift-click the Smart Filter mask thumbnail again.

Delete a Smart Filter mask

  • Click the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel, then click the Delete icon  in the Masks panel.
  • Drag the filter mask thumbnail in the Layers panel to the Delete icon.
  • Select the Smart Filter Effect, and choose Layer > Smart Filters > Delete Filter Mask.

Add a filter mask

If you delete a filter mask, you can subsequently add another mask.

  • To add an empty mask, select the Smart Object layer, and then click the Filter Mask button in the Masks panel.
  • To add a mask based on a selection, make a selection, and then right-click (Windows) or Control-click (Mac OS) the Smart Filters line in the Layers panel, and choose Add Filter Mask.
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