About filters

You can use filters to clean up or retouch photos. You can also use filters to apply special art effects or create unique transformations using distortion effects. In addition to the filters provided by Adobe, some filters provided by third-party developers are available as plug-ins. Once installed, these plug-in filters appear at the bottom of the Filter lists.

Filter examples
Filters can radically change the mood of a photo or image.

You can apply filters in any of three ways:

Filter menu

Contains all of the available filters and lets you apply filters individually.

Filter Gallery

Displays thumbnail examples of what each filter does, like the panel. The Filter Gallery lets you apply filters cumulatively and apply individual filters more than once. You can also rearrange filters and change the settings of each filter you’ve applied to achieve the effect you want. Because it is so flexible, the Filter Gallery is often the best choice for applying filters. However, not all filters listed in the Filter menu are available in the Filter Gallery.

Filters panel

Displays thumbnail examples of what each filter listed in the Filter menu does. The Filters panel allows you to apply filters individually to a photo in the Expert view.

Tips for applying filters

The following information can help you understand the process of applying filters to your images.

  • Preview the filter’s result. Applying filters to a large image can be time-consuming. It’s quicker to preview what the filter does in the Filter Gallery. Most filters also let you preview their result in the Filter Options dialog box and the document window. You can then choose to apply the filter or cancel the operation without losing time.

  • Filters apply only to the active part of an image. Filters affect only the active, visible layer or a selected area of the layer.

  • Filters don’t work on all images. You can’t use some filters on images in grayscale mode, or any filters on images in bitmap or indexed-color mode. Many filters don’t work on 16‑bit images.

  • You can reapply the previous filter. The last filter you applied appears at the top of the Filter menu. You can reapply it with the same settings you last used to further enhance the image.

Tips for creating visual effects with filters

Use the following techniques to achieve special visual results with filters:

  • Feature the filter edges. If you’re applying a filter to a selected area, you can soften the edges of the filter effect by feathering the selection before you apply the filter.

  • Apply filters in succession to build up effects. You can apply filters to individual layers or to several layers in succession to build up an effect. Choosing different blending modes in the Layers panel blends the effect. For a filter to affect a layer, the layer must be visible and must contain pixels.

  • Create textures and backgrounds. By applying filters to solid-color or grayscale images, you can generate a variety of backgrounds and textures. You can then blur these textures. Although some filters (for example, the Glass filter) have little or no visible effect when applied to solid colors, others produce interesting effects. For such colors, you can use Add Noise, Chalk & Charcoal, Clouds, Conté Crayon, Difference Clouds, Glass, Graphic Pen, Halftone Pattern, Mezzotint, Note Paper, Pointillize, Reticulation, Rough Pastels, Sponge, or Underpainting. You can also use any of the filters in the Texture submenu.

  • Improve image quality and consistency. You can disguise faults, alter or enhance images, or make a series of images look similar by applying the same filter to each.

Apply a filter

  1. Choose the area you want to apply the filter to:
    • To apply a filter to an entire layer, deselect any selected areas, and then select the layer in the Layers panel.

    • To apply a filter to a portion of a layer, use any selection tool to select an area.

  2. Choose how to apply the filter:
    • To use the Filter gallery, choose Filter > Filter Gallery, select a category, and click the filter you want to apply.

    • To use the Filters panel, choose Window > Filters, select a category, and double-click the filter you want to apply.

    • To use the Filter menu, choose Filter, then choose a submenu followed by the filter you want to apply. If a filter name is followed by ellipses (…), a Filter Options dialog box appears.

  3. If a dialog box appears, enter values or select options.
  4. If available, select the Preview option to preview the filter in the document window. Depending on the filter and how you are applying it, use one of the following methods to preview the filter:
    • Use the + button or - button under the preview window to zoom in or zoom out.

    • Click the zoom bar (where the zoom percentage appears) to choose a zoom percentage.

    • Click-drag within the preview window to center a specific area of the image in the window.

    • Click the Show/Hide button  at the top of the dialog box to hide the filter thumbnails. Hiding the thumbnails expands the preview area.

    • Click the eye icon  next to a filter to hide the effect in the preview image.

  5. If the dialog box contains sliders, hold down Alt (Option in Mac OS) while dragging a slider to see a real-time preview (real-time rendering).
  6. Click in the image window to center a specific area of the image in the preview window. (This may not work with all preview windows.)

    Note:

    A blinking line beneath the preview size indicates that the preview is being rendered.

  7. If you are using the Filter Gallery, or the filter opens in the Filter Gallery, do any of the following and click OK:
    • Click the New Effect Layer button  at the bottom of the dialog box and choose an additional filter to apply. You can add multiple effect layers to apply multiple filters.

    • Rearrange applied filters by dragging a filter name to another position in the list of applied filters at the bottom of the dialog box. Rearranging the order of filters can dramatically change the way your image looks.

    • Remove applied filters by selecting the filter and clicking the Delete Effect Layer button .

  8. If you are using the Filters panel, do the following and click OK:

    • Click the filter you want to apply to your photo.
    • If available, you can do one of the following:
      • Adjust the sliders to modify the intensity of the filter applied.
      • Click Apply More button to add more effect, available for few one-click filters (for example, Blur).
      • Some filters enable further adjustments. Click Advance Options button. In the dialog box, adjust the sliders and select options to make modifications in the filter applied to the photo. 

     

Filter categories

You can apply the following categories of filters:

Correct Camera Distortion

Fixes common lens flaws such as barrel and pincushion distortion, and vignetting. The filter also rotates an image and fixes image perspective caused by vertical or horizontal camera tilt.

Adjustment filters

Change the brightness values, color, grayscale range, and tonal levels of pixels in an image. Convert color pixels into black and white.

Artistic filters

Simulate a painterly appearance on traditional media and create a unique look.

Blur filters

Soften a selection or an image. Useful for retouching.

Brush Stroke filters

Give a painterly or fine-arts look using different brush and ink stroke effects.

Distort filters

Geometrically distort an image, creating three-dimensional and other reshaping effects.

Noise filters

Blend a selection into the surrounding pixels and remove problem areas, such as dust and scratches.

Pixelate filters

Sharply define an image or selection by clumping pixels of similar color values.

Render filters

Create cloud patterns, lens flare, fibers, and lightning effects in an image.

Sketch filters

Add texture for depth or to give a hand-drawn look.

Stylize filters

Produce a painted or impressionistic effect by displacing pixels and heightening contrast.

Texture filters

Give the appearance of depth or substance, or add an organic look.

Other filters

Let you create your own filter effects, modify masks, offset a selection within an image, and make quick color adjustments.

Digimarc filter

Lets you read a Digimarc watermark.

The Filter Gallery (Filter > Filter Gallery) lets you apply filters cumulatively, and apply individual filters more than once. You can also rearrange filters and change the settings of each filter you’ve applied to achieve the effect you want. Because you can apply more than one filter to an image when you use the Filter Gallery dialog box, you have a lot of control over the way your image is affected by each filter. The Filter Gallery is often the best choice for applying filters because it’s flexible and easy to use.

Filter gallery
Applying filters through the Filter Gallery

A. Original photo B. Photos each with a single filter applied C. Three filters applied cumulatively 
Filter Gallery dialog box
Filter Gallery dialog box

A. Filter category B. Thumbnail of selected filter C. Show/Hide filter thumbnails D. Filter menu E. Options for selected filter F. List of filter effects to apply or arrange G. Hidden filter H. Filters applied cumulatively but not selected I. Filter selected but not applied 

However, not all filters are available from the Filter Gallery. Some are available only as individual commands from the Filter menu. Also, you cannot apply effects and Styles from the Filter Gallery, as you can from the Effects panel.

Texture and glass surface options

The Conté Crayon, Glass, Rough Pastels, Texturizer, and Underpainting filters have texturizing options. These options make images appear as if they were painted onto textures, such as canvas or brick, or viewed through glass blocks.

Texture

Specifies the type of texture to apply. You can also click Load Texture  to specify a Photoshop file.

Scaling

Increases or decreases the effect on the image surface.

Relief (if available)

Adjusts the depth of the texture’s surface.

Light (if available)

Sets the direction of the light source on the image.

Invert

Reverses the surface’s light and dark colors.

Improve performance with filters and effects

Some filters and effects are memory intensive, especially when applied to high-resolution images. You can use these techniques to improve performance:

  • Try filters and settings on a small selected area of the image.
  • Try filters and settings on a smaller, resized copy of your image. When you’re satisfied with the results, apply the filter with the same settings to your original image.
  • Free up memory before running the filter or effect by clearing the clipboard, the undo history, or both. Choose Edit > Clear > [command].
  • Exit from other applications to make more memory available.
  • Adjust filter settings to make memory-intensive filters less complex. Memory-intensive filters include Cutout, Stained Glass, Chrome, Ripple, Spatter, Sprayed Strokes, and Glass. (For example, to reduce the complexity of the Stained Glass filter, increase cell size. To reduce the complexity of the Cutout filter, increase Edge Simplicity, decrease Edge Fidelity, or both.)

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