How to apply
Filters & Special Effects in Photoshop
To use a filter, choose the appropriate submenu command from the
Filter menu. These guidelines can help you in choosing filters:
- Filters are applied to the
active, visible layer or a selection.
- Most filters can be applied
cumulatively using the Filter Gallery. All filters can be
- Filters cannot be applied to
Bitmap-mode or indexed-color images.
- Some filters work only on RGB
- All filters can be applied to
8-bit images. Only the following filters can be applied to
16-bit images: Blur, Average Blur, Blur More, Gaussian Blur,
Motion Blur, Noise, Add Noise, Despeckle, Dust & Scratches,
Median, Sharpen, Sharpen Edges, Sharpen More, Unsharp Mask,
Stylize, Emboss, Find Edges, and Solarize.
- Some filters are processed
entirely in RAM. If all your available RAM is used to process a
filter effect, you may get an error message
Using the Filter Gallery, you can 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.
Note that not all available filters can be
applied using the Filter Gallery. To learn how to apply these
Displaying the Filter Gallery
Choose Filter > Filter Gallery.
Displaying filter thumbnails
Click a filter category name to display
previews of available filter effects.
Changing the display of the filter
You can do any of the following to change the
display of the filter preview area:
- Use the + or - button under the
preview area to zoom in or zoom out of the image.
- Click the zoom bar (where the
zoom percentage appears) to choose a zoom percentage.
- Click the Show/Hide button
at the top of the dialog box to hide the filters thumbnails.
Hiding the thumbnails expands the preview area.
- Drag in the preview area with the
Hand tool to see a different area of the image.
Filter Gallery dialog box A. Preview
B. Thumbnail of selected filter
C. Show/Hide filter thumbnails
D. Filters pop-up menu
E. Options for selected filter
F. List of filter effects to apply or
arrange G. Filter effect selected but
not applied H. Filter effects applied
cumulatively but not selected I.
Hidden filter effect
Applying and arranging filter effects
Filter effects are applied in the order you
select them. You can rearrange filters once you apply them by
dragging a filter name to another position in the list of applied
filters. Rearranging filter effects can dramatically change the
way your image looks. Click the eye icon
next to a filter to hide the effect in the preview image. You can
also delete applied filters by selecting the filter and clicking
the Delete Effect Layer button
Applying filters individually
Applying filters--especially to large images--can be
time-consuming. Some filters let you preview the effect before
applying it. You can then choose to apply the filter or cancel the
operation without wasting time.
If the dialog box contains a preview window,
use the following methods to preview the effect:
- If the dialog box contains
sliders, hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) while
dragging a slider to see a real-time preview (real-time
rendering) of the effect.
- Drag in the preview window to
center a specific area of the image in the window.
- Use the + or - button under the
preview window to zoom in or zoom out on the preview
- 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.)
Some individual filters use dialog boxes to
help you customize the filter effect. These filter names are
followed by ellipses (...) so you can identify them.
To apply a filter:
- Do one of the following:
- To apply a filter to an entire
layer, make sure that the layer is active or selected.
- To apply a filter to an area of a
layer, select that area.
- Choose a filter from the
submenus in the Filter menu.
If no dialog box appears, the filter effect
- If a dialog box appears,
enter values or select options, and then click the OK button.
The Fade command changes the opacity and blending mode of any filter, painting
tool, erasing tool, or color adjustment. The Fade command blending modes are a
subset of those in the painting and editing tools options (excluding the
Behind and Clear modes).
Applying the Fade command is similar to applying the
filter effect on a separate layer and then using the layer opacity and
blending mode controls.
Note: The Fade command can also
modify the effects of using the Extract command, Liquify command, and Brush
To fade the effect of a filter, painting tool, or color
- Apply a filter, painting tool, or
color adjustment to an image or selection.
- Choose Edit > Fade. Select the
Preview option to preview the effect.
- Drag the slider to adjust the
opacity, from 0% (transparent) to 100%.
- Choose a blending mode from the Mode
- Click OK.
Note: The Color Dodge, Color
Burn, Lighten, Darken, Difference, and Exclusion blending modes do not work on
The Displace, Shear, and Wave filters in the Distort submenu and
the Offset filter in the Other submenu let you treat areas
undefined (or unprotected) by the filter in the following ways:
- Wrap Around fills the undefined
space with content from the opposite edge of the image.
- Repeat Edge Pixels extends the
colors of pixels along the image's edge in the direction
specified. Banding may result if the edge pixels are different
- Set to Background (Offset filter
only) fills the selected area with the current background color.
Try the following techniques to create special effects with
Create edge effects
You can use various techniques to treat the
edges of an effect applied to only part of an image. To leave a
distinct edge, simply apply the filter. For a soft edge, feather
the edge, and then apply the filter. For a transparent effect,
apply the filter, and then use the Fade command to adjust the
selection's blending mode and opacity.
Apply filters to layers
You can apply filters to individual layers or
to several layers in succession to build up an effect. For a
filter to affect a layer, the layer must be visible and must
contain pixels--for example, a neutral fill color.
Apply filters to individual channels
You can apply a filter to an individual
channel, apply a different effect to each color channel, or apply
the same filter but with different settings.
By applying effects to solid-color or
grayscale shapes, you can generate a variety of backgrounds and
textures. You might then blur these textures. Although some
filters have little or no visible effect when applied to solid
colors (for example, Glass), others produce interesting effects.
Combine multiple effects with masks or
with duplicate images
Using masks to create selection areas gives
you more control over transitions from one effect to another. For
example, you can filter the selection created with a mask.
You can also use the History Brush tool to
paint a filter effect onto part of the image. First, apply the
filter to an entire image. Next, step back in the History palette
to the image state before the filter was applied, and set the
history brush source to the filtered state. Then, paint the image.
Improve image quality and consistency
You can disguise faults, alter or enhance
images, or make a series of images look related by applying the
same effect to each. Use the Actions palette to record the
process of modifying one image, and then use this action on the
The built-in filters are grouped into 14 submenus. In addition,
any third-party filters installed appear at the bottom of the
The Lighting Effects filter lets you produce myriad lighting
effects on RGB images. You can also use textures from grayscale
files (called bump maps) to produce
3D-like effects and save your own styles for use in other images.
Lighting Effects filter works only on RGB images.
To produce their effects, some filters load and use other images,
such as textures and displacement maps. These filters include the
Conté Crayon, Displace, Glass, Lighting Effects, Rough Pastels,
Texture Fill, Texturizer, Underpainting, and Custom filters.
Not all of these filters load images or
textures in the same way.
To load images and textures:
- Choose the filter you
want from the appropriate submenu.
- In the filter's dialog
box, choose Load Texture from the Texture pop-up menu, and locate
and open a texture image.
All textures must be in the Photoshop format.
Most filters use only the grayscale information of a color file.
Some filter effects can be memory-intensive, especially when applied to a
high-resolution image. You can use these techniques to improve performance:
- Try out filters and settings on a small
portion of an image.
- Apply the effect to individual
channels--for example, to each RGB channel--if the image is large and you're
having problems with insufficient memory. (With some filters, effects vary
if applied to the individual channel rather than the composite channel,
especially if the filter randomly modifies pixels.)
- Free up memory before running the filter by
using the Purge command.
- Allocate more RAM to Photoshop. If necessary,
exit other applications to make more memory available to Photoshop.
- Try changing settings to improve the speed of
memory-intensive filters, such as Lighting Effects, Cutout, Stained Glass,
Chrome, Ripple, Spatter, Sprayed Strokes, and Glass filters. (For example,
with the Stained Glass filter, increase cell size. With the Cutout filter,
increase Edge Simplicity, decrease Edge Fidelity, or both.)
- If you plan to print to a grayscale printer,
convert a copy of the image to grayscale before applying filters. However,
applying a filter to a color image and then converting to grayscale may not
have the same effect as applying the filter to a grayscale version of the
You can install plug-in filters developed by non-Adobe software developers.
Once installed, the plug-in filters appear at the bottom of the Filter menu
and work in the same way as built-in filters.
If you are interested in creating plug-in modules,
contact Adobe Systems Developer Support.
Note: If you have problems or
questions about a third-party plug-in, contact the plug-in's manufacturer for