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Adobe Photoshop Help & Tutorials

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How to apply Filters & Special Effects in Photoshop

Using filters

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    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 applied individually.
    • Filters cannot be applied to Bitmap-mode or indexed-color images.
    • Some filters work only on RGB images.
    • 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

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    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 filters,

    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 preview

    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 Show/Hide button 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.
    Illustration of Filter Gallery dialog box with these callouts: 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
    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 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 Trash button .

Applying filters individually

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    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:

  1. 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.
  2. Choose a filter from the submenus in the Filter menu.

    If no dialog box appears, the filter effect is applied.

  3. If a dialog box appears, enter values or select options, and then click the OK button.
Blending filter effects (Photoshop)

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    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 Strokes filters.

To fade the effect of a filter, painting tool, or color adjustment:

  1. Apply a filter, painting tool, or color adjustment to an image or selection.
  2. Choose Edit > Fade. Select the Preview option to preview the effect.
  3. Drag the slider to adjust the opacity, from 0% (transparent) to 100%.
  4. Choose a blending mode from the Mode menu
  5. Click OK.

    Note: The Color Dodge, Color Burn, Lighten, Darken, Difference, and Exclusion blending modes do not work on Lab images.

Defining undistorted areas

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    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 colors.
    • Set to Background (Offset filter only) fills the selected area with the current background color.
Tips for creating special effects

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    Try the following techniques to create special effects with filters.

    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.

    Create backgrounds

    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 other images.

Choosing a filter effect

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    The built-in filters are grouped into 14 submenus. In addition, any third-party filters installed appear at the bottom of the Filter menu.

The Lighting Effects filter

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    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.

    Note: The Lighting Effects filter works only on RGB images.

Loading images and textures

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    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:

  1. Choose the filter you want from the appropriate submenu.
  2. 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.

Improving filter performance

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    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 image.
About plug-in filters

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    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 support.

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