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Working with Filters

  • star.jpg ACA Objective 4.9

Just as you applied effects (through layer styles) to improve the visibility of your text, you can often use filters to improve images. Filters, like effects, change the look of the image.

While you can apply both styles and filters to layers, styles are best applied to text and shape layers, whereas filters lend themselves more readily to photos. Filters also generally can perform much more complex adjustments and manipulations to the image. Because your photo layer is a smart object, in this exercise, you will create smart filters that are filters applied to a smart object layer. This technique lends the most flexibility and ease of editing to your project.

Add Smart Filters

To add a smart filter to a layer:

  1. Select the layer containing the smart object. In this case, select the layer with the bass player.

    If the layer is not a smart object, you can convert it into one by choosing Filter > Convert For Smart Filters (Figure 4.36).

    Figure 4.36

    Figure 4.36 Preparing a layer for a smart filter

  2. From the Filter menu, choose the filter you want to use on the image. For this exercise, choose Filter > Blur > Surface Blur.
  1. In the Surface Blur dialog box, specify the following (Figure 4.38):

    Radius: 40 Pixels

    Threshold: 200 Levels

    Figure 4.38

    Figure 4.38 The Surface Blur dialog box

  2. Select Preview to view your settings on the image, and then click OK.

The smart filter appears in your Layer Stack under the layer that it affects (Figure 4.39).

Figure 4.39

Figure 4.39 The smart filters appear in the Layers panel directly under the layer they affect.

While this doesn’t look so great right now, it’s okay because you were just prepping for the next step. You’re going to cut holes into the filter to hide the filter’s effects in certain areas of our image.

Adjust Smart Filters

  • star.jpg ACA Objective 4.6

Although you can preview the results of a smart filter in the Filter dialog box, sometimes you’ll later want to adjust the filter settings. When you’re not working with a smart filter, you can undo your steps by choosing Edit > Step Backward. You can easily adjust smart filter layer settings in the Layers panel.

  1. In the Layers panel, double-click the name of a smart filter layer.
  2. In the Smart Filter dialog box, adjust the filter settings as necessary.
  3. Click OK to apply the changes to your smart filter layer.
  4. To adjust the way a smart filter blends with a smart layer, double-click the Filter Blending Option icon layersmartblendingmode.jpg next to the smart filter you want to adjust.

    The Blending Options dialog box appears for that filter (Figure 4.40).

    Figure 4.40

    Figure 4.40 The Blending Options dialog box

  5. Select a different blending mode from the Mode menu and enter a different value in the Opacity field to modify the effect.
  6. Select Preview to compare the edited and unedited settings, and then click OK to apply the changes to the smart filter layer.

Smart Filter Masks

  • star.jpg ACA Objective 3.6
  • star.jpg ACA Objective 4.3

Similar to masks used on layers, smart filters always include a mask that allows you to control the visibility of the effect on that layer. Previously, you faded a layer using a gradient; now you will just cut holes in a mask to allow the unfiltered image to show through.

You’re going to cut through this mask using the Selection tool and then fill in that area on the mask with black. This method introduces a couple of new concepts, but they’re pretty simple.

To hide a smart filter in sections of your image:

  1. Click the mask for the smart filter.

    White corners appear around the mask to indicate that it is selected (Figure 4.41).

    Figure 4.41

    Figure 4.41 In the Layers panel, white corners display around the active mask.

  2. Press the D key to be sure you are using the default colors of a white foreground and a black background.
  3. In the Tools panel, select the Rectangle Selection tool toolselectrect.jpg.

    The pointer turns into a crosshair.

  4. In the Options bar, verify that Feather is set to 0 px and the style is Normal (Figure 4.42).

    Figure 4.42

    Figure 4.42 The Options bar for the Rectangle Selection tool

  5. Select areas of the image and fill them with black to hide them, or white to reveal the underlying smart filter effect (Figure 4.43).

    Figure 4.43

    Figure 4.43 Note that the mask corresponds to the affected areas of the image: black hides, white reveals.

With this method, it is easy to modify an effect that you applied to your image. The beauty of using smart filters is that they are nondestructive; you can always alter or remove an effect later by using a mask.

Explore Further

Teaching filters, styles, and other effects is a difficult process because if we simply dictate the values to put into the fields you won’t be creating your own design. Following instructions by rote is not how you’ll get great at Photoshop. In the real world of design, you have to personally experience plenty of experimentation, failure, and guesswork. This is a critical part of the process. You’ll need to explore and experiment so that you can stumble onto your own design styles and tricks.

The projects here are pretty simple and easy to follow because they have to be, but I want to make sure that you feel comfortable trying new things. You can always duplicate a layer and do something wild! It doesn’t cost anything and it’s easy to trash an experimental layer that doesn’t work.

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