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Our 10 Best Filters

Of the filters that are shipped with Photoshop, the following sections describe those that give you the best value.

Gaussian Blur Filter

This filter blurs the image and is a good choice when you want to blur an area around the focal point of the image to create a depth of field effect (see Figure 3). To apply it, choose Filter > Blur >Gaussian Blur and adjust the amount of the blur by varying the Radius.

Figure 3

Figure 3 Use the Gaussian blur filter to create a depth of field effect on your image by blurring all but the photo subject.

Unsharp Mask Filter

This curiously named filter actually sharpens an image, and you’ll use it as a final step when editing an image. Printed images require more sharpening than images destined for screen display. To apply the filter, choose Filter > Sharpen > Unsharp Mask and set the Radius to between .5 and 1 pixel. Set a low Threshold value to sharpen more pixels and use a higher value to sharpen fewer. Vary the Amount slider to get the desired degree of sharpening.

Noise Filter

Use this filter to add noise to an image when you’re turning a modern photo into an antique one or to blend areas in which you’ve done a lot of fixing. To apply the filter, choose Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Select Uniform noise for a more subtle effect or Gaussian noise for a speckled effect. Choose Monochromic to apply noise that doesn’t change the color of the image. Adding noise is also appropriate prior to printing an image at a very large size.

Liquify Filter

This filter enables you to apply minor facial fixes to portraits. Choose Filter > Liquify to open its special dialog box. Set the Pucker tool to a large size and click on a facial feature, such as the nose, to reduce its size. Use the Bloat tool on the person’s eyes to enlarge them. Make the changes very subtle so it isn’t obvious what you’ve done.

Diffuse Glow Filter

This filter creates an interesting lighting effect for portraits that is more intensive in the middle of the image (see Figure 4). It uses the background color as the color for the light, so set it to white or another color before applying the filter.

Figure 4

Figure 4 The Diffuse Glow filter applies an interesting light effect to your image.

Shear Filter

Use this filter to bend an image (for example, you can create a faux photo effect). Before you apply the filter, add some extra canvas around the image by using Image > Canvas Size to give you somewhere to bend into. Choose Filter > Distort > Shear to open the Filter dialog box, create a slight bend in the line at the top of the dialog box, and select Repeat Edge Pixels (see Figure 5). This effect is handy for bending shapes—to create a Polaroid photo effect, for instance.

Figure 5

Figure 5 Add some extra canvas when using the Shear filter so there’s room to bend the image.

Glowing Edges Filter

This filter is handy for making a photo look like a watercolor or a hand-drawn image. Duplicate the main image layer and apply the filter by choosing Filter > Stylize > Glowing Edges. The filter finds the edges in the image and makes them very light while making the remainder of the image very black. Adjust the Edge Brightness and Width until you get a good series of edge lines in your photo and click OK. To invert the colors in the layer, press Ctrl + I (Command + I on the Mac) and you’ll get darker lines on a white background (see Figure 6). This layer can then be blended into the layers below by using the Soft Light or Luminosity blend modes to create an interesting effect.

Figure 6

Figure 6 Invert the result of using the Glowing Edges filter on your image and blend it for an interesting effect.

Texturizer Filter

This filter adds a texture such as burlap or brick to the image. To apply it, choose Filter > Texture > Texturizer; from the Texture selection, choose Brick, Burlap, Canvas, or Sandstone. You can also access hidden textures by clicking the small arrow to the right of the Texture list and choose Load Texture. Navigate to the Presets\Textures folder in your Adobe Photoshop folder and select a texture such as the Puzzle texture and click Open (see Figure 7). You can now set the Scale and Relief as required to give the desired result.

Figure 7

Figure 7 Not all the available textures are preloaded into the Texturizer filter and some, such as the puzzle texture shown here, must be loaded manually.

Halftone Filter

Use this filter to create an effect reminiscent of a photo printed in an old newspaper. Choose the colors for the half tone pattern: for a black and white image, set the foreground to black and the background to white; otherwise, choose a darker foreground and lighter background color. Choose Filter > Sketch > Halftone Pattern, set the Pattern Type to Dot, and set the Size of the pattern and the Contrast for the image.

Lighting Effects Filter

This filter enables you to add a light effect such as a spotlight to your image. To add a spotlight, choose Filter > Render > Lighting Effects and choose Spotlight from the Light Type list. Adjust the Focus and Intensity of the light using the sliders. Drag on the oval shape on the image to fix the position and size of the spotlight (see Figure 8). You can copy a spotlight to make a second one by holding Alt as you drag on the light in the preview window (use Option on the Mac).

Figure 8

Figure 8 Use the Lighting Effects filter to apply effects like adding a spotlight to your image.

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