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One of the first things you're going to want to learn how to do when you start working with Filters on your images is learn how to apply them in a non-destructive way. By default, if you just go to the Filter menu and start choosing one of these filters to apply to the image, it's going to be applied directly to the layer that you had chose in the Layers panel, and it will permanently alter those pixels there. So, when you want to apply a filter as a Smart Filter to a particular layer, the easiest way to do that is simply go to the Filter menu, and one of the commands at the very top here is Convert for Smart Filters.
And what Smart Objects do is they embed a full copy of that particular layer within the Photoshop file so that you never destroy those pixels, or damage those pixels. So, let's go ahead and choose that command, Convert for Smart Filters. And the first time you use that menu command, this little message box comes up and says, "Hey you know if we are going to do this? We are going to convert "this to Smart Object. Are you sure you want to do that?" Yes, I am going to choose Don't show again because I don't need to see that message again. Click the OK button, and you'll see the Background layer has converted into a normal layer. And it gives you that little special badge in the lower right-hand corner of the thumbnail, letting you know that indeed it is a Smart Object.
Now if I go choose a Filter, it's going to be treated slightly differently. Let's go to Filter. I will just do, say, Noise > Add Noise, and we'll just do some crazy amount, just trying to do something silly here. All right. It doesn't really matter what the choices are. I am going to go ahead and click OK. And because it was applied as a Smart Filter, you'll see that it's added in the Layers panel, below the actual thumbnail of the layer itself, and it actually tells you what that filter's name is. It also lets you turn off that particular effect.
So, if I don't want to delete it but just want to toggle it on and off, you can control the visibility of that actual filter as well, because you had converted this to a Smart Object first. It's now being rendered as a Smart Filter. Furthermore, what you can do is actually change the opacity, or the blending of the actual filter back into the composite image all right here, as well. There's this little icon here to the right of the name of the filter. If I double-click on that little icon, that brings up a special Blending Options dialog for that particular filter. It gives you the name of the filter in parenthesis there.
And here, I can change the Blend mode of the effect of that filter. So, if I want the noise to only be blended as an Overlay mode, to get some real high contrast effect there, I can change the Blend mode of the actual filter. If I had tried to change the Blend mode - I will go ahead and click OK - of the layer that's going to change the Blend mode of the entire layer, including the filter that's been applied to that. So, this gives you the ability to control it separately. Double-click to reopen the Blending Options. You can also change the Opacity, the intensity of that effect as well.
So, if I type 50, let's say, it just dampens down the overall effect. We can take that back up to 100 and click OK. Now if I want to edit the actual value of the filter, so the sliders that determine how much noise, in this particular example, if I double-click on the name of the actual filter, that brings up the Add Noise dialog box again. And it remembers where I last set the sliders, so I can fine-tune that at any point because it's non-destructive. It turns out that once you convert a layer to a Smart Object so that you can use smart filters, you can actually apply more than one filter to the same layer and still maintain the non-destructive nature of them.
So, let's go to Filter. Let's do Stylize, and say Glowing Edges. This is a second filter we're applying. We'll go ahead and just go with the defaults and click OK. And now you will see that second filter has been added to the stack of filters applied to this particular layer. Each filter can be turned on and off individually and again, Glowing Edges now has its own Blending Options. We will double-click on that, and you can change the Blend mode of this. Let's change that to Soft Light, let's say, just to see what it does. That's kind of interesting. Go ahead and click OK.
The other little tiny thing that a lot of people miss is that you can actually change the overall effect by changing the stacking order of any of the filters listed here. So, what's happening now is Glowing Edges is being applied first and then Add Noise is being applied second. You can just click and drag to change the stacking order, and you'll see you will get a different result. So, you've got a lot of options here. First one is to make sure you use Smart Filters instead of just, I guess Dumb Filters, by converting your layer to a Smart Object first. If you need to do that, under the Filter menu, this command will be available if your layer is not already a Smart Object. And then you can just freely use whatever filters you want, as many filters as you want, and control their Visibility, their Blend mode and their Opacity, as well as the rendering stack by changing their stacking order directly in that Layers panel.
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