How to Use Smart Filters Photoshop

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Using Smart Filters

When you're applying most filters in Photoshop you have a variety of options for changing the behavior of that filter. The particular settings will depend upon the filter you're using, but most filters include some options for altering the behavior of that filter. If you apply filter as a Smart Filter, you retain the ability to go back and modify those settings at any time. Let's take a look at how you can use a Smart Filter in order to apply a filter that retains maximum flexibility. I'm going to start off by making a copy of my background image layer, so that I always have that background image layer to go back to in case I don't like the effect or I decide to get rid of my filter effect layer altogether. I'll go ahead and drag the thumbnail for the Background Image Layer down to the Create New Layer button, the blank sheet of paper icon at the bottom of the Layers panel.

That will create a background copy which I can use to apply my filters to. But I want to first prepare this layer for the application of Smart Filters. And what that really means, is that I will convert this specific layer to a Smart Object. A Smart Object is Photoshop's way of encapsulating an image layer along with a variety of different effects, in this case filter effects that we can then modify later if desired. So, making sure that the Background Copy Layer is the currently active layer on the Layer's panel, you can simply click the thumbnail if you want to be sure.

I'll go to the Filter menu and then choose Convert for Smart Filters. When I choose that option, I'll receive a confirmation message. I can simply click OK, in order to apply that change. Converting my background copy layer into a smart object as indicated by the small icon at the bottom right of the thumbnail. Now, when I apply any filter effect, it will be applied as a smart filter, which means I can always go back and fine tune things later. Let's go ahead and choose a particular filter, from the menu. So, I'll go to the Filter menu, and in this case I'll choose Stylize followed by Tiles.

It's not really critical which particular filter I'm using, the key is that I'm applying a filter to a smart object layer. And so, this filter will be applied as a Smart Filter. When I choose that command from the menu, you'll see that I get a set of options available to me. I'll just accept these values. I have a number of tiles set to 20, and the maximum offset at 10%, with the empty area filled with the background color, which happens to be black at the moment. I'll go ahead and click OK, and that filter will be applied, but notice if you look at the Layers panel that we now have a Smart Filters option underneath my Background Copy Layer and if we scroll down we'll see that we have the tiles filter.

If I want to change the settings for that filter, I can simply double-click the name of the filter itself. So, I'll double-click the name tiles here and perhaps I'll change the number of tiles to 15 and click OK, and you can see now I have larger tiles in the image, and I could continue going back as often as I'd like to fine tune the settings for the filter with absolutely no penalty in terms of image quality. And that's all because we're utilizing a Smart Filter. We're applying the filter to a smart object. In addition to being able to go back and modify the settings for the filter that I've applied, I can also tone down the filter.

I'll double-click on the Adjustments button at the right of the tiles filter effect, and that will bring up a Blending Options dialog, and here I can change the blend mode which would alter the overall effect of the filter, but I can also change the opacity. I can reduce the effect if I'd like, so in this case, taking that textured pattern that was added and reducing its strength, reducing the opacity, revealing the unaltered image. So, I'll go ahead and reduce that opacity and click OK, but much like the filter effect, I can modify that at any time. So, I can go back to my filter settings and adjust those if I'd like. I can also go back to my blending options, and perhaps increase the opacity just a little bit.

The point is, that because I'm using a smart filter I have maximum flexibility as far as being able to go back and fine tune the settings later.

Using Smart Filters
Video duration: 4m 2s 2h 34m Intermediate


Using Smart Filters provides you with in-depth training on Photography. Taught by Tim Grey as part of the Photoshop Creative Effects and Filters

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