How smart ARE Smart Filters?

January 26, 2013

The first time I heard the term “Smart Filters” I had been working in Photoshop for just a few days.  My frustration level was rather high, and I remember thinking…”Oh, good!  “Smart” filters!  Hopefully, they will make this learning curve a little easier!”  Smart Filters don’t EXACTLY work that way, but they do make our work easier.

When a Filter is applied to a Smart Object, that filter becomes “smart” too.  That means that we will be working with the Filter in a non-destructive manner (which is ALWAYS a smart way to work).
To begin with, you must be working with a Smart Object.  You can get a Smart Object in two ways:
  • 1. Go to File > Open as Smart Object > then open the item that you wish to work with.
  • 2. If you already have your item on your canvas, right-click the layer that contains the element, and choose “Convert to Smart Object.”

I have opened Pepe’s Girlfriend as a Smart Object, and she is now ready for me to experiment with.  I would like to see what she looks like with a texture on her.

I used the Filter Gallery:  Filter > Filter Gallery > Texture > Texturizer. I chose a Sandstone Texture, then clicked OK.

The Filter Gallery closed, and I could see that the Smart Filter has been applied to the image.  I can also see that the Texture has been applied as a Smart Filter in the Layers Panel.

Typically when a filter is applied to an object, you are not able to adjust that filter.  You are “stuck” with the choices you made in the Filter Gallery.  But with Smart Filters, you can make changes; remember Smart Filters allow us to work non-destructively.

Here are a few things that you are now very easily able to do:

1. Click on the eye icon next to “Filter Gallery” in the Layers Panel, and you will be able to see Before and After previews.

2. Click on the 2 little uploading arrowheads to the right of Filter Gallery (on the layer) and you can change blending options.  Here is a  Vivid Light blending mode.  It looks terrible, but I wanted it to be dramatic, so you could easily see the change.

3.  Click on the white box to activate it, and work with your object just as you would any mask.

I kind of liked the texture on Pepe’s Girlfriend, but I didn’t like it on her eyes, inner ears, teeth, or nose.  So I just clicked on the mask, grabbed a soft brush, changed my foreground color to black, and erased the texture from those features.

If you find you don’t like a filter, you can simply drag it to the into the Trash at the bottom of the Layers Panel.

If you find you LOVE the filter you created,  and want to apply it to another object in your document, you can just drag the Smart Filter from one Smart Object to another.  Now, THAT is smart!

So play around with Smart Filters, and see all the ways that you can make them work for you!

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