Computer Arts

Effects at your fingertips

Photoshop's native filter set provides a plethora of tools that enable you to achieve powerful and diverse results. In this feature, we've incorporated a selection of filters into quick and effective five-click effects. These mini-tutorials demonstrate the all-too-often undiscovered potential of these native filters.

There are many who dismiss filter use in general, saying that filter effects all bear a signature look. This may be true enough when it comes to certain third-party filters and even some of the native Photoshop filters. However, this blanket dismissal is erroneous because there's plenty that can be achieved when certain filters are incorporated into your workflow, alongside other Photoshop tools and functions.

Whether creating a simulated sketch technique, removing banding in gradients, or minimising film grain, filters can be quite helpful. Tasks can often be completed quicker and results can be better if you only allow yourself to explore what lies in the Filter menu.

1: Removing grain
Isolate and blur the noisiest channel in your grainiest film scan to preserve the overall sharpness of the image...

By looking through the individual colour channels of grainy film scans, you're likely to find one that is the grainiest. Using the Gaussian Blur filter only within the noisiest channel enables you to quickly and substantially reduce the visible grain in your image while preserving the overall sharpness and detail.

1 Click on one of the colour channels other than the composite channel in the Channels palette.
2 Select the Zoom tool from the toolbox and click in the image window to zoom in close so that you can clearly see the grain.
3 Click on the remaining colour channels one by one and view them separately to evaluate which channel is the grainiest.
4 With the grainiest channel selected and visible, select Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur from the menu.
5 Enter a value just large enough to blur the visible grain and click OK. Preview the
composite channel to see the result.

2. Reducing noise
You can reduce noise in selected areas of your image by simply using the Median filter...

The Median filter blends the brightness values of pixels. Median looks at all of the image, searching for pixels of similar brightness. Pixels that differ too much are replaced. The results can be rather smooth but will ruin sharpness - that's why it's essential to use the Median filter within selected areas.

1 Visually assess your image and decide which area you wish to isolate for the effect. Click on the Pen tool in the toolbox.
2 Use the Pen tool to click and drag, creating a closed path that surrounds the area you wish to alter.
3 In the Paths palette, click on the 'Load path as a selection' button to generate a selection border from the path.
4 With the current selection still active, you need to choose Filter>Noise>Median from the menu.
5 Click and drag on the Radius slider or enter a numeric value in the field to define the range. Usually a value of 1 or 2 pixels is sufficient.

3. Pop art dot effects
Make the most of the Colour Halftone filter to create Lichtenstein-inspired textures...

You can create Roy Lichtenstein-inspired polka dot patterns in your image inside alpha channels with clever use of the Colour Halftone filter. Then simply generate a selection from the alpha channel and fill it with colour on a layer. The secret to this process lies within the angle values you enter in the filter's fields.

1 In an alpha channel, click and drag to create a white-to-black gradient with the Gradient tool.
2 Once you've set up the gradient, choose Filter>Pixellate>Colour Halftone from the menu.
3 Enter a radius to determine the dot size, set all of the screen angles at 45 degrees and then click OK.
4 Click the 'Load channel as selection' button in the Channels palette to generate a selection from the channel.
5 In the Layers palette, select the background layer, and press Alt/Opt-delete on the keyboard to fill the selection with the current foreground colour.

4. Simulating grain
Use the Add Noise filter with layer-locking functions to remedy areas of an image that are too smooth...

Using the Clone Stamp tool on separate layers will certainly hide unwanted specs and things within your images. But when working with scanned . lm, repaired areas will look out of place because they're too smooth. All you need to do is add some noise and use one of the layer locks to remedy this problem.

1 In the Layers palette, click on the 'Create a new layer' button to create an empty layer above your background layer.
2 Choose the Clone Stamp tool from the toolbox and enable the 'Use all layers' function in the tool options bar.
3 Alt/Opt-click to sample an area from the image, then click and drag to paint with the sampled area on your new layer.
4 Click on the Lock Transparency button in the Layers palette so only the painted area will be affected.
5 Choose Filter>Noise>Add Noise from the menu, and adjust the amount and distribution to mimic the grain in the underlying image.

5. Creating reflections
The Liquify filter provides everything you need to create realistic reflections in metallic surfaces...

You can use the Liquify filter to push and pull pixels in almost any manner imaginable. With a picture of something such as a sky or a city scene on a separate layer, you can use the Liquify filter to morph that image onto the contours of an object on an underlying layer. This process creates a very realistic reflection.

1 Start with a file containing an object on the background layer and a reflection image on a separate layer. Click on the reflection layer in the Layers palette to select it.
2 Choose Filter>Liquify to open the Liquify interface.
3 Click on the Show Backdrop option to view the layer behind the active layer.
4 Click on the mode pull-down and select Blend. Reduce the Opacity setting so that you can see the layers overlapping.
5 Click and drag, using the Warp tool to push the pixels of your reflection layer around to mimic the contour of your object on the underlying layer.

6. Cloudy light effects
The Clouds filter is an excellent tool for creating voluminous light beam effects in your projects...

You can create a random cloud texture using your current foreground and background colour. Experienced users often avoid the effect because it's so painfully obvious. However, when used in conjunction with alpha channels and layers, you can create cloudy light effects that look unique and natural.

1 In the Channels palette, click on the 'Create new channel' button to create a new alpha channel.
2 Click on the small icon to the lower-left of the colour swatches in the toolbox to set them to their default black-and-white state.
3 Choose Filter>Render>Clouds from the menu to fill your alpha channel with a random black-and-white cloud pattern.
4 Click the 'Load channel as selection' button in the Channels palette and then choose the Gradient tool.
5 Finally, introduce colour on a new layer into the selection by patterns on multiple layers.

7. Sharpening luminance
Use the Unsharp Mask filter to focus only on image luminance, avoiding the unsightly sharpening of colour...

The Unsharp Mask filter, in a nutshell, enables you to find areas of contrast within your image and enhances the contrast in those areas. Problems arise when the Unsharp Mask filter starts to sharpen areas that you don't actually want affected, because it's finding and sharpening colour data from within the image.

1 Click on your background layer in the Layers palette and select Duplicate Layer from the palette menu.
2 Change the blending mode of the duplicate layer to Luminosity. This mode only blends the image luminance with underlying pixels, excluding colour information.
3 Select Filter>Sharpen>Unsharp Mask from the menu. Enter a percentage of sharpening .
4 Click and drag the Radius slider to a value of 1. A small value concentrates mainly on edge pixels only. Leave Threshold set at 0.
5 Click OK to apply the filter. To view the advantages of this technique, zoom in closely and temporarily change the blending mode of the layer back to Normal.

8. Removing banding
The solution to eliminating banding within gradients lies inside the Add Noise filter...

You're no doubt familiar with the scenario. You select the Gradient tool and create a nice custom-coloured gradient in the gradient editor. Then you draw a large gradient background in your image, zoom out, and what do you see? A banding effect showing the stages within the blend. Worry not, we have a remedy for this.

1 Click on the Gradient tool in the toolbox to reveal the gradient options in the tool options bar.
2 Click on the small preview in the tool options bar to open up the gradient editor.
3 Click on a gradient thumbnail from the list of presets and edit the opacity and colour stops to customise the gradient.
4 Choose the linear option in the tool options bar and then click and drag to create a gradient, complete with banding, across the image.
5 Choose Filter>Noise>Add Noise from the menu and increase the amount until you see the banding disappear. Do not add any more noise than is necessary.

9. Increased line thickness
The Minimum filter is an excellent tool for expanding your illustrative linework in Photoshop...

Although this filter is ideally designed for use within masks, its spreading capabilities make it an ideal candidate for spreading areas of black linework when creating comic-bookstyle illustrations, building up colour on layers which underlie a black outline layer. Corner areas fade gently leaving a marker drawing effect.

1 Click on the 'Create new layer' button in the Layers palette to create a layer for your black outline.
2 Use the Brush tool to click and drag, creating a series of black outlines that enclose areas to be filled with colour.
3 Use the Magic Wand tool to click within the transparent enclosed areas to select them.
4 Fill each area with colour via the Edit>Fill function in the menu. Where your coloured areas meet the black lines, there are slight gaps.
5 Select the black layer in the Layers palette and choose Filter>Other>Minimum from the menu. Increase the Radius to fill the gaps and create the marker effect.

10. Creating Fibre overlays
The Fibres filter can be used to simulate all sorts of fabric overlays in your images...

It's important to think outside of the box when it comes to looking at filters in the Render menu. In this instance, rendering some fibres inside an alpha channel enables you to create an interesting selection. This selection can then be filled on separate layers to create a linen effect.

1 Click on the 'Create new channel' button in the Channels palette. Select a white foreground colour.
2 Choose Filter>Render>Fibres. Adjust the variance and strength until the fibres look like a coarse linen, then apply the effect.
3 Hold down the Ctrl/Cmnd key and click on your alpha channel icon in the Channels palette to generate a selection from it.
4 With the selection active, click the Create New Layer icon in the Layers palette and then fill the active selection with white on the new layer.
5 Drag the Opacity slider in the Layers palette to reduce the layer opacity slightly and then change the blending mode to Overlay.

11. The evil eye
Experiment with Lens Flare effects to create sinister B-movie glowing eyes in greyscale images...

The Photoshop rulebook states that Lens Flares cannot be used in greyscale images. Images must be in RGB format. Worry not, because there is indeed a way to create that sinister glow in your evil monsters' eyes and still simulate greyscale appearance of those cheesy horror epics from the 1950s and 1960s.

1 Open your colour image and choose Image>Mode>Greyscale from the menu to convert your colour portrait into a lovely greyscale image.
2 However, to use the Lens Flare filter you'll need to choose Image>Mode>RGB from the menu to convert the image back to RGB mode.
3 This gives the visual effect of greyscale, but the image is made up of RGB channels. Choose Filter> Render>Lens Flare from the menu.
4 Set the Brightness to 100 and position the flare over her pupil. Choose the 105mm prime option to add the least amount of colour.
5 Click OK to apply the filter and repeat the process one more time to add a flare effect to her other eye.

12. Texturise a channel
Less-than-obvious use of the Texturiser is the key to creating stunning canvas effects...

The Texturiser is another one of those filters that experienced users tend to stay away from. When applied to an image file directly, the results are less than impressive and instantly recognisable. However, if used to form the basis of a selection within an alpha channel, the results can be subtle and beautiful.

1 Start with an alpha channel with a black background, and then choose Filter>Texture>Texturiser.
2 Set the texture option to Canvas. Increase the scaling slightly, but increase the Relief substantially for contrast and then apply the filter.
3 Choose Image>Adjustments> Brightness/Contrast to increase the contrast further. Ctrl/Cmnd-click the channel icon to make a selection.
4 Choose Layer>New>Layer to create a new layer over the top of your image file and then select the Gradient tool.
5 Click and drag within the selection on your layer to introduce a series of subtle light-coloured gradients on the layer, simulating the raised areas of canvas.

13. Customised stained glass
Combine this filter with the Magic Wand tool to create your own coloured stained-glass effect...

The way the Stained Glass filter breaks your image up into sections couldn't have been better designed for use with the Magic Wand tool. The stark black dividers and enclosed sections of colour lend themselves to this tool like nothing else, allowing you easy selection and re-colouring for custom stained-glass effects.

1 Open an image and leave the background layer selected. Select Filter>Texture >Stained Glass.
2 Select the 'fit in view' option in the preview section and increase the cell size and border thickness dramatically.
3 Click OK to apply the filter and select the Magic Wand tool from the toolbox. Set the Magic Wand Tolerance to 1 in the tool options bar.
4 Use the Magic Wand to click in areas of solid coloured glass and use Image>Adjustments>Hue/ Saturation to alter the colour.
5 Continue to select different areas and adjust their colours. You can even create a new design within the existing stained-glass borders.

14. Trendy illustration effects
Filters enable you to create flavour-of-the-month effects with almost no effort whatsoever...

This simplified division of colour is quite fashionable in illustration circles at the moment. And so it should be, because the effect is so simple to create, yet the result is dramatic. Some artists add a bit of originality to the effect by introducing isolated gradients of colour. Worry not, we'll show you how to do just that.

1 Start by choosing Filter>Artistic >Cutout from the menu bar.
2 Set the number of Levels to 4 for a simplified effect. Set the Edge Simplicity a bit higher and then the Edge Fidelity a little lower. Apply the filter by clicking OK.
3 Select the Magic Wand tool from the toolbox and enable the Contiguous option. Then click on a flat area of colour in the image.
4 Hold down the Shift key and then click on other areas of colour to add them to the selection.
5 Select the Gradient tool from the toolbox. Choose a gradient from the gradient picker in the tool options bar and then click and drag within the active selection to add the gradient.

15. Illuminated bump maps
It's easy to create effective three-dimensional raised areas using the Lighting Effects filter...

You can create interesting three-dimensional surface effects from within the Lighting Effects filter. Ideally, what you need to do is start off with an image of a simple texture such as a wall or sheet of paper. Then you can add an illuminated bump map from within the Lighting Effects Texture Channel options.

1 Click the 'Create new channel' button in the Channels palette.
2 Open another image to be used for your bumpy texture and copy it via Edit>Copy in the menu.
3 Return to your main image. Select your new alpha channel in the Channels palette and choose Edit>Paste from the menu.
4 Choose Filter>Render>Lighting Effects from the menu, add a couple of lights and adjust their individual parameters.
5 Choose your alpha channel from the Texture Channel pulldown menu and then use the height slider to increase or decrease the size of the bump created by your alpha channel.

16. Soft diffusion effects
Create cool diffusion effects in your photos by mastering this simple technique with the Diffuse Glow filter...

You can simulate dramatic exposure within your image files or digital photos by using the Distort menu's Diffuse Glow filter. The filter itself renders an image as though it were photographed using a soft diffusion filter. However, it's by combining the filter with the right layer blending mode that enables you to create great results.

1 Drag your background layer onto the 'Create a new layer' button at the bottom of the Layers palette .
2 With your duplicate layer selected, choose Filter>Distort> Diffuse Glow from the menu.
3 Leave the Graininess set to 0 to get a smooth result. Increase the Glow amount to change the exposure of your image - usually a setting of around 10 is sufficient.
4 Set the Clear amount to approximately the same number as the Glow amount to sufficiently preserve the original image. Click OK.
5 In the Layers palette, set the blending mode of the duplicate layer to Pin Light, changing the effect and revealing a little more of the underlying, original image layer.

17. Hallucinatory transformations
Experiment with your ordinary portrait shots to create strange and psychedelic effects...

Envisage that moment in any horror or science fiction movie when a person is beginning to transform into a creature or has just been poisoned. The wobbly, funhouse mirror effect ensues and the face stretches and pulls in all directions. Well, here's a method for creating a still frame that will convey that familiar effect.

1 Click on your background layer and duplicate it twice.
2 Disable the visibility of the top layer by clicking on the eye icon and select the middle layer. Choose Filter>Distort>Shear from the menu.
3 Grab the bottom point in the Shear filter interface and drag it towards the right. Select the Wrap Around option from the Undefined Areas options. Press OK.
4 Click on the 'Add layer mask' button and use a soft round paintbrush to mask areas of the layer, revealing features such as the eyes.
5 Enable the visibility of the top layer and shear it. Then mask the layer to reveal key features on the underlying layers.

18. A custom sketch effect
Believe it or not, the Glowing Edges filter can be used to create antique drawing effects...

If you start with a nice scan of old or brownish paper, there's an excellent technique involving alpha channels and the Glowing Edges filter that will enable you to simulate antique pencil sketches. We used a face for our subject, but feel free to try it with any object or scene you desire.

1 Open an image of some fibrous paper. In the Channels palette, click the 'Create new channel' button to create an alpha channel.
2 Open the image of your subject. Choose Select>All and then Edit>Copy from the menu. Return to your other image file.
3 Select your alpha channel and choose Edit>Paste. Choose Filter>Stylise>Glowing Edges.
4 Use a small edge width setting and a large edge brightness setting. Apply the filter and then click the 'Load channel as a selection' button in the Channels palette.
5 Click 'Create new layer' and fill the selection on the new layer with a dark sepia foreground colour.

19. Zooming in fast
Zoom effects are made even better than usual when key image elements remain preserved...

The Radial Blur filter provides an excellent and flexible zoom option that enables you to create dramatic movement emanating out from a central point. You can create more captivating images by utilising layer and masking tools to apply the zoom effect to desired areas only, preserving key visual elements.

1 Select your background layer in the Layers palette and choose Duplicate Layer.
2 Select your duplicated layer in and then choose Filter>Blur> Radial Blur from the menu.
3 Choose the Zoom method and an Amount of around 60 for a drastic effect. Specify a Quality setting.
4 Click and drag on the crosshair in the Blur Centre box. Drag the centre to approximately the same area within the image that you want the blur to emanate from. Click OK.
5 Click on the 'Add layer mask' button in the Layers palette and use the radial gradient, with a black-to- transparent setting, to click and drag over areas you wish to reveal.

20. Multi-layered motion
Motion Blur can be combined with Photoshop's layer and mask tools to produce convincing results...

Motion blur can indeed add movement to your pictures, but unfortunately it alters your original image in the process. However, if you use motion blur effects on masked duplicate layers, it's possible to achieve a convincing blur effect that preserves the desired portions of your original visual elements.

1 Start with an image of a moving object. Use the Pen tool to create a closed path that outlines the object.
2 Click on the 'Load path as a selection' button to generate a selection from your closed path.
3 With the selection active, click on your background layer and then choose Layer>New>Layer Via Copy to create a layer containing a duplicate of the selected area.
4 Choose Motion Blur. Adjust Angle and Distance to convey the speed and direction. Click OK.
5 Reduce the Opacity and click the 'Add layer mask' button. Use a soft round brush to edit the mask and reveal desired areas from the original background layer.

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