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Guide to Using Photoshop Smart Filters

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Photoshop Smart Filters

Do you want to unleash the full potential of Photoshop’s editing capabilities while maintaining the original quality of your images? Welcome to the world of Smart Filters, a powerful tool that lets you apply, adjust, and experiment with various filters without causing any harm to your precious image data.

In this article, I will explain how to use Photoshop Smart Filters in order to elevate your editing skills.

I am RayCee the Artist, a professional portrait photographer and event photographer, and if you would like to schedule a photoshoot with me, please contact me at!

Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram and YouTube!

Main Points

  • Understand the power of Photoshop Smart Filters to provide non-destructive editing.

  • Learn how to create, apply and edit filters with adjustable settings, blend modes and opacity control.

  • Discover tips & tricks such as stacking, reordering, duplicating and deleting for a more productive experience.

Understanding Photoshop Smart Filters

In the realm of image editing, Smart Filters are a game-changer. These non-destructive filters can be applied to Smart Objects in Photoshop, providing flexibility and re-editability that were once unimaginable. Gone are the days of making permanent modifications to your images with traditional filters, as Smart Filters maintain their settings and let you modify filter effects without affecting the original image data.

Smart Filters in Photoshop are incredibly powerful tools that can be used to enhance images in a variety of ways, and one of the best places to explore these tools is within the filter gallery, with smart filters applied.

What are Smart Filters?

Smart Filters are Photoshop filters designed to work with Smart Objects, enabling non-destructive and adjustable editing of filter effects. However, not all filters can be used as Smart Filters. Some filters that aren’t compatible with Smart Objects include:

  • Liquify

  • Pattern Maker

  • Vanishing Point

  • Extract

Despite these limitations, Smart Filters offer a non-destructive approach that allows you to experiment with different filters and filter settings without any risk of damage.

Benefits of Smart Filters

Harnessing the power of Smart Filters provides numerous advantages, including the ability to adjust settings, blend modes, and opacity, as well as the capability to apply multiple smart filters to a single layer.

The integrated layer mask in Smart Filters allows precise control over which parts of the image are impacted by the filters, giving you the freedom to create stunning visuals without compromising the original image quality.

Creating and Applying Smart Filters

Photoshop Smart Filters

Initiating your trek with Smart Filters requires an understanding of their creation and application in Photoshop. The process starts with converting a layer into a Smart Object, which is essential for preserving the original image data for non-destructive editing.

Once a Smart Object is created, you can apply a variety of Smart Filters to it. It offers more flexibility in your workflow compared to editing rasterized images. Smart Filters are an innovative feature of Photoshop that allows you to apply a variety of filter effects to your images without causing any permanent changes. This non-destructive editing tool provides a great deal of flexibility, enabling you to experiment with different filters and settings, and even adjust them later if needed. With Smart Filters, you can enhance your images in numerous ways, making them a valuable addition to any digital artist's toolkit.

Converting a Layer into a Smart Object

Serving as a container for image data, a Smart Object facilitates non-destructive editing of the base image. Right-clicking on a layer to convert it into a Smart Object is simple. Select “Convert to Smart Object” from the menu to complete the process. Once converted, you’ll notice the smart object icon on the smart object layer thumbnail, indicating its new status.

This vital action safeguards your original image data, enabling the application of Smart Filters without permanently modifying your image.

Applying Smart Filters from Filter Menu

The application of Smart Filters is quite straightforward. Once you have converted your layer into a Smart Object, select the relevant layer and choose the filter from the Filter menu. Most filters are compatible with Smart Objects, which means you have a plethora of creative options at your disposal.

Once a Smart Filter is applied, the corresponding slider(s) in the filter’s adjustment window can be tweaked, followed by selecting “OK”.

Editing and Managing Smart Filters

Photoshop Smart Filters

Having applied Smart Filters, the next step is to delve into the specifics of editing and managing them. Smart Filters offer a great deal of flexibility, allowing you to:

  • Adjust settings

  • Blend modes

  • Opacity

  • Rearrange, edit, or remove individual filters without affecting other filters applied to the same Smart Object.

You can also save Smart Filters as presets, which can be applied to other Smart Objects.

Editing Smart Filter Settings

Editing Smart Filter settings can be achieved by merely double-clicking the filter name within the Layers panel. This feature allows you to make adjustments even after the filter has been applied, giving you unparalleled control over your image editing process.

Once you’ve made your adjustments, click OK to apply the new settings.

Changing Blend Mode and Opacity

The capability to alter the blend mode and opacity constitutes another impactful aspect of Smart Filters. By selecting ‘Edit Blending Options’ next to the Filter Layer, you can adjust blending options as desired, controlling the impact of the Smart Filters on your image without affecting the underlying layer.

This level of control allows you to fine-tune your filter effects to achieve the perfect result.

Working with Smart Filter Masks

Photoshop Smart Filters

The addition of Smart Filter masks, also known as smart filter mask, to your editing workflow enhances its versatility, allowing for the selective application of filter effects to designated areas of an image. By manipulating filter masks, you gain precise control over which parts of the image will be impacted by the filters.

This allows you to create unique and creative looks that would otherwise be difficult to achieve. With

Creating and Editing Filter Masks

The process of creating and editing filter masks in Photoshop is as uncomplicated as utilizing the Brush Tool to paint in black or white on the layer mask of Smart Filters. By painting over a particular area on the layer mask with black, you can decrease or completely conceal the effect of the Smart Filters in that area of the image.

Painting with Brush Tool on Filter Masks

In terms of painting on filter masks, the Brush Tool proves to be an influential companion. By adjusting the brush color, size, and opacity, you can fine-tune the visibility of Smart Filter effects on different parts of your image.

With a little practice, you can master the art of painting on filter masks and unleash your creativity in new and exciting ways.

Utilizing Camera Raw as a Smart Filter

Photoshop Smart Filters

Camera Raw as a Smart Filter is the go-to choice for advanced image editing capabilities. By using Camera Raw in conjunction with Smart Filters, you gain access to a wide range of powerful image editing features that can elevate your work to new heights.

These features include the ability to adjust exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, whites, blacks, and color balance, providing a comprehensive suite of tools for advanced image editing.

Applying Camera Raw Filter

The application of the Camera Raw Filter to a Smart Object is an uncomplicated process. Simply select it from the Filter menu and begin exploring the wealth of image editing features available within the filter.

From exposure adjustments to color balance, the Camera Raw Filter offers an impressive array of tools to perfect your images.

Editing Camera Raw Filter Settings

Upon applying the Camera Raw Filter, its settings can be modified to refine image adjustments, including exposure, contrast, and color balance.

By mastering the Camera Raw Filter settings, you can elevate your image editing skills and achieve stunning results with greater ease and precision.

Tips and Tricks for Using Smart Filters

To maximize the potential of Smart Filters, it is beneficial to gain knowledge of various tips and tricks, such as:

  • Stacking filters

  • Reordering filters

  • Duplicating filters

  • Deleting filters

These techniques will help you apply smart filters more efficiently and effectively, allowing you to create stunning visuals with ease.

Stacking and Reordering Smart Filters

The ability to stack and reorder Smart Filters becomes an indispensable tool within your editing repertoire. By dragging Smart Filters in the Layers panel, you can change the order in which Photoshop applies the filters, giving you even more control over the final look of your image.

Experiment with different filter orders to achieve unique and captivating effects.

Duplicating and Deleting Smart Filters

Maintaining a clean and organized workflow necessitates proficiency in duplicating and deleting Smart Filters. Hold down Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac) while clicking and dragging the Smart Filter in order to duplicate it. Place it wherever necessary.

Click and hold on the Smart Filter. Drag it down to the bin icon at the bottom of the Layers panel to delete it.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you use smart filters in Photoshop?

Using Smart Filters in Photoshop is easy - simply select the Smart Object layer and choose the filter you'd like to use from the Filter menu, then make adjustments in the filter dialog.

What are smart objects and filters in Photoshop?

Smart objects and filters in Photoshop are a combination of a normal filter and a container to hold the contents of a layer safely inside it. Any changes made to the content within a smart object are applied to the container itself, not to its contents.

How do you displace a smart filter in Photoshop?

To displace a smart filter in Photoshop, double-click the filter and modify the settings, then select the Filter > Distort > Displace option in the Edit workspace. Finally, select an image, layer, or specific area to apply the filter to.

What are the main benefits of using Smart Filters in Photoshop?

Smart Filters in Photoshop offer non-destructive and adjustable editing, integrated layer masks for precise control, and the ability to apply multiple filters to a single layer, allowing for improved editing flexibility and customizability.

How do I convert a layer into a Smart Object?

Right-click on the layer and select "Convert to Smart Object" to convert a layer into a Smart Object.


Mastering Smart Filters in Photoshop will revolutionize your photo editing capabilities, providing you with the tools and techniques to create stunning visuals while preserving the original quality of your images. From understanding the benefits of Smart Filters to exploring advanced features like Camera Raw, the possibilities are endless. Now it’s your turn to put these skills into practice and elevate your work to new heights.

If you would like to learn about color swapping techniques that can be used in Photoshop, please feel free to read my article "Color Swap Photoshop."

I am RayCee the Artist, a professional portrait photographer and event photographer, and if you would like to schedule a photoshoot with me, please contact me at!

Also, be sure to follow me on Instagram and YouTube!


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