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Sally Jane Photographic Art

Adobe Photoshop Tutorial


Photoshop Filter Menu

This page is incomplete. I will be adding to it over time.

When you click on the Filter heading on the menu bar you will get this drop down list.

filter listThere are loads of various filters in Photoshop. Your version may have slightly different ones but no matter. This list is divided up into 4 sections. The top section has just one option, called last filter here. Normally this will have the name of which ever filter you used last and if you click on it it will apply it exactly as it was applied before without any dialog box.

The second section has a group of applications that were not originally classed as filters and in you have an older version of Photoshop you may not find them here. It includes Extract for removing complicated subjects from backgrounds, Filter Gallery where you can see all the filters in one hit, Liquify tool which allows you to mess around with the image as if it was composed of wet oil paints and you were dragging your finger through it, Pattern Maker and Vanishing Point.

The third section is the main filter section. the filters are all sub listed under headings with little black arrows indicating another drop down list for each of them.

The very bottom section are for 3rd party plug-ins that can be purchased separately.

Filters are complex algorithms that are applied to your image to produce different effects. The names of the filters are meant to give you a clue as to what they might look like when applied but some of these names leave a lot to be desired in terms of description. The best way to find out what they look like is to go through them one by one and try them out on an image. Most of the filters will require you to select different settings before they are applied providing even more choice. If anything there is a bewildering array of combinations here that you'll probably never get to grips with all of them but will simply pick your favourites and stick to those.

Below are some of the filters I regularly use and descriptions of how I apply them. I will be adding to this list in no particular order so keep checking back. If you would like me to describe a particular filter please contact me.

Blur - Gaussian Blur

Gaussian blur is great for adding a soft dreamy effect to your images. To see how click on the link for the video below. Please remember there is no sound with this video. Also if a menu appears with no obvious reason why it will be because I have right clicked on that area.

Video - Adding a soft focus effect

Brush Strokes - Accented Edges


There is no such thing as digital sharpening. It's just an optical illusion. The only real sharpening comes when you focus your lens on the image in the first place. Digital sharpening is a destructive process that occurs either in camera automatically or in you editing program once you have uploaded it. All that happens when you use one of these programs is that the software looks for edges of contrast and makes these edges more contrasty by lightening the lighter side and darkening the darker side. This creates the illusion in our eyes that these edges are sharper. A very small amount of sharpening can indeed punch up an image but too much and the image is ruined.

Rule of thumb here. If you can tell that an image has been digitally sharpened then it has been over sharpened.

How do you know an image has been sharpened? First, it looks harsh on the eye and second, in bad cases you can see a white halo around the subjects.

My advice on sharpening is - disable it on your camera. If the default is to sharpen every image then remove this as not all images will require sharpening and the only way you are going to know is to look at them on the PC/Mac. If an image doesn't need it why have it sharpened?

Once you have it on your monitor, look at it at 100%. You cannot tell for sure until you see the image full size on your screen that it requires sharpening.

Ok so you decide you image looks a bit soft. (If it's out of focus, forget it, you can't work miracles).

I always use the Smart Sharpen filter but older versions won't have this so use the Unsharp Mask filter instead. In unsharp mask you have 3 sliders. We will start at the bottom which is 'Threshold'. This tells the program how different the pixels need to be before they are considered an edge. If you only want obvious edges to be sharpened you might want to slide this slider up to a high value but if you are interested in picking out more detail in say fur, feathers or petals you will need a low value here of about 2 or 3.

The next slider up is 'Radius'. This tells the program how far out in pixels you want the sharpening to occur from the edges as defined. Remember this is an illusion created by these adjacent pixels having their brightness values changed. The higher the value the more pixels out from the edge will be effected and the more likely you will see the 'damage' caused. I usually keep this to a minimum of just 1.

The top slider asks how much sharpening you require in a % form. Initially try 50% if you can see any change in the preview window you can up it to 100%. Much more and the effects will look false. You can test your result in the preview window by clicking your mouse on it. Hole the mouse button down and you see the image without any sharpening, release the mouse button and the sharpening is shown.

When you are happy, click OK and the sharpening will be applied.

Before you do this, however, now is a good time to see what effects the Radius slider has. Try sliding it up all the way and see what it does to your image in the preview window. Yuk! Now put it back again. You can experiment with the other sliders like that but if you want your image to look natural then stick with the selections I have given you or at least something near to them.

A few other things to note. If your image is noisy, sharpening will make it worse.

The higher the resolution of your image the more sharpening you can get away with without it noticing provided you are not planning on printing large format.

The video tutorial below shows you how to apply sharpening to just small areas in your image in a way that gives you total control. You do this by applying the sharpening to a duplicate layer. Because you will be modifying this and can control the opacity and therefore the strength of this layer you can be quite heavy handed with the sharpening and as you will see I really pump it up to 200% with a radius of 2 so that the effects show up clearly on the video. I probably wouldn't go to this extreme normally but even so, it is so versatile that you can easily fade the effect if it is too much. I then apply a layer mask which I totally fill with black so as to disable the effect of this sharpened layer completely. Uh! Just stay with me, it will make sense...I promise. By painting on this black layer mask in white with a soft brush I can control exactly where the sharpening will be applied. With layer masks anywhere that is black removes that part of the layer and anywhere that is white restores that part of the layer. Anything gray is half way inbetween depending on the shade of gray. So if I make mistakes I can paint them over in black again to remove them. I can use the opacity slider on the brush to lessen the effect as I paint by effectively turning it gray or do it all at 100% (black) and simply lower the opacity of the layer in the layers pallet if it seems too strong. The beauty is also that no changes have been made what so ever to your original image until you are totally happy. Then you can flatten it and save your file as normal.


Selective sharpening using a layer mask


Recommended Further Reading for Photoshop

Return to introduction & contents page

"A-Z of Digital Editing"


Contact Sally Jane

Tel. 07956 448690

e-mail - Images@sally-jane.com