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How to Work in Photoshop CS6’s Filter Gallery

The Filter Gallery dialog box in Photoshop CS6, technically an editing window, gives you an alternative route to access and apply filters. To put it onscreen, choose Filter→Filter Gallery. In this window, you can apply multiple filters, as well as edit or delete them later. This feature has made filters more flexible, more user-friendly, and easier to apply.

Follow these steps to get up and running in the Filter Gallery:

  1. Choose Filter→Filter Gallery.

    The Filter Gallery dialog box appears.

  2. Click your desired filter category folder.

    The folder expands and displays the filters in that category. A thumbnail illustrating the filter’s effect accompanies each filter. To collapse the filter category folder, simply click it again.

  3. Select the filter you want to apply.

    [Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco Image #7800556]
    Credit: ©iStockphoto.com/JLBarranco Image #7800556
  4. Specify any settings associated with the filter.

    You get a large preview of your image in the left side of the dialog box. Use the magnification controls to zoom in and out of the preview. When you change your settings, the preview dynamically updates itself. To preview a different filter, simply select that filter.

    If you want your custom settings to be the new default for the filter, simply hold down the Ctrl key (Command key on the Mac) while you are specifying your settings. The Cancel button changes to Default. After you have established your settings, release the Ctrl (or Command) key. Your new settings then become the new default.

  5. When you’re happy with the filter, click OK to apply the filter and exit the dialog box.

  6. If you want to apply another filter, click the New Effect Layer button at the bottom of the dialog box.

    Clicking this button duplicates the existing filter.

  7. Select your new filter, which then replaces the duplicate.

    Photoshop lists each of the filters you apply to the image in the bottom-right of the dialog box.

  8. When you’re done, click OK to apply the second filter and exit the dialog box.

    You can apply as many filters as you want to your image. But, often, less is more.

Here are some other helpful tips to keep in mind when you’re using the Filter Gallery:

  • To delete an applied filter, select it in the list in the lower-right portion of the dialog box and click the Delete Effect Layer button at the bottom of the dialog box.

  • To edit an applied filter’s settings, select it in the list and make any necessary changes. Click OK to reapply. Although you can edit a particular filter’s settings, that edit affects any subsequent filters you’ve made after applying that particular filter.

  • You can rearrange the order of the applied filters. Simply select and drag the filter up or down within the list. This changes the resulting effect of the filters.

  • To resize the Filter Gallery dialog box, drag the lower-right corner.

  • To hide the Filter menu and provide the maximum real estate for the preview box, click the arrow to the left of the OK button.

  • You can choose any of the filters found in the Filter Gallery from the Filter menu itself. Choosing a Filter menu filter launches the Filter Gallery automatically — but not all filters are available in the Filter Gallery. You have to access some of them individually from the Filter menu.

Don’t be misled into thinking that the Filter Gallery is like layer styles, where the styles can be removed and the underlying pixel data is returned to its pristine, original state. Regular filters change the pixels of an image permanently, and after you apply one, you can’t remove it. Be sure that you really like what you’ve done and that you have a backup copy of your image.

That being said, if you do want your filters to act like layer styles, they can. You can apply a Smart Filter to any layer that you first convert into a Smart Object. Smart Filters enable you to apply a filter nondestructively, without altering any underlying pixels.

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