How to Use the Median Filter in Photoshop CS6

By Barbara Obermeier

The Median filter (look for it on the Filter→Noise menu) in Photoshop CS6 reduces the difference between adjacent pixels by changing the values of some of them. In this case, it assigns the median values of a group of pixels to the center pixel in the group.

The Median filter gives you a bit of control. You can choose the radius of the group that Photoshop uses to calculate the median value. Median tends to make an image look a bit blurrier because it reduces the contrast of adjacent pixels. However, it does a good job of smoothing the image and removing artifacts.

Sometimes, a little blur can add a soft, romantic mood or angelic glow that can improve glamour photos, pictures of kids, or even something as mundane as a flower.

The secret is to apply only enough blurring to provide the soft effect you want without completely obliterating your original subject. Assuming, of course, that your subject doesn’t deserve obliteration; that the kids are your own (or those of a close friend or relative); and that they are, in fact, of that rare angelic variety.

You don’t want to use this effect on other subjects, such as men, who generally like a rugged, masculine appearance. Many senior citizens regard the age lines on their faces as badges of distinction earned over a long, rewarding life. Don’t try softening them up with glowing effects, either.

To add an angelic glow to your little angel, just follow these steps:

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.


  2. Choose Layer→Duplicate Layer to create a copy of the image layer.

  3. Select Filter→Blur→Gaussian Blur.

    Gaussian Blur softens the upper layer, producing an airy glow.

  4. Move the Radius slider to the right to produce a moderate amount of blur and then click OK to apply the blurring effect.


  5. In the Layers panel, select Lighten from the Blending Modes pop-up menu.

  6. Use the Opacity slider (click the right-pointing arrow to access the slider) to reduce the amount of glow (if it’s too much for your tastes).

  7. Choose Layer→Flatten Image to combine all the layers.


    Experiment with different amounts of Gaussian Blur until you find the perfect glowing effect.