How to Use Smart Filters in Photoshop: A Guide to Non-Destructive Editing

Adding, Deleting, and Adjusting Smart Filters in Photoshop

Adobe Photoshop's Smart Filters are a revolutionary feature that allows for non-destructive editing, providing creatives with the flexibility to adjust, combine, and experiment with effects without permanently altering the original image.

This guide will walk you through the process of adjusting Smart Filters, empowering you to enhance your digital artwork with ease and precision.

Table of Contents

Introduction to Smart Filters

“Smart Filters” offer a flexible approach to applying filters on “Smart Objects” in Photoshop. Unlike traditional filters, Smart Filters are non-destructive, allowing endless edits without degrading the original layer.

If you were to apply a filter on an image that wasn’t a “Smart Filter”, you would not be able to un-do your changes. With “Smart Filters," you would be able to modify or remove the filter if you’d like.

1. Applying Smart Filters to Your Work

To use Smart Filters, first, convert your layer into a Smart Object by right-clicking on the layer and selecting "Convert to Smart Object."

Click on “Convert to Smart Object”

Then, apply any Photoshop filter from the Filter menu in Photoshop’s navigation bar.

Selecting a filter from the “Filter” menu

Applying the “Radial Blur” filter

The filter will appear as a Smart Filter under the layer in the Layers panel, indicating it can be adjusted at any time.

2. Adjusting Smart Filters

To adjust an existing smart filter, double-click the Smart Filter's name in the Layers panel to reopen the filter's dialog box, where you can adjust the settings.

Double click on the filter name (e.g. “Radial Blur)

Each filter has its unique set of adjustable parameters, allowing for precise control over the effect.

After reopening the filter's dialog box, adjust the sliders or settings to modify the effect. This flexibility is particularly useful for fine-tuning filter effects as your project evolves.

Filter Settings

3. Blending Modes and Opacity Adjustments

To further refine the effect of a Smart Filter, you can adjust its Blending Mode and Opacity.

Double-click the blending options icon next to the Smart Filter's name in the Layers panel.

Click on the “Blending Options” icon

This opens a dialog box where you can select a blending mode and adjust opacity, allowing the filtered effect to blend seamlessly with the layers below.

Blending Options

4. Hiding or Deleting a Smart Filter

Managing Smart Filters effectively includes knowing how to temporarily hide or permanently remove them from your Smart Object layers. This flexibility allows you to compare edits, revert to original states, or declutter your workspace as needed.

Hiding a Smart Filter

To hide a Smart Filter and temporarily remove its effect from the layer, simply click the eye icon next to the Smart Filter's name in the Layers panel.

This action makes the filter effect invisible without deleting the filter itself, allowing you to easily toggle the effect on and off for comparison or iterative design processes.

Click on the “eye” icon next to “Radial Blur” or “eye” icon next to “Smart Filters” to disable all the Filters

Deleting/Disabling a Smart Filter

If you decide that a Smart Filter is no longer needed, you can remove it entirely from your Smart Object. To delete a Smart Filter, right-click (Windows) or Control-click (macOS) on the Smart Filter's name in the Layers panel and select "Delete Smart Filter."

Right-click (Windows) or Ctrl + Click (Mac) on the Smart Filter(s)

This action permanently removes the filter effect from the layer. Be sure you want to remove the filter before doing so, as this cannot be undone without stepping back in the history or reapplying the filter.

5. Creative Uses of Smart Filter Adjustments

Smart Filters can be layered and combined to create complex effects.

Use the non-destructive nature of Smart Filters to experiment with different filter combinations and settings, crafting unique textures and finishes.

Tips for a Streamlined Workflow

  • Organize your Smart Filters by renaming them according to their effect to keep track of adjustments.

  • Experiment with the mask associated with each Smart Filter to apply effects selectively on the image.

  • Save frequently used filter combinations as Smart Filter presets for efficient reuse in future projects.


Smart Filters in Photoshop are a powerful tool for creatives seeking flexibility and precision in their digital editing workflow.

By mastering the adjustment of Smart Filters, you can elevate your digital art, ensuring that each project is as dynamic and reversible as your creative process demands.

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