Photoshop Filter Gallery



Feature: Photoshop's Filter Gallery has some nifty capabilities
Motivation: Not the least of which it turns weakness to strength

The Filter Browser or Filter Gallery in Photoshop is a good an example of how Adobe took a weak feature in Photoshop and converted it into an outstanding strength. At the same time Photoshop provided its users with a whole new set of options for applying filters, particularly artistic filters, more effectively.

But first it is worth the while to take a look at the before situation. The screenshot at the left shows the typical Photoshop filter dialog from editions 3 through 7. Nothing to write home about and falling well behind competitors like Corel PhotoPaint and PaintShop Pro or Ulead Photo Impact that had bigger and better preview options including the ability to see full screen or before/after filter views.

In addition, all three competitors provided better preview facilities for choosing individual filters. Finally, the competition was adding new save as default and remembered last settings. In sum, Photoshop was falling well behind the competition in providing Filter support. But by adding the new Filter Gallery or Filter Browser, Photoshop leapfrogged the competition in one update when Photoshop CS1 was introduced. Suddenly one of the weak points, becomes a competitive advantage for Photoshop.

First, the Filter Gallery provided a completely new way to display the choices of over 70 different filters and effects available in Photoshop. next and most importantly, Filter Gallery allowed Photoshop to show a much bigger preview of the image after the effect had been applied (Filter Gallery still does not provide a before and after view).

Third, the Filter Gallery also remembers the last settings for each filter as it is used and remembers the last filter used as well. So when the Filter Gallery starts up it resumes with the most recently used filter with its last settings. Photoshop still does not provide like in Corel Paintshop Pro a way to save settings for every filter (Photoshop has a small set of filters that do allow for saved settings).

This is an unexpected shortcoming because Photoshop pioneered the use of save options in their filter and effects dialogs. But competitors like Corel Paint Shop Pro have carried this idea to the logical conclusion and have added two capabilities - 1)in all their filter and color adjustment dialogs, they remember the previous settings and 2)allow users to save named settings as well. For some complex filter this latter capability is an absolute boon. PaintShop Pro takes advantage of saved setting and when you choose the effects browser it shows all your saved settings.

If Photoshop had added this one feature, then the Filter Gallery would have been indisputedly better than all the rest of competitive offerings. But even without this "memory", Photoshop's Filter Gallery has a lot of winning features.

The screenshot immediately below shows the new Filter Browser or Filter Gallery in Photoshop CS1 and CS2. The Filter gallery is divided into three panels. On the left is a much bigger preview window. because the dialog can be expanded to fill the screen size and the easier magnify tool is available - it is much easier to preview a filter and see all the details of the effect.

The second panel shows all the filters that users can choose from in a helpful thumbnail preview. Click on a thumbnail and that filter is applied to the image. So unlike in some of the other photo edit programs, it is easy to check out how any of the Adobe filters will work. However, 3rd party Adobe plugin effects and filters are not yet incorporated into the Filter gallery. By the way, this middle panel can be closed to give an even larger preview area - just click the two up arrow chevrons to the left of the OK button in the top third of the dialog. To restore the middle panel just click the chevron again (its downward pointing now) and the thumbnails are restored.

New Features

The third panel provides all the control over the filter. It is divided into two three parts. First, is the OK and Cancel buttons. Until users click the OK none of the effects/filters are applied to the original image layer. Of course Cancel returns to the original image with no effect applied. The next part names the filter in a selection box ( pulldown to change the filter here - that is why it is possible to collapse the middle thumbnails yet still be able to choose another filter). Below the filter name is all the parameters used to control the filter. Change a parameter and the preview changes almost instantly This is a big improvement over the old Photoshop filter dialogs.

Finally the third part of the third panel contains the piece de resistance - the best feature of the new Filter gallery. Adobe developers have put in a simple but quite effective Layers capability into the Filter Gallery. this allows users to add two or more filters at the same time to produce subtle cross filter effects that can't be done as quickly and efficiently anywhere else in photo editing.

The trick is to know that clicking the tiny layer icon on the bottom of the screen adds a new layer but using the existing filter. However, it is easy to change the filter by pressing on a thumbnail or choosing one from the Filter name selection dropdown. To change a filter on a layer just highlight the filter name and the choose another filter. To temporarily turn off a filter in the layer stack, just do what you would do in Photoshop's main layer control- click on the eye icon to hide a layer, click on it again to make it visible.

Finally you can change the order in which the filters apply by just dragging the filter's layer up or down in the layer stack. And you will be surprised at what effects moving the filter up and down has. Even more important, as previously alluded to, the processing speed to show the new effects is remarkably fast for modest sized images(1000 x 800, 120dpi). But of course it slows as the images get bigger. Oh I forgot, you can mask a layer before submitting it to the Filter Gallery and it will apply the filter only to the selected area. However, in the preview mode it shows the filter being applied to the complete layer - Corel and others only show the masked area - sometimes useful, sometimes not.

So this is how Adobe turned an old and drab feature into a winner in one bold stroke. The interesting point is that they have done this before - think masking, think brushes. Kudos again to Adobe's Photoshop developers.

(C)JBSurveyer  Home  Adobe Overview