Photoshop CS3 Tutorial: Smart Filters retouch

Welcome to my first online tutorial, where we will explore the new Smart Filters feature in Photoshop CS3 to create a subtle retouch.

This method uses dynamic filters, allowing you to make countless edits to your filter as you work. Magazine perfect skin retouch made easy!

1. Let’s start by opening the provided image green_girl.jpg in Photoshop CS3. Download this file if you want to follow the lesson with it, or use one of your own (best if it’s a good detailed shot) I have chosen this particular picture from istockphoto because it is clear, and although her skin is pretty good, it just needs a little Photoshop help to look magazine perfect.

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2. Next, we will create a duplicate of the girl layer. Simply click on the options at the top of the layer panel and select “Duplicate Layer” form the fly out menu.

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3. Name this layer “Smooth”. This should appear above your background layer.4. Now comes the smart bit. To make this layer a powerful object which can accept filters and then have them edited, we have to convert it to a Smart Object. Go to menu > Filter> Convert for Smart Filters.. This will turn the layer into a Smart Object, and allow you to use PhotoShop Filters non destructively.

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5. Now the layer is ready, we can apply a subtle Smart Blur Filter on it.

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6. Click inside the preview window that appears to drag the view around until you can focus on an area of skin, then use the Radius and Threshold sliders to adjust the amount of blur. Don’t worry about the loss of detail in the eyes, just concentrate on getting the skin nice and smooth.

Why Smart Blur – What does Smart Blur do? It smoothes out grain and noise patterns between edges without adversely affecting image sharpness or fine detail.

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7. When you are happy, click ok to accept the filter, and take a look at the layers panel.The Smart Object Layer “Smooth” now displays 2 sub objects, one is a white layer and the other a Smart Blur Filter effect.

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8. Click on the thumbnail for the “Smart Filters” Layer When selected, you will see a selection box around it, as shown below. This is really a layer mask, the white areas in this layer mask reveal the filter, and any black areas hide it. At the moment, the layer mask is completely white, which makes the filter active on all pixels of the image.

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9. As soon as you click on the layer mask thumbnail, the toolbar colour chips will change to default black and white. this will allow you to “paint” away areas of the layer mask to hide the filter and let the other layer below show through. remember, painting in black will hide the filter, and painting white will show it.

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10. Now select the brush tool, and using the control palette that displays above the image, choose a soft brush. I’ve gone for 45pixels diameter with a soft edge of 0% hardness. I’ve also chosen 50% opacity to ensure I build up areas gradually – this will give you more control as you brush away the mask.

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12. Start brushing over the eye area of the mask – as you paint, the mask is getting erased and the filter is hidden, letting the bottom layer reveal through.

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13, Continue brushing over areas you want to remove the Smart Blur filter from, For example, her eyes, lips, eyebrows …Remember the outer contours of her face, hairline, sweater and earrings! We want them to look nice and crisp.

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14. The finished article.

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15. “But I do this is in another way and the results are the same- what’s so special about Smart Filters?” I hear you cry. Well my friend, the real power of Smart Filters is the fact that you can return, at any time, to the filter and edit it, So if for example I decide that the Smart blur is too severe, I can simply double click on the “Smart blur” Filter under my layer mask and Voila! – the filter settings are available, giving me control over my filter time and time again. Gone are the days of multiple layers each with a variation of the same filter!

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Well, that’s it folks. Hope you enjoyed this mini-tutorial on Photoshop CS3’s new feature – Smart Filters. 

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