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Chapter 8. Using Photoshop CS’s Filters >  What Kinds of Filters Are Available?...

What Kinds of Filters Are Available?

The plug-ins available for Photoshop fall into several broad categories:

  • Image Enhancement filters. I use this term for filters that improve the appearance of images without making basic changes in the content of the images. You have to apply the term “basic changes” loosely, since some of these can make dramatic modifications. Sharpen, Unsharp Mask, Dust and Scratches, and similar filters are all image enhancement plug-ins. Blur filters are also image enhancement filters: There are many images that can be improved through a little judicious blurring. This kind of filter can be applied to an entire image, or just a portion that you have selected.

  • Attenuating filters. I borrowed this word from the photographic world to describe filters that act like a piece of glass or other substance placed between the image and your eye, superimposing the texture or surface of the object on your picture. Think of a piece of frosted glass, translucent scrap of canvas fabric, or a grainy sheet of photographic film. These, or any of dozens of other filters, including most Noise and Texturizing filters, can add a texture or distort your image in predictable ways. Attenuating filters may be applied to a whole image, or just a selection.

  • Distortion filters. These filters actually move pixels from one place in an image to another, providing mild to severe distortion. Filters that map your image to a sphere, immerse it in a whirlpool, or pinch, ripple, twirl, or shear bits here and there can provide distortion to some or all of an image.

  • Pixelation filters. Adobe’s own terminology is good enough for me to use in referring to a group of filters that add texture or surface changes, much like attenuating filters, but take into account the size, color, contrast, or other characteristic of the pixels underneath. These include Photoshop’s own Crystallize, Color Halftone, Fragment, and Mezzotint filters. The Pointillize or Facet filters, for example, don’t simply overlay a particular texture—the appearance of each altered pixel incorporates the underlying image.

  • Rendering filters. Again, Adobe’s terminology is a good way to describe filters that create something out of nothing, in the way that a 3D rendering program “creates” a shaded model of an object from a wire-frame skeleton. These filters may or may not use part of the underlying image in working their magic: Photoshop’s Clouds filter creates random puffy clouds in the selected area, while Difference Clouds inverts part of the image to produce a similar effect. Lens Flare and Lighting Effects generate lighting out of thin air, while the Chrome filter produces Terminator 2-like surfaces.

  • Contrast-enhancing filters. Many filters operate on the differences in contrast that exist at the boundary of two colors in an image. Sharpening and blurring filters are types of filters that do this, but I’ve lumped them into the Image Enhancement category. Other contrast-enhancing filters are used to produce special effects. By increasing the brightness of the lighter color or tone, and decreasing the brightness of the darker color or tone, the contrast is increased. Since these boundaries mark some sort of edge in the image, contrast-enhancing filters tend to make edges sharper. The effect is different from pure sharpening filters, which also use contrast enhancement. Filters in this category include all varieties of filters with names like Find Edges, Glowing Edges, Accented Edges, Poster Edges, Ink Outlines, and even most Emboss and Bas Relief filters.

  • Other filters and plug-ins. You’ll find many more different add-ons that don’t fit exactly into one of the categories above, or which overlap several of them.



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