Photoshop Quick Tip: Using Smart Objects and Smart Filters

Photoshop Quick Tip: Using Smart Objects and Smart Filters

Nothing makes designing non-destructively in Photoshop easier than Smart Objects. If you’re not familiar with the term “non-destructive design” it basically means to apply effects and edits to a layer without destroying that layers original contents. With Smart Objects and Smart Filters you’re applying your filters separately as you would layer styles, they remain editable and can also be partially removed like a layer mask.

To convert a layer to a Smart Object simply Ctrl+Click the layer in the layer palette and select Convert to Smart Object from the popup menu.

Now you’ll notice an icon placed in the layer thumb. This is to let you know that the layer is now a Smart Object. Now try applying a filter such as Gaussian Blur.

The filter is applied similar to a layer style. It can be clicked and edited again if needed. You can also take the brush tool and draw on the layer mask above the filter to edit where the effect is applied.

The filters can easily be turned off or removed to reveal your layer’s original state. Absolutely no destruction done!

If you have some other useful tips regarding Smart Objects and Smart Filters share them in the comment field below.


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Nathan Brown

Nathan Brown is a graphic designer who loves working with various media. He combines traditional art styles with a little experimentation and digital flare. Nathan's works have contained everything from ink and paint to leaves and a box of dirt. Everything is fare game when it comes to his approach to art. Nathan lives in Austin, Texas where he has been working as a designer for 10 years.


(+add yours)
  1. Rachmat Arsyadi

    Very Useful.. Thanks!

  2. joshua muise

    Excellent reminder to use this feature more!
    I am a large fan of non-destructive design. I cannot name the amount of times I have recieved a file from a fellow Artist with merged, baked layers with several filter passes performed on them with no trace of the original image.

  3. Well done, I do not really use smart object or smart filters. but after getting into web design, I realize how flexible this feature and start use it a lot.

    So to help other designer how to use this feature, I also write my own small tips on how to use smart filters, I hope it is useful for design community.

  4. Short and good tutorial

  5. I Like it.. Your article is very interesting..

    Thank You so much

  6. Great filter tips, thanks for sharing!

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