What are Photoshop neural filters? How do they work? And how can you use them to improve your editing workflow?
Whether you’re into portraits, landscapes, or any other type of photography, neural filters can make your editing faster and more effective. And while these filters might sound complex, they’re far easier to handle than you’d think.
In this article, I cover everything you need to know about doing top-notch neural filter post-processing. I explain what neural filters actually are, I share three of my favorite filters, and I offer a step-by-step guide so you can use them for consistently excellent results.
Let’s dive right in!
What are Photoshop neural filters?
You’ve probably heard of artificial intelligence (AI). Maybe you’ve even used photo-editing programs that rely on this technology.
While Adobe Photoshop isn’t built around AI, it has been implementing more and more tools that rely on AI software, and these advanced features help facilitate efficient editing.
Note that Adobe has been using AI technology for some time. It used to be confined to isolated tools such as the Content-Aware Fill option or the Smile feature in the Liquify filter. However, in October 2020, Photoshop gained a new dedicated workspace: Neural Filters.
In the Neural Filters workspace, you’ll find a library of filters that use AI to simplify different workflows, from skin smoothing and depth blurring to colorizing black and white images.
How to use the Neural Filters library
When you open the Neural Filters workspace in Photoshop, you’ll see the library with all of your available filters. You’ll notice two tabs: All Filters and Wait List.
Under the All Filters tab, you’ll find the available filters divided into two categories: Featured and Beta.
As you’d expect, Featured filters have been officially released and are fully functional; they’ve already passed Adobe’s quality tests and will give you good and consistent results.
The Beta filters, on the other hand, are still being tested. Some of them work well already, and others are less satisfactory. They’re a great way to get creative with your work when you don’t need a specific or perfect result.
In the other tab, Wait List, you’ll find filters still under development. Click on each work-in-progress filter to gain a small insight into what it may someday do.
Also: You can hit the I’m Interested button to share your feedback and let Adobe know which filters appeal to you most.
How to use neural filters (step by step)
As I mentioned above, using Photoshop’s neural filters is easy.
Start by opening an image – any image is fine! – then head to Filter>Neural Filters.
This will open a new workspace, where you’ll find a library of filters on the left and the selected filter panel on the right.
Hover over each filter in the library to see its effects. If a filter looks interesting, click the cloud icon to download it (you only need to do this step once for each filter).
Once a filter is downloaded, it will be available every time you go into the Neural Filters workspace. You simply need to enable it by clicking the corresponding button.
After you enable a filter, notice how the options in the right-hand panel become active. You can use this area to modify and fine-tune the effects. (The panel changes depending on the filter, so make sure you pay careful attention!)
While working, you can see a live preview of all the changes you make, plus you can toggle between a before and after view by clicking the icon in the bottom-left corner of the panel.
You can also choose the neural filter output. Do you want to adjust the current layer? A new layer? Or a separate document?
Once you’re satisfied, hit OK, then watch as your filter is applied! And you can always give your feedback to Adobe before you exit the Neural Filters workspace; just click the happy or sad face to indicate whether you’re satisfied with the results.
3 Photoshop neural filters everyone should know
Since Photoshop neural filters aren’t installed by default, you might be missing out on some amazing features!
In my opinion, the three filters listed below are the best options currently available. However, the list keeps growing – so don’t forget to keep updating Photoshop. Check back frequently for new filters!
The Colorize neural filter adds color to any black and white image. For a natural color effect, set the profile to None. Alternatively, choose any of the preset profiles. Then fine-tune the result using the sliders! If you need to colorize old photos, or if you shot in black and white but want to convert to color, this filter is the way to go.
2. Super Zoom
Have you ever found yourself wishing you had a longer lens? Then you’ll appreciate this filter. You can select a portion of your image and enlarge it up to 16 times its original size. Adobe’s AI will generate pixels to compensate for the loss of resolution, and you’ll get a high-quality result.
At the time of writing, this neural filter just found its way onto the Beta list, and I’m very excited about it. If you’ve ever done a photo composite, you’ll know that matching color and luminosity across layers can be tricky – yet thanks to AI, the Harmonization neural filter does it all for you!
Seeing the neural filters in action
All neural filters are unique, so I can’t give you a step-by-step guide that works for each and every one. Instead, I’ll talk you through just one of them so you can see how easy they are to use and how amazing they can be.
With a photo open in Photoshop, select Filters>Neural Filters. This will open the relevant workspace. Click on your filter of choice. In this case, we’re going to use the Landscape Mixer:
If you haven’t yet downloaded the Landscape Mixer, a Download button should appear on the right-hand side (along with the space requirements). Click the button, and once the download is finished, you’ll see all the filter options. (You don’t need to install anything, re-open Photoshop, or reload the filter’s workspace.)
Now, the Landscape Mixer can change the season present in a landscape scene, and it can even change the time of day. Drag the sliders to try it out, and you should see the results in real-time:
The Landscape Mixer neural filter can also combine your landscape with another image. Go ahead and click through some of the available preset images. You can adjust the strength of the effect using the top slider.
Here’s my example file combined with a sunset photo:
And here’s my file combined with a forest scene:
You can also mix your landscape with a custom image. Simply click Custom>Select, then choose an image from your computer:
Choose the image you want, and Photoshop will do the rest:
In the latter case, the result wasn’t great – but hey, the filter is still in Beta! And the other results were excellent, so I’d probably go back to one that I liked, such as the winter version.
Once you’re done applying the neural filter, select the output – which can be a new layer, the current layer, a new document, a Smart filter, or a masked layer. If you might want to go back and change the effect later on, you’ll need to select the Smart filter option, and if you want to add some adjustments using Photoshop’s adjustment layers, the new layer option is a good call. Then click OK:
And that’s it! As you can see, our example edit – turning a landscape scene from summer to winter – was done in seconds and required a single click. Yet it would normally require very advanced editing skills and several hours of work.
Photoshop neural filters: final words
Well, there you have it:
Everything you need to know about neural filters.
I hope this article encourages you to try out the filters; they’re incredibly powerful, plus they’re insanely easy to use.
Do you have any questions? How do you plan to use neural filters? Share your thoughts in the comments below!