Smart Filters, first introduced in Photoshop CS3, let you apply any of Photoshop’s filter effects to a layer non-destructively. This means that — unlike a regular filter — a Smart Filter doesn’t permanently alter the pixels in a layer.
Smart Filters give you a lot of creative freedom. For example, you can:
- Toggle a Smart Filter on or off. Unlike a regular filter, where the effect is permanently applied, you can reverse the effect of a Smart Filter by just turning it off, or deleting it altogether. You can also easily compare an image with and without the filter effect by toggling the filter.
- Go back and edit a Smart Filter’s settings at any time. Smart filters are totally re-editable. Want to make a Gaussian Blur effect more prominent after you’ve applied it? Just double-click the Smart Filter and increase its Radius value.
- Easily mask off parts of a Smart Filter. This is my favourite Smart Filters feature. Each layer comes with its own filter mask, letting you selectively hide parts of a filter’s effect in the image by painting on the mask.
- Apply blending options to Smart Filters. Just as with layers, you can give each Smart Filter its own blend mode and tweak its opacity.