How to Recreate These 3 Popular Photographic Filters in Photoshop

By Jason Row / May 5, 2013

Last Updated on by

‘The best laid plans of mice and men' as the old adage goes – how many times have you set you camera up to take that spectacular scene in front of you only to realize it could look even better with a filter over your lens? You rummage around your camera bag only to remember the said filter is still sitting on your desk at home. In this tutorial, we are going to look at how to recreate some of the more popular photographic filters using Photoshop. It should said that although these techniques will help improve your image they are no substitute for the real thing.
Recreate a Graduated ND Filter in Photoshop
This is a very easy and fairly effective filter to recreate in Photoshop.
With you image open goto Layer – New – Layer. Give your layer a name, for example Grad and click OK.
Check that the new layer is selected in the Layers Palette on the right of the screen and then from the tool bar on the left click on the Gradient Tool. If you do not see this, right click the Paint Bucket tool and you should see the Gradient Tool.
At the top left of the screen click on the gradient editor and selected the Neutral Density grad at the bottom right of the Presets. You can make any minor adjustments using the sliders, you can also change the color of the grad to suit, for example an early morning sky.
When happy with the grad click ok.

Add a New Layer

Select the Gradient Tool

Now click at the very top of the image, and drag the filter down about two thirds of the image. You may need to experiment a little depending on where your horizon is.
Obviosuly the image is way too dark now but with the Grad layer selected in the Layers palette, change the blend mode from Normal to Overlay. You can now use the Opacity Slider to reduce the effect to suit.

Drag the Gradient to suit

Duplicate the Layer

Apply Image

With this done, we will now duplicate this layer to create a third layer.
Now we will apply a Gaussian Blur from Filters – Blur – Gaussian Blur. Use around 25 pixels as your radius.
Now with the uppermost of the three layers selected in the Layer Palette, change the blend mode to Multiply. Select both the top and middle layers and then in the menu goto Layers – Merge Layers.
You can now use the Opacity tool in the Layer Palette to back off any excess blurring.

So there you have it, three useful techniques to simulate on-lens filters in Photoshop.

About the author

Jason Row

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here


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