Working with NIK Filters as Smart Objects in Photoshop

aka; Smart Filters, aka; Smart NIK Filters

Most of us know how to work in layers when adding filters and masks in Photoshop. Now you’ve invested in at least some if not the whole NIK Filters package, all of which work in Photoshop, Lightroom and Aperture. As far as I am concerned they were made with these nondestructive Smart Filters in mind. You will see the layers referred to as Smart Objects and sometimes Smart Filters but people are talking about the same thing.
The beauty of working in Smart Objects is that you can easily go back and make changes to previous layers and do so without causing damage to the original image. You can also go back and make changes to the original in Camera raw. when you add a filter you will see how it is shown in the layer window indented under a “Smart Filters” layer.

Here is a view of our sample image opened in Camera Raw.

At the bottom of the screen you can see the information line,

left click on that and it will bring up a dialog box where you can set the parameters for the image when opened in Photoshop. At the bottom of the window is a box you can check if you want the default to open images in Smart Objects. In the image above you can see that is my default. Usually the button in the lower right of ACR says Open Image. You can leave that way as the default but will have to hold the “Shift” key when opening a file for it to become a Smart Object. Conversely if “Open Object” is your default you will need to remember to hold the “Shift” key so tiff and jpeg files don’t open as a Smart Object.

Note how the Layer is shown in the Layers window with the small box inside the image. At this point and anytime throughout the rest of your life if you want to go back into Camera Raw and make a change you can do so by double clicking on that little box.

Your next step is to use your first NIK Filter. Always start with define to eliminate noise. I won’t attempt to get into the workings of the filters but rather how they will lay out in the Smart Objects work flow. Below is how the Layers window will look along with the image after applying the Define Filter.

You can see now how I am building up layers in Smart Objects. The next two sets of images show the changes in the Layers Window and the image after appling Color Efex Pro and Viveza.
Color Efex Pro 4



Although there is a Levels and Curves filter inside of CEP4 I prefer to add it after all is said and done as a mask if I feel it needs it. That way I can see the effect it has on the finished product. This is just a personal thing I have developed, you will create your own as you go along.

I also will add a layer with my logo outside of the Smart filter.

These filter layers can be deleted, turned on and off, modified and added too forever. when you reopen the file you will see your filter layers in the same structure as you created them just as you would any other .tiff file. By “clicking” on or off the “EYE” next to the filter name I can turn on and off the filter.
By double clicking the filter name I can go back to it and make changes or you may right click the filter name and select “Edit Filter”. The Nik filter will then re-launch for making changes.

When you right click on the name you get a drop down window with the four options you see below. The second image here shows what happened when I did that with an Output Sharpener filter and selected “Edit Smart Filter Blending Options”. The pop up box opens with a slider and zoom-able preview window.

One last trick is that you can re-arrange the order of the filters if you so desire. It will however make a difference in the outcome of the image.

If I ever make changes to a filter or move one and don’t like how it went the quickest thing to do is just hit “Undo”. This is much faster than reopening the filter, looking for the modification and changing it back then saving it. I have 3.8ghz processor and plenty of system memory yet it can still take a minute or so, if you are on a lap top with only 4 gb of ram and maybe around a 2.2 ghz cpu it will take longer than you may have the patience for. Hence, make a mental note of the changes you made in a specific filter when you save and if your memory is like mine, not the computer’s, “Undo” is quicker.

You will also see, and NIK will give you a pop-up reminder, that when you go back and modify an earlier filter you won’t be able to see how the later applied filters will affect it until after saving it and everything recalculates in Photoshop. With time you will gain a “sixth sense” of what you want to change to get the desired results even though you may not be able to see the finished adjustment yet. Hence the “Undo” time saver tip. Getting good at this is a trial and error sense that takes time to acquire and you will never be 100% correct, although you will often be pleasantly surprised. The more familiar you get with the filters, especially CEP4 with multiple filter layers within it, you will recognize what a modification did and what it needs to adjust it to your liking.

Hopefully this has broken the ice and you no longer apprehensive about working in Smart Objects and ready to watch additional tutorials on it. Here is the link to Adobe TV about Smart Filters/Objects where they will go into much greater detail. Once you start using the Smart Objects work flow you will rarely handle a file another way.

Nik Filters also offers some great on going and often updated webinars, on demand training videos for download and an Education blog with discussion, links and videos.

Most of all…HAVE FUN!!