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This chapter is from the book


The Stylize filter family offers some wonderful effects. They are creative, and you can use them to add final effects or touches to an image. This section touches on the most interesting of the filters, including the Find Edges filter, the Glowing Edges filter, and the Wind filter.

Find Edges, Glowing Edges, and Trace Contour

These three effects sound as if they should look alike. They actually do look somewhat alike, with Glowing Edges and Find Edges being much more dramatic than Trace Contour. The Find Edges filter removes most of the colors from the object and replaces them with lines around every edge contour. The color of the lines depends on the value at that point on the original object, with lightest points in yellow, scaling through to the darkest points, which appear in purple. The picture looks like a rather delicate-colored pencil drawing of itself. Find Edges works best, naturally, on photos that have a lot of detail for the filter to find. In Figure 16.17, I've applied it to a digital photo of an old car. Find Edges sometimes becomes more interesting if you apply it more than once to the same picture. If you apply it once and don't like the result, try it again before you move on to a different filter, or increase the contrast in the original photo before you try again. Touching up areas afterward with the Sponge Tool can bring out colors you hardly knew were there.

Figure 16.17 Notice how Find Edges picks up the detail of the car wheels and the license plate collection.

Unfortunately, you cannot set the sensitivity of the Find Edges filter. In practical terms, this means that you have to prepare the picture before you trace it. Begin by running the Despeckle filter (in the Noise submenu) so that Photoshop won't attempt to circle every piece of dust in the background. If you don't want the background to show, select and delete it, or select your object and copy it to a separate layer first. You can also use the Edit→Fade command to back off the strength of the filter. Using this filter with different blending modes can produce some spectacular effects.

Glowing Edges is more fun because it's prettier, and because you can adjust it to have maximum impact on your picture. Glowing Edges turns the edges into brightly colored lines against a black background. The effect is reminiscent of neon signs. You can vary the intensity of the color and the thickness of the line.

In Figure 16.18, I've applied Glowing Edges to the same picture. It works especially well with busy pictures with lots of edges. The more it has to work with, the more effective the filter is.

Figure 16.18 Some of the color remains, but the background goes black.

Trace Contours, like several of the previous filters, works better on some pictures if you apply it several times (see Figure 16.19). The Trace Contour dialog box has a slider setting for the level at which value differences are translated into contour lines. When you move the slider, you are setting the threshold at which the values (from 0–255) are traced. Experiment to see which values bring out the best detail in your image. Upper and Lower don't refer to the direction of the outline. Lower Outlines specifies where the color values of pixels fall below a specified level; Upper Outlines tells you where the values of the pixels are above the specified level.

Figure 16.19 The image was traced several times with different settings.

I like to use this filter to place different tracings on different layers and then to merge them for a more complete picture.


The Wind filter creates a neat directional blur that looks, strangely enough, like wind. You can control the direction and the amount of wind in the dialog box (see Figure 16.20). This is a great filter for creating the illusion of movement and for applying to type. It works best when applied to a selected area rather than to the entire picture.

Figure 16.20 The Wind filter and its dialog box.

One of this book's editors adds, "My favorite Wind filter effect is making a brushed metal look by adding noise to the basic metal color and then hitting it with wind from both directions, followed by a bit of tweaking for the perfect illusion." Thanks, Jon!


Honestly, the Emboss filter doesn't do much for most photos. It turns an image into a bas-relief, though not as well as the Bas Relief filter does. In the process, the Emboss filter converts the image to medium gray. Photoshop also has a layer effect called Emboss, which seems to be a lot more flexible, but is also more complicated to use. The Emboss filter has only three options: Shadow Angle, Height, and Amount. Figure 16.21 shows a piece of embossed type, first embossed with the filter and then with the layer effect.

Figure 16.21 On top, the Emboss filter; below, the Emboss layer effect.

Occasionally, you come across a photo, like this picture of a lion, which almost begs to be turned into a corporate logo or advertising image (see Figure 16.22). In such cases, the Emboss filter can do wonders to make the picture just abstract enough to be useful. In working with this photo, I found that the angle at which the filter is applied can make a major difference. Figure 16.22 shows two different angle settings applied to the same picture. The Height and Amount settings were the same for both.

Figure 16.22 On the left, the lion's lower jaw appears to come forward. On the right, it recedes.

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