Using Neural Filters in Photoshop

Cover of CreativePro Magazine Issue 31: Vectorizing LogosThis article appeared in Issue 31 of CreativePro Magazine.

Look up neural in the dictionary, and you will find this definition: “of or relating to a nerve or the nervous system.” Look up the term in Adobe Support, and you find Neural Filters. The promise of these evolving and aptly named Photoshop filters is that they are part of a connected network, powered by a machine learning model, known in Adobe parlance as Adobe Sensei, that will dramatically reduce difficult workflows to just a few clicks. Should we believe the hype?

In practice, Neural Filters are like a modernized version of the old Filter Gallery. Some are gimmicky; others have practical applications. Most require a lot of processing power. I’d been reluctant to dive into Neural Filters after my early forays resulted in a lot of spinning beach balls and few tangible results. But I felt I could ignore them no longer. While still changing, the offerings have solidified, and although not totally stable, they are more stable than they were.

The examples I’ll discuss later are Neural Filters I consider “successful.” Although I must confess, I had a low bar for success: I didn’t hate their results. Before we dig into individual filters, however, consider some Neural Filter basics.


To begin, choose Filter > Neural Filters. This switches you to a new workspace where all the normal tools and panels are hidden, and the entire window is devoted to working with Neural Filters (Figure 1).

Dialog box for Neural Filters in tab above left shows settings for active filter Harmonization. Callout to cloud-with-down-arrow icon says "the first time you use a Neural Filter you need to download it from the cloud." Callout to the switch icon reads "'Light switch' turns filter on." Callout to lower left icon reads"Show original.' Callout to layers icon reads "Switch between showing all layers and the selected layer."  Output menu shown as drop-down with Smart Filter option checked. Labeled "Note: Colorize all has the option to output a color layer." Upper right icon (curved arrow pointing backwards atop a horizontal baseline rule); callout reads "Reset."  Toolbar identified from top to bottom: Add to, subtract from, hand, zoom.

Figure 1. The Neural Filters workspace

The first time you use a Neural Filter, you need to click the cloud icon to the right of the filter name to download the filter’s code from the cloud. Next, turn on the filter and adjust its options to your liking.

There are three categories of Neural Filters:

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Nigel French is a graphic designer, photographer, and design teacher, based in Lewes, UK. He is author of InDesign Type (now in its 4th Edition), The Type Project Book (with Hugh D’Andrade) and the Photoshop Visual Quickstart Guide (with Mike Rankin) from Peachpit Press. He has recorded more than fifty titles in the LinkedIn Learning online training library.


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