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Photo Effects Tip: Restore Missing Filters In Photoshop CS6

Written by Steve Patterson. Adobe made some major changes to Photoshop’s interface with CS6. The new darker color may be the most immediately obvious change, but it’s not the only one. Another big change in particular may cause some confusion when creating photo effects, especially if you use Smart Filters.

If you’ve used earlier versions of Photoshop and upgraded to CS6, you may have noticed that the Filter menu in the Menu Bar along the top of the screen has been, well, filtered. Some of the filter groups from Photoshop CS5 and earlier – Artistic, Brush Strokes, Sketch and Texture – are completely missing from the Filter menu in CS6, while other groups have had filters removed. The good news is, the missing filters and groups are not actually gone. Adobe simply removed them from the Filter menu to streamline the interface and as of Photoshop CS6, they’re now found exclusively in the main Filter Gallery.

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That may be fine for some people, but what if you’re not one of these "some people"? What if you prefer having access to all of Photoshop’s filters directly from the Filter menu, the way things used to be? As we’ll see, this isn’t just about a personal preference. Being forced to select filters from the Filter Gallery can actually make Smart Filters a bit less useful than they were before. Let’s look at the problem, and then we’ll learn how to easily fix it.

First, the problem. Here’s an image I currently have open in Photoshop CS6 (classic car photo from Shutterstock):

Classic pink car at beach. Photo licensed from Shutterstock by Photoshop Essentials.com
The original photo.

Let’s say I want to apply the Cutout filter to this image, one of Photoshop’s more popular creative-type filters. Let’s also say that I want to apply it as a Smart Filter, which will keep the Cutout filter fully editable in case I want to make changes later. To apply the Cutout filter, or any filter, as a Smart Filter, I first need to convert the layer my image is sitting on into a Smart Object. If we look in my Layers panel, we see my photo sitting on the Background layer. To convert the layer into a Smart Object, I’ll click on the small menu icon in the top right corner of the Layers panel:

Clicking the menu icon in the Layers panel. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Clicking the menu icon in the Layers panel.

Then I’ll choose Convert to Smart Object from the menu that appears:

Choosing Convert to Smart Object from the Layers panel menu. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Choosing Convert to Smart Object from the menu.

The photo still looks the same in the document window, but a small Smart Object icon in the lower right corner of the preview thumbnail in the Layers panel tells us the layer is now a Smart Object (Photoshop has also renamed the layer from Background to Layer 0):

A Smart Object icon appears in the layer preview thumbnail. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
We know it’s a Smart Object by the small icon in the preview thumbnail.

Now that I’ve converted the layer to a Smart Object, I can apply the Cutout filter to it as a Smart Filter. In Photoshop CS5 and earlier, the Cutout filter was found in the Artistic group under the Filter menu, but when I open the Filter menu from the Menu Bar in Photoshop CS6, we see that something has changed. There no longer is an Artistic group, which means I can no longer access the Cutout filter from here:

The filter groups under the Filter menu in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Several of the filter groups from previous versions of Photoshop are missing from the Filter menu in CS6.

In CS6, to access the Artistic group, as well as the missing Brush Strokes, Sketch and Texture groups, we need to open the Filter Gallery by going up to the Filter menu and choosing Filter Gallery:

Opening the Filter Gallery in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Going to Filter > Filter Gallery.

The middle column of the Filter Gallery is where we find all of our Filter groups. We can twirl each group open or closed to show or hide the filters inside it by simply clicking on the name of a group. The Artistic group is at the very top, so I’ll click on its name to twirl the group open. Then, I’ll click on the Cutout filter’s thumbnail to select it. The controls and options for the selected filter (in this case, Cutout) appear in the column on the right. Since this isn’t meant to be a lengthy tutorial on using the Filter Gallery or on any specific filter, I’ll quickly set the Number of Levels to 8, Edge Simplicity to 6 and Edge Fidelity to 3:

The Cutout filter options in the Filter Gallery in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the Cutout filter from the Artistic group and setting its options.

I’ll click OK to close out of the Filter Gallery, and here’s my image with the Cutout filter applied:

The photo after applying the Cutout filter. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
The photo after applying the Cutout filter.

And here’s where the problem comes in. Normally when we apply filters as Smart Filters, the name of each filter we used appears below the Smart Object in the Layers panel. If we later need to go back and re-edit a filter’s settings, we simply double-click on the specific filter’s name. That’s still the case in Photoshop CS6, with one small hitch. Any filters we had to access from the Filter Gallery (because they’re no longer available to us under the Filter menu) are not listed by their actual name. Instead, they’re listed under the generic name “Filter Gallery”, which doesn’t tell us which filter was actually used:

The Cutout filter is listed only as Filter Gallery in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
The Cutout filter appears only as "Filter Gallery". Not very helpful.

That may be fine in a case like this where I’ve only applied one filter. I can pretty easily remember it was the Cutout filter. But what happens if we add additional Smart Filters and they all had to be accessed from the Filter Gallery? I’ll quickly apply two more Smart Filters to the image (Spatter from the Brush Strokes group and Diffuse Glow from the Distort group). Since I was forced to access them from the Filter Gallery, these new filters are also listed only as “Filter Gallery” in the Layers panel, making it not so easy to tell which is which:

Three Smart Filters listed in the Layers panel only as 'Filter Gallery'. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Three different filters, each listed only as “Filter Gallery”.

Restoring The Missing Filters In The Filter Menu

Is this a huge problem? No, but it could potentially slow down your workflow. Thankfully, Adobe realized this and included the option to revert the Filter menu back to the way it used to be in every version of Photoshop before CS6, and that option is found in the Preferences. On A Windows PC, go up to the Edit menu at the top of the screen, choose Preferences, then choose Plug-Ins. On a Mac, go up to the Photoshop menu, choose Preferences, then choose Plug-Ins:

Selecting the Plug-Ins Preferences in Photoshop CS6. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the Plug-Ins preferences.

This opens Photoshop’s Preferences dialog box set to the Plug-Ins preferences. The option we want is Show all Filter Gallery groups and names. By default, this option is unchecked. If you want to revert the Filter menu back to the way it used to be in earlier versions of Photoshop and be able to access all the filters directly from the Filter menu, simply check this option, then click OK to close out of the dialog box (note that you’ll need to restart Photoshop for the change to take effect):

The Show all Filter Gallery groups and names option in Photoshop's preferences. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Selecting the “Show all Filter Gallery groups and names” option.

Through the magic of you not being here as I’m writing this, I’ve gone ahead and restarted Photoshop, and I’ve re-opened the same photo. I’ve also again converted it to a Smart Object by clicking on the menu icon in the Layers panel and choosing Convert to Smart Object:

The Layers panel showing the Smart Object. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
We’re back to just having the Smart Object itself (no filters applied) in the Layers panel.

With the Show all Filter Gallery groups and names option selected in the Preferences, I’ll once again go up to the Filter menu at the top of the screen, and this time, all of the filter groups are available, just as they were in Photoshop CS5 and earlier:

All filter groups are available again from the Filter menu. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
All groups are once again available from the Filter menu.

To access the Cutout filter, I’ll choose the Artistic group, then I’ll choose Cutout:

Selecting the Cutout filter from the Filter menu. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Going to Filter > Artistic > Cutout.

Now, this does still open the Filter Gallery, which is where we still set the options for filters like Cutout, but the important thing here is that I was able to select the Cutout filter directly from the Filter menu. I did not select it from the Filter Gallery itself. I’ll use the same settings as before for the Cutout filter, then I’ll click OK to close out of the Filter Gallery:

The Cutout filter options in the Filter Gallery. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
We still use the Filter Gallery to set the options for many filters.

Just like last time, Cutout is applied to my Smart Object as a Smart Filter, but now we see an important difference in the Layers panel. Because I was able to choose the Cutout filter directly from the Filter menu this time, not from the Filter Gallery, Photoshop displays the filter by its actual name:

The Layers panel showing the Cutout Smart Filter. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
This time, the Cutout filter is listed as “Cutout”, not “Filter Gallery”.

I’ll quickly apply the Spatter filter by going to Filter > Brush Strokes > Spatter, then the Diffuse Glow filter by going to Filter > Distort > Diffuse Glow. Here’s what my image looks like with all three Smart Filters applied (again, I’m skipping over details with the filters because this is not a tutorial on creating any specific effect):

The image with three Smart Filters applied. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
The effect after applying three Smart Filters.

And again, because I was able to select these filters directly from the Filter menu this time, not from the Filter Gallery, Photoshop lists them by their actual filter names under the Smart Object. If I want to change a setting for any of the filters by double-clicking on its name, or re-arrange the order the filters are applied to the image by clicking and dragging one above or below another, I no longer have to guess which filter is which:

Each Smart Filter is now listed by its actual name in the Layers panel. Image © 2013 Photoshop Essentials.com
Each Smart Filter is now listed by its actual name, not as “Filter Gallery”.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that even with the Show all Filter Gallery groups and names option checked in Photoshop’s Preferences, if you select a filter from the Filter Gallery rather than from the Filter menu in the Menu Bar, it will still appear as “Filter Gallery” in the Layers panel when you apply it as a Smart Filter. If you want the filter’s actual name to appear, you must select it directly from the Filter menu.

And there we have it! That’s a quick tip on how to easily restore all of the missing filter groups and names in the Filter menu in Photoshop CS6!

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