How to use maximum filter in Photoshop tutorial

A quick guide to the maximum filter in Adobe Photoshop, great for spreading whites and chocking blacks and some unusual blurry effects.

Maximum filter in Photoshop

how to use the maximum filter in Photoshop
  1. Filter menu (in Photoshop)

  2. Others category

  3. Maximum (Photoshop filter)

  4. Set radius

  5. Set preserve - roundness for a circular maximum blurry effect

  6. OK to process the maximum filter in Photoshop


Video tutorial on the subject by (youtube)


Basics : The maximum filter can be found in the filter command and other category and maximum. The basic point is to spread white and choke the black (according to the Adobe site) but as with many of the effects in Photoshop, it can do a lot more than that.


Options : There are not many options though

radius - The higher the setting, the slower the application.

preserve (squareness and roundness).


Personally, I always prefer the roundness option to the squareness as the results seem to be less crude.


Use with brushes : brushesYou can use the max effect with brush strokes. Super useful for creating very interesting brush stroke / sketch effects with a drawing. You can modify the applied strokes in seconds using the tool. Select the brush tool and apply brush strokes in black (using a default stroke and on a white background). Go to the tool and apply with a decent sized radius, though the actual results depends on the radius and what you want to achieve.


frameIf you have applied a number of brush strokes with a setting of 60px then it probably is not a good idea to set the radius to 60px as you will just end up with white. Set the radius of the maximum to 15px and then re-apply a few times (I always prefer to add multiple small applications to a single large setting).


You will then end up with a much lighter pencil like drawing than than the original sketch, a bit like the effect of reducing a large comic page to a smaller actual comic.


Also great for frame designs as on the right


Buy $3.49. 10,000 Strokes in ABR format for use with tools in PS and PS Elements for wonderful blurry / thinning effects gallery


Use with type : typeYou can use the plugin effect with type / text / character designs to create thin black type or perhaps faded black type (or whatever color the type has been set to). Such as the type on the left where the futura PT has been reduced to the point where the ink in the typewriter is very uneven and clearly needs a new ribbon in a short while


Say you have a paragraph or page filled with type with a bold typeface, you can apply the effect to the type to thin it - the actual thinning depends on the radius. You can simply flatten the type or use the type as a smart object / converted payer via the smart object command.


You can create all kinds of interesting visual effects with type by combining the max effect with blurs and re-applying the blurry effect again to create type that looks as expected but certainly is not.


As the type is a layer / smart object, it can be duplicated along with the smart effects and then applied on top of each other using blending modes such as difference and darken. If you change the color of the type to white, the result is the same with a choking of the white (which does seems odd).


Use with shapes : shapeYou can use the tool with custom shapes to thin any of the shape designs. As the custom shape can be converted into a smart object, the thinning can be varied.


The result on the custom shapes depends on the shape, some shapes such as an Illustration / sketched shape will be reduced and parts of the illustration will just vanish.


If you are using the max effect with something like a circle shape then you will just see an overall reduction in the vector design.


Use with selections : You can use the effect with selections and masks etc to modify the result. Go the marquee tool or use select menu to make a selection and then apply the effect to that.


This can be repeated especially using low value settings


You can use all kinds of selections so one selection can be used on one side of the image and the effect is applied to that, and then leaving the other side untouched


Use with channels : channelsYou can use the effect with channels to create interesting colorful bluriness. Add a shape or image or type to a document. You can also use the effect with channels.


Go to the channel panel. Select the red channel. Select the effect in the filter menu and set the radius to 20px say.


Go to the green channel and then re-run the effect but this time using 10px.


And then the blue etc. You can re-apply multiple times to the same channel. Go back to the RGB (or CMYK etc) image. You will now see a colorful edge around the design.


Use for noise effects : noiseYou can use the tool to create interesting variations of noise effects - select a noise plugin and then apply the effect to that to create a unique blurry grain in seconds.


You add the noise to an image via the add noise menu command and then use the effect again to create a much lighter sprinkle of noise across the photo.


You can use the noise menu but there are also other tools in the gallery.


Use with images : imageYou can use the tool with images and photographs. This really depends on the image, but I have always found the tool with the roundness setting generates an unusual sparkly glow with highlights and gives the image a really surreal look.


The squareness option is never as pleasing but it has a use in creating very large blocks of color across an image which can be blended with the original image using the fade command.


You can apply the tool multiple times to the images and also combine with other tools such as auto tone etc


Total white design : lightIf you set the roundness / radius setting to too higher a value then the effect will be slow and will result in a totally white image.


It does work well if you use an image with channels and the tool and set one of the channels to a very high value.


Sweaty look : A low value of the tool often just makes a person or object in a photo look a little sweaty as if they are under hot lights.


Adjustments : adjustmentThe tool can be used to add some interesting effects to images and photographs when combined with adjustments such as black and white to create an unusual glistening effect with people etc


Or use color lookup or HDR toning


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Andrew Buckle, Maidstone artist, tel: +44 1622 / 688 375 E-mail: support@