The Filter Phenomenon

by . February 7th, 2008


Photoshop filters and layer styles are something I have been putting a lot of thought into recently after browsing my graphic design forums for a while. We have a section where designers can post their work to be critiqued and we have a lot of young designers who are eager to learn so they post their work.

A common issue that comes up during critiques is the overuse of these Photoshop filters and layer styles. I think this is an extremely common phenomenon and I would go as far as saying that a majority of designers go through a period of using filters and layer styles a bit too much. I believe going through this phase has become a part of the natural process of becoming a more mature designer.

Now let me see if I can explain that…

Your style as a designer is the result of everything you have learned and absorbed from reading books, going to school, browsing the internet, seeing other designers work and so on.I believe designers stop using Photoshop filters and layer styles in an arbitrary manner once they begin to truly start absorbing what other more experienced designers are doing.


They stop using these effects just because they can and they start applying the effects in order to achieve a specific a goal or style. This phenomenon is very interesting to me and I have seen it happen with myself and many other designers.

As I look back at my work from the past few years I can almost pinpoint different stages I was in. This includes the above mentioned “filter” stage when I first started out as a designer and then as I became more involved and passionate about design at which point I began to break out of that stage and into other stages. Let me note that maturing as a designer is a never ending process and you will always be passing through different stages.

To be, or not to be removed, that is the question!

At first I thought Photoshop filters should be removed from the software, but now I realize they make for a pretty good test of maturity. Will the designer be able to mature and move past using these effects in an arbitrary manner or will they be forever stuck in the world of automatic swirls, drop shadows and bevels?What do you guys think of Photoshop filters and have you noticed yourself going through stages as you mature as a designer?


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