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Don’t lose edge detail when you blur — use the Surface Blur filter

Added on Saturday 16th of May 2009 12:47 am EST


Adobe Photoshop CS2/CS3/CS4

Operating Systems:

Macintosh, Microsoft Windows

What is the Surface Blur filter and why would I want to use it?

Part of the filter lineup since Photoshop version CS2, the Surface Blur filter’s claim to fame is that it’s great for blurring images while preserving edge details. For example, Figure A shows the same image filtered with the Surface Blur filter and with the Gaussian Blur filter, each with maxed out settings. As you can see in the Surface Blur example, you can still recognize the image whereas the Gaussian blur looks like a blob. Keep in mind that this is just an extreme example of the differences in the two blur filters; you probably wouldn’t use the filter in this manner.


When you’re using any blur filter for retouching, you may want to preserve some of your original image detail. And even though the Surface Blur does a good job of assisting in keeping edge detail intact, you’ll still likely experience a slight loss of edge quality. Plus, there may be other areas of your image you’d like to preserve as well. So we’ll show you how you can get the best of both worlds: apply the Surface Blur filter and preserve some of your image’s original detail.

To follow along with our example, download the file from the URL given at the beginning of this article, extract the file surfaceblur.psd, launch Photoshop, and open the file shown in Figure A. (Images provided by PhotoSpin. Some images modified for educational purposes.)