Fun with the Distort Filters

There are so many tools in Photoshop that are often unexplored.  Whether it’s because we don’t know how to use them, we don’t know they exist, or maybe we’ve never been interested in what Photoshop has to offer beyond what we think we need!  Well today I want to show you how to have fun with a few of the different distort filters!  There are several filters that can give you some interesting and unique effects with your images, in as little as a few clicks!  I am going to give you a brief introduction to some that are very user friendly and offer some fun effects.  Some you may not feel you have a use for, but you never know!  Hopefully this can get your creativity flowing so you can find new ways to use or edit your images.  Let’s get started!

The Original Image

I love this picture.  It has a lot of special meaning to me.  It was taken at my great grandparents old farm property in Cokeville, WY.  The colors are so lush, the rolling hills call to me, and the memories I have here as a child will be with me forever.  Now you can use any image, but this one was speaking to me at the moment so I went for it!  Now let’s see what we can do with all of these distort filters!

Distort Filters

The distort filters can be found in Photoshop by accessing the Filters menu in your top menu bar, and then going down to Distort.

The distort filters do just that!  They distort your image in some way.  The Displace filter is a great tool for people in graphic design who want to “display” their designed images on real life objects via the computer.  For example, if you’ve designed something you want to advertise on an image of a folded shirt, you could load a displacement map over your design to make it took like it caters to the folds of your shirt.  A very amazing tool, however, a bit above and beyond my scope!  I have tools that use displacement maps, but I’ve never created one of my own!  So let’s skip that one for now!


Pinch Filter

When using the pinch filter, you simply select a percentage from -100 to 100 to pinch your image.

Here are a few examples:

This image used the Pinch Filter at +100%.  You can see how the image looks like it was actually squeezed or pinched toward the middle.

The image below used the pinch filter at -100%.  It looks like it was almost stretched from the center outward.


Polar Coordinates Filter

To use the Polar Coordinates Filter, you need only select whether you’d like it from Rectangular to Polar or Polar to Rectangular.  Now all filters are based on mathematics, and this one is a little in depth to try and explain!  It would probably be easier to see if I had done it on an image with only straight lines, but alas, I’m not here to explain the technical aspect of each of these filters, just to show you that sometimes you need to play to stumble upon new inspiration!

This first image below used the Rectangular to Polar setting.

The image below used the Polar To Rectangular setting.

Ripple Filter

The ripple filter options want you to select two things.  A value between -999% and 999%, as well as the size of the ripple, small, medium or large.

This first example is set at 999% with size at Large.

The example below is set at 999% and small.  I love how it almost looks like little paint brush strokes.  This is an effect I think you could get a lot of use out of!

Shear Filter

The Shear Filter can be used in a few different ways.  You set the points you want to shear the image to.  If you leave the selection vertical, but move it from side to side, it literally cuts off your image and replaces the cut end onto the other side.

If you make your selection diagonal, it stretches it diagonally and replaces the cuts ends on the opposite sides as well. (BONUS TIP: You can create your own diagonal striped papers from horizontal or vertical stripes with this setting!)


You can also add points to the selection and pull them from side to side to give you a fun crazy effect!


Spherize Filter

The Spherize filter gives a fisheye effect, or turns your image into a sphere.  You can select the mode and percentage at which you want it to take place.  Normal turns it into a ball like photograph.  Horizontal and vertical only stretch your image in that direction.  I like to think of it like a globe being flattened onto a map. 😉

This image was set at 100% on Normal mode.


Twirl Filter

With the Twirl filter, you only need to select an angle between -999 degrees and 999 degrees.  The higher or lesser the angle, the more twirl it adds to your image.

This image was set at 999 degrees.


This image was set at -500 degrees.  The twirl is not as pronounced and with it being negative, it’s also twirling the other direction.

Wave Filter

There are lots of fun settings to change when you’re playing with the wave filter!  Again, this is all about math.  Playing with it will give you the best idea of how it works.  You set the minimum wavelength with your top slider and your maximum wavelength with the bottom slider to adjust the width of the wavelengths.  The amplitude controls the height of your wavelength.  You can also use the randomize button to have Photoshop select random values for you as well!


ZigZag Filter

The ZigZag filter offers some interesting effects, one of my favorite being the pond ripples!  Each zigzag filter setting does give you a sort of rippled look.

This image was created using the Around Center style with the amount at 54 and the ridges at 10.

And this one was made using the Pond Ripples style with the same values as above.

Phew!  That’s a lot of filters!  Now I know this is not an in-depth look at each filter, but I’m hoping it gives you an idea of what each of the distort filters do and maybe some inspiration to use them with your next project.  Even if it’s just to create a cool background!  I encourage you to play around and while you’re at it, check out some of the other filters as well!  This post didn’t even scratch the surface of all of the available filters!

As always, thanks for stopping by!  Hope you learned something new, or were inspired to check some new things out for yourselves.  Until next time!

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