Last updated on May 6, 2024
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In Photoshop, there are several ways to access the Nik Collection plugins, starting with the Filter menu, then the reversible workflow with smart objects and filters, and finally the special case of Nik HDR Efex.

Opening an image in the Nik Collection from the Filter menu

After opening your image in Photoshop*:

  1. Go to the Filter menu, then go to the Nik Collection sub-menu.
  2. Select one of the Nik Collection plugins.
  3. The image will open in the selected plugin.
  4. Perform your processing and corrections.
  5. Click on Apply.
  6. The plugin applies processing and then closes.
  7. Your processed image is displayed in Photoshop. A layer bearing the name of the used plug-in has been created**.
  8. Save or Save As (to create another file), then exit Photoshop.

* This procedure applies to both Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.

You can also process your images in the Nik Collection through Photoshop from your host application, such as DxO PhotoLab or Adobe Lightroom Classic. See the Workflow chapter in the pages of the associated programs.

**If the Switch to mode is used (transfering the image from a plug-in to another one), a layer is automatically created for each plug-in.

Access to the Nik Collection from the Photoshop filter menu.
Processing in Nik Collection (Nik Silver Efex).
Processed photo returned to Photoshop

Launching Nik HDR Efex

Nik HDR Efex, which offers image merging, is special because you don’t need to have the images already open in Photoshop*:

  1. Go to the File menu, then go to the Automate sub-menu and select Merge to Nik HDR Efex.
  2. You also can select, in the Palette, Nik HDR Efex – Merge multiple exposures.
  3. A dialog box opens to select images.
  4. Click Add files to open a system dialog. Find and select the images you want to merge, then click Open.
  5. The Nik HDR Efex dialog box displays the list of selected images.
  6. To unselect an image from the list, click to uncheck the box next to the file name.
  7. If you wish to switch to a reversible workflow, check Merge as a Photoshop Smart Object*.
  8. Click on Merge.
  9. The Nik HDR Efex Merge Settings window opens.
  10. After selecting the options you need, click Create HDR.
  11. The images are merged, and the HDR image opens in Nik HDR Efex.
  12. Once you have finished processing, click Apply.
  13. The image processed in Nik HDR Efex is displayed in Photoshop. A layer bearing the name of the Nik HDR Efex plug-in has been created

* Smart Objects are not available in Photoshop Elements.

For more information on the contents and options of the HDR Merge dialog box, see the Nik HDR Efex chapter.

Opening Nik HDR Efex in Photoshop.
Selection of files in Nik HDR Efex.
Preparing to merge into Nik HDR Efex.
Fusion and then processing in Nik HDR Efex.
Return to Photoshop

Converting to a smart object

In Photoshop, a smart object* is a layer that includes the original image to ensure a non-destructive and reversible workflow, all Nik Collection plugins are compatible with this. This means you can make corrections or apply a rendering to the image, which you can modify as you wish, after saving and even after closing the applications.

Going through Photoshop, you have two ways to convert to a dynamic object:

Convert to a smart object in Photoshop (Method 1)

  1. Open the image in Photoshop**.
  2. In the Filter menu select Convert for Smart Filters.
  3. A dialog box informs you that the selected layer (the background layer of your image) will be converted to a smart object (you can disable this dialog). Click OK.
  4. Your image is converted to a smart object, the background layer is renamed Layer 0, and an icon appears in the thumbnail in the Layers panel.
  5. Go to the Filter > Nik Collection menu and select the desired plugin***.
  6. A dialog box confirms that the chosen plug-in has detected that it is a smart object (you can disable its display).
  7. Note that the Convert to Dynamic Object checkbox in the bottom right corner of the plugin is checked automatically.
  8. Work your image in the chosen plugin software, and then click Apply.
  9. The plugin closes and the processed image is displayed in Photoshop.
  10. In the Layers panel, a filter effect thumbnail appears below Layer 0 with the name of the plug-in used below it.
  11. Save and exit Photoshop.

* Lightroom Classic lets you open images as Smart Objects in Photoshop (see the Adobe Lightroom Classic page, in the Workflow chapter).

** Does not apply to Photoshop Elements (Photoshop Elements does not offer Workflows with smart objects and filters).

*** Nik HDR Efex can be accessed through the File > Automation menu, and offers its own option for working as a smart filter.

If the Switch to mode is used (transfering the image from a plug-in to another one), a smart filter layer is automatically created for each plug-in.

Converting to a smart object
Selecting a plugin and warning message about smart objects
Image processing in Nik Collection (Nik Color Efex).

Convert to a smart object in the Nik Collection (Method 2)

  1. Open the image in Photoshop.
  2. Go to Filter > Nik Collection, or go to the Nik Collection Palette, then select the desired plugin.
  3. Work your image in the selected plugin.
  4. In the bar below, check Convert to Dynamic object (the Brush button immediately disappears).
  5. A dialog box informs you that the image will be converted to a dynamic object and that the Nik brush will be deactivated.
  6. Click Apply.
  7. The plugin closes and the processed image is displayed in Photoshop as a dynamic object.
  8. In the Layers panel, a filter effect thumbnail appears below Layer 0 with the name of the plugin used below it.
  9. Save and exit Photoshop.

If the Switch to mode is used (transfering the image from a plug-in to another one), a smart filter layer is automatically created for each plug-in.

Re-editing your processing

  1. Open the processed image in Photoshop.
  2. In the Layers panel, double-click the plug-in name below the filter effect thumbnail.
  3. The plugin software used to process the image opens, you can edit it or even completely redo your image processing.
  4. Click on Apply.
  5. The plugin closes and the processed image is displayed in Photoshop.
  6. Save and exit Photoshop.
Reopening the smart filter (Nik Color Efex).
Modifying processing (Nik Color Efex).
Modified processed image returned to Photoshop.

Permanently applying processing

  1. If it is not already the case, open the image in Photoshop.
  2. In the Layer menu, select Flatten Image.
  3. The mask of the filter is Layer 0 and forms the background layer; at this point the processing is no longer reversible.
  4. Save and exit Photoshop.

Nik Collection Palette

The Nik Collection lets you to go further in workflow integration with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements thanks to this Palette, the Meta-Presets, and the Brush tool. You can thus:


The Nik Collection palette is a floating palette that is part of the Nik Collection, where you will find the list of plugins, with direct access to some predefined tools and effects, as well as a communication section where you will find information and updates.

Interface and handling

The floating palette is automatically displayed in Photoshop. You can change this behavior:

  1. Close Palette: click on the “X”.
  2. Minimize the palette to the bottom left corner in Photoshop: click on the “-” sign in the top left.
  3. Display just the plugin icons: Click on the 3rd icon, top left (and vice-versa to restore full display).
  4. Move Palette: grab the top bar.
  5. Show/hide the contents of each section: Click on the chevron on the right.
  6. Reveal section contents: use the scroll bar, on the right, the mouse wheel or the trackpad.
  7. Show the Palette again: click on the expand window icon.
  8. Open or reopen the Palette: In the Photoshop File menu, go to Automation and select Nik Collection Palette.

Preferences and help


To access the palette settings, click on the gear icon in the bottom left:

  1. General section:
    • To automatically open the Palette at launch: check or uncheck the box to enable/disable automatic display of the palette when running Photoshop (automatic display is enabled by default).
  2. Filters section:
    • Apply filter to: apply filters and image processing to either the composite image or the active layer.
    • Apply Brush effect: apply the effects with the Brush tool to the current layer or to another layer.
    • Apply Favorite Filters, Recipes & Last Edit: apply Favorite filters and effects or the last edit either directly in Photoshop or by opening the relevant plugin.

Click on the “?” button in the bottom right, to access the user guide.

How to Use

the palette lets you carry out the following steps:

For information about features specific to Dfine 2, see the Brush Tool section.

Launch a plug-in

To process an image with one of the plugins from the Nik Collection while in Photoshop:

  1. Go to the palette.
  2. Click on one of the buttons to select a plugin. The chosen plugin opens.
  3. Process your image and then save by clicking Apply.
  4. After it is returned to Photoshop, the processed image is its own layer.

Directly applying a preset

You can apply processing directly, without opening a plugin, if the option “Apply Favorite Filters, Recipes and Last Modified” is set to Apply in Photoshop (see Nik 6 Palette preferences):

  1. Go to the palette.
  2. Click the arrow to the right of the desired plugin button.
  3. A space opens under the button, where you can choose from among your favorite treatments.
  4. Click on the desired processing.
  5. The processing is applied to the image.

* To create favorites that appear in the palette, consult the chapters about each Nik Collection plugin.

** Nik RAW Presharpener do not let you create favorites, you will not be able to apply them directly from the palette.

Apply Last Edit

Another time-saving feature is the ability to apply the very last edit you applied the last time you used a plugin*, without having to open the plugin:

  1. Go to the palette.
  2. Click the arrow to the right of the desired plugin button.
  3. A space will open below the button.
  4. Click on Last Edit.
  5. The most recent processing is applied to the image.

Meta Presets

How to Use

The applied Meta-preset

Meta presets included with the Palette are sequences of presets saved as Photoshop Actions and simultaneously apply multiple corrections by multiple Nik Collection plugins. You will find them at the bottom of the palette, in the Meta-presets section.

To apply a Meta-preset, hover the mouse over the tile of your choice, then click on the playback arrow. The chosen effect is applied directly to the image, without opening the relevant plugins. The tile is accompanied by the icons of the Nik Collection plugins that were used for the meta-preset (e.g. the Fine and spectacular Meta-preset combines Nik Color Efex and Nik Viveza).

You cannot directly alter the settings (unless you convert your image to a smart object; see Advanced use below) nor create Meta-presets.

To obtain information on Meta Presets, move the mouse over one of the blocks and click on the “?” that appears.

Advanced Use

If you want to change the effect of a Meta-preset, first convert your image into a smart object:

  1. In the Photoshop Layers panel, right-click the background layer (created by your image).
  2. From the context menu, select Convert to Smart Object.
  3. The image is converted, the layer is named Layer 0 and the thumbnail displays the smart object icon.

Once converted to a smart object, apply a Meta-preset to the image. After application, the Layers panel displays the following information:

4. Filter effect indication (a filter has been applied to your image).

5. White thumbnail of the smart filter effects mask (the effects applied by the Nik Collection).

6. The list of filters and associated Nik plugins, and the modification icon for each of them (4).

To modify the effects and corrections applied, you have two possibilities: merge options or opening the plugins.

Merge options:

7. Double-click on the edit icon.

8. The Merge Options window of the filter concerned opens.

9. You can change the merge mode (Mode menu)…

10. and/or refine the opacity, which consists of adjusting the intensity of the effect (the lower the opacity, the lighter the effect results in a lesser effect).

Opening plugins

11. Double-click on the name of the filter (and therefore of the plugin).

12. The plugin will open and allow you to partially or completely modify the effects, corrections, and settings.

Brush Tool

When using the Nik Collection in Photoshop, a Brush button is visible at the bottom of the plugin window you are currently using, next to the Undo and Save buttons


The Brush button is not visible when using the Nik Collection from a host application such as DxO PhotoLab or Adobe Lightroom Classic. It is a tool specific to Photoshop and Photoshop Elements*.

It will allow you to apply your treatments and effects locally**, painting into the image opened in Photoshop. You can apply artistic or creative effects, but the real interest of this function is to be able to make more technical corrections, such as enhancing the sharpness or reducing noise with Dfine 2 (see below).

* The Brush button activates the Brush tool in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
** The Brush button is not available in the workflow with a dynamic object.

Operating principle

To locally process with one of the Nik Collection plugins:

  1. Open the plugin of your choice either through the Photoshop Filter menu or with the Nik Collection Palette.
  2. After opening the plug-in, choose a treatment.
  3. At the bottom of the plug-in window, click the Brush button. The plugin will close.
  4. Photoshop automatically generates a layer and a black fusion mask to paint the process (view in the Layers panel).
  5. Photoshop’s Brush tool is activated automatically (you can set it in the options bar at the top).
  6. Paint into the image to apply the processing.
  7. A floating window from the Nik Collection Palette offers the following options:
    • Brush button, enabled by default, to apply the processing.
    • Eraser button, to locally erase the processing applied with the brush.
    • Fill button, to apply the processing to the entire image or to a selection made with one of the Photoshop tools.
    • Erase button, to completely remove the application of processing.
    • The Apply button, to apply the correction permanently (which also causes the layers to be flattened).
    • The Cancel button, which cancels the operation and closes the floating window.

You can accumulate different uses of the brush, including with several plugins one after the other, or several times with the same plugin, but with a different or complementary treatment, by repeating the above steps. Each time you use the Brush mode, Photoshop will automatically create a layer and a black fusion mask.

Corrections specific to Nik Dfine

Dfine also comes with seven additional noise correction tools, each designed to work on specific details. These tools have no settings or parameters, as they are designed to be applied selectively, and provide optimal noise reduction for each of the different types of details or cases offered. These tools are only available in the Palette and their use does not launch Nik Dfine:

  1. Background: applies noise reduction to the image background.
  2. Parasitic pixels: minimizes parasitic, hot, and dead pixels visible as bright spots on the image, especially in dark areas.
  3. Fine structure: reduces color and contrast noise while preserving details in fine structures, such as hair.
  4. Skin: When applied, reduces color and contrast noise, as well as unevenness, while preserving details.
  5. Sky: attenuates color noise and smoothes out artifacts that may appear in blue skies.
  6. Shadows: reduces color noise, especially in dark and dimly lit areas, preserving detail and structure.
  7. Strong noise: is intended for use on high-ISO images, with elevated levels of contrast noise, while maintaining the best possible detail. It is an alternative to the selective blur technique, which affects detail and color.
Application of Nik Dfine noise reduction filter (Strong noise).

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