Last updated on July 13, 2022
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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 HDR Efex Pro 2.

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 OK (or Apply for Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3).
  6. The plugin applies processing and then closes.
  7. Your processed image is displayed in Photoshop.
  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.

Access to the Nik Collection from the Photoshop filter menu.
Image: Chris Gorman
Processing in the Nik Collection (Silver Efex Pro 3).
Processed photo returned to Photoshop

Launching HDR Efex Pro 2

HDR Efex Pro 2, 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.
  2. Select Merge to HDR Efex Pro 2.
  3. HDR Efex Pro 2 opens, along with a dialog to select images.
  4. Click Open to open a system dialog.
  5. Find and select the images you want to merge, then click OK.
  6. The Efex Pro 2 HDR dialog box displays the list of selected images.
  7. To remove an image from the list, click on the file name then click Delete.
  8. The Add Open Files button lets you select images already opened in Photoshop.
  9. If you wish to switch to a reversible workflow, check Create smart object* (a dynamic object).
  10. Click on Merge.
  11. The dialog box for creating HDR files** opens.
  12. After selecting the options you need, click Create HDR.
  13. The images are merged, and the HDR image opens in HDR Efex Pro 2.
  14. Once you have finished processing, click OK.
  15. The image processed in HDR Efex Pro 2 is displayed in Photoshop.

* Smart Objects are not available in Photoshop Elements.

** For more information on the contents and options of the HDR Merge dialog box, see the Merging Images page in the HDR Efex Pro 2 chapter.

Opening HDR Efex Pro 2 in Photoshop.
Selection of files in HDR Efex Pro 2.
Preparing to merge into HDR Efex Pro 2.
Fusion and then processing in HDR Efex Pro 2.
Image: Chris Gorman
Return to Photoshop

Converting to a smart object

In Photoshop, a Smart Object* is a layer that encapsulates the original image, which

provides a non-destructive and reversible workflow, and the Nik Collection plug-ins are compatible (except Perspective Efex). 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.

To convert your image into a smart object and process it in one of the Nik Collection plug-ins :

  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. Work on your image in the selected plugin, then click OK (or Apply for Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3).
  8. The plugin closes and the processed image is displayed in Photoshop.
  9. In the Layers panel, a filter effect thumbnail appears below Layer 0 with the name of the plug-in used below it.
  10. Save and exit Photoshop.
Converting to a smart object
Selecting a plugin and warning message about smart objects
Processing the image in Silver Efex Pro 5
Image: Chris Gorman
Back in Photoshop.

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 plug-in that is used to process this image opens, you can modify or even start over with the image processing.
  4. Click OK (or Apply for Analog Efex Pro 3, Color Efex Pro 5, Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3).
  5. The plugin closes and the processed image is displayed in Photoshop.
  6. Save and exit Photoshop.
Reopening the Color Efex Pro 4 smart filter.
Modifying the processing in Color Efex Pro 5.
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.

* 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).

*** HDR Efex Pro 2 can be accessed through the File > Automation menu, and offers its own option for working as a smart filter.

Selective Tool 2

Thanks to its Selective Tool 2, Meta-presets, and the Brush tool, the Nik Collection lets you take your workflow and integration with Photoshop and Photoshop Elements even further. You can thus:

Selective Tool 2

The Selective Tool 2 is a floating palette that is part of the Nik Collection, where you will find a 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. Park the Selective Tool at the bottom left in Photoshop: click on the “-” (minus) sign in the top left.
  2. Show the Selective Tool again: Click the restore window icon.
  3. Display only the plugin icons: Click on the 3rd icon, top left (and vice-versa to restore full display).
  4. Close the Selective Tool: Click on the “X”.
  5. Open or reopen the Selective Tool: in the File menu of Photoshop, go to Automate, then select Nik Selective Tool 2.
  6. Reveal section contents: use the scroll bar, on the right, the mouse wheel or the trackpad.
  7. Show/hide the contents of each section: Click on the chevron on the right.
  8. Move the Selective Tool: Grab the top bar.

Preferences and help


To access the Selective Tool 2 Preferences, click on the gear at the bottom left:

  1. General section:
    • Open Selective Tool automatically on launch: check or uncheck the box to enable/disable the automatic display of the Selective Tool when opening 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 at the bottom right to access the Selective Tool 2 user guide.


The Selective Tool allows you to perform the following operations and tasks:

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 into the Selective Tool.
  2. Click on one of the buttons to select a plugin. The chosen plugin opens.
  3. Process your image, then save it by clicking on OK or Apply (Analog Efex Pro 3, Color Efex Pro 5, Silver Efex Pro 3 and Viveza 3).
  4. After it is returned to Photoshop, the processed image is its own layer.

Directly applying a preset

You can apply a preset, filter, or recipe without opening its associated plugin, as long as you have selected it as a Favorite* in the plugin**:

  1. Go into the Selective Tool.
  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 can appear in the Selective Tool, see the specific chapters for each Nik Collection plugin.

**  Perspective Efex, RAW Presharpener (Sharpener Pro 3), and Viveza 2 do not allow you to create favorites, so you will not be able to apply favorites directly from them with the Selective Tool.

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 into the Selective Tool.
  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.

* The Last Edit function is not available in Perspective Efex.

Meta Presets


Image before processing with a Meta-preset
Image: Chris Gorman
Selecting a Meta-preset
The applied Meta-preset

The Meta Presets included with Selective Tool 2 are sequences of presets saved as Photoshop Actions, and which simultaneously implement several corrections of several Nik Collection plugins. You will find them at the bottom of the Selective Tool 2, 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 plugin icons of the Nik Collection used for the Meta-preset (for example, the Fine and Specular Meta-preset combines Color Efex Pro 4 and Viveza 3).

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 Perspective Efex .

Operating principle

To locally process with one of the Nik Collection plugins:

  1. Open the plug-in of your choice, either through the Photoshop’s Filter menu or with Selective Tool 2.
  2. After opening the plug-in, choose a treatment.
  3. At the bottom of the plug-in window, click the Brush button.
  4. The plugin will close.
  5. Photoshop automatically generates a layer and a black fusion mask to paint the process (view in the Layers panel).
  6. Photoshop’s Brush tool is activated automatically (you can set it in the options bar at the top).
  7. Paint into the image to apply the processing.
  8. A floating window, from the Selective Tool, offers you 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 Dfine 2

Dfine 2 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 available only in Selective Tool 2 and their use does not launch Dfine 2:

  1. Background : Applies noise reduction to the background of the image.
  2. Hot Pixels : minimizes unwanted, hot, or dead pixels visible as bright spots in the image, especially in the darkest areas of the image.
  3. Fine Structuresreduces color noise and contrast noise, while preserving details such as hair and fine image structures.
  4. Skin: Applied to the skin, it reduces both color and contrast noise and unevenness, while preserving details.
  5. Sky: reduces color noise and smoothes out artifacts that appear in the blue sky.
  6. Shadows: reduces color noise, especially in dark and dimly lit areas, preserving detail and structure.
  7. Strong Noise: is used on images taken at high sensitivity, with high levels of contrast noise, again preserving details as best as possible. It is an alternative to the selective blur technique, which affects detail and color.
Applying a Dfine 2 noise reduction filter (Strong Noise).
Image: Gilles Theophile

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