Photo Filter Presets – Beneath the Surface Part 1

Editing and Saving Presets

The photo presets you can download from the Content Catalogue offer a quick and easy way to add some interesting edits to your photos very quickly, but if you take a look beneath the surface you can do a lot more.  The presets are .xar files with a special name that apply saved settings to your photos and you can easily edit those settings and save your settings as your own custom preset!  It’s also possible to create your own presets from scratch and you can apply a preset to more than one photo at once!  So beneath the surface we have a way to save your photo edits and batch edit them!                 Read on for more!  In this first of a two part set of tutorials I’ll take you step by step through the process of editing a preset and saving your edits as a custom preset.  You may also be interested in my Fanciful and Fun Preset Pack that contains 12 presets to add some interesting effects to your photos!


Presets are editable in multiple ways.  In this example I have used a black gradient vignette preset that you can find if you have v12 or v12.3 by going into your file explorer and browsing the app data files for the version you are using.  The path is C:\Users\Work\AppData\Local\Xara\XtremePro\12\Cache\designs\eng\components\imagecomponents\photofilters_12_3\gradients.  Alternatively you can download the file from here.  I have added the vignette to a photo of a lovely dancer I inserted into my document from Pixabay via the content catalogue. The heavy black vignette doesn’t work for this photo.  There are a couple of things you can do to tweak this vignette to make it work much better for this photo.  First take a look at how this preset stacks up.  If you wish to use the same photo you can go to the insert menu and chose from content catalogue and type woman into the search bar and select stock photos on the left hand column this photo should come up in the results. hover over it and choose import.  Alternatively you can just drop in any photo.  Select your photo and go to the insert menu, chose from content catalogue and under components> image resources> photo filter presets> gradients; hover your mouse over the Black vignette preset and click import and the vignette will be applied to your photo.

Open the page and layer Gallery and Expand the layer by clicking on the blue triangles to show all the items.  As you can see in this screen shot you there is a clipped photo group and inside the photo group you can see the layers that make up the effect.  In this case it’s a simple black gradient vignette layer and a special blank layer and the photo.  I’ll delve into the blank adjustments layer and it’s purpose in Part 2, for now I will concentrate on editing the vignette.

Click the gradient: Vignette layer to select it. The vignette is just a flat black layer with a simple elliptical transparency that can be edited as you normally would. Click the centre handle to edit the transparency at the centre and click the outer handles to edit the transparency at the outside edges.  Out of the box the preset is 100% in the centre and 0% transparent at the edges and it has a profile setting applied.
Click one of the outer transparency handles to select it and either adjust the slider or type in the box next to it 25%.  This is starting to look better already but the edge could be softer. Click the arrow icon on the info bar to open the profile sliders.  Set both sliders at about -0.30  

Tip:  for more control over how the edges feather instead of using the profile sliders you can click the horizontal handle bar and add transparency stops and set each stop independently.

Now place the mouse cursor near the centre of the transparency and when it changes to a hand drag the centre of the transparency up to about her chin.

The vignette now softly leads the viewer to the dancer’s face.   For a bit of fun with the vignette layer still selected you can click the rainbow coloured square icon near the bottom left to open the colour editor and try out different colours!

Saving The Customised Preset

Now that you have edited the preset the secret to saving it is a special name.  Go to the file menu and select Save As this is important as you don’t want to overwrite the original file.  Save your file to a location on your hard drive outside of the program files.  The first part of the file name can be anything you like but you need to follow it with _xaraphotopreset.  So your soft vignette could be named soft vignette_xaraphotopreset.  Once your preset is saved you can drag and drop it from an explorer window on to any selected photo.  You can add a folder of custom photos to the local designs gallery but for some reason they all get the display name Xara Photo Preset.  But there is a good reason to have preset folders added to the gallery.  Read on and find out.

A  Whole Bunch At Once

Have a bunch of photos taken on a dreary day that could stand a bit of warming?  Or maybe you have a batch that you want to give a black and white filter to.  Instead of applying the same filter to each photo one at a time you can use the import function in the Local Designs gallery to apply a filter to multiple photos at once!

Make sure all the photos you want to apply the preset to are selected.  Select the preset you want to use from the designs gallery and click import and boom! the preset is applied to all the photos at once. 

Now that you have a better idea of what’s beneath the surface I hope you will experiment with other filters in the Content Catalogue and see what you can do!  And don’t forget to check out the Fanciful and Fun Preset Pack

Coming Soon in Part 2!

Be sure to watch for Part 2 of this two-part look beneath the surface of photo presets.  I’ll be guiding you through the steps to create a custom preset from scratch.  See you then!


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