What is the difference between kernel and filter? (Not for CNN, in general)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Kernel is the matrix a digital filter is using to calculate the result (the matrix which is convolved with the source data). \$\endgroup\$
    – Eugene Sh.
    Oct 30, 2019 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I understand is filter is a more general terms including kernel, because filter can be a matrix, too. Is it correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – henry
    Oct 30, 2019 at 15:45
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Filter is a thing that is working by applying the kernel. The difference is as between a painter and a paint. Painter is not more general than paint. It's just a different thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eugene Sh.
    Oct 30, 2019 at 15:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ For image processing: A filter would be the result of using a kernel (or masking). CNN's use, surprise surprise, convolution but that's an entirely different algorithm since there are weights and activation functions, etc. \$\endgroup\$
    – user103380
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ A filter is more of a general transfer function or model concept, while a kernel has a specific and unique realization (ex. gaussian kernel, Laplacian, etc.). Kernels are different models to realize filters, but not the other way around. \$\endgroup\$
    – pat
    Sep 11, 2021 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


A kernel is the 2 dimensional matrix for 2d convolution (or 1d also), A kernel defines the size of the convolution. A filter is the values stored in the kernel matrix. A kernel matrix doesn't have to be a filter, for example if you had a kernel with


the kernal above wouldn't filter anything, but leave you with what you started after convolution.

You can also make edge detectors, like the one below \begin{bmatrix}1&0&-1\\1&0&-1\\1&0&-1\end{bmatrix}

  • \$\begingroup\$ A filter is the values stored in the kernel matrix - this doesn't sound right. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eugene Sh.
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ You don't have to build a filter with a kernel matrix, \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ The kernel is the thing that stores the values for convolution. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ You don't, but it doesn't make filter to be the values of the matrix. Kernel is a property of a filter, not vice versa \$\endgroup\$
    – Eugene Sh.
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ In image processing, a kernel, convolution matrix, or mask is a small matrix. -wikipedia \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Oct 30, 2019 at 16:25

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