The Photoshop Fix

Published Date
01 - Sep - 2006
| Last Updated
01 - Sep - 2006
The Photoshop Fix
One of the things we love about Photoshop is the ridiculous number of plugins constantly being developed for it. They take away the inevitable tedium that Photoshop users start experiencing after spending lots of time with it, and, more importantly, extend Photoshop's abilities beyond its out-of-the-box-version-especially useful if you're the type who needs to use weird and fun special effects every now and then. We've generally been sceptical about free plugins, especially considering commercial ones like the legendary Kai's Power Tools and AlienSkin's EyeCandy, but could a bunch of free plugins change our minds? More importantly, how useful will they be? You'll find nearly all these plugins on this issues' DVD, so you can see for yourself as well.

Installing A Plugin
First things first-not all plugins are going to come as installers, so you'll need to know what to do with the contents of some of those ZIP archives. Photoshop looks for plugins in [Drive]:Program FilesAdobeAdobe Photoshop CS2Plug-Ins (assuming you're using CS2; the general idea hasn't changed much over time, so you should do fine even with an older version of Photoshop). To keep plugins organised, we suggest you create a folder here called "My Plugins" or something to that effect. Plugins have extensions like .8bi or .8bf-generally beginning with the number 8, the remaining two letters signifying the type of plugin. Just put the plugin file into the My Plugins directory, start (or restart) Photoshop, and you should see it under the Filters Menu. And now that we have that out of the way…

Deep Paint
Our first plugin isn't so much a plugin as an application that can run standalone, but which integrates very well with Photoshop. A must-have for wannabe painters, Deep Paint lets you take painting far beyond anything you can experience with Photoshop's standard set of brushes, with its Corel Painter-esque natural media brushes. It also features "cloners" that you can use to give photos an oil-painted or sponge-painted look if you choose. You can send an image to Deep Paint from within Photoshop, and fetch it back when you're done with it.

We did experience some unpredictable undo behaviour with Deep Paint, so tread cautiously lest you reach a point when you can't undo as much as you thought. It's also not the easiest thing to learn, and will require that you invest some time exploring it.

Note: If you don't see Deep Paint in the Filters menu after installing (it will be under Right Hemisphere), copy DeepPaint.8bf from the Program FilesRight HemisphereDeep PaintPluginsPSplugin directory on your PC to your Plugins directory.

Luce is a simple, no-nonsense plugin to create volumetric lighting in your photograph. All you need to do is decide where to place the light source, and Luce will calculate all the necessary shadows and streaks to light up the scene. We recommended this for pictures of clouds and cityscapes-the results are startlingly good!

Topaz DeJPEG
If you've ever cursed at the way JPEG compression destroys detail in an image-especially at the edges of objects-then DeJPEG is for you. It compensates for JPEG compression losses, which makes it an indispensable tool for photo restoration (within reason, of course-there's only so much you can do for an image).

Freebie Collection by Flaming Pear
This is a collection of 33 free filters, ranging from basic channel-swapping effects to distortions-notably the Ornament effect, which will straighten out any image with strong spherical distortion (the reflection of a party in a Christmas ornament, for example). The Solidify filter will fill out any transparent areas in a layer by approximating the colour from the nearest pixel, and the Tachyon filter inverts brightness levels without inverting colours for a pseudo-negative effect.

We would have liked some configurability with these filters, though-nearly all of them have their settings hard-coded into them.

Xero is a collection of 40 filters, each of which takes Photoshop's inherent filters one step further. We were also impressed by their sense of humour-in the Caravaggio filter, for instance, the parameters you'll be tweaking are Creativity, Exuberance, Attentiveness and Moodswing. Just the thing for an artistic filter-tweak the artistic temperament!

3D Shadow
Shadow effects in Photoshop have always been a sore point for some. Drop shadows are all very well, but when it comes to creating more advanced shadow effects, like the shadow of an object on a wall perpendicular to it, great pains must be taken. The 3D Shadow plugin lets you easily create and customise your shadows in any direction you choose.

Getting used to the plugin is a tad tricky, since it doesn't really offer you a 3D interface to create the shadows, favouring a bunch of sliders instead. However, once you get the hang of it, you'll have better control over those shadows.

Harry's Filters
The third collection of filters we're featuring here-and with good reason, too. Harry's Filters impressed us first with the amount of tweaking it allowed us for each effect. The number of options is quite dizzying, and even better, the 69 filters can all be accessed from the same dialog. There's even a Play button, which you can use to watch as your computer comes up with all the possible options for an effect.

The TwistingPixels plugin comes with trial versions of PixelCreation, PixelPack and PixelPaper, and a free set of filters called PixelSampler, which lets you create some interestingly exaggerated movie-style effects. The StarLight filter, for example, adds a starburst to the lighter areas for the image. You can even paint over areas of the image to decide where an effect will be applied, or alternatively, erase the effect from areas where you don't want it.

Virtual Photographer
Suggestive enough by name, Virtual Photographer gives you all you need to tweak photos in the manner of the professionals-choose your film type, speed or photographic filters. The collection of presets, even categorised under colour and black-and-white, are sure to keep you busy for a while-be it the soft-focus and "glowy" look of Glamour, or the grim, horror-movie look of Spooky.

The VanDerLee Collection
These five individually available filters aren't really intended to be more than fun, but as you can see in the picture above, they can be used to very interesting ends. The Camouflage filter generates (what else?) camouflage patterns, the Harmonix plugin will let you create your own wave, the NightVision plugin alters the image to look like you're watching it through night vision goggles.

Some Honourable Mentions
While the plugins featured above are doubtless our current favourites, a few more deserve to be worthy mentions:

WallPampered: This one lets you set an image as your desktop wallpaper from within Photoshop itself. It even lets you select the co-ordinates of your image rather than the plain old Tiled, Centred or Stretched. After installing, you can access it from File > Automate.

Thredgeholder: A slightly more advanced version of Find Edges, this allows you to specify a threshold for bringing out the edges in a picture.

ICOFormat: This enables Photoshop to open icon (.ico) files for editing, and save them as well.

Pinocchio: A simple warp effect, Pinocchio lets you drag a portion of the image out for a "long nose" look.

When you install a large number of new plugins, you run the risk of slowing down Photoshop considerably. If you find this too annoying, download Photoshop SpeedUp from www.acropdf. com, which lets you select what plugins to load at Photoshop's startup.

Finally, there are a lot more free plugins out there, and if you have the programming skills, you can even make your own! FilterMeister (on our CD this month) is a tool for creating Photoshop plugins, and with some basic knowledge of image processing, you can get cracking at your own. Now, pop in that DVD and plug them all in!

Team DigitTeam Digit

All of us are better than one of us.