Vincent Oliver examines a suite of handy Photoshop Plug-ins that saves hundreds of pounds over buying them
Plug-ins are mini applications which are accessed directly through the Filters menu, so you don’t have to quit the main application to run them.
Photoshop plug-ins allow you either to do something that you cannot do with the features included in Photoshop, or they allow you to do something easier, faster, or better than you could do without the plug-in. OnOne Plug-in Suite 4 includes six separate applications to help you to become productive. I must make clear that you can accomplish most of the tasks that these filters perform from within Photoshop – if you know how, and have plenty of time to tweak images. What this suite does is perform these tasks better or faster than you probably could yourself.
There’s something for everyone in onOne Plug-in Suite 4. Each plug-in was easy to use without having to wade through a PDF manual. Each plug-in has its own videos demonstrating how to use the plug-in, as well as a PDF user guide (these can be found under the Help menu). If you were to buy each individual component separately then the collection would cost you £830. The OnOne Plug-in Suite 4 with the six modules is a steal at £319.99. OnOne Plug-in Suite 4 is compatible with Photoshop CS2 and CS3. Essentials for Photoshop Elements (v4.0, 5.0 and 6.0 PC and Mac) consists of four cut-down products. The MaskPro function is virtually the same as the Photoshop product. Genuine Fractals will enlarge up to 400%, the PhotoFrame component consists of 400 Frames and the ColorTune correction does not include SkinTune. At £34.95 Essentials should be an essential purchase for Photoshop Elements users.
Create complex cut- outs which preserve fine hair detail
I?m still waiting for the perfect cut-out/masking tool. Is this it? There are so many functions, and ways to make a cut-out in MaskPro, that it would take several pages to cover them all. One of the simplest methods here is to use the green eye-dropper to define the colours you want to keep and the red one to sample the colours to remove. Then, using the Magic Brush, paint around the edge of your subject to remove the background. You can also use the Magic Pen tool to create an outline on hard edges ? handy for product shots etc.
MaskPro produces excellent masks but requires a lot of work to get there, and it can be sluggish at times, especially on complex areas. My final image still had traces of the background, though with more drop samples I?m sure the mask could have been cleaner. The more sample colours you have the greater the accuracy, but this takes longer to do.
Mask Pro has two main competitors, Corel KnockOut and Vertuis Fluid Mask. Both offer a quicker means of creating a cut-out. However, MaskPro sits well in this Plug-in suite bundle. WDC RATING: 84%
Over 4,700 ready-made creative frames that can be customised and used on your images
Have you ever wanted to add an artistic border to an image? Then this may well be the plug-in you?re looking for. PhotoFrame 3 comes with 4,783 ready-made frames, 96 textures, 6 instant frames and 183 predefined Presets. Each frame can be customised to suit your picture and you can save your settings as a preset. The frames are overlaid on top of the image as a new layer, so you can have several frames on top of each other.
There are six instant frames based on popular shapes (Heart, Star, Ellipse etc). These are basically Vector shapes which create a mask over your picture. The shapes can be fully customised to suit the content of your picture and you can even define the heart as a broken heart ? ideal for sending to a newly divorced couple.
Once you are happy with the way your frame looks you can send it to Photoshop as a flattened image, or better still, use the Apply as a new layer button ? this leaves your original image untouched with the frame sitting as a top layer in Photoshop.
There are many frames for you to experiment with, including several film edge types, 35mm, roll film and sheet film. I didn?t see a Polaroid style edge although there is a large collection of emulsion effects. Not all the frame shapes will suit your photographs ? in fact there are many which are better suited for graphic designers ? but nevertheless this is a great package with something for everyone. WDC RATING: 92%
strong>Over 250 special effects designed by professional photographers
This tool offers more than 250 predefined effects that can be instantly applied to any image. The interface is easy to use. On the right-hand pane there is the extensive library of effects, which includes Colour Treatments, Film and Darkroom, Camera Tricks, and One Click Art, among many others. Just double click on one to apply the effect. Double clicking on another effect adds it to the layer stack, and you can apply multiple effects to any image. Once you have found a look that you like it can be saved as a custom preset. A selection of predefined Presets is included, which can be a good starting point for your own presets. There are numerous before and after preview display options: full screen, side by side, split screen ? above/below and side by side.
The effects are all predefined so there is no opportunity to tweak the settings, the only control you have is to define how the effect is applied, and to define a fade which weakens the effect. When you click the apply button a new Photoshop layer is created, leaving your original picture untouched as a background layer. This gives you further opportunity to blend the new layer with the original image. There are some very nice effects in the library, and combining two or more effects will give you an infinite collection of filter permutations. WDC RATING: 89%
Genuine Fractals 5
Resize your pictures by up to 1000% with minimal loss of quality
Although most of today?s digital cameras produce file sizes that are more than sufficient for printing up to A3+, if you want bigger image files (perhaps you want to sell to stock libraries) or you want to enlarge just a small portion of an image, Genuine Fractals 5 is for you. This plug-in lives under File > Automate, or via a new onOne menu item which is added to the menu bar. Once launched you can crop into the image or leave it as a whole. Then, either enter the size you want or select a setting from the list of predefined dimensions, which include popular Photographic paper as well as A and B sizes. Once you have set your crop and/or image size, Fractals displays the new file size. Next click on the 1:1 button for accurate viewing and apply texture control, Unsharp masking and, if required, Film grain.
The interface is easy to use and images refresh almost instantly. The quality of resized images is first class. I ran the same file through Genuine Fractals and Photoshop?s own Image resize, applying the same amount of USM, and the Genuine Fractals plug-in produced a noticeably superior image. Included with the plug-in are two excellent video tutorials which demonstrate the functions and features of Genuine Fractals 5. WDC RATING: 94%
Simulates selective focus and limited depth of field effects
FocalPoint gives you selective focus control on your image. Place the focus Bug (not my words) on an area in your picture and then drag the bug?s legs in or out to blur the surrounding area. There are several controls available including size, opacity, feather, blur amount. The bug has four handles to control the grid size, and two handles for Blur amount /Feather, and Blur blend/Opacity. The plug-in is easy to use and results can be instantly viewed as you make any alterations.
The image is sent to Photoshop as a new layer which can also include a layer mask. The layer mask will enable you to fine-tune the blur amount in selective areas.
I enjoyed using this plug-in: it produced some effective results quickly and without any knowledge of imaging techniques. However, with a moderate understanding of Photoshop you could produce a similar result by duplicating a Layer and applying a Blur to that layer, then using a Layer Mask erase parts of the Blur layer to reveal the underlying sharp image. WDC RATING: 89%
Two colour-correction filters in one
PhotoTune has two modules. ColorTune starts with a simple simple side-by-side preview interface. Just click on the version you like and ColorTune moves on to the next pair. There is a basic adjustments slider which offers Less or More, and a Fine Tune panel where you can tweak the adjustments. But sometimes I didn?t like either version, and the slider didn?t offer a better solution. ColorTune is, for me, the weakest plugin in this suite. SkinTune 2 on the other hand is an odd filter, yet it performed brilliantly. I managed to achieve some excellent skin tones on images which I?d previously given up on. Click on a skin tone in the preview window and choose a skin type: African, Asian, Caucasian, Latin, Middle Eastern or All. The right- hand preview shows an estimated corrected skin colour. You can further adjust this by selecting another skin tone fine-tuning the sliders. On the negative side, the corrections are applied to the entire image. In my sample image I have a neutral grey pavement which now clearly highlights any corrections made. WDC RATINGS: 79% (COLOR TUNE) 94% (SKIN TUNE)