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5 best free photoshop plugins

October 2nd, 2008 No Comments

 

Last time, you learned about basics of Photoshop plugins. Today, you are going to discover free plugins, filters in particular, which will improve the efficiency of your every Photoshop session and transform your average-looking images to extraordinary ones.
 
All the plugins that will be presented are Windows- and Mac OS-compatible. Also, the plugins were tested in Photoshop CS1 for this tutorial. But many of these plugins work just fine with lower Photoshop versions, and even with PaintShop Pro or PhotoPaint.
 
Here are 5 helpful and free Photoshop plugins from the thousands available online:
 

1.     Luce

Photography is all about light. Change the quality of light on a cloud photo using this filter and insert beams of light shining through it. This can be done through a number of steps in Photoshop. Do it in one or two clicks using Luce from Amico Perry.
 

2.     BorderMania

Adding borders to a single photo is easy, but it can be time-consuming if you have to put borders on all photos of a 50-piece portfolio. BorderMania filter allows for easier application of borders and frames. Tweak your image and play around with different types of borders. Make sure to increase the size of your canvas before you add frames so that the borders don’t cover parts of the image.
 

3.      Mosaic

Who can resist mosaics? Auto FX’s Mosaic  filter took Photoshop’s built-in mosaic options and blew it out of the water with far more effects you can do with an image.

 

This plugin seems like a stand-alone application with its large and attractively designed interface. It also includes standard menu functions like File, Edit, and View. You can control mosaic options that include tile size, depth, neatness, color shift, and spacing.
 

4.      Dreamy Photo

Remember the Photoshop tutorial on achieving a dreamy effect for your photos? That’s the long-hand; there’s another Auto FX plugin called Dreamy Photo that does the trick in one strike. Controls include scales for blur, blend, “ghosting,” tint color, and mask softness.
 

5.      Harry’s Filters

Imagine having access to 69 image effects using one control window—the possibilities are limitless. Download Harry’s Filters ThePluginSite and start experimenting with the effects.

 

The 2 available dropdown menus provide plenty of options where you can change effects on color, noise, warp, and patterns. The plugin also includes a feature called “auto” that allows you to sit back, relax, and watch your photo transform from one setting to another until you find the look you want. The plugin automatically does the job for you.
 
That’s it: the 5 best free Photoshop plugins you can check out. Try it on your photos and let us know how you find them. If you have other plugin suggestions and tips, feel free to post them in the comments section.

Beginner’s Guide to Photoshop Plugins

September 22nd, 2008 3 Comments

 
 You probably already know that Adobe Photoshop is the magic wand of photo editing. But for more demanding image editing projects, Photoshop alone is not enough. There are tools out there that add more advanced capabilities like design blurring and color embossing to your Photoshop software. They are called plugins.

What are Photoshop plugins?
 
Photoshop plugins are supplemental programs that provide you with additional options to edit and enhance your photos, including actions or effects that are impossible to achieve with basic Photoshop commands. Also, they can make your work easier and faster by automating processes.
 
Photoshop is proud to have one of the largest collections of third-party plugins. Developed by Adobe and other independent corporations, plugins may require a fee, but there are also great ones that you can use free-of-charge.
 
What are the types of plugins?
 
Photoshop plugins fall into several types:
 

·         Filter plugin

It’s the most common type of plugin. It has an 8bf file format and normally provides special effects to images.

 

·         Import/export plugins

These plugins acquire or write image data from or to certain devices. An import plugin is also called acquisition and uses an 8ba file format. An export plugin uses 8be.

 

·         File format plugin

It opens and saves rare image formats that are not supported by Photoshop. It uses the 8bi file format.

 

·         Automation plugin

Like macros, this plugin that uses 8ly file type automates certain tasks in Photoshop such as a series of contrast adjustments you need to apply on your portraits shots.

 

·         Selection/parser plugins

Only Adobe creates these types of plugins. They use 8bs and 8by file formats, respectively.
 
How do you use these Photoshop plugins?
 
You need to install your plugins in graphics host applications or plugin hosts before you can use them. There are many graphics applications that support Photoshop plugins. Aside from Adobe Photoshop, some of the popular ones are:
 

  • Paint Shop Pro
  • Photoshop Elements
  • PhotoImpact
  • Corel PhotoPaint
  • Adobe Fireworks

 

To run the plugins in programs other than Photoshop, instructions are widely available online.

 
On the other hand, installing your plugins in Photoshop is fairly easy. First, make sure that your Photoshop is closed when installing new plugins. If your plugin package comes with an installer, you will be guided in the installation process and in a few clicks, you’re done.
 
But if you only have your plugin in, say, 8bf file extension, how will you install it? All you need to do is copy (or drag and drop) the file to the Plugins   subfolder of the Photoshop folder.
 
For Windows, your Photoshop software is usually located in C:Program FilesAdobeAdobe Photoshop CS2Plugins; Mac OS stores it in LibraryApplicationsAdobe Photoshop CS2Plugins. If however you installed your Photoshop in another location, you should look for the plugins folder there.
 
The next time you start Photoshop, the new plugins will be available in the Filter menu, waiting for you to experiment on them to create your masterpieces.

Achieving a Dreamy Effect : Photoshop Tutorial

September 19th, 2008 5 Comments

 Photo credit: chylinski

 Have you ever wondered why some photos look ethereal and dreamy, like the swan photo above? It looks like it came straight from a scene in a fairy tale movie—softly lit, perceptive, fluid, vivid, and it touches something inside of you. You stare at the hints of light that gently touch elements on the photograph; you’re trying to convince yourself it’s a dream. But really, it’s not.
 
It’s just Photoshop.
 
Take a look at the original photo:
 

 
 
 It’s a good enough photo already, right? Although the story and composition can be improved (notice the badly cut reflection of the swan on the water), it makes a great photo of a swan spending her late afternoon dilly-dallying on the lake. To help you turn “simple” into “surreal,” here’s a tutorial on how to achieve a dreamy effect for your photos.
 

  1. Open your chosen photo in Photoshop. This effect works best with well-exposed pictures. You may first adjust brightness and contrast, or do any post-processing adjustment you wish to do with your photo.

 

  1. Create a new layer. From the menu, click Layer, New, and then Layer via Copy. Shortcut: Ctrl + J (Windows)or Cmd + J (Mac).
 
 

  1. A new layer labeled Layer 1 will appear on the Layers palette. This contains your foreground image, which is an exact copy of the background. You may rename your foreground layer if you wish to by double-clicking the layer name. In my case, I labeled it as Foreground.
 
 

  1. Making sure that the foreground layer is highlighted in the Layers palette, pull down the Filters menu and select Blur, then Gaussian Blur.



 

  1. On the Gaussian Blur dialog box, indicate the radius of the blur you wish to apply on your photo. The ideal scale value is when your photo is blurred enough to hide the details, but you should still be able to recognize the image behind it. Start with 5.0 and adjust from there. In the swan photo, I selected a value of 5.0 pixels.
 
 

  1. With the foreground layer still selected in the Layers palette, select the blending mode called Multiply. In this step, watch as your photo instantly turns into something new!
 
 

  1. From an ugly duckling to a glamorous swan, your photo has entered the world of dreams
This could already be the final image. However, depending on how heavily you want to apply the effect, you may change the blending opacity. By default, it is set at 100%. Move the opacity scale in the Layers palette to a lower value and see what you like best.
                 

 
  

  1. Pull down the Layer menu and choose Flatten the Image. This will merge the two layers so that you have just one image.
  1. Finally, click File, save the image as JPEG and you’re done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Create your own Valentine’s Day Canvas Print

February 1st, 2008 1 Comment

Regular readers of the blog will be familiar with the free online image editing program Picnik. You can check out our introduction to Picnik if you are curious. For the curious, the four tutorials in that series will give you an indepth introduction to Picnik.

In today’s tutorial we are going to show you how to use some of the basic Picnik tools to create a very special canvas print, printed card or picture for Valentines day. We have deliberately tried to keep it as simple as possible.

Choose your image

Pick an image that represents a powerful personal moment between you and your partner. An image that features both of you is always ideal 🙂 You can see our test image below.

Intensify  the colour

Increase the saturation of the image slightly to help create more vivid colours.

Simply click on Edit – Colour from the main menu:

When you boost the saturation make sure that the colours still look realistic.

Add a border

Add a border to your image by going to Create – Frames

You can choose both an inner and outer colour and alter the size of each. Remember to click "Apply" when you have finalised your choices to save your changes.

We applied two separate frames – one square and one circular

Add a shape

Picnik have added a whole range of Valentine’s Day themed shapes and we are going to use them to add a splash of colour to our personalised message. Click on "Create" and then "Shapes"

Choose an image from the available selection. It will then appear in the centre of your image. You can alter the size of the image by clicking on any of the four round shapes on each corner. You can rotate the image by clicking on the round shape on the centre top of the image.

Place it in an area where there will also be space to add some text.

Add some text

Without changing the screen – click on the text tag next to the shape button on the menu.

You can see the available options below:

Make sure you scroll down the font choices until you reach those with a Valentines Day theme.

You can choose:

  • The type of font
  • The font size
  • The font colour

Enter your text to the box in the top of the left-hand menu and then click "Add Text"

You can change the size and rotation of the text in the same way as we worked with our custom shape.

You can see our choices below:

Save your image

Make sure you save your image by going to Save and Share.

If you are particularly happy with the final effect Brilliant Prints can help you turn your final image into a very special Valentine’s day canvas print. Alternatively, submit your image to us for our inaugaral Valentines Day Competition and you could win an 11 x 14 inch print with your image delivered before Valentine’s Day.

 

 

Picnik Photo Editing – Part 4 – Using the edit tools

January 18th, 2008 2 Comments

The edit screen of the Picnik photo editing system gives you access to some of the standard features available in most editing programs (like black and white) However, options such as the ‘effects’ brush allow you to apply them in subtle and sometimes surprising ways.

The Edit Screen

An expanded version of the edit screen can be seen below:

Not all the features available in the edit screen are accessible to free members (many of them are premium customers only). However the following features can be accessed by everyone:

  1. Snow: Applies white snow-like particles across the image. The size and intensity of the particles can be adjusted with the fade button
  2. Black and White: Convert an image (or image part) into black and white
  3. Sepia: Applies sepia tones across the image
  4. Boost: Increases the saturation of colours in the image
  5. Soften: Softens the edges of the image
  6. Vignette: Feathers the borders (making them fade from solid to misty) and applies a back background
  7. Matte:  Feathers the borders without changing the border

Using the edit tools

If you click on an option on the left hand side of the edit screen you’ll see a screen similar to the picture below:

If we look at the labels:

1. Fades the effect. A value of 100% means that no change will apply to your image. A value of 0 % means that the effect will be applied at maximum

2. Clicking on the brush tool opens a second menu screen (as per below)

The brush tool allows you to remove the effect from a certain portion of the image. For instance – you can make a single colour item while the rest stays black and white.

Looking at the labelled section of the picture above:

1. Changes the effect of our brush. If we select original – the effect will be applied to the image when we use our brush (i.e. the painted section will become black and white.) If we select effect, our paint brush will remove the effect.

2. Alters the size of the brush. For painting large areas of an image use a larger brush, for fine work drop this right down.

3. Reverses the effect of the brush. For instance – with the black and white tool – it turns the black and white area back into colour.

Putting it into effect

Our test image can be seen below. We wanted to turn everything but the flower into black and white:

1. We clicked on the b/w palette – clicked on the brush icon and selected a large brush. We checked that we had selected ‘original’  in the brush palette. We roughly went over the flower (returning colour to the petals and leaves)

2. We then selected a much smaller brush and changed our selection from ‘original’ to ‘effect’. By painting around the edges of the fingers – we were now turning the coloured portions back into black and white.

As you can see, two minutes work with the black and white tool helped us create a stunning mixed colour shot!

Tomorrow: Our final Picnik masterclass

Make sure you check out the other parts of our Picnik tutorial series:

 

  • An introduction to Picnik
  • Absolute Beginners Guide to Picnik
  • Preparing your picture with Picnik
  • Picnik Advanced: Using the Exposure tools for tonal control

     

     

     

  • Picnik Photo Editing – Part 3 – Levels, Histograms and much more!

    January 17th, 2008 3 Comments

    While the Picnik photo editing software contains an array of easy-to-use tools for the casual photo editor, it also gives you access to a small selection of more powerful options. In Part 3 of this tutorial we will examine the levels tool in greater depth, providing some pictorial ‘before and after shots’ as illustration.

    Exposure Tools

    High-powered software like Adobe Photoshop have long given photographers the ability to finely tune the exposure of problematic photos. Picnik gives users the ability to replicate this function (albeit not completely) through the Exposure tool.

    From the main editing screen you simply click on:

    1) Edit

    2) Exposure

    3) Advanced

    and you will see the following screen:

    The Histogram in the picture shows the tonal range of your image. The left hand side graph represents the proportion of pixels in your image that are absolute black, while the right-hand side shows the proportion of pixels that are absolute white. Unless you are aiming for a particular artistic effect, the graph should be concentrated in the middle. 

     In looking at the above graph we can see that it shows that our source image will be very dark (as can be seen below in the picture)

    The advanced exposure menu gives us three ways of correcting this image.

    The Brightness button allows us to lower or decrease the overall brightness of the image. You can see how this effects our test image:

    When we darken the image by pushing the brightness button to the left hand side you can see that the tonal range of our image is concentrated around a narrow spectrum of absolute black – creating a very murky effect.

    In contrast, when we push the image towards the absolute white end – we end up with a picture lacking contrast and tonal depth.

    The brightness tool can be effective with an image that is only slightly – out of balance – however we would recommend taking a look at the highlight and shadows tool for more nuanced editing.

    The Highlights slider menu allows you to individually manipulate the white point of the image. You can see from the below image that it has increased the intensity of the existing white points (the faces) without really touching the surrounding shadows.

     

     

    The Shadows slider does the opposite – increasing the intensity of the black points while minimising the impact on the white points.

    You should also be able to see how changing each of the sliders impacts on the histogram for each image.

    Pulling it all together

    The easiest way to learn how to use the exposure tools is to practice! Try playing around with each slider, also looking at the affect in combination. It’s very hard to make a mistake (as you can always reset your values and start again)

    Our final copy of the our test image can be seen below:

    Tomorrow: Retouching faces and teeth using Picnik.

    Take a look at the other parts of the Picnik series:

    Picnick Photo Editing Tutorial – Part 2 – Preparing your picture

    January 16th, 2008 4 Comments

    The tools available under the ‘Edit’ button in online photo editing program Picnik are deceptively simple. However, in today’s tutorial we are going to show you the options available to help you make a fantastic image to use for more advanced editing. We will taking a detour through some basic photographic theory as well.

    The Menu Bar

    We will take a look at each option separately

    Auto-fix

    Auto-fix is the sledge-hammer approach to photo-editing. It means that the picnik software will attempt to determine the ideal lighting/contrast levels. Depending on  your image it can work surprisingly well. Other times it can be a little hit and miss.

    Rotate

    For anyone prone uneven horizons in your photos – this toolis the perfect antidote.

    If we take a look at each of the numbered options – we can see that we can:

    1. Rotate the image left or right

    2. Straighten the image. Simply click on the central straighten ruler – and a grid will appear to assist you lining up the lines of your image. Try it out to begin with and you will soon get the hang of the process.

    3. The third button allows you to flip your image horizontally or vertically.

    At any point you can press reset to reverse any changes you’ve made. Pressing ok will save the changes and take you back to the main editing menu.

    Crop

    Cropping your image is an important part of creating an effective photographic composition. We looked at some of the theory in the article from our learning centre on composition and symmetry.

    To summarise:

    (1) The use of space can determine the mood of the photograph. If you choose not to crop a photo and the main subject is only a small part of the overall frame it will communicate to a particular kind of mood. Cropping out the background to focus on the subject conveys an entirely different message.

    (2) When cropping your picture – you should always leave enough space to allow the eye to naturally follow the movement within the frame. Check out the article from our learning centre for more information.

    The options available in Picnik are as outlined in the following picture:

    To crop your image simply move the 4 sides of the crop window until you end up with a selection that is aesthetically pleasing. When you are ready press ok and it will save your changes. 

    The option labelled ‘1’ in the picture allows you to preselect a particular size or ratio. It’s particularly useful if you are trying to get your file into a particular format.  

    Resize

    In the resize window you can alter the size your picture using both pixel dimensions or a percentage proportional increase.

     Exposure

    The exposure window gives you three options:

    1) Auto-fix: it will attempt to determine the best ratio between exposure and constrast

    2) Exposure: Increasing this value will increase the overall brightness in your image

    3) Contrast: The contrast determines the degree of difference betweeen absolute black and absolute white in the print.

    We will take a look at the advanced options in our next tutorial.

    Colour

    The colour window gives you three options:

    Saturation: The saturation tool determines the intensity of colours in the photo. Use it wisely as too large a value can make images seem unrealistic

    Warmth: The warmth allows you slide from an overall cool (blue) tone to an overall warm (reddish) tone in your images.

    The neutral picker attempts to determine the colour balance automatically. Once you’ve clicked on the button try to find a point of gray or white on the image. It’s worth noting that the results of this can be very uneven – therefore you might prefer to do it manually.

    Sharpen

    The sharpen button allows you to increase the edge constrast in your image – this can help blurry image seem more effective but should not be pushed too far.

    The premium version of picnik allows you to exercise finer control over your images.

    Red Eye Fix

    The red eye feature in Picnik is simple, intuitive and surprisingly effectively. Simply click on the centre of each eye in the photo and all your problems shuold be solved!

    You can see the results of a simple trial below:

     

    Undo

    Picnik has a fantastic undo feature that allows you to reverse almost any action you take. Simply look for the undo button on the right hand side of the screen.

    Tomorrow: We take a look at some of the advanced features of picnik and try editing our first image.

    Take a look at the other parts of the series:

    Picnik Photo-editing Tutorial – Part 1 – Beginner’s Guide

    January 15th, 2008 5 Comments

    For those confident with web-based software you can skip ahead by signing up here.

    Otherwise – the following information will help even an absolute beginner sign up to and start using Picnik.

     

    Requirements

     

    You will need to have Adobe Flash 9 installed on your system for the service to work. If you don’t have it – it will prompt you to download.

     

    Sign-up

     

    1. Go to this page.
    2. Click register
    3. You only need to provide a user-name, email address and password (see picture below). Untick the box at the bottom of the screen if you don’t want to receive email updates.
     

     

    1. That’s it. You don’t even need to activate your account. You will be taken straight to your personal homepage and can start editing images straight away.
     

    Uploading your first image

     

    To get started on editing your first image:

     

    1. Click on the upload now button (see picture below)
     

    Picnik Welcome Screen

     

    1. A window will open showing files on your hard-drive. Choose the required file and click upload. Once the file is uploaded your are ready to go!
    The Picnik menu system

     

    The attached picture shows the range of different options available for your photograph:

     

     

     

     

    The options available are as follows:

     

    Home: Takes you back to the initial start screen

    Photos: Allows you to upload new photos or grab them from other web services

    Edit: Offers a range of basic tools such as cropping, exposure, colours and red-eye reduction

    Create: Offers a range of very cool filters allowing you to modify your image (b/w, sepia etc)

    Save and Share: Allows you to save your image back on your hard drive, and share it through a range of other web applications.

     

    Tomorrow: Editing  your first image

     

    Take a look at the other parts of the Picnik series:

     

  • Absolute Beginners Guide to Picnik
  • Preparing your picture with Picnik
  • Picnik Advanced: Using the Exposure tools for tonal control
  • Using the Picnik brush tools for editing
  • Create your own valentines image with Picnik
  •  

     

    Free software to give your digital photographs the *wow* factor

    January 15th, 2008 6 Comments

    2007 was the year of the web application – with popular desktop software such as calendars, word-processing and project management software moving online. It also saw the debut of a range of free feature-rich, intuitive photo editing programs that can be accessed entirely online.

     In the next few weeks we’ll showcase four programs, covering software suitable for both amateur photographers and professionals alike.

     

    This week we will focus on a new program called Picnik.

     

     

    What do other people say?

    • PCWorld says it’s: “Outstanding online photo editing for casual photographers who live online”
    • Tech Journalist Walt Mossberg (Wall Street Journal) is a strong advocate. He says “If you want to see how good a Web application can be, take Picnik for a spin”
    The Good Points

    • Recently, Yahoo updated popular photo storage service flickr to include one click access to picnik editing tools. Integrating the two has helped make a great set of programs even better. Picnik is working on integrations with other web programs such as Picasa and Facebook.
    • Picnik is accessible from anywhere you have internet access. It helps eliminate the frustrations of being on the wrong computer and wanting to edit your photos.
    The Bad Points

    • The picnik editing tools are fantastic, but they don’t give you the same control as dedicated desktop programs. If you want to move beyond basic colour correction and adjustment – this program will not be for you.
    • Picnik offers a smooth experience if you use it from a broadband connection. However, if you try to access it from a dial-up internet connection you’ll discover just how frustrating it can be!
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