Plug-ins for Photoshop

Photoshop Plug-ins… What are they? Why do I need them?

Plug-ins are typically third party software that works in conjunction with a specific software or software products. Adobe, makers of Photoshop, is company that encourages developers to create plug-ins for its products. There are several plug-in products that work with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom that enhance their capabilities.

However, since Adobe Photoshop is such a powerful feature laden product why would anyone need a plug-in? The answer is that despite Photoshop having many features, some of the features work better with plug-ins. If you have ever tried to use the noise reduction filter in PS, you have likely been disappointed. While it does a fairly good job of reducing digital noise, it softens the image to a point that it loses focus. Using Unsharp mask in PS often enhances the left over noise negating the previous adjustments in noise reduction. The end result is often unsatisfactory.

Some of the more popular plug-ins are made by Nic Software. Recently Nic Software was acquired by Google. This is good news as the price of the entire plug-in suite is now less than a single product was previously. For $149 (look for coupons for even more savings) you can buy the entire suite. Beside the two plug-ins discussed here the suite includes HDR Efex Pro 4 for creating high dynamic range photos, Color Efex Pro 4 for filters to enhance the color of images, Silver Efex Pro 4 for Black and white enhancements and, my personal favorite, Viveza 2 for spot editing.

Click to open images. Click again to see large size.

Matching Difficult Color

soft proof screen shot- Art work by Joe Moynihan, used by permission

One of the most difficult colors to reproduce is a bright Azure blue (a bright mix of blue and cyan). I have tried many methods and color corrections and still have been unsuccessful in close color reproduction.   As you can see in the side by side comparison screen shot, the colors look great on the screen.  But when I print them, the inks and media drop the intensity of the blues and cyans becoming faded, muddied and flat.

 To visualize the effect of print I use a method called “soft proofing”.  I apply a soft (or visual proof) by going to the “view” menu in Photoshop and choosing “proof set-up”.  From that drop down menu I choose “custom” and then select the paper and printer profiles I have for my printer. (In this case it is Epson 9800 Dual Black inks Breathing  Color Chrome White Canvas)  The bottom screen shot shows the results on both of my test prints.  Before I even print them, I know the image on the Left will not even come close to the original despite it being closer in color on the computer screen.

 Because I have had this issue before with this color, I have managed to find a way to reproduce it coming fairly close. I usually work in RGB color mode and send all files to my printer in RGB. (Image>Mode>RGB color).  As this is the color mode of the computer and the color mode that the printer reads I always work in this mode.  However, achieving this brilliant azure blue in RGB is not possible. So I convert the color mode to Lab color and  I am able to create the correct color on screen and from the printer. Color correction can usually be done by the numbers but when it comes to colors that are out of gamut it sometimes takes intuitive reasoning and experimentation.  Don’t be afraid to experiment in Photoshop.  It is sometimes the only way to get the effect you want

HDR with Photoshop CS5

High Dynamic Range or HDR

HDR, or High Dynamic Range is fast becoming a popular photo presentation. Although not new to Photoshop, in CS5 the HDR feature is new and improved.  For a excellent overview of the new HDR feature in CS5 go to  Adobe TV

HDR photos are created by taking muliple exposures.  For the best results shoot using a tripod.  At least three exposures from over to under exposed. The more the better. Some photographers use 6 or even more exposures.

ckick to see larger:

Adobe tv – HDR

You may notice that I removed an extra bud from the photo. This was done using Content Aware Fill, another amazing feature of Photoshop CS5

Painting in Photoshop CS5

Photoshop CS5: New Feature, Paintmixer Brush

This is just plain fun! I have not painted in years. Since starting in the digital arts and begining this business, I have not had time to paint and had forgotten how much fun it was to push paint around on a canvas. Painting in PSCS5 almost feels like the real thing. A major difference is that the clean-up and paint fumes are non existant. 

It is a power hog, though. Plan to mulititask if you are trying to create a very large image. And save often!!  You will be waiting for the brush to move slowly across the screen smearing pixels along the way. I guess the next move is a computer upgrade to take full advantage of this software.

Photoshop CS5 Review

Brief Review of Photoshop CS5

Having just opened the box late last night, I can not give a very thorough review yet. But I had to try out some of the new features that have been so well publicized. 

I will start with the feature I was most looking forward to, Content Aware Fill. It is all that was promised! Totally incredible. I was able to remove telephone lines through trees and sky without any problems, other than having to go over a couple of spots.  It also works on large areas using the delete key. I was able to remove a tree from the sky in only two short steps. Photoshop even grabbed a cloud from the other part of the sky and placed into the spot where the tree had been. All I can say is WOW!

Another new feature, I have been anticpting is the paint feature. This too is incredible, but not in the least easy. It looks like it should be but it is not. I love the idea but it will take much practice and patience to create a painting from a complex photograph.

I will post more reviews as I delve deeper into the Adobe Creative Suite Design Premium.

Photoshop CS5

Adobe CS5

I know that each new version of a software has a few new tricks or features that are nice but do you really need them?  Photoshop has had 12 versions since its inception in early 1990’s.  Each version has had great new features, but can you live without them? That, of course, depends upon what you do with photoshop.  But this time, Adobe has made some spectactular changes. My favorite feature is the new “content aware fill” feature. The hours spent cloning out telephone wires or trying to blend the sky that was lost when building panoramas are a thing of the past. With content aware fill these corrections can be done in a matter of seconds. It is Photoshop magic at its best.  Podcast from Lynda.com top new features in Photoshop CS5 . This is a brief overview of the best new features in CS5.

To learn all the new features, you can struggle through the steep learning curve. Wait for the hints on the forums or the easy way is to take an online course. I have tried several different sites and have found Lynda.com to be the most effective and easist to use. It also has a vast library of titiles and software to chose from. A subsciption to Lynda.com is the best learning gift you can give yourself.  Use the button on the side bar to get more information on Lynda.com