Alien Skin is one of the most prolific Photoshop plug-in publishers around, and Xenofex 2 adds another 14 plug-ins to its range. Actually, it updates a rather old collection of plug-ins, as the original Xenofex came out sometime in the last century. The new version is ready for OS X and the latest versions of Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, and Macromedia Fireworks MX.
The interface for the plug-ins is well laid out, and sits in a window in front of Photoshop, rather than taking over the whole screen. Some filters can be a bit slow, so the faster your machine the better. Some simple filters like Lightning or Television are pretty quick, however.
Burnt Edges is a simple concept. It singes the edge of your selection and discolours what’s left. It’s ideal for secret treasure maps, discarded ransom notes, or pictures of ex-partners. Classic Mosaic does exactly what it says, but does it rather better than the usual default Photoshop filter, which simply pixelates the image. The Xenofex version lets you choose how the tiles are grouted, and what colour grout you want. The results are fairly realistic.
Constellation creates realistic star fields, and can use an image as a source for the star field. This gives a sort of fairy-dust effect, filling the scene with glowing lights.
Cracks adds a crack effect, but without much control, so results are a little hit and miss. For that just-pulled-out-of-the-wastebasket look, Crumple screws up your images in a good way. Use it with Burnt Edges for the ultimate treasure map.
Electrify is a difficult effect to use subtly, as it creates a halo of an electrical storm around the selection. Fine for those re-animated corpse scenes, but difficult to find a use for in a more commercial environment. Flag takes a boring flat flag and turns it into a billowing, rippling one, just like the real thing.
The Lightning filter is impressive. Just set the start and end point of the lightening bolt, and let the filter do the rest. The results are very realistic, and whip up even the bluest skies into menacing storms. Little Fluffy Clouds offers instant sky, with a choice of wispy, fluffy, or puffy clouds.
Puzzle does a great job of changing an image into a realistic looking puzzle. You can knock out individual pieces and adjust the lighting direction. Rip Open is ideal for peeling back and revealing images, though it is difficult to get it to look very realistic. But, for stylized images it’s a handy tool.
Shatter lets you make your image look like broken glass. You can set the degree of brokenness and the lighting. Or, when you want to age an image, Stain offers you a quick way to do it. You can even add coffee rings for that ‘been sitting on my desk for some time’ look.
Finally, Television is a nifty filter to make an image look like it’s being displayed on TV. Monochrome images are good for surveillance camera effects.
If you’re still using the original Xenofex, then this is definitely worth the upgrade. The filters have a sort of old-fashioned feel to them because the original Xenofex has been around for a long time.
As with most plug-in collections, the effects can be done manually, but would take a long time. This is an effective collection of shortcuts to the desired effects.