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Genuine Fractals PrintPro 3
There are many reasons for enlarging images. Perhaps you want to make a medium-resolution digital photo into an A3 poster for inkjet output, or to resize a small Web logo for print use. The problem is pixelation, that unpleasant jagged effect that gets worse the more you enlarge. Genuine Fractals PrintPro uses a fractal algorithm to create a smooth image when scaled up. If you've ever zoomed in on a fractal graphic, you will have seen that the image is apparently neverending. In essence, that's how PrintPro's STiNG technology works; it saves a higher level of detail by not truncating the data when saving.
As a Photoshop-compatible plug-in, PrintPro is well integrated. Open an image in Photoshop, and use Save As to select the PrintPro format. The resulting dialog has two options: Lossless, which gives no loss of image quality, but produces a larger file; and Visually Lossless. File sizes are smaller with the latter, but aren't as useable with big enlargements.
Typically, a Lossless file will be double the size of a Visually Lossless one which in turn is about 20 per cent of the original file size.
On opening PrintPro's .stn file, you'd be forgiven for thinking, "is that it?" But the rather simple dialog belies the plug-in's power. From here you can crop the image, set the level of scaling; switch modes from, say, RGB to CMYK, greyscale, or LAB; and choose from three quality levels. This latest version has one important new feature: Preview. The crop window now has the secondary purpose of allowing you to select an image area and see what it will look like when enlarged. It works at a 1:1 ratio, so it's the equivalent of viewing the area at 100 per cent in Photoshop. As that's its sole purpose, there's no zoom facility offered.
In practice, the results are little short of astounding. Enlarging a decent quality image six-fold and more gives a thoroughly useable result. The design studio I run uses it to cut costs too by enlarging digital photos to A3 size for a tabloid magazine and to A2 or A1 for posters rather than have the photographer shoot transparencies and then scan them out-of-house. While it's not true dynamic resolution, it's pretty damn close from a practical point of view.
Enlarging an image via Photoshop's bicubic method is fine up to a point. You may get away with doubling the size and using a little unsharp mask to remove the resulting softness.
Even then you'll probably notice the lack of detail when printed. PrintPro produces exceptional results at 200-300 per cent, and a very useable image at anything up to 1,000 per cent - and possibly beyond - for large posters.
The new version is faster, especially in Mac OS X, and more robust - though it's questionable whether the inclusion of the Preview function is worthy of a full point upgrade. But it's the best product available for its purpose bar none.
Min specs: Mac OS 8.6 or Mac OS X.