Plug-In Suite 4 for Photoshop review
With every new version of Photoshop, plug-in developers must wait and wonder if their hard work will be deemed obsolete as Adobe introduce a range of innovative photo editing tricks and tweaks. Thankfully, onOne Software, founded in 2005 by the former CEO of Extensis, has gained a solid reputation for plug-ins that complement the mighty power of Photoshop.
Built by a team of software veterans, photographers (both professional and enthusiast), and Photoshop experts, onOne plug-ins have effectively eased the complexity of Photoshop while dramatically speeding workflow. The range of onOne tools offers everything from enhanced image resizing and selective subject masking to colour correction and darkroom edge effects, each within an attractive user interface.
In the bag
Plug-In Suite 4 is essentially an onOne greatest hits package. It offers six of the best plug-ins in one value-for-money collection, although at a price that’s still a significant investment for many. Bundled software can be a mixed bag, especially if you have little interest in utilising one or more of the tools included. To its credit onOne has at least selected its own chart toppers, all award winners and each individually favourably reviewed.
Genuine Fractals 5 Print Pro promises the ability to increase image size well over 1,000 per cent without the loss of sharpness or detail, ideal for creating super-size poster artwork and selectively cropping images for effect. Unlike the standard edition, this version offers native support for resizing CMYK images without having to convert to RGB.
PhotoTools 1.0 Professional Edition, meanwhile, reproduces a range of authentic camera, filter and darkroom techniques digitally. Names familiar to dedicated Photoshop users, including Jack Davis and Kevin Kubota, contribute to the 250 effects available. Reproduce camera filters such as neutral density, colour correction and polarisation, as well as darkroom techniques and alternative processes such as solarisation and cyanotype. It also offers the ability to simulate the look of different films with a range of grain and contrast effects.
Mask Pro 4.1 is a well-known masking tool that takes the pain out of removing an image from a background, no matter how complex. This latest version offers over a dozen different tools for this tricky, often tiresome task, claiming to rid masked images of edge halos and telltale signs of image manipulation. Although hardly point and click, you can more easily create a mask that preserves the details you want. It even removes unwanted ambient colour contamination caused by reflections and transparency.
PhotoFrame 3.1 Professional Edition adds additional value by being compatible with both Adobe Lightroom 2 and Apple Aperture 2.1, offering a range of decorative and functional frames, textures, overlays, adornments and presets. This is possibly the least essential of the plug-ins here, but there’s enough variation, with thousands of frames, to avoid cliché. A new layer mask mode enables frames to be added as a new layer instead of being applied to your original image.
PhotoTune 2.2 again makes colour correction a relatively painless task, based on a patented colour correction process that took more than two years of development. This SkinTune technology aims to properly correct skin colour for accurate skin tone colour variations based on precise spectrophotometer measurements. A Color Wizard walks you through the correction process, while you can view variations and fine-tune the results before saving. A simple six-step process claims to take as little as 15 seconds to resolve colour issues, although this depends on having a calibrated monitor and a keen eye.
Finally, FocalPoint 1.0 is an all-new onOne plug-in that offers realistic depth of field control, plane of focus control and selective focus to add a degree of blur and opacity to an image so attention is drawn only to the areas you want to keep in focus. The FocusBug controller has two shapes, round and planar, that allow you to adjust the area in focus, or sweet spot. You can add a vignette, similar to traditional darkroom burning or dodging techniques, either lighter or darker, around this area for added drama.
Each of the six tools that make up Plug-In Suite 4 open in their own streamlined interface, which is great, but can make performance a little sluggish with the Mac’s spinning beach ball making an appearance at least once. As well as producing quality products, onOne provide exceptional support, with access to 89 and counting free video tutorials, lengthy online webinars, demo sessions, helpful forums and an extensive knowledge base.
Price alone limits the appeal of Plug-In Suite 4. In every other way this is an excellent set of tools that expands the potential of Photoshop significantly. onOne Software should further be commended for the addition of some admirable video tutorials that make light work of often complex and tortuous tasks.