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Photo-art: Software, plugins, actions - What are you using?

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Old 02-23-2004, 01:32 PM
DannyRaphael's Avatar
DannyRaphael DannyRaphael is offline
Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: Near Seattle, Washington, USA
Posts: 6,300
Photo-art: Software, plugins, actions - What are you using?

I got an e-mail the other day from someone new to this hobby/sport asking why there were so few creations made with just the native filters built into Photoshop, e.g., Colored Pencil, Dry Brush, Watercolor, etc.

My reply, in effect was:
* Photoshop was never designed/intended to be an "art" application. It was designed for prepress image processing. Most of the filters in the filters menu came through the acquisition of Aldus a number of years ago. Aldus was marketing a Photoshop plug-in called, "Gallery Effects." These filters were rolled into (I believe) Photoshop 4, supplementing the ones Adobe had provided previously.
* While the intentions were good I personally find most of the built-in filters in Photoshop (as well as most other applications) to be somewhat limiting functionally which limits creativity. That's not to say that they cannot be used at all or in combination with other effects or as a basis to get started with photo-art, but by themselves render effects that anyone can achieve. Many people want to go beyond the basic, hence the variety of techniques, plugins, applications and methods mentioned in the various "how to" summaries.
* Many of the Photoshop filters are frauds. Never, ever will you find a real Dry Brush or Watercolor painting that looks like what's rendered by the corresponding filters., many people seek to supplement their toolbox with other, well, tools, which brings me to the $64,000 questions:

1. What applications (programs) do you use to render your creations? (It's okay to mention the popular ones. We can use this as a gauge of what people are using. If you use multiple programs, by all means mention them. Give a sense for frequency of use, too.)

2. What about plug-ins, the ones you purchase? (Names and links, please)

3. What about plug-ins, the ones you download off the net. (Names and links, please)

4. Actions or scripts? What are your favorites? (Links, please.)

- - - - - - -

Note: On the links, once someone has posted a link for a program or plugin, there's no need to repeat it, e.g., one is enought on, but do mention the individual programs, plug-ins, etc.

- - - - - - -

To get this started, here are among my favorites:

* Adobe Photoshop, Use it daily and 98% of the time for photo-art.
* Corel Painter,
Use it seldom at this time, but it has some amazing brush stroke possibilities Photoshop can't touch.

* Jasc Virtual Painter (plug-in),
(buy it off eBay for $25, not from Jasc directly)
I use a couple of the effects frequently; most are not very useful (IMO). I almost always attempt to "disguise" VP rendered layers because they are so distinctively rendered by VP.

* Microsoft Impressionist, available on the Front Page 98 CD. My current favorite. It's simply amazing. Use it more and more every day.

Photoshop Actions
* Just about anything crafted by Mike Finn:

I use actions to generate a layer or a look; seldom use the output of an action "by itself." More likely to use the output of an action as a layer among many in an image and use layer masks or blend modes to integrate it into the final result.

- - - - - -

Okay... you're turn.

What's in your Photo-art toolbox?

Comments, observations, advice welcome, too.

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Old 02-23-2004, 07:35 PM
zulabarr zulabarr is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 9
Favorite plugins-actions

I'm learning Painter, but primarily use PS7.
Favorite plugins (not free):
--BuzzPro 2.0 (I use the Simplifer most of the time and haven't found a substitute yet. You can buy the Simplifier by itself if you don't want to buy the whole package. The Simplifier is all you really need.)
--Flaming Pear (I like all of them especially because of the built-in layer blending effects and randomize feature. Aetherize and Mr. Contrast are my favorites.)
--MS Impressionist (I wish it would render faster, but this is a great plugin.)
--Plasteroid (A new texture and edge generator that I'm just starting to learn.)
--PhotoBrush's Oscar's Finest Watercolor filter (works great after using the BuZZ Simplifier, but can only use with PhotoBrush)
--KPT5 (FraxPlorer for fractals--endless possibilities)

An interesting stand-alone program that I'm starting to play with is Gertrudis. It has many sketch effects.

Favorite plugins (free)
--Amphisoft Simplifier (works differently than Buzz's; has a sharpening effect)
--Xero (especially "lithograph")
--Fantastic Machines Paint Engine (especially the "waves" preset)
--Alien Skin splat LE (for edges)
--DC Special --ice (for texture)
--Luce (for lighting effects)

Above plugins available from:

--Fun House filters (for backgrounds)
--Filter Factory Gallery A "Kaleidoscope" (really fun to play with)
--Pixia's watercolor filter (can only use with Pixia)
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Old 02-23-2004, 09:00 PM
stevic stevic is offline
Join Date: Jun 2002
Posts: 43
Wow. some really great links there!
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Old 02-24-2004, 03:40 AM
Xaran Xaran is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: East Sussex, England
Posts: 534
Not sure if I can remember them all but...

Xero Graphics - mainly Line Art but a lot of nice ones in this package.

Impressionist - haven't used it much yet as I find the very small preview a bit off putting.

Photo-Brush - The water colour is just simply the best.

Virtual Painter - not overly impressed with this.

Instant Photo Artist - Fun to play with lots of options including multiple pictures blended together.

Photo Art Master - this has got to be the worst interface ever.

Paint Engine



Corel Painter


XaraX - A vector program with some interesting bitmap capabilities and a wealth of vector abilities - I also have Coreldraw and Illustrator but XaraX beats them all.

plus about a million other plugins from various sources such as Cybia, Andrews plugins and the plugin site.

And a lot of brushes from http://www.photoshop.brushes.btinter...opbrushes.html


Last edited by Xaran; 02-24-2004 at 03:47 AM.
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Old 02-24-2004, 08:26 AM
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jch71566 jch71566 is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Texas Hill Country
Posts: 242
I think that most of my favorites have been covered, but I'll list them anyway:

PaintShop Pro v7.04
MS Impressionist
Adobe Gallery Effects
Virtual Painter
Xero Graphics plugins

I think that about does it.
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