OnOne Photoshop Plug-in Suite

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Four powerful and long-serving Photoshop plug-ins at a cut-down price.

Now this looks like a bargain. Newly launched company OnOne has taken over the development of a range of Photoshop plug-ins from former developers Extensis and LizardTech and is now offering a bundle of four of them at more-or-less half price. So what do you get for your money?

The undoubted flagship is Genuine Fractals. This was the plug-in that introduced the concept of “lossless” bitmap scaling promising “resolution on demand” and the ability to enlarge images up to 800% with no loss of quality. The system isn’t magical and can’t produce detail that wasn’t there in the first place but it can preserve detail that would otherwise be lost especially when it comes to print. And the new 4.1 release now lets you choose image preset sizes, automate and batch process via actions and, crucially, you no longer have to save to STN format before enlarging. This certainly makes life easier, but you still have to flatten layered images and more modern alternatives such as OnOne’s own pxlSmartScale add-on are easier still and offer more control.

Second up is the longstanding Mask Pro 3 which is designed to help in the difficult task of isolating image elements from their background ready for compositing. The basic approach is to mark up those colours to keep and those to drop and to then simply drag the Magic Brush over the border area. In most cases that’s all that you have to do, even with complex jobs such as hair. Mask Pro 3 is also well able to rise to more difficult masking challenges with features such as the ability to view and work with independent colour channels, to partially undo applied strokes, to decontaminate fringe pixels and to work with vector paths.

The third plug-in, PhotoFrame 2.5, also provides a dedicated working environment, in this case for the production of frame effects. Using no less than nine floating palette tabs you can automatically generate a simple shape-based frame or load one of over 2000 provided frames then customise it by adding glows, shadows, textures and so on. The results can certainly be attractive, but PhotoFrame is overcomplicated and showing its age - even loading the frame itself is unnecessarily complex involving a separate standalone browser. And most of the add-on effects would be better applied as non-destructive layer styles.

The final plug-in is Intellihance Pro 4. Again this has a long pedigree and was one of the first applications to offer automatic single-click image enhancement. Over time the program has added many advanced features such as its numerous split view layouts, the option to generate onscreen variations, a fine tune mode offering full access to all settings and the ability to print test strips. You can certainly achieve good results with Intellihance but inevitably the program has lost much of its original simplicity and appeal.

Ultimately then the Photoshop Plug-In Suite is a mixed bag. There’s undoubtedly some serious power here but, apart from Mask Pro 3, the filters are over-complex and old-fashioned. So while the collection looks a clear bargain at first sight, that’s not necessarily the case. Unless you’re likely to make regular use of at least three of the filters you may well be better off investing in single plug-ins - and investigating the alternatives.   

Ease of Use
Value for Money

Tom Arah

April 2006

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