Friday, February 4, 2011

Playing With A Freebie Plug-in From Adobe

I must be veering off toward the dark side.  Here's a second post about a plug-in.  I typically don't use plug-ins, preferring to figure out what a plug-in is actually doing and duplicating the effect using straight Adobe Photoshop CS5 in all its glory.  Dave Cross, one of the Photoshop Guys over at NAPP, did a piece on a "new" (it was at the time) plug-in available on the Adobe Labs website. I downloaded it at the time and it sat, languishing at the bottom of the Filters dropdown is CS5.  I suppose I could get the same result by using the Mixer Brushes available in CS5, but that would take some artistic talent and I've proved over and over again that I don't have any.  I guess when they were handing out the part of brains for talent I thought they were giving out pains and said "no thanks".  (Old joke.)  After my exploration of Fractalius from Redfield Plug-ins on Wednesday I thought I give the only plug-in I have loaded in Photoshop a shot and see what it does.  Most of what I found added up to a zero as far as I'm concerned.  Most are a mishmash of algorithms for the sake of writing an algorithms.  I can't imagine what I'd use them for.  But one, called Oil Paint had possibilities.  For a link to the download site for the plug-in and a little about today's image, hit the "read more".
It would be fairly easy to do a Google search on Adobe Labs and figure out what the plug-in is called and where to find it, but it'll be easier still to just click this link: . The plug-in is called Pixel Bender and I've come up with a couple of guidelines and caveats for using it.

Guidelines: Before I would consider using the Oil Paint option in Pixel Bender the image would have to be pretty graphic. I'd use an image with powerful "blocks" that are well defined. I'd look for solid coloring that won't get lost in the technique. The range with the plug-in can go from completely abstract to reasonably fine, but a lower mid-range looked like it produced the best results (on today's image). This is a technique that need to be judiciously applied. With the right image it winds up being "art".

Caveats: It seems to me that this is not something to play with on subtle images. Images with a lot of necessary details would probably be overwhelmed by the algorithm. I don't think I'd use it on portraits, but with that said I do think a portrait might come out looking like one of Van Gogh's "self portraits". I'd say the same thing about sweeping landscapes, but then you have Van Gogh's "Starry Night", "A Wind Beaten Tree" and "Olive Trees". All of which look like they've been put through the plug-in. They say "art is in the eye of the beholder" and I'd guess that's as good a statement about Pixel Bender as I can come up with.

About today's image. The original looks like it might have had some HDR work done. That's not the case. The image was broken down into components and each piece exaggerated in color. Blend Modes and Masks were employed to either Screen sections or Multiply parts. The Screen Bland Mode was used to open the stairway inside the door. Multiply was used (and Opacity reduced) to add depth to the porch. Before it ever went through Pixel Bender it was extensively worked. It was done a couple months before Pixel Bender ever popped into my head.