High 5: Photoshop Plug-ins

Five awesome plug-ins that make Photoshop fun.

High-5-Photoshop-Plug-ins

High-5-Photoshop-Plug-ins

1. Fluid Mask 2.0
We wouldn't attempt serious selecting using Adobe Photoshop's Lasso tool, and, try as we might, we still haven't quite gotten the hang of the Pen tool. That's why we like Vertus's Fluid Mask 2.0, the first selection plug-in we've tried that doesn't take a manual to understand. It automatically divides your image into jigsaw puzzle-ish segments based on like colors. You designate the ones you want to keep and the ones you want to lose. Sure, sometimes you have to do a little tweaking, but it doesn't take long. ($199 download, www.vertustech.com)
2. Melancholytron
Cheerfulness is nice, but what if a mood of quiet reflection or an aura of doom suits you more? Turn to Flaming Pear's aptly named Melancholytron. Move a few sliders and your picture goes from sunny to sour in seconds flat. That way, you won't get depressed trying to figure out how to do the same thing in Photoshop. ($20 download, www.flamingpear.com)

3. SkinTune 2.0
Even if you remember lots of things about the people whose portraits you've taken, you can't always remember the exact color of their skin. And trying to figure out if it looks funny because there's a little cyan in the shadows, or too much magenta in the midtones, can hang you up for hours. PhotoTune Software's SkinTune to the rescue. Select the person's ethnicity, try out a series of sample patches until the color looks right, then watch as the whole image follows suit. Definitely much easier than messing with Curves. ($70 download, www.phototune.com)

4. Black & White Studio
The main reason you're no Ansel Adams is because you shoot digital, right? Now you have no excuse-this plug-in by Power Retouche actually simulates the zone system. Granted, there are only three zones, but you designate them and alter the contrast and brightness in each. You can even use virtual multigrade filters. Now all you need is a summer vacation in Glacier National Park. ($75 download, www.powerretouche.com)

5. Shadow Filter
If your "studio" is your garage, and your lighting setup is a couple of clamp lights (or, if you're just plain inexperienced), you may have trouble getting dramatic shadows. Andromeda Software's Shadow Filter saves the day. Manipulate multiple imaginary lights, then change the shadow's density and adjust its blur. The interface is a little complicated, but the presets make it easier-and the results are totally worth it. ($109 download, www.andromeda.com)

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