PostworkShop 2 review

£31
Price when reviewed

Creative bitmap filters have been around for a long time now, and generally offer few surprises: Alien Skin’s Snap Art, for example, provides a limited range of customisable preset effects for quickly giving your photos an artistic feel. PostworkShop is entirely different: it provides a universal toolkit with which you can produce your own, truly unique artistic effects.

To start getting creative with PostworkShop, all you need to do is load an image and then click on one of the graphical thumbnails in the Styles panel. This presents over 400 styles, grouped into categories (Drawing, Painting, Graphic Arts) and subcategories (Abstract, Impressionist, Pop Art and so on). If you don’t like what you see, simply click on another style; if you do, fine-tune the results with the Properties and Preview panel.

This is where most filter effect collections would stop, but PostworkShop goes far further. To begin with, you can chain multiple styles, say, to create an abstract version of a photo, then apply a watercolour effect to it. Even more powerful and creative is the ability to layer multiple styles, complete with control over opacity and blend mode. You can even load multiple images, then style and blend each separately to create advanced artistic compositions.

PostworkShop styles

As you get drawn into PostworkShop, it makes sense to switch to the program’s Style Editor view, which displays each effect as a node in a filter-based flowchart. Here you can quickly add, combine and adjust the main Building Block filters – pulling out colour areas and outlines, applying brush-based painting effects, colour correcting, blending between different variations and so on – to create your own unique effect. When you’re happy with the results, you can save everything as a new style, ready to apply to other images.

Its power is hugely impressive, but there’s one obvious downside to any filter-based approach: there is very little scope for hands-on input. It’s a problem that PostworkShop 2 answers brilliantly. Switch to the Bitmap Editor tab and you can paint directly onto the current image selection, using a wide range of artistic and geometric brushes.

Even better, the colour you paint with can be sampled from any node in your style graph, making PostworkShop 2 one of the most powerful artistic cloning packages around. You can also use this paint system to interactively create transparency masks to boost your compositing options.

PostworkShop 2

If you’re looking for even more power, you need to move up from the standard PostworkShop Artist edition to PostworkShop Pro. This removes the 2,000 x 2,000 pixel output size ceiling, and offers faster 64-bit processing. It also offers batch processing, which automatically applies the same style to multiple images. This could prove useful for giving 3D renders the same artistic look and feel or for producing creative animations.

PostworkShop Pro 2 also breaks new ground with its Plugin Mode. You could already load and save compositions as multilayered Photoshop PSD files, but now you can also access PostworkShop Pro 2 as a filter from directly within Photoshop. The one downside is that your filter settings aren’t stored within Photoshop, so you can’t non-destructively apply and then later fine-tune your effects. However, that’s a small price to pay to have access to such extraordinary creative power and control.

That’s true of PostworkShop as a whole. In fact, bearing in mind the bargain price of only $49 (£31) for the Artist edition and $99 (£63) for Pro, you have to feel sorry for the makers of traditional filter collections.

Details

Software subcategory Graphics/design software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes

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