onOne Photoshop Plug-In Suite review

£230
Price when reviewed

OnOne has taken over the development of a range of Photoshop plug-ins from former developers Extensis and LizardTech, and it’s now offering a bundle of four of them at close to half price. That’s enough of a bargain to seriously pique our interest.

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 per cent with no apparent 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 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 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.

Second up is Mask Pro 3, which is designed to help with 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 drag the Magic Brush over the border area. In most cases, that’s all you have to do. 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 fewer than nine floating-palette tabs, you can automatically generate a shape-based frame or load one of more than 2,000 provided frames, then customise it by adding glows, shadows, textures and so on. The results can certainly be attractive, but PhotoFrame is over-complicated 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.

Finally, there’s 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 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 disappointing; while there’s undoubtedly some serious power here, apart from Mask Pro 3, the filters are over-complex and old-fashioned. So while it 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’re better off investing in single plug-ins – and investigating the alternatives.

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