Can Photoshop do everything? Of course, it can. But one should have extreme skills, plenty of experience and a great deal of time before retouching images or creating graphics pixel by pixel. Photoshop is an amazing graphics application that has forever changed graphic, Web design and digital photo editing. [Updated January/04/2017]
One should know how to use Photoshop to its full potential to get the most stunning results. This is where Photoshop plugins come in handy. Plugins aside, though, if you have time to acquire extreme skills, we encourage you to do so because there is nothing better than learning something new.
Featured below is the ultimate collection of useful Adobe Photoshop plugins that will make your work easier, faster and better and reduce the number of steps needed to accomplish tasks. They will also allow you to do things you just cannot do with the features built into Photoshop. Some of the plugins are collections of filters, whereas others are programs or utilities that you may find useful.
Further Reading on SmashingMag:
- A-Z of Free Photoshop Plugins and Filters
- Free Photoshop Tools For Web Designers
- GuideGuide: Free Plugin For Dealing With Grids In Photoshop
- A Better Way To Design For Retina In Photoshop
Cutting out is one of those painful tasks in Adobe Photoshop that people always approach with gritted teeth. It is very easy to cut out a section when the image has clearly defined lines. But on many occasions, you will come across images that prove to be just too challenging.
The fluid mask plugin is helpful in such cases. It can isolate subjects in a quick and logical way and works similar to Photoshop’s own mask options, except that it has its own interface and offers much more control; for example, all brushes have their own settings. There are a lot of ways to use this plugin, depending on the type of image you are working with.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop CS2 - CC 2017 Adobe Photoshop Elements|
|Operating system||Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and above Mac OS X v.10.3.9, v.10.4.9 and above|
|License||Commercial with 14-day trial|
Virtual Photographer is a free plugin that you can use to create a variety of photographic styles quickly and easily. This plugin features multiple presets for creating numerous effects, so you don’t have to waste hours working out the perfect settings.
Virtual photographer has a filter to suit every purpose. You can fine-tune the available settings even further to manipulate the image to your specific requirements. It is also possible to save your favorite settings as .vph files so that you can apply the styles to future images.
Portraiture is a useful portrait retouching plug-in. It intelligently smoothens and removes imperfections, while preserving important portrait details such as skin texture, hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc. A unique feature is that it allows selective smoothening for only the skin tone areas of the image. It also lets you add effects quickly with presets.
|Batch processing||via Photoshop Actions|
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop CS14 - CC 2017 Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 - 15 Adobe Lightroom 1.5 - CC Apple Aperture 2.1 and above|
|Color support||8 bits/channel 16 bits/channel|
|Operating system||Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 Mac OS X 10.4.x, 10.5.x, and above|
AKVIS Chameleon automatically adjusts pasted objects to the target image’s color range and smoothens the object’s borders. This plug-in frees you from the meticulous process of precisely selecting objects. With the press of a button, the object adjusts to the new background, adapting to the new color range and blending with the environment.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop Photoshop Elements Corel (Jasc) Paint Shop Pro Many more (view compatibility list)|
|Operating system||Mac OS X and Windows|
|License||Free to try|
|Price||Home: $54 Home Deluxe: $65 Business: $82|
Noise Ninja is a useful plug-in for removing noise and grain from digital photographs. Noise reduction is useful for anyone shooting in low-light or fast-action situations like news, sports, weddings and events.
Noise Ninja often yields a two-fold improvement in image quality, while preserving important image detail. In addition, it can produce cleaner, smoother enlargements from low-ISO images. It includes automatic and manual noise analysis, camera-specific profiles, an innovative “Noise Brush” and batch processing to allow you to quickly and easily retouch and rescue your images.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Elements Aperture|
|Operating system||Mac OS X, Windows and Linux (stand-alone only)|
|Price||Pro Bundle (plugin) license: $129|
Depth of Field Generator Pro
An image often looks dull if all areas or objects are of the same focus. Giving areas varying levels of focus is an ideal way to add interest and create a more sophisticated look. Depth of field is a difficult effect to get right, but this plug-in allows you to achieve it easily.
Depth of Field Generator Pro provides an automatic solution for depth of field problems and uses a range of algorithms to aid you in the process. The plug-in can be applied to single or multiple images at once.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop v4.0 and above Adobe Photoshop Elements Adobe Illustrator 7 and above Many more (view compatibility list)|
Altostorm Rectilinear Panorama
Altostorm Rectilinear Panorama is an unique tool that corrects distortions in panoramic images, including geometric image distortions; lens, perspective and panorama distortions; and asymmetrical and irregular distortions.
|Compatible host applications||Adobe Photoshop 4.0 to CC (32-bit and 64-bit) Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 and above Microsoft Digital Image 10.0 Corel Photo-Paint 9.0 and above and many more|
|Operating system||Windows 2000, XP, Vista|
|Price||Professional: $179 Home Edition: $69|
Dreamy Photo gives your photos a soft-focus look, giving them a dream-like feel.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop|
|Operating system||Windows and Mac|
AutoEye is a useful tool for image editing if you have no clue about color correction or processes such as adjustment, curves, levels, cast removals, contrast and histograms. It can automatically improve digital images by rebuilding color detail, sharpness and image vibrancy using a totally different set of adjustment methods than Photoshop’s. It can instantly correct and enhance images.
|Compatible host applications||Adobe Photoshop 7 - CC 2017|
|Operating system||Windows 2000, XP, Vista Mac OSX|
Bleach Bypass PRO
Bleach Bypass Professional is an advanced Photoshop-compatible plugin designed to digitally simulate the traditional “bleach bypass” film technique. The “bleach bypass” technique involves partially or completely skipping the bleaching stage when processing color film. This prevents the silver from being removed from the negative, and the result is a contrast image with muted colors.
Process FX is another tool that digitally simulates traditional film cross-processing (i.e. C-41 print film processed in the chemicals used for the processing of E-6 slide film, and vice versa). This technique creates skewed color effects that range from subtle to extreme. This plug-in allows you to reproduce that cross-processed look in software, with full control over the effect. It comes with several presets, which you can save for later use.
PearlyWhites automatically whitens and brightens teeth. PearlyWhites can also whiten the sclera of the eye because it looks for white elements surrounded by flesh tones. It supports batch image processing for editing many images at once.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and above Photoshop Elements 2 and above PaintShop Pro 7 and above|
|Operating System||Windows Vista, XP, NT, 2000 Mac OS X and above|
|License||Free to try|
Photomatix is a tool for creating high dynamic range (HDR) photographs. Although Photoshop CS2 and later versions allow photographers to create HDR images, the tools for mapping the resulting files into something that can be displayed in print or online are primitive.
Using Photomatix, photographers can merge photographs of various exposures into one image with increased dynamic range. They can also reveal highlight and shadow details in an HDR image created from multiple exposures.
|Compatible host program||Photoshop CS2 and above|
|Operating System||Windows 98, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8, 10 Mac OS X|
|License||Unlimited trial period (with a watermark)|
MediaChance’s ReDynaMix HDR is another Photoshop plug-in that gives HDR-like effect to your images. The difference between Photomatix (covered above) and ReDynaMix is that the latter adds HDR-like effects to single images: no need for multiple exposed photographs. It has an easy-to-understand interface, with immediate previews for settings.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop 5 and above Adobe Photoshop Elements 1 and above PaintShop Pro 8 Photo-Brush 4.3|
Xpose is an exposure adjustment plugin. It allows you to quickly adjust highlights and shadows with rapid preview feedback and a simple, intuitive interface. With just a few sliders, you can better expose your digital photos.
Color MegaMix is a free Photoshop plug-in that can modify the colors in any image. Using two rows of colors, eight source colors and eight target colors, this plug-in reconstructs the color space.
The Color! Color! plug-in gives you bold colors for your images with far less color distortion.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop 5 - CC 2017 Adobe Photoshop Elements 1 and above PaintShop Pro|
With the Backdrop designer plug-in, you can transport people and objects into scenes from professional photo shoots from the comfort of your desktop. Produce backgrounds that are resolution-independent and have textures and shadows, which increase depth and makes your scene more realistic.
|Compatible host program||Photoshop 7.0 – CC Elements 4.0–6.0|
|Operating system||Mac 10.4, 10.5 Win 2000, XP Home, XP Pro and above Vista 32-bit, 64-bit|
|License||Free to try|
Photo Manipulation And Graphic And Web Design
Fractalius creates beautiful fractal textures from images. You can also simulate various types of exotic lighting and highly realistic pencil sketches.
SymmetryShop is a powerful tool for designing patterns.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop|
|Operating system||Windows and Mac|
|Price||CD-ROM with printed User Guide: $321.00 Download: $315.00|
Sketch Master is a manipulation tool for creating realistic hand drawings derived from photos. It consists of various tools, such as lead pencil, ink pencil, crayon, charcoal, airbrush, etc. Three layers with separate settings allow one to emulate effects of stylized fine art on all sorts of surfaces, including water paper, squared paper, laid paper, canvas, leather, crepe and rag paper.
Eye Candy Bundle
Eye Candy Bundle contains three Adobe Photoshop plugins:
Nature A collection of 10 Photoshop filters, which can create fire, smoke, rust, snow, ice and more. Nature includes over 500 presets for frequently used effects.
Impact A collection of 10 Photoshop filters, which can create chrome, brushed metal, glass, bevels, shadows, reflections and more. Impact offers beautifully rendered effects for designers.
Textures A collection of 10 seamless texture generators. Textures produces a wide variety of effects, including snake and lizard skin, fur, brick, stone and wood. Graphic designers, Web developers and 3-D artists can quickly create backgrounds, skins, seamless tiles and more.
|Compatible host program||Macintosh:
|Operating System||Windows 2000, XP, Vista Mac OS X 10.4.0 and above|
Decorator allows you to change the surface of objects in a realistic way. You can create things unimaginable even to Mother Nature.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop Adobe Photoshop Elements Corel Photo-Paint Many more (check compatibility)|
|Operating system||Windows 2000, XP, NT, 2003, Vista Mac OS X 10.3.9 to 10.5|
|Price||Home license: $54.00 Business license: $82.00|
Preparing photos for print can be tedious, often involving DPI, aspect ratio and cropping. Blow Up is a Photoshop plug-in that produces dramatically sharp enlargements. Blow Up uses an innovative algorithm that temporarily converts pixels to a vector representation that results in perfectly smooth, crisp edges. Simulated texture and film grain keep photos looking natural even in extreme enlargements. Over 100 presets for common output sizes are available with this plugin and make cropping and resizing easy to do in one step. Blow Up also has a built-in batch processing tool for resizing many photos at once.
|Compatible host program||Adobe Photoshop CS2 9.0.2 and above Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0.1 and above (Macintosh) Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 and above (Windows)|
|Operating System||Windows XP and above Mac OS X 10.4.11 and above|
Other Good Photoshop PlugIns
Many other good plug-ins are not reviewed in the list above:
You may be interested in the following articles and related resources: