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onOne Software: Plug-In Suite 5 Professional Edition

Powerful Pro-level Intuitive Adobe Photoshop CS5 Plug-ins for Photographers, Designers, and Artists


onone suite 5 box shot


Early fall, 2010

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Eden Maxwell


Note: onOne Software has announced a major update to their Plug-In Suite 5—now called the Perfect Photo Suite 5.5. The free update is now available for existing Plug-In Suite 5 customers.

"All of the products in the Perfect Photo Suite 5.5 will work as plug-ins for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture. But now, for the first time, five of the seven products in the Perfect Photo Suite will work as standalone applications, giving you the ultimate work-flow flexibility. Only PhotoTools and Mask Pro will require Photoshop."

Filters, Lenses, and Effects—Oh My!

When it comes to applying digital filters for effect, my response as a painter has been this: filters do not an artist make. But, when it comes to the art of photography, the game changes: filters are an essential part of the creative toolkit.

Photoshop, as a host app, already ships with plug-ins like the Filter Gallery, Camera Raw, and Lens Correction. Of course, other third-party plug-ins are available from developers, including onOne Software, the company behind the popular Plug-In Suite 5 for photographers, production folk, designers, and painters, too.

All of the onOne Software products now support Photoshop CS5 (Extended, too) and are also 64-bit compatible for Windows and Mac.

Since the generically named onOne Plug-in Suite 5 doesn't describe what's in the box, the first newbie question might be this: what are these six plug-ins and how can I use them?

The onOne Plug-in functions at-a-glance:

1) Genuine Fractals: resize images upward with no loss of quality

2) Mask Pro: remove unwanted backgrounds

3) PhotoTune: color correct photos

4) FocalPoint: put the focus where you want it

5) PhotoTools: apply and blend effects for a professional look

6) PhotoFrame: add the finishing touch

Self-evident & Intuitive

The onOne Plug-In Suite 5 is now integrated into your chosen Photoshop Workspace by way of the onOne panel; this newly designed panel gives you access to all the plug-ins and, through a dropdown menu, access to available plug-in presets, plus a handy online link to onOne Software—all directly from within Photoshop. If the panel isn't showing, from the top menu, go to: Window > Extensions > onOne. Once the panel is active you can dock it like any other Photoshop native panel.

As you begin working with the plug-ins, especially PhotoTune and PhotoTools, sometimes effects can be so subtle that you might not immediately notice any change—something to keep in mind. Note also that for best results in most cases you should make adjustments to your image before invoking one of the plug-ins—the sequence of steps for applying filters is important.

Follow the Getting Started dialog box when launching each plug-in for instructions. In PhotoTools, for example, first color correct and retouch your image; then, after applying your effects in PhotoTools, you can go about sharpening or resizing if necessary.

The onOne plug-ins are amazingly self-evident and intuitive; with PhotoTools 2.5, FocalPoint 2.0, and Mask Pro 4.1, you can make good use of a Wacom Intuos4 tablet and its pressure-sensitive pen for brush control over size and opacity. The overarching idea behind using filters and effects in photorealism is to create a final image that looks natural, as if you weren't even there! This requires a balance of subtle changes—not gross effects.

Admittedly, while some of the plug-in effects and adjustments can also be accomplished with Photoshop, the onOne plug-in 5 suite is more intuitive, offers more control, less steps, and is much faster.


Blow Up

Many years back, it turned out that a potential patron loved one of my paintings, which I had created digitally with Painter when it was still owned by MetaCreations. My digital paintings were as exciting, and often more so than any made with traditional materials. Unfortunately, the digital resolution of the painting was far too low for the print size he wanted; I had not taken into consideration that I might need a larger size original print someday. (See saving in .STN format at the end of this section.)

Enlarging the image from within Photoshop wasn't successful—too pixilated and muddy for a fine art print. Then, I tried Genuine Fractals with great success; it enlarged both my print size and resolution without losing any appreciable detail. The print looked fantastic, and it sold.

Genuine Fractals 6 does precisely as advertised: as it increases image size to over 1000%, its patented, fractal based interpolation algorithms allow for little degradation in sharpness and detail, which you might normally expect. This technological achievement is a testament to its stature as an industry standard in the photographic and printing industries

Once you use Genuine Fractals 6, the results will speak for themselves. You can crop and resize your image in a single step with no guesswork. Its new Tiling and Gallery Wrap features make it easy to get your enlargements printed the way you want. If you're in production, you can fire up the batch-processing engine to resize an entire folder of images quickly. You can even access the power of Genuine Fractals inside of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, or Apple Aperture.

Note: After you run the plug-in suite 5 installer again so that it installs the plug-ins into your newly purchased Adobe Lightroom, you may find that the plug-ins don't appear in File>Plug-in Extras. If so, you can add the plug-ins manually from File>Plug-in Manager. Click add and then navigate your way to Library>Application Support>Adobe>Lightroom>modules.

After you launch Genuine Fractals 6, you simply input the desired size and resolution—if that needs to be increased, too. After you've made your adjustments, click Apply. Once the enlargement is made, the image is saved, closed, and then you're returned to Photoshop where all your original layers have remained unchanged. Also keep in mind that to achieve the highest level of image integrity, enlarging the image should be the last step in the process.

Increasing image size and resolution is straightforward, and self-explanatory. You'll also find a few other categories that use manual effect sliders to achieve the desired look. In addition, there are also controls for Texture Control, Sharpening, Film Grain, Tiling and Gallery Wrap (border effects).

Note: adjusting texture first is a good idea, as textures may get smudgy or flat after images are enlarged.

Finally, if you'd like to save hard disk space and bandwidth, you have the option of saving your image in .STN, (pronounced "sting") file format, available only through Genuine Fractals. Saving your image in the .STN format means all the original data, including resolution, is maintained losslessly, no pixels are discarded—and file size is cut in half or more. This is good digital housekeeping, including archiving. For example, instead of keeping several versions of your photo or artwork for printing at different sizes, you can simply keep one .STN document on file that you can open to whatever size you need with no perceptible degradation of quality.

Any 8- or 16-bit RGB, CMYK image and any 8-bit grayscale image can be saved in .STN format; note that while .STN files retain embedded icc color profiles, they do not retain layers, clipping paths or alpha channels.

Genuine Fractals is not only photographers; this powerhouse of plug-in is for anyone who needs to resize images. Graphic designers stuck with receiving low-resolution images from clients can make it all good for high-resolution print work. You can also use Genuine Fractals to create good-looking tradeshow and billboard graphics from average sized images.


Balance of Power

Some years ago, the Mask Pro plug-in saved my skin. As a visiting scholar at Air & Space Smithsonian, I had been commissioned to write an article for a well-respected journal. This assignment gave me access to a behind the scenes collection of rare artifacts that were off limits to the public. I took many traditional 35mm slides and some digital—back then, digital was still in its infancy.

Unfortunately, my lack of photography knowhow caught up with me. With no backlighting, my flash created unsightly shadows in most of my shots—making the images unusable for my article. Creating a mask with Photoshop didn't pan out; either I didn't know how, or the technology to fix my photos wasn't there yet.

In any case, I tried Mask Pro. After scrutinizing the in-depth tutorials, I went to work. It took me quite some time, but, in the end, I had masked those "ruined" images to my satisfaction, and used them successfully in my journal article.

With Mask Pro 4.1, you can create masks, selections and clipping paths for images, including difficult to mask objects like hair, glass and fog. When masking hair, for example, selecting a highlight, mid-tone and a shadow tone color makes for best results—often on the first attempt.

Creating masks is a familiar concept within Photoshop; Mask Pro also plays by the same rules in that higher contrast areas make for better selections. But there's a twist. Mask Pro takes another approach to this technique—in that it sees colors, not edges in determining the mask.

So, in simplest terms, Mask Pro allows you to cut out a subject from the background by assigning (using the Eyedropper tool) colors to keep and to drop; also, as a general rule, it's best to strike a balance by selecting the least number of colors (which often involves experimentation) for keeping or dropping; selecting too many colors may defeat your aim for creating a clean mask. Once the finer details have been masked, you can create a selection or choose a brush tool to remove the broad background.

In principle, the hide and drop colors scheme is pure simplicity; by selecting colors to hide or show you work along with Mask Pro in a logical sequence for developing the best possible mask. I said it was simple, not necessarily easy. You will learn to create professional masks if you practice patience, watch the helpful tutorial onOne videos, and work it until satisfied.

After you've worked with keeping and dropping colors to mask the finer details, you can then turn to other tools, such as the Magic Pen tool (identical to Photoshop's Magnetic Lasso tool) that automatically snaps best to an edge on high contrast areas, or the regular Pen tool (same as Photoshop's Pen tool) that makes straight lines and Bezier curves—best on sharp geometric boundaries.

As you work on your image, you can preview the quality of your mask and your progress in several ways—from viewing the original image to a Composite view of the mask that also displays your underlying layer in Photoshop, allowing you to see your progress. For Mask Pro to work properly, don't forget to create a background layer in Photoshop prior to launching Mask Pro.

You can select views that reveal your mask progress from several options: Windows > Mode, keyboard shortcuts, or small handy icons (easily overlooked) in the lower left of the Mask Pro screen.

Although Photoshop's new Refine edge or mask command helps in refining masking details, all the masking tools are not immediately discoverable. And, of course, there is often more than one way to achieve a desired selection and mask. You can get professional results using either Photoshop's masking tools or Mask Pro—but Mask Pro has an advantage here: its tools are more intuitive, transparent, and consequently—discoverable in one neat location.

Mask Pro includes a dozen tools for every situation, which includes defining large backgrounds, areas of high contrast, to the finest details in the most complex images. Mask Pro works with 8-bit and 16-bit images in Photoshop CS2 through CS5.

Another Mask Pro advantage is, as previously mentioned, having the option to use a Wacom Intuos4 tablet (a must have) with a responsive pressure-sensitive pen that allows you to adjust brush size, blur, and opacity on the fly.


Bokeh My Image

The magic of the human eye is that it perceives everything is in focus—from my stretched out finger to the moon it's pointing to. But, being selective when it comes to focus, we can get creative in photography and alter both perception and reality.

Adjusting post-production focus to produce realistic looking bokeh (the aesthetic quality of the blur) or short depth of field is an art that takes talent, time, and patience. With FocalPoint 2, you can create realistic selective focus, depth-of-field and edge vignette effects that lead your viewers to see what you see.

The intuitive FocusBug controller provides you with tremendous power and flexibility for defining the area you want to keep in focus. You click and drag to position the area of blur, and then use the Bug's moveable legs to set the size and the shape of that blur.

You can have multiple FocusBugs in either round or planar shapes in one image. By selectively combining FocusBugs, you can create complex shapes or highlight multiple subjects.

FocusBugs let you recreate the look of popular lenses (Canon and Nikon), including selective focus, fast aperture and tilt-shift lenses. These lens presets can be used as is, or they can offer a creative jumping off points for your photo enhancements. By clicking or dragging your FocusBug, you can easily simulate a number of not so discoverable handshake effects inside of Adobe Photoshop. Although there are many ways to adjust focus in Photoshop, the FocalPoint plug-in advantage provides more precise and realistic control over blur—even in 3D.

With the new FocusBrush tool you can paint sharpness or blur (use the Wacom options to control brush size and opacity) right where you want it to minimize distractions. If you like, finish things off with an elegant vignette. How far you take adjusting focus is subjective. To paraphrase the late Duke Ellington: if it looks good, it is good.

The idea, of course, is to leave the viewer with the impression that this wondrous image appeared to you as is, and if it's realism you were never there in post production, or conversely that you were ever present in the process in creating a unique surreal effect. If things should get out of hand, you can invoke the handy Reset All command from the Edit menu. I successfully invoked this command after my FocusBug controller had suddenly dimmed into a transluscent gray—for some unknown reason.


Dressing Your Image

Add a finishing touch to your images with PhotoFrame 4.5.5 Professional Edition. This plug-in features over a thousand design elements like film edges, borders, textures, backgrounds and adornments. As a bonus, PhotoFrame includes complete layouts where you simply drop your image in and you are done.

But there are more effects here than frames. You can add an authentic darkroom touch with a film edge or create albums or scrapbook pages. PhotoFrame includes all the tools you need to find complementary design elements, add them to your image, and then control things like size, color and opacity. You can even stack multiple elements to create your own designs and save them as a preset that you can use in a single-click inside of Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture.

Of all the plug-ins, PhotoFrame in some instances is the least intuitive, especially when it comes to multiple effects. When including backgrounds and textures, remember to first create an empty bottom layer. Then, select the layer with your image; open PhotoFrame and choose Backgrounds for a number of subsets containing mood images and adornments. Depending on the effect and if your target image has already been masked (containing a transparency) in Photoshop, previewing results within PhotoFrame may require moving your image to the top layer in the Frame Stack.

PhotoFrame is non-destructive, as it adds a layer of its own when applying your desired frames—including multiple effects and other design elements.


Infinite Possibilities

PhotoTools 2.5 Professional (it features more effects from acclaimed photographers Jack Davis and Kevin Kubota than the standard edition) is a collection of hundreds of professional-grade photographic effects, all wrapped up in an easy-to-use Photoshop plug-in. Experiment with these presets and your photos will soon develop a unique presentation.

New in PhotoTools 2.5 is the ability to selectively apply each effect in the PhotoTools stack. You can stack multiple effects on top of each other, as you would with filters over a camera lens. The magic here is that you can then control the order of each effect and how they blend together—making for near infinite possibilities.

Another big plus is this: you can see full-screen previews of an effect on your image before you choose to apply it. You can also save your effect stacks as a preset for future use and share them with others PhotoTools users, or access them from inside of Aperture and Lightroom to speed-up your workflow. If your chosen preset is labeled with a bug or paintbrush icon in the Results pane of the library, you have the option of working with either the new MaskingBug or MaskingBrush tools to selectively place and blend multiple effects.

Borrowed technology from FocalPoint, MaskingBug is quick and intuitive for creating a mask that blends the current effect. This feature allows you to apply effects such as vignettes and graduated filters in an adjustable, customizable shape and position.

The new MaskingBrush is also very useful for selectively applying each effect to the image. Using the MaskingBrush is like using a layer mask in Photoshop to hide or reveal the effect in specific, user-defined areas of the image. For more precise control, the MaskingBrush also supports pressure-sensitive Wacom Intuos4 tablets.

Each effect that you add to the Stack has a hidden mask already applied so you can grab the MaskingBrush and paint-in or paint-out an effect on an effect-by-effect basis. When you add a Paint-In effect to your stack you won't see a difference in the appearance of your image until you select the MaskingBrush tool and paint in the effect, such as adding more or less color—or detail.

Once you're pleased with tweaking your effect, hit the apply button to process and save your work into Photoshop. But before you do, remember that while you're in PhotoTools, you can't go back to adjust or undo your effects, as you can with Photoshop's Smart Object layers; you can, however, invoke a history palette of sorts by applying one of the recently last used effects in PhotoTools from the dropdown menu.

Free custom PhotoTools presets (frames, too) are available as downloads from onOne's exchange site, or upload your own.


Color Maestro

Great color composition takes a masterful eye. Even so, if you can compare images side-by-side and pick the best one, then you too (talent in the making or pro) can easily color correct and enhance your images with PhotoTune 3; this plug-in optimizes the dynamic range, color and sharpness of your image without the need to know all the complex and tedious controls in Photoshop. You can use PhotoTune's Wizard to walk you through the steps, or select Pro mode from the splash screen and make your adjustments manually. If you've turned the Wizard option off, there's a reset "Wizard" button in PhotoTune directly to the left of the Navigator panel.

If you photograph people you can also fine-tune your images for accurate skin color with SkinTune; this option automatically color corrects portrait images in one click. A new dynamic range enhancement remaps the tones in your image to look more natural, the way your eye sees it. You also have access to controls for tone, color and sharpening in Pro mode.

PhotoTune is ideal for those who don't want to fiddle with Photoshop's levels or curves; PhotoTune has a simple interface, as it does its work behind the scenes. Note also that to have a nondestructive effect, make the image layer in Photoshop a Smart Object layer.


And don't forget to enroll in the new onOne University where you'll find over 100 free video tutorials from beginner to advanced that will help you get the most out of onOne Software.

While working with the suite (v5.1.1) for this article, I can't say I didn't run into my share of bugs and issues—some of which may be openGL graphic related on my 24-inch iMac. For example, if an applied effect didn't display, a slight tug (lower right corner) to resize the entire plug-in window acted as a workaround, revealing the effect in the preview panel.

Reliability is major factor in feeling that you've gotten your money's worth. Tech support at onOne software is aware that there are a number of glitches, which should be resolved with Perfect Photo Suite 5.5, the renamed next major upgrade. Nonetheless, if you demand unparalleled creative control over your photographs, then onOne software's plug-in suite 5 Professional Edition is worth its weight in digital gold.»

onOne Software


You can buy each plug-in separately (at about $1,300), but it's more economical to purchase the entire suite directly from onOne Software, even if you end up using as little as two of the plug-ins, which is unlikely.

Full version: $499.95; Upgrade price: $199.95




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