The best thing about Photoshop is that the creative possibilities are practically endless; that’s also the worst thing about Photoshop. Unless you have a clear vision of your end result, you can spend hours tinkering with adjustments only to decide you don’t like the final product.
That’s where plug-ins like onOne Software’s PhotoTools 2.5 can be a big advantage, giving you hundreds of preset effects (plus the access to download new effects), and the ability to control and refine how those effects are applied with brushes and masking.
A full-screen preview shows side-by-side, before-and-after views of the image before the effect is applied. You can also look at just the “before” or “after” images separately. Press the Add to Stack button to apply the effect. If you don’t like it, simply hit Undo. Up to 16 effects can be stacked on top of each other for creating customized looks that can be saved as presets.
This is where you can browse, search, learn about and preview different effects. You can search by typing in part of an effect name or description or browse the categories, which are arranged in a logical workflow order. You can also browse by keyword. Click on an effect, and the Details panel gives more information about it.
The more than 200 effects (300 in the Professional version) are broken up into categories for quickly and easily achieving the look you’re going for. Image Optimize includes tools for correcting color and tone, and bringing out shadow and highlight detail. Landscape Enhance allows you to improve color and contrast or add environmental effects that simulate sunlight or fog. Portrait Enhance features tools for smoothing skin and whitening teeth. Additional categories include black-and-white conversion options, traditional photo filters, lighting effects, film stocks and techniques, and more.
onOne Software offers a free edition of this app that includes 18 effects, ranging from traditional darkroom classics like Bleach Bypass and Cross Process to reproducing Kodachrome and Fujifilm Velvia film stocks to skin smoothing and other more contemporary techniques like HDR. The plug-in is fully functional, and there’s no time restriction.