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Software Review: Eye Candy 6 From Alien Skin Software

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Eye Candy is a Photoshop plug-in From Alien Skin Software that is made for graphic designers to add that "wow" effect to their projects. It is a set of 30 Photoshop filters that give you the ability to render amazing special effects with very little effort compared to what you might have to do if you were to attempt these without the use of the plug-in. In many cases you couldn't even recreate them.

While these effects may have some usefulness within the realm of photography, they are really geared for graphic design tasks. That is, these effects would look great when applied to a title or logo, or used to facilitate website development for making buttons or banners.

 Eye Candy 6 With an easy-to-use interface, Eye Candy 6 makes it simple to create stunning effects with very little effort. To make it even easier, there are over 1500 presets that you can just point to and see your results. If the effect is not quite right, you can then make some adjustments until it looks good.

Once installed, Eye Candy can be accessed through a Photoshop CS4 panel. There is a Startup Panel and a Button Maker Panel. The button maker is, as its name implies, for the easy creation of buttons for Web effects, and the Startup Panel is for the text, selection, and texture items for creating your other effects.

As I said earlier, Eye Candy is primarily for graphic designers and Web designers who want to make logos, buttons, fancy text, and other things that will make their designs pop. To this end I took a two-dimensional star that was on a black background. The star and the background were on different layers so to isolate each one from the other.

I selected the layer with the star and then went to the launch panel. There are two areas in the launch panel. One is for the textures and the other is for the text and selections. I started out with the texture and selected the wood grain. This instantly applied the wood grain look and with a couple of changes on color and lighting I had the effect I wanted. I added some contour and beveling for effect.

Then selecting the original layer, I went in to the text and selection bar and chose the smoke filter, played with it for a couple minutes till I got the look. Again selecting the original layer did the same with the fire filter.

 Eye Candy 6

Next, I chose the wood grain layer and a selected the melting filter and worked it until I had the look I wanted. Finally I selected the black background and chose a polished steel texture, changed the color and within 15 minutes I had the whole thing was done. To try to accomplish this in Photoshop would require a lot of skill and many hours to get it to look this good. Add to that, most of the effects that Eye Candy contains could not be reproduced in Photoshop at all.

So what is new with Eye Candy 6?

• Performance of Eye Candy 6 has been enhanced to take advantage of multi-processors and multi-core CPUs, making it significantly faster on most computers. Under the surface, the rendering engine has changed dramatically to make the filters work much faster than with previous versions

• Scaling Modes give Eye Candy the ability to adaptively scale the filtering effects to the current image size, giving better results more quickly. For those who want precise control in a graphic design production environment, Eye Candy also supports a fixed mode, which allows the filter effects to be specified precisely in pixel units.

 Eye Candy 6

• Settings have been improved and many more presets have been added, giving you a total of 1500. The new settings tend to handle more common tasks and use more tasteful color schemes than in Eye Candy 5. If you are new to a particular filter, you can take the Settings Tour which will let you quickly see the filter's most interesting effects that you can apply directly, or apply and make your own changes to.

• Fire has been reworked and now looks more natural. Sharp edges have been smoothed to look more realistic.

• Panels are now installed to make your access to Eye Candy much easier. The main launch panel, or Startup Panel, contains the icons for all 30 filters. You just click and work without having to navigate the menu system. The other panel is the Button Maker panel where you choose the button style and the button appears in your document. From there you can use filters to make modifications.

• Non-destructive editing is made possible by the use of Smart Objects. All filters apply their effect to a copy above the original layer. This layer is given a name based of the effect and all of the filters work as Smart Filters when applied to Smart Objects. This contributes to a non-destructive workflow.

• Professional features have been added for those in demanding production environments who need to support 16-bit/channel images and CMYK mode. It also takes advantage of multi-code CPUs to run fast on modern machines as well as it being able to take advantage of the 64-bit version of Photoshop.

 Eye Candy 6 I really like how easy it is to use Eye Candy 6 right out of the box. Seamless installation and with the ability to use it from a panel, it is just super easy to get around. Each filter has several tabs, usually one for settings and one for basic. The settings contain the presets that you can use to get an idea of what the filter does and the basic tab has the sliders and buttons that can be used to make choices. Other tabs may include things like lighting, beveling, as well as other options that pertain to a specific filter.

I really like the non-destructive editing and the ability to stack effects easily so that you can create really complex designs. Along with providing a 149-page user's manual, there is video training available from the Alien Skin website. I do a lot of website work and in the last week alone, it has saved me enough time to pay for itself.

Eye Candy 6 is available from Alien Skin for $249. Upgrades are also available for certain products. If you want a tool to really create eye-popping graphics, then you really want Eye Candy 6 and I can highly recommend this product.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.