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I know that PhotoTools 2 will remain in my toolbox for a long time to come.

Software Review: Adobe Photoshop Plug-in PhotoTools 2 from onOne Software

PhotoTools 2 is the new release from onOne Software for adding professional looks to your photographic images from within Photoshop. You get hundreds of professional photographic effects designed by Jack Davis, Kevin Kubota, and onOne Software. PhotoTools 2 has over 150 effects in the standard edition plus over 100 more in the professional version.

PhotoTools 2 requires you to have computer with:

  • Windows XP SP2 or Vista or Mac OS X 10.4.8 or later
  • Photoshop CS2 (v9.0.2), CS3, or CS4
  • 512MB (1GB recommended) of RAM
  • 50 MB of hard disk space
  • Internet connection
  • Flash Player 9
  • An OpenGL-compatible video card with 128 MB VRAM, running at 1024×768 or higher
  • Adobe Acrobat 6 Reader or higher

Installation is very easy and is all automatic.

What is an automation plug-in? It automates the processing of actions that would normally take several steps to complete. It is not a standalone application; it installs within Photoshop and can only be used with Photoshop installed. To use it, you load your photo, and then, from the onOne Menu, select PhotoTools. You will then be presented with a screen similar to the one below.

PhotoTools 2Once there you have several choices to choose from to locate the correct effect. In this case I chose by category and selected landscape effects. Next I selected "Color Intensify." This gave me additional selections from where I chose "Sky Darken 2" and added it to the stack. Then I added some other effects to the stack. From there you have many more options that you can work with to get your image just right.

So what is new with PhotoTools 2?

• New effects library in both the Standard and the Professional editions now help to make it even easier to find the right effects. The new library consolidates the categories, effects list, previews, descriptions, and options into one location with a much more logical workflow. You are now able to mark your favorite effects and presets so that you can find them quickly. If you want to see what I mean you can take a tour to see. There is even an improved preview window to give you an idea of what the image will look like before and after.

• Masking brush gives you the ability to selectively apply each effect in the PhotoTools stack. By using the Masking brush — which works like using a layer mask in Photoshop — you can hide or reveal the effect in specific, user-defined areas of the image. The masking brush also supports the pressure-sensitive Wacom tablets.

• Stacking effects gives you the ability to stack up to 16 effects on top of each other just like using multiple camera lens filters. You have complete control over the strength of each effect and can blend them together seamlessly, and with the Masking brush you can paint-in or paint-out each effect giving you an endless variety of custom looks.

• Lightroom and Aperture integration now lets you use the PhotoTools 2 Professional Edition from either of these products. You can open an image directly from Lightroom or Aperture into PhotoTools 2 Professional for manual adjustments to provide seamless integrated workflow. In Lightroom, you can even use PhotoTools from the export dialog to apply a preset to batch or processed export images. One thing to keep in mind, you still need Photoshop CS2, CS3, or CS4 to be installed to use this functionality.

• Video clip support gives you the ability to use PhotoTools 2 on short clips from within Photoshop Extended CS3, or CS4. Now you can add your favorite PhotoTools 2 effect or stack to your videos as easily as you can to your photos.

• onOne Exchange is an online community website managed by managed by onOne Software that will enable you to download free presets your own use. Presets are easily imported into PhotoTools 2 directly from the File menu. You can also upload any presets that you have created in PhotoTools 2 to be shared with other PhotoTools 2 users. Access to this new site is built directly into the PhotoTools 2 user interface.

PhotoTools 2
• Other improvements include improved support for recording actions, better memory usage for working with larger images, faster previews with enhancements to the OpenGL support, and a new searchable user guide and improved video tutorials.

I find that PhotoTools 2 is still really easy to use and will be a useful part of my workflow. This version has noticeable speed increases over version 1, and a much more logical workflow. If you are new to PhotoTools, it still will take time to understand just exactly what all the effects do, and just what will work in what situation, but I consider having those kind of options a good thing as well.

I also find that PhotoTools 2 is a powerful tool that gives you the freedom to present your best images. It will allow you to give your photos that professional look with just a couple of clicks. I know that this will remain in my toolbox for a long time to come.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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