Thursday , May 23 2024
If you need to do image repair in Photoshop on a regular basis, this is a must have.

Software Review – Plug-In Image Doctor 2 From Alien Skin Software

Image Doctor 2 is a set of Photoshop filters that clean up visual defects in digital photos. It can be used to remove small things like pimples or moles, or it can be used to remove large things like the trash can that snuck into the photo. It can even make low quality JPEG images look better.

Image Doctor 2 is effectively five filters that reside in a sub menu off of Photoshop's Filter menu. The filters work on both 8 and 16 bit images which means that they will work on Raw images after they are loaded into Photoshop. They also will work in both Grayscale and RGB mode.

To run Image Doctor 2 you will need Adobe Photoshop CS2 (9.0.2) or later, Adobe Elements; 4.0.1 on the Mac, or 5.0 on Windows, Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 or later, or Adobe Fireworks CS3. While it may work on other programs, these are the only ones that it has been tested to work with. You will need 1024 MB Ram, 1024×768 monitor resolution, XP or later on PC or Mac OS X 10.4.0.

There are five filters in Image Doctor 2 and each takes care of a different aspect of image repair. The one thing that you will need to know how to do is make selections. In all but the JPEG repair, you must select that which you want to repair.

The complexity of the selection is directly proportional to complexity of the fix you want to make. If you have a flag pole that extends from the blue sky, through green trees, over a red car, over green grass, brown dirt, and is embedded into black asphalt then you will have to do a selection for each of these areas. Don't let this scare you though; it is really pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

Dust and Scratch Remover is what you will use to remove texture imperfections and defects in homogeneous textures. It is used to eliminate linear defects such as tears or creases, remove small text such as time stamps, or dust or other such remnants. The Scratch Remover avoids repetitive patterns that can result from directly cloning source textures. As with all of these fixes you can control the selection size with the contract/expand selection slider, you can specify the texture sample size, and define the background complexity.

Smart Fill is used to remove larger objects from images, or images with complex backgrounds like the flagpole example I used above. Smart Fill intelligently samples patches around the area to be removed and the tries to smoothly recombine the patches to create a contiguous background texture where the original image appeared. In the image below it was used to remove the flap of purple halter and the lead line that hangs off the right. The lead line was a little more difficult because in covered the ground image as well as the pink on the girl's shirt and therefore multiple selections had to be created to get a more seamless look.

Blemish Concealer effectively removes obvious blemishes such as acne, freckles, and shadows from under eyes. It is also good at removing small water stains, mold spots, or other softly colored, low contrast defects from a relatively smooth background textures.

Skin Softener softens large areas of skin. It works to reduce wrinkles, small shadows, and oily skin glare. It tries to improve the look of skin without giving the face that plastic "Photo-shopped" look. It performs a blending with the background so you don't have to manually blend it by using a feathered selection. Before using this you should remove any skin defect that you wish to remove first. The softener was also used on the face of the girl in the image. It gives it a less harsh look.

JPEG Repair fixes those fuzzy halos around sharp edges, and those 8×8 pixel blocks that frequent low quality JPEG images. This can be really helpful to those designers that are forced to use suspect quality images by their clients. JPEG Repair cannot restore the detail that is lost in the compression process, but it can smooth things out, and make them more aesthetically pleasing.

So what is new in Image Doctor 2? First and foremost, is it's speed. I was really impressed with how fast it rendered the changes. Alien Skin has changed how it's rendering algorithms work and it really shows. Next the range of skin retouching has been expanded to the Skin Softener, and the Blemish Concealer; in version 1, it had the Spot Lifter. The new skin retouching filters offer many more possibilities. Finally the user interface has been upgraded and simplified, as well as the addition of an Automatic Mode to Smart Fill when source texture location is not important.

I have to say that Image Doctor 2 has really matured into a great product. Speed issues are virtually non existent, and the user interface is really easy to use. Sure you could perform many of these fixes your self via Photoshop, but why would you want to more than maybe the first time to say you did. Not to mention that it would take hours longer than with Image Doctor 2. If you need to do image repair on a regular basis, then this is a must have. To everyone else, it is highly recommended.

Image Doctor 2 is available at the Alien Skin online store for $199.00 new, or $99.00 for an upgrade.

About T. Michael Testi

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

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