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May
2003

Eye Candy 4000 and Splat!

There are many reasons why Adobe Photoshop is one of the coolest programs around for making and working with graphics. It is mature and robust, does more than most users will ever need, and the wizards at Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com) had the foresight to allow third-party developers to add to the program. This month I’m taking a look at two such ‘plug-in’ programs for Photoshop: Eye Candy 4000 and Splat!, both from Alien Skin Software.

You may not have heard of Alien Skin, but they have been making cool add-ons for Photoshop since 1994 when they released the first drop shadow filter in their Black Box filter set. Black Box has evolved into Eye Candy, with the latest version being Eye Candy 4000. Splat! is a more recent addition to the family.

But, first a word about Photoshop Plug-ins. Plug-ins are small programs that will only work within the context of a larger host program like Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop Plug-ins are so ubiquitous that many other programs use the same format, allowing you to use your Photoshop Plug-ins in programs like Macromedia Fireworks, Jasc Paint Shop Pro, Adobe Photoshop Elements and Image Ready, Deneba Canvas, Corel Photo-Paint and more that I’m probably forgetting. The actual Plug-in file typically has an icon with a picture of an electrical plug on it, and it gets installed into Photoshop’s Plug-ins folder. The Plug-ins folder contains several subfolders for organization (File Formats, Import/Export, etc.), but the plug-ins can go in any of these. A well-behaved installer will put them in the right place for you, many will ask you to locate your Plug-ins folder. In Windows, a Plug-in file has a .8BF extension (there usually isn’t an extension in the Mac OS).

Eye Candy 4000 is a collection of 23 ultra-cool effects, several new ones (Wood, Marble, Drip, Melt and Corona) and some great updates of older ones. These effects are all available under Photoshop’s Filter menu. Most of these are very useful as special effects or for illustration/photo-illustration purposes and several of them improve on capabilities already found in Photoshop.

Fig. 1

Eye Candy 4000 includes the aforementioned five new ones, as well as Chrome (with editable bevels and reflection maps), Bevel Boss, Gradient Glow, Fire (Fig 1), Smoke, Glass, Shadowlab (with realistic perspective shadows), Waterdrops (Fig 2), Star, Jiggle, Cutout, Fur (Fig 3), Motion Trail, HSB Noise, Squint (realistically poor vision), Swirl, Antimatter and Weave. Many of these filters will create their effect as a seamless tile, usable as a repeating background pattern for your web page or desktop.

Fig. 2
Fig. 3

The Splat! filters offer an array of image enhancements that most users will find to be more practical than Eye Candy. The major difference between the two packages is that the Splat! filters are content-driven, meaning that they use a variety of source images to yield their effects. Splat! includes the ability to generate a faux frame, complete with matte, around an image, make an image look like it was created on a LiteBrite, as ASCII art (Fig 4), Cross-stitch, or built out of smaller images like flowers or beans.

Fig. 4

While Splat! technically contains only 6 filters, they will quickly become indispensable parts of your image editing arsenal. Splat! consists of the following filters: Frame, Resurface, Edges, Fill Stamp, Border Stamp and Patchwork. The Frame filter does as you would expect, applying a frame around your picture using an assortment of realistic frame images. Edges erodes the edges of your image in a variety of patterns. You can use these filters multiple times for more sophisticated effects (Fig 5).

Fig. 5
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Mac

Since these filters rely on other images, you can customize Splat! at will, creating or downloading new bump maps, frame files, stamp files and patchwork files. The concise, easy-to-follow manual gives you complete instructions for this procedure and extra images are available from Alien Skin’s web site (www.alienskin.com).

Both sets of filters share a common interface with a large, resizable preview and tabbed panels that lets you monkey with a wide range of parameters leading to endless permutations of any of these effects. If you are already comfortable with Photoshop’s key combinations and work flow you will find yourself at home in these filter windows.

There are a lot of convenient features in both of these packages. The increments of the effect parameters are resolution independent, meaning you can use the same setting on a high-resolution image and a web image to get the same effect. Whenever you hold the mouse over an area of the filter window, a string of help text for that tool appears at the bottom of the window. All of the filter windows feature unlimited undo and redo functions. All of these filters will behave as Live Effects in Macromedia Fireworks 3 or Deneba Canvas 7.

Both Eye Candy 4000 and Splat! have the potential to become tools that you go back to again and again. Splat! has a wider appeal with the Frame and Edges filters, while Eye Candy is a great tool for those who incorporate special effects into photo composites or illustrations. Splat! retails for $99, Eye Candy for $169. Besides having a compatible host program to use these filters, you will need Windows 98 or higher or Mac OS 8.6 or higher, at least 32MB RAM, 50MB free drive space (300MB for the full install of Splat!), and a 24-bit or greater video card. Both are compatible with the latest operating systems (Windows XP and Mac OS X), and the package includes installers for both Mac OS and Windows.

Paul Vaughn is a freelance graphic artist, writer and web designer. The Graphics Guy has used Eye Candy and Black Box for years…Fire is his favorite! If you would like to see the Graphics Guy address a specific topic email Paul Vaughn at paulv@mac.com.

 

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