Digital Art Shop Photoshop Plug-ins
Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, December 2005
Published by: The Digital Art Shop
Requires: Adobe Photoshop
MSRP: UK£8.00 (each for Pen & Ink Artist, Sketcher and Photofilm)
Have you ever wanted to turn a picture into a comic book or sketch, or use one of those weird infrared effects on your photos? If the answer is yes, read on. Digital Art Shop is a small company based in the UK which specializes in producing Photoshop plug-ins. I came across them quite by accident in a search for a plug-in to emulate infrared and pen & ink effects. After looking at their web site and seeing some of the online samples I decided to buy the plug-ins.
Our first plug-in, Pen & Ink Artist, is quite lovely in that it produces three styles of artwork. The first is a black ink style effect with cross-hatching, but with a color background in an ink wash or watercolor effect. The second a uses the same effect but without the color background, quite similar to what you would see in editorial illustrations. The third effect produces a comic book variant of the color effect with color halftone screens and effects. The filter is very easy to use and gives you a lot of control over the size of the halftone dots and the thickness of the cross-hatching in the ink effect. The only thing that bothered me was that the ink effect looked a little too pixelated (with heavy stepping). But if you work with large files and images then you're likely to be able to minimize the impact of the stepping. The plug-ins don't really come with manuals or tutorials but the text file notes included in the archive provides a couple of very useful beginner tips. You can also greatly impact the effect by modifying the brightness and contrast of your source image before applying the filter.
The Comic Book filter might create some patterning or moires between the cross-hatching and the screen dots. The notes suggest that to reduce this moire effect you should make slight adjustments to the shading line size and the screen dot size. Moires are created when you overlay patterns and screens over each other. You may have noticed this effect with sheer curtains when they fold back on themselves. All in all this plug-in is very effective and creates some quite convincing effects.
The second plug-in from Digital Art Shop is Sketcher, which quite simply allows you to create sketch effects. There are three styles of sketch effect provided: Color Pencil, Pencil Sketch, and Pastels. This plug-in was not nearly as impressive as Pen & Ink Artist, instead producing an effect that was more like a grainy photocopy than a sketch. If you like the xerographic images and graphics which were popular in the 70's and 80s then this plug-in will do the job. If you want a sketch look however, this won't quite do it. Pastels was closer to the mark but still had the same grainy look. The Pastel basically takes the Pencil Sketch effect and applies a tint to the tones. As with the first filter, the controls are really quite easy to use and fairly self-explanatory. Although the effect was not quite what I expected, I can find a use for it in my library of filters.
The third plug-in, PhotoFilm, was another surprise. The results I managed to achieve with it were quite satisfying. This plug-in provides four different photographic film and print effects including Infrared Color, Infrared Black & White, Color Print Negative and Sepia Print. Infrared Color emulates a False Color Infrared effect and as far as I can tell it does a very good job of the emulation, converting green foliage to red and deepening blue skies. The effect isn't at its best when it comes to skin and peoples, but used for landscapes it certainly is effective. The notes indicate that Kodak Ektachrome Infrared Film was used as a reference point. Infrared Black & White effectively converts color images to an emulated Infrared black & white. This effect gives artifacts like foliage and skin a ghostly white look. Real infrared images will also affect hair in the same manner but this filter does not. If you apply the effect to landscapes you should have no problems. One tip is to ensure you use high quality files because applying this filter to JPEG files which have been severely compressed will not create great looking images and they will most likely be riddled with heavy artifacting. Color Print Negative creates an image which looks like a color negative, and again provides decent a rendition. When I used other plug-ins to convert the images back to positives, the results were quite accurate. Sepia Print does a very good job of emulating a Sepia Tone Effect. This last one however is really easy to create using Photoshop directly. The plug-in is very easy to use mind you. The effect includes the capability to add aging and to also fade the edges of the image.
Cons: Large files are required for best results which costs in processing time. Minimal support materials.
Pros: Simplicity itself. Easy to use interface. Very low cost. If you are looking for some very useful and fun filters for your photos then these three are a great buy. I find these plug-ins to be a very good addition to my current arsenal. I especially liked Pen & Ink Artist and PhotoFilm. I do however feel that Sketcher should be renamed Xerography or something like that as it's more reflective of the effect it generates. Recommended.
Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!