This plug-in for Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro comes from Alien Skin, the company that brought you EyeCandy and Xenofex. It's main job is to add elements to your designs, projects and pictures with options to 'splat' graphics around your photo, or inside text; create a textured effect to your photo or add a border or edge. It's compatible with Windows 98/2000/ME and XP and MAC OS8.6 to OSX. You also need 300Mb of free hard disk space.
The CD installation follows the usual method of locating you image-editing plug-ins folder and a group of stuff is placed in that folder ready for use. When you then go to the filters section of your image-editing program it will appear in the drop down list and you can choose the effect.
The effects are split into six categories, offering the following features:
Splat comes with a selection of Stamp File images which are small graphics that can be placed around the photograph or text in a lose frame style. Anyone familiar with Paint Shop Pro will be aware of these, called Picture Tubes which end with the file extension .tub. Now Photoshop users can use Tub files and add them to your graphics. Around 100 are supplied on the Splat! CD but thousands can be found on the Internet. Some of the images are dreadful, such as the children's clockwork false teeth, but some could be useful and you could create your own using Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. I've never been a fan of this sort of effect although I can see how it could be used to make a project look more fun, but it lacks taste for photographic applications. Where these can be useful is to paint an area and add a stamp file such as fire or snow to a part of an image, but you can do that in Photoshop using the pattern stamp tool.
This is much more interesting than the Border Stamp and produces an edge effect to your photographs or text. You can choose from Halftone Dots, Halftone Lines, Lumpy, Pixels, Rough or Torn Paper and see the effect as you alter the sliders in the control window. Again it's more for designers than photographers but the Rough Edges and Torn Paper effects are great to add when displaying pics in borderless frames.
This one returns to using Tub files and 'splats' the files over the image. You can also make a selection so the .tubs appear within this selection.
In this area you choose a frame style and it appears around the photograph. Five categories are available including Art Nouveau, Geometric, mattes, Novelty frames and Photo Realistic wooden frames. These can be used to spice up your page layouts and projects. I also found they could be very useful for helping you choose a real frame. By applying various frames around a picture you can find one that suits the picture and then go out and buy the real thing knowing it will be suitable. This also works with the mattes to help you select the best mounting board colour.
| You could use the frame filter to help you select a real frame mold that would suit your photograph
This one adds a patchwork texture over the photograph, replacing pixels with pegs, tiles and stitching effects. I'm not totally sure what the point is here. Maybe those who 'Knit one, pearl one' can see a use!
Here is another texture filter but one that's far more practical and full of interesting effects. The filter adds a surface file that's like a bump or texture map and comes in many categories including paper, natural fibers, metallic surfaces and rocky textures. Within each are many preset styles and each can be fine tuned to come up with the desired effect.
Using any of the effects is easy and the controls are simple to follow. Sliders adjust the various strengths of shadow effect, lighting direction, margins and stamp sizes, while a random button changes the pattern or placement of the graphics. I trialled the program running Photoshop 7 on an Apple Mac G3 with OSX. The preview window can be adjusted so you see all the picture or a magnified area and that can be scrolled using the magnification tool. The effects were quite slow to apply on the Mac, between 15sec an two minutes depending on size of original image, but it worked much quicker on a 800Mhz PC.
Another interesting plug-in for Photoshop and Paint Shop Pro users. The program costs 89 and will appeal more to those who like creating fun images, while photographers will find this a bit too gimmicky. That said, the edges filter is excellent, as is the resurface filter so the program could be worth the investment just for those two items. Check out the free 30-day trial download at www.alienskin.com.