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Alien Skin Xenofex 2 Review

Alien Skin Xenofex 2 Review - Alien Skin Xenofex 2

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Alien Skin Alien Skin Xenofex 2 in Other Software

Xenofex 2, is a plug-in offering 14 filter effects for programs such as Photoshop, Fireworks, Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop Elements. Version 2 adds four new filters to the original collection of 10 and the whole bundle has been rewritten to be fully compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP.


Some of the filters in this pack will please photographers who have been trying years to capture, for example, the perfect lightning streak or cloud formation, while graphic artist and web designers will warm to the more creative filters such as Mosaic, Stain or Television. We'll take a look at each in a moment.

The box for this program has to be the plainest box we've seen. The title and a full bleed picture of a cloud formation! Hardly sells the idea of a great program. The users manual is easy to follow and takes you through using each filter with examples of effects and tips.

Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Installation is, like most plug-ins, simple. It finds the host program and asks if you want to install the plug-in. You may have several programs so you'd select the one you want to use. You can then select Choose Another Install Location if you want it to run from other programs too. Once installed it will appear in the filters menu of your program and works just like your other filter or plug-in. When you select one of the options from the menu list a new dialogue window appears with your image in a preview. It's set at 100% and the preview shows the top left of your photo. You can change the magnification and I would prefer the start point to show the whole image. Each time I tried something I found myself clicking on the Ctrl+- keys to reduce the size. Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Each filter has a range of controls to adjust how the effect appears. Some have two tabs with other options hidden from view. Here the lightning is being created. Alien Skin Xenofex 2

Now lets take a look at each of the filters:

We applied each of the filters with a 9Mb JPEG file created on a digital camera to see how long it takes for a filter to be applied. The test machine is Pentium IV PC with a 2Ghz processor running Windows XP with 512Mb RAM.

Burnt Edges
This is one of the four new filters to be added on version 2.0. It produces a burnt edge around a selection or the whole photo if a selection isn't made. The effect is very realistic if used well. I would have liked to have been able to burn one corner but that's not easy unless you know your way around Photoshop well..
Speed: 3sec preview, 8secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Classic Mosaic
This is one of the four new filters to be added on version 2.0. Produces a mosaic with patterns just like the real floor and wall tiles. It didn't win any points in our view!
Speed: 3secs to preview, instant to apply.
Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Produces a set of stars over the whole picture, unless, as here the black background was selected first. Good for those who like something a little unusual. If you apply it to the whole photo it would pick up the edges of the daffodil and create an outline of it in stars.
Speed: 3secs to preview, instant to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2

Didn't do much with photos but great for whacky text effects.
Speed: 3secs to preview. 14secs to apply

Alien Skin Xenofex 2
A good filter for designers who want to recreate a crumpled paper effect. Use on note book photos, to create letter effects and old photos. The wrinkles and shadow/highlight control make it look quite realistic and very easy to apply.
Speed: 5secs to preview, 28 secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2
This one's mad! A very good fun filter that makes everything look as though it's been touched by a Van De Graaff generator. Here the selection was made around the skull so the electricity stems from the edge. You can have hours of fun with this one.
Speed: 2sec preview, 7secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Makes the photo look as though it's ironed on a flag. Creates realistic waves in the material, but maybe a little pointless for most photographic uses.
Speed: 10secs to preview, instant to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2
One of the best filters in the pack creates lightning better than mother nature. I've spent hours in fields worrying about being struck in search of the perfect bolt and here it is and you don't even have to take of your carpet slippers! Superb, very controllable and very realistic.
Speed: 1sec preview, 7secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2


Little Fluffy Clouds
Makes Photoshop's render Clouds filter extremely primitive. Here you have a version that you can alter the shape, angle and lightness of the clouds in many ways to give the most realistic clouds other then the real thing. Once again play God and do it better. With this filter you never have to worry about your landscape skies again. In a word awesome! Here I selected the sky area which was white and applied the filter.
Speed: 1sec preview, 7secs to apply

Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Places a puzzle over the image. Has more defined pieces than the version in Photoshop found under Textures but one of those that will probably be used a couple of times and then forgot.
Speed: 4sec preview, 42secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2

Rip Open
Makes the picture look as though it's been ripped. Draw a circle in the middle and it will look like a bullet has fired through from behind. Another gimmick if you ask me so I won't be using this again!
Speed: 52sec preview, instant to apply

Alien Skin Xenofex 2

Great for the occasional shot if used well. It breaks up the picture and allows the shapes that look like splinters of glass be rotated to give depth. You can thicken the glass, and vary the size of the pieces.

Speed: 20sec preview, 23secs to apply

Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Draw a selection and stain it. The edge looks darker so it appears to be a real stain. You can change the colour so it looks like a multitude of substances and even create a rim style which looks like a wine glass ring mark. You may find a use for project pics and illustrations.
Speed: 3sec preview, 6secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2
Creates a TV style out of tune image. Why?
Speed: 6sec preview, 7secs to apply
Alien Skin Xenofex 2

Host Requirements
Xenofex 2 is a plug-in for use with one of the following compatible programs: Adobe Photoshop 6 or 7, Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, Macromedia Fireworks MX or later or Paint Shop Pro 7.0 or later.

System Requirements
Windows: at least a Pentium II-class processor with a minimum of 64Mb of RAM, running Windows 98, 2000, Me, or XP. Windows NT is not supported.
Macintosh: a PowerPC processor with at least 64Mb of RAM running OS 9 or later or OS X 10.1 or later.

Xenofex 2.0 Mac/Win 100
Xenofex 2.0 Upgrade Mac/Win 50 (price for upgrade from Xenofex 1.0)
Xenofex 2.0 Sidegrade Mac/Win 80 (price for registered owners of other Alien Skin products)

I really like Alien Skin products. I feel the company have a forward thinking view who appear to be a fun team and this comes across in the products. While many of the filters on here are graphic orientated Xenofex will defiantly have its place in the photographers armour. The Lightning filter is superb, the stain can be made to do some great things and the clouds will dress up your average landscapes, while several of the others will help give your images a new slant. But it's without doubt that the creative designer will get most benefit, crumpling pics, adding stains, playing around with the flag and much more. I always think the Mosaic is a waste of time and you do get a version in Photoshop along with a crude puzzle option.
I don't think the new features are worth upgrading from Version 1 but if you're new to Xenofex, do yourself a favour and give it a go. It will become your most used filter effect bundle. The clouds filter alone will give you hours of fun and ensure your dull landscapes are never dull again

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