Photoshop: Problem with Alien Skin Plug-In, Blow Up 3, in Photoshop CC


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Say you have a 24MB file, obtained from an 8 megapixel digicam, that will normally fill an 8. Well, for that you would need a 62MB file. If you have Photoshop you could use the Image Size dialog box to do this using the Bicubic Smoother option suggested by the maker for enlargements.

According to the lead developer, Terence Tay, Blow Up uses proprietary algorithm to resize images. First, it converts image pixels into vectors that follow the contours of the image.

These vectors are enlarged and then converted back into pixels. The main benefit of this approach, he told us, is that it keeps edges crisp and clean. He recommended their introduction video www. Resampling and adding pixels is creating new image information out of what is already there, and not all assumptions the programs make or where they draw the information from to clone will be correct. There are inherent problems in the process—resampling may result in some degree of aliasing, jaggies at the edges—some blurring of fine detail and even edge halos, what you get when you over-sharpen or overdo HDR techniques.

Given the occasional compromise, and understanding that the physics of enlargement always entails enlargement of flaws as well such as poor lens quality, shaky shots. The need for resampling is a consistent one in digital imaging. You might need to resample older images from smaller MP cameras, or you shot at the wrong JPEG image size setting on a newer camera, just to make a full-size print on your new 13x19 printer.

First off, this is a plug-in, which means that it relies on the processing engine of a main program, including Adobe Photoshop CS4 or later , Lightroom version 2 or later or Elements version 8 or later. When you load the program you make your choice and it immediately installs the program as a plug-in. This opens the image in the Blow Up workspace. Crop and Resize, Resize and Stretch—yes, they use Resize as the term. The crop is mandated in this mode but where it crops is not, as you can move the crop frame and even change from portrait to landscape orientation with ease.

Resize locks the aspect ratio of the original and allows you to output on larger paper sizes without cutting into the image, and that was my choice for most tests. Stretch actually does what it says and will distort the image to fit whatever paper size you choose. Different types of paper glossy, matte, luster absorb ink differently and that causes a perfectly sharp photo to blur by different amounts when printed on paper. By telling Blow Up about the paper that you will be using, Blow Up will compensate for the print blur by sharpening the image.

This may cause the image to look over-sharpened on the screen, but it will look good after you print it. Users may increase it depend on what looks good with their images. Medium is about 2x as strong as low, and high is about 3x as strong. And one more hidden tip before we get to work: The one I suggest that you always check is to dupe the image prior to resampling, thus keeping the edit non-destructive. Blow Up does not create a Layer when done but works on the original file. Yes, you can always do a Save As to get around this but not everyone remembers this in the heat of the action.

I chose this old file because I feel that many folks with old image files from smaller MP cameras would be naturally attracted to a resampling option for printing.

In each case I minimized the sharpening although it was not entirely turned off. When I viewed using Actual Pixels 4 it is apparent that the larger sizing has its consequences and that some blurring and edge softness occurs. Looking at the original magnified shows that the lens used was not that good, but within its limitations the original image and its enlargement are not too bad.

The main point is that the resampling did no further harm beyond what you would expect from magnifying a fairly poor image although it is certainly not a cure for it. Can you go up to poster size? Sure, and there will be some fun uses for that, but as far as a quality image is concerned a 1. The detail shot from the upsample shows virtually no loss in sharpness from the original 6.

I looked at both Print Size and Actual Pixel views, as well as printed out details from each. In my subjective assessment I would be happy with each one, although again this is often scene dependent and of course photographer dependent so its hard to generalize.

In summary, all 3 did the job with this shot with very good sharpness, no jaggies and little if any blurring that affected the final print. My final test was on a bit file shot with a pro camera and pro VR lens with a resultant MB out of the camera file The results are great as seen in this detail of the large print When I looked at the Actual Print size image I was very impressed, as you can see from the crop here Even looking at Actual Pixels, which is a blemish revealer if ever there was one, there seems to be only a slight fuzzing at the edges, something you see in the original image when you super-magnify it.

In other words, the Blow Up treatment did not harm and seemed to maintain, at that degree of enlargement, the characteristics of the original image. With Blow Up 3 doing its work, not much is lost even at fairly substantial upsampled sizes. Second, if you want to play in the realm of the big, big print then you need to ensure that the image you work with is produced by a top lens and sensor on as steady a platform you can provide.

Another thing—in this test I did not upsample for huge images, like poster size from point and shoots, feeling that for most folks who read this practical sizes would be more apt. The mantra of processing has always been non-destructive, meaning, do no harm in the process of what you do.

From working with Blow Up 3, I feel like with the right gear and technique you could really stretch the limits in terms of image size to way beyond what we might have expected before.

Resampling Options There are other software solutions for resampling. Sampling and recreating blocks of pixels multiple times in this manner is said to preserve fine details like edges, smooth areas and textures.

You can see our reviews of GF and notices about Perfect Resize by typing either name in our Search box at www. Bicubic resampling, the Photoshop approach www.

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Among them are new color and black-and-white toning adjustments, which can be viewed as side-by-side comparisons. You can see that view in these portraits by photographer Sue Bryce, a longtime Exposure advocate. Photos by Sue Bryce Photo by Sue Bryce Additional tools include using linear and radial shapes for seamless fades, as well as adjustable borders to create grunge- and wet-plate-type images. Exposure 3 also debuts new powerful organizational tools for photographers, including the ability to create virtual copies for editing multiple versions of a photo without taking up extra disk space, intuitive keywording and tools to easily and quickly group images.

Alien Skin offers a day free trial of Exposure 3 for download at www. See the press release below: Exposure X3 combines powerful organizational tools with gorgeous photo processing into a single intuitive solution, and offers faster performance than traditional photo editors.

This latest version of Exposure will be released in Q3 of , and introduces numerous creative enhancements. The side-by-side view provides an easy way to compare similar images, or to audition multiple presets on a single image.

Linear and radial brush shapes enable a natural, seamless fade between two or more effects. Adjustable borders include grunge and wet plate looks. Powerful new organizing tools include virtual copies for editing multiple variations of a single photo, without taking up additional disk space. The advanced collections tools help them quickly and easily group their images, no matter where they appear on their computer. Sue Bryce uses Exposure to create all of her finished images, and is a longtime user of Exposure.

Pricing and Availability Exposure X3 will be released in Q3 of and will be available from www. Exposure X3 is also available in the Exposure X3 Bundle. A day fully-featured free trial of Exposure is available. Visit www. Host Requirements Exposure X3 may be used as a standalone program or as a set of plug-ins. When used as a set of plug-ins, it requires one of the following host applications: OS X The company distills advanced math and cutting edge research into creative tools that help you quickly bring your vision to life.

For more information, visit the Alien Skin website at www. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Sue Bryce Education is her innovative educational platform, where she shares her 27 years of experience with a global audience. Her insights encompass the technical, creative, business, and psychological aspects of photography. Related Articles.

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