Eight essential Photoshop plug-ins

Photoshop has become an archaeological treasure. Most of the original Photoshop plugins and filters date back to the mid-1990s, and haven't changed significantly since then. What started out as a spare-time darkroom tool has become an industry standard, so needs have changed, and there's a huge market for more professional products - if only because everyone knows what the Watercolor and Twirl filters do, and most design studios will fire anyone who uses them in a project without written permission.

There's a popular myth that many commercial plug-ins are just repackaged preset filter actions, and that if you work at it for long enough you can duplicate what they do in your own time. That may have been true 10 years ago, but it's not true now. Most add-ons rely on custom code that not only doesn't go anywhere near the standard filter set, it also doesn't use any of the same principles or ideas. For example, most noise removal tools use technology developed for digital signal processing that was repurposed for photography when someone noticed how useful it might be. It's clever stuff, but you don't have to understand it to use it - you just need to know what's possible, and when it's best to use it.

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