Despite the ever-growing competition, Adobe’s seminal image-editing tool continues to rule the roost as the best-in-class, go-to image manipulation and generation tool. While it was once solely about pixel-based bitmap images, Photoshop CC is now a capable vector editing tool, with 3D and video support built in.
This collection of core features offers a powerful range of possibilities out the box, but occasionally it's worth adding a few extras to get the most out of your investment. Alongside actions, plugins offer a quick and easy way to extend Photoshop with time-saving, feature-adding and workflow-easing goodness.
As it’s been around for such a long time, Photoshop has support from thousands of plugins. It can be bewildering trying to sort through the array of options available, so we've selected the cream of the crop that you can download and use straight away.
Promoted: Filter Forge 7
Publisher: Filter Forge | Price: $149-$399 (now $37 - $99 at a 75% discount) | Good for: Photographers, photo editors, graphic designers, 3D artists
Filter Forge offers over 12,000 effects and textures, covering almost every use case you can imagine. In version 7.0, the new copy-paste function makes it possible to use Filter Forge with any host. Just copy a processed image from the standalone Filter Forge application and paste it anywhere you want.
Need to work with render channels? Now you can preview all active channels during rendering and export all of them to files at once. Discover all the new features here.
01. RH Hover Color Picker
Fine colour control at your fingertips, when you need it.
Publisher: Rico Holmes | Price: $16 | Best for: Artists and designers
If you've ever wished Photoshop's colour picker was just a little less ugly and cumbersome, Rico Holmes' Hover Color Picker might be what you've been waiting for. It's there when you need it with a good-looking set of customisable sliders that give you a lot more control than the standard picker, and when you're done it'll minimise itself automatically.
02. Ultimate Retouch Panel
Professional retouching functionality.
Publisher: Pro Add-Ons | Price: $29+Tax | Best for: Retouchers and photographers
For professional retouching results that go a lot further than the default Photoshop filters, it's worth having a look at Pro Add-Ons’ Ultimate Retouch Panel. Although it’s now getting a little long in the tooth, this cost-effective tool features over 200 functions in one panel, including seven frequency separation methods, four fast-retouch methods, and 15 tools for local retouching.
03. ALCE 3
Bring out unseen detail in your photos.
Publisher: Davide Barranca | Price: $34.95 | Best for: Photographers
Local contrast enhancement is a useful method for bringing out extra details in photography, and while you can do it in Photoshop using the Unsharp Mask filter, it can be a bit hit-and-miss if you don't really know what you're doing. ALCE 3 takes all the guesswork out of it, adding shape and depth to your shots without losing detail across shadows and highlights.
04. Fontself Maker
Turn any image into an OpenType font.
Publisher: Fontself | Price: £43 for Photoshop, £69 for Photoshop+Illustrator | Best for: Designers
Ready to start creating your own fonts? It’s easier than you think with this handy Photoshop plugin. Fontself Maker lets you turn any image or vector layer into colourful bitmap fonts using Photoshop CC 2015.3 and above. It’s worth noting that if you want to create vector-based fonts, the plugin can also be purchased for Illustrator.
Drag and drop layers to create new characters, and capture any colour, shade or texture you desire. All the features you’d look for can be configured and controlled, including per-character kerning, ligatures, character alternates and more. The team behind the tool are also actively developing and updating the plugin – in part supported by Kickstarter backers – so you can expect ongoing feature enhancements.
05. Fluid Mask 3
A dedicated tool for creating clean, accurate masks.
Publisher: Vertus | Price: $99 | Best for: Photographers and designers
Masking is a fine art in itself, and while Photoshop has good built-in masking tools, there's still plenty of room for a dedicated tool to help you get the cleanest and most accurate masks possible – especially around problem areas such as hair and fur. Fluid Mask makes this normally laborious process quick and relatively easy.
06. Getty Images
Easily add video, photos and vectors from Getty Images.
Publisher: Getty | Price: Free (licence images used via plugin) | Best for: Designers
Everyone needs a bit of stock imagery now and then, so why make things difficult for yourself? Getty Images' plugin makes it easy for you to search for and filter images and hi-res comps, not only for Photoshop but also Illustrator and InDesign. Once you’ve made your edits and used comps to get client approval, you can licence a high-resolution image and retain all your edits making for a smooth workflow.
Corel Painter tools for Photoshop users.
Publisher: Corel (Painter) | Price: £44.99 | Best for: Artists
Painter is a long-established digital art favourite among illustrators, but, thankfully, Corel has finally brought its brush technology to Photoshop with ParticleShop. Brushes can make a huge difference to your creativity and productivity, and this powerful Photoshop plugin offers non-destructive brushstroke layer support and 11 updated brushes, including Debris, Fabric, Fine Art, Fur, Hair, Light, Space, Smoke and Storm. Currently you’ll get a free brush pack when purchasing too.
This specification generator is ideal for handing off UI designs.
Publisher: Chrometaphor | Price: Free | Best for: Web and graphic designers
Ink is a specification generator built for designers creating user interfaces to hand off to developers who aren’t necessarily conversant Photoshop users. Ink makes it easy to communicate your design by generating full specs, including text formatting, layer styles, typographic settings, dimensions and more.
All the meta data is embedded directly into your PSD document, for quick and easy reference. And once output, it’s all compiled into one handy folder to keep everything neat and tidy. This workflow helps ensure that the final product is an accurate interpretation of your design, rather than a developer’s approximation.
It’s also worth noting that this Photoshop plugin is free, but the developers suggest you make a donation to Water4 if you enjoy using it.
09. Fixel Contrastica 2
This smart tool intensifies both local and global contrast.
Publisher: Fixel Algorithms | Price: $29.99 | Best for: Photographers
Available for both Photoshop and After Effects, Contrastica is a smart contrast intensifier. From Fixel Algorithms, a company specialising in developing and implementing "advanced and innovative image and video processing algorithms" in order to expand image and video manipulation abilities.
Contrastica is a simple to use, focused and highly tuned filter. It targets both local and global contrast at the same time – making it easy to add pop and create the effect you want in less time than it would take to use Photoshop’s native toolset.
10. On1 Resize 2017
Enlarge photos without losing image quality.
Publisher: On1 | Price: $79.95 (currently $59.99) | Best for: Artists and designers
On1 Resize (also known as Perfect Resize 9) will enlarge images taken on your DSLR or smartphone by up to 1000 per cent. The plugin uses genuine fractals’ powerful algorithms for optimising clarity and detail enhancement. This is more than just an image resizing tool, however. Featuring a full file browser, it also offers batch processing, image compression and a host of built-in presets and manual controls.
Next page: More of the best Photoshop plugins