The best Photoshop plugins can help you work faster and more efficiently with what remains the industry-standard in image-editing software. Photoshop, part of Adobe's Creative Cloud suite of apps, is an essential tool for creatives in a range of areas, from graphic designers to photographers. The software offers a lot of creative possibilities, and new features are added regularly. But the best Photoshop plugins can expand the possibilities even further.
Both paid-for and free Photoshop Plugins can save you time by offering quicker ways of doing things or by saving you from having to leave Photoshop to use another program for certain tasks. They can also make Photoshop's existing tools easier to use. But which are the best Photoshop plugins to use? We've listed our favourites below based on the experience of our contributors, many of whom use Photoshop plugins on a regular basis for everything from photo editing to graphic design.
The list below includes first free Photoshop plugins and then premium options (not that some Photoshop plugins have limited free versions, but you'll need to pay for their full functionality. We explain what each plugin does and why we recommend it. Once you've got your plugins, you might also want to see our guide to free photoshop actions for more tools. If you don't have Photoshop yet, sign up to Creative Cloud here. For more options, see our guides to the best photo editing software and the best graphic design software.
The best free Photoshop plugins
Skip to the best premium Photoshop plugins.
Adobe Camera Raw is the best Photoshop plugin for photographers – and certainly the most essential. Despite often being considered a tool for photo editing, Photoshop itself doesn't actually support Raw image editing. For that, Adobe has Lightroom, but you might often not want to have to work across two different programs.
The free Adobe Camera Raw plugin adds Raw editing capabilities to Lightroom so that you don't have to do that. You can use it to edit and import Raw images to Photoshop for retouching or other more detailed edits, but you might also want to use it to edit light and colour of non-Raw images that you already have open in Photoshop using the Camera Raw filter, particularly if you use Lightroom since the interface will since its interface will immediately feel familiar.
The CSS3P Photoshop plugin is perfect for web developers since it turns Photoshop layers into CSS3. To convert your layers to CSS3, simply click the CSS3P button; it couldn't be simpler. It's cloud-based so you don't have to worry about updates and you can check your work out easily. The plugin supports a range of features including multiple layer selection, vendor prefixes, stroke, size and inner shadow, making it a very useful addition.
If you're on a tight budget and find yourself needing stock images, this Photoshop plugin could prove very handy. Free Stock Search lets you search for free stock images on Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels from within Photoshop itself. You then click and the photo will be downloaded and imported directly into PS (or any of the other Adobe app). As the name suggests, the plugin itself is free, but you're only able to view 120 images from a search. If you want more than that, you'll have to pay. If you need something more specific, there are some more great stock image plugins further down in our list, so read on.
Everyone needs a bit of stock imagery now and then, so why not make things easy for yourself? The Getty Images Photoshop plugin makes it super easy to search for and filter images and hi-res comps. You can also use it with Illustrator and InDesign too. 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. It's a free Photoshop plugin, but of course you will need a Getty plan or to pay to licence the images.
The last stock imagery plugin in our list, this tool from Shutterstock provides direct in-app access to the huge range of stock imagery available in the Shutterstock library. Search inside Photoshop, click to select and insert, and license directly for an easier workflow. This is especially useful if you commonly licence royalty-free images for use in your designs. It works across Adobe's creative suite.
Ink is a free Photoshop plugin that can be useful for designers handing off work to clients, particularly for UI designer and web developers. It documents a design’s layers, detailing all the specifications (properties, colours, and effects), which can help avoid mistakes if your giving work to clients that aren't familiar with Photoshop. As its creator says, "sometimes lack of specifications leads to inaccurate front-end outputs."
Powtoon is a free Photoshop plugin that lets you turn your designs into animated video content with a single click. Choose to export all Artboards or select Artboards, then enhance your animated design with custom animation, stock footage and imagery, or add a soundtrack. Finally, you can export directly to YouTube, Facebook, MP4, Vimeo and more. It has some great reviews.
The best premium Photoshop plugins
Luminar Neo is a little bit like having a photo editor inside your photo editor. While the concept may sound strange, it’s a focused tool that does a great job at making the most of your images without any of the non-photography stuff that Photoshop includes. Using an AI routine alongside over 60 preset effects, the plugin simplifies masking, sky replacement, object removal and more. It's available for both Photoshop and Lightroom and is well worth a look if you regularly edit raw photographs.
This Photoshop plugin provides a smart palette system that intelligently adapts to the colours you choose and offers a wide range of strips with functions. Chameleon Adaptive Palette can offer palette variations or lock as a static palette. It's a feature-rich plugin but shouldn't weigh on your CPU. See the helpful video above to learn how to use it.
It's easy to find yourself getting lost in a sea of brushes in Photoshop, but the Photoshop plugin BrushBox provides a solution. BrushBox enables you to organise your brushes more efficiently by putting them in groups, which can be colour coded (you can even add different backgrounds). You can tag your favourite brushes and you can override a brush's default settings to save you from having to make the same changes over and over again.
This isn't the most necessary Photoshop plugin if you only use a handful of brushes in their default settings, but if you've built up a sizable brush collection, it can prove really helpful (to add to your brush collection, see our roundup of the best free Photoshop brushes).
The AD Brutus Symmetry Photoshop plugin makes it easy to explore symmetrical designs or drawing. Just place your grid or guide on your work and see it reflected where you choose. You can flip layers or selections and also rotate your work. Saving is easy too since you can save either the active layer or a merged PNG version of the current view with just one click. It might not be the most useful plugin, unless you work consistently with patterns, but it's great fun to play around with.
For professional retouching results that go beyond the default Photoshop filters, Pro Add-Ons’ Ultimate Retouch Panel is well worth a look. It’s getting a little long in the tooth, but this good-value tool features over 200 functions in one panel, including seven frequency separation methods, four fast-retouch methods, and 30 tools for local retouching.
Want to start creating your own fonts? The Photoshop plugin Fontself Maker makes that easier than you might imagine by allowing you to turn any image or vector layer into colourful fonts that you can export as OTF files. Drag and drop layers to create new characters, and capture any colour, shade or texture you desire.
All the features 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 so you can expect ongoing feature enhancements. If you want to create vector-based fonts, the plugin can also be purchased for Illustrator.
Painter is a long-established digital art favourite among illustrators, but, thankfully, Corel also offers its brush technology for 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 updated brushes, including Debris, Fabric, Fine Art, Fur, Hair, Light, Space, Smoke and Storm.
ON1 Resize allows you to enlarge images taken on your DSLR or smartphone by up to 1,000 per cent. The plugin uses genuine fractals’ powerful algorithms to optimise clarity and detail enhancement. But it's 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.
Topaz Labs’ Photoshop plugins are among the best for any serious digital photographer. The new Topaz Photo AI includes three apps, DeNoise AI, Sharpen AI and Gigapixel AI, and they can be run as standalone software or Photoshop plugins. Each tool does pretty much what you'd expect from its name (Gigapixel is for upscaling images). DeNoise AI is what Topaz Labs is best known for, and it's gained a reputation for being the best tool for removing noise from images that were shot in low light and/or with high ISO.
The Filter Forge Photoshop plugin offers over 14,000 effects and textures, covering a diverse range of use cases. Filter Forge is now on version 10, but version 11 is due by the end of 2021 and will be available for free for those who purchase version 10 now.
One handy feature allows users can now load any image or filter into separate tabs, and compare them or fine-tune their settings. There's also a handy backup tool. If you need to move from one computer to another, you can use this to compresses your filters and settings into a single archive file that you can restore later on another computer, another version of Filter Forge or even another platform.
Alien Skin’s Eye Candy is one of the most well-known Photoshop’s plugins, and has been around for well over a decade. Version 7 provides a huge range of effects ranging from fire to chrome, glass to extrusions. While we found many of the effects to be rather cheesy initially, we've actually been surprised by how many scenarios they can be useful for, especially for freelance designers working to tight deadlines. Dialling down the effects from the default settings will often make them less cheesy and more useable.
The Nik Collection suite of Photoshop plugins offers eight great photographic plugins in one package, including Silver EFEX Pro and Viveza, which provide a huge range of high-impact photographic effects. One of the best parts is the non-destructive mode, which allows you to export images as TIFF files and tweak any edits made, keeping the originals safe. It includes 250 presets and comes with DxO PhotoLab ESSENTIAL for Raw editing.
Naming your layers right is the first rule of Photoshop etiquette. But sometimes you find you need to rename layers retrospectively, which can be a real drag. Renamy takes the pain out of that by allowing you to rename multiple layers at once. There's even a cool autocomplete function to help save your typing fingers. There's a basic free version available so you can try before you buy.
If you can forgive or overlook the gratuitous swearing on the Perspective Mockups site, the plugin is definitely worth checking out. Essentially it's a great way to make perspective mockups for your designs. The plugin sits within your Photoshop tools palette and includes a range of different layouts to choose from. Simply click to set. It’s a quick way to add some punch and lift to your artwork.
Blow Up allows you to create pin-sharp enlargements without compromising on quality. The algorithm is more advanced than Photoshop's own bicubic filters, which allows the plugin to produce accurate images without artefacts. This makes it a great tool for designers where clients send over images that aren't of a high-enough resolution.
PhotoMatix Pro is a high dynamic range (HDR) processing and toning tool that integrates with Photoshop either standalone or as a plugin (depending upon which version you go for). This tool goes beyond Photoshop's built-in HDR processing capabilities, especially with the toning aspects and allows for the creation of extreme HDR images with relative ease.
ON1’s Effects is a useful Photoshop plugin for adding a quick effect to an image, whether it's a colour treatment, addition of texture and noise, or creative borders. This plugin features an effects library (a bit like the filter gallery in Photoshop) and allows you to stack multiple effects to achieve interesting new results.
Exposure is a creative tool that allows you to simulate film effects on your digital images either as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom or as a complete standalone raw photo editor. Now on version X7, it offers refined grading tools for total control of image colour, advanced selection tools for speedy adjustments of any area and adaptive smoothing.
GuideGuide is a simple Photoshop plugin that makes it easy to create a grid system in your document, hijacking the built-in guides system to create a pinpoint accurate grid according to your chosen settings. You can use negative margins for special hanging columns, separately define individual margins and gutters, and save your preferred options for quick access in the future. Perfect for anyone using a grid to help them create their layouts.
Want to create cinematic effects like lens flare or special effects like glowing particles. Optics makes that easy with its unique filters and thousands of presets in different categories. It has blurs, tints, distortions and a new particle illusion that can create smoke, fire, water, sparkles, dust and other sci-fi effects, including video animations. It works as a Photoshop plugin or a standalone program.
Colour grading is often one of the most difficult aspects of photo editing to get to grips with. Infinite Color aims to change that providing a panel in Photoshop that's fast and easy to navigate. It randomizes a set of adjustment layers to create a unique look for images, an intensity slider helps you control whether you want to go subtle or bold and a shuffle control makes it easier to turn layers on and off.
How do I install Photoshop plugins?
It's easy to install third-party Photoshop plugins either on a PC or Mac. First, just download the plugin you want to use. Some include an installer that will do the work for you. For others, you'll need to extract them from the zipped file (most Photoshop plugins come in a RAR or ZIP folder), copy the folder that contains the plugin files and then paste it into the "plugins" folder in your Adobe folder (you should be able to find this in program files in Drive C on Windows and Applications on a Mac).
Where are Photoshop plugins located on my device?
The location of any Photoshop plugins stored on your device will vary depending on if you've installed them as a version-specific plugin or at a shared Creative Cloud location that will be available for all versions.
Version-specific plugins can be found at:
Mac: Hard Drive/Applications/[Photoshop version name]/Plug-ins
Windows: C\Program Files\Adobe\[Photoshop version name]\Plug-ins
Plugins in a shared Creative Cloud location can be found at:
Mac: Hard Drive/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Plug-Ins/CCWindows: C\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-Ins\CC
Camera Raw will be located in a folder shared by Photoshop, Adobe Bridge and Photoshop Elements at Hard Drive/Library/Application Support/Adobe/Plug-Ins/[Photoshop version name]/File Formats or C\Program Files\Common Files\Adobe\Plug-Ins\[Photoshop version number].
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