Photoshop plugins offer a quick and easy way to extend Adobe’s seminal image-editing tool with time-saving, feature-adding and workflow-easing goodness. Despite ever-growing competition, Photoshop continues to rule the roost as the best-in-class, go-to image manipulation and generation tool – but that doesn't mean it can't be improved with a great plugin.
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.
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 8
Publisher: Filter Forge | Price: $38-$100 at a 75% discount for CreativeBloq readers | Good for: 3D artists, photographers, photo editors, graphic designers
Filter Forge offers over 12,000 effects and textures, covering almost every use case you can imagine. In version 8.0, tabs have been added. You can now load any image or filter into separate tabs, and compare them or fine-tune their settings. Essentially you now have multiple Filter Forge copies under one hood. Need to move from one computer to another? The new backup tool compresses 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. 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: $49.99 | 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.
11. B&W Effects
Turn coloured images into beautiful monochrome photographs.
Publisher: TopazLabs | Price: $59.99 | Best for: Photographers
More or less any of Topaz Labs’ products would happily make it into this list; its Photoshop plugins are almost a must-have for any serious digital photographer. Whether it’s providing texture effects, making masking easy, or turning your photographs into impressionist paintings, there’s not much you can imagine that Topaz hasn't developed a tool to create.
That said, this black and white effects plugin is especially good. Using a unique B&W conversion engine that emphasises tone and texture to help you get B&W images that pop, this should be an essential part of your photo-editing toolset.
12. Texture Tools Industrial
50 metal textures to enhance your photos.
Publisher: Kubota | Price: $69 | Best for: Artists and designers
Kubota describes itself as the 'Mecca' of photo-enhancing tools, and the Texture Tools Industrial pack accompanies its extensive range of textures, borders and templates. As usual with Kubota plugins, you can try these metallic filters before you buy. With this pack you can give your images a manmade finish thanks to a selection of 50 metal themed textures. You'll be able to manipulate the filters to fit your images, giving them an edgy final touch that will make them stand out from the crowd.
13. PageCurl 2
Create convincing page turn and fold effects.
Publisher: AV Bros | Price: From £20.95 | Best for: Graphic designers
Its website looks like something out of the 1990s, but AV Bros’ Page Curl plugin is a cost-effective solution for creating convincing page turn and fold effects on both regular and arbitrary-shaped objects (such as non-rectangular objects, or areas with full or partial transparency). Ideal for ebook promotional work, this simple but powerful Photoshop plugin is straightforward to use and refreshingly limited in its functionality. It’s designed to do one thing, and do it well.
14. PSD Cleaner
This plugin makes layer management less painful.
Publisher: Source | Price: $19.99 | Best for: Artists, designers, photographers
Sorting through layers and layers of design work is a tedious, laborious task that can be the bane of the lives of graphic designers and web designers everywhere. PSD Cleaner aims to take away the pain of this essential housekeeping process, making it a whole lot easier. From one simple panel, users can identify unnamed layers, recreate Photoshop effects in CSS, delete empty layers, convert point text to paragraph text, find out if layers are beyond the canvas bounds and much more.
15. Eye Candy
Choose from a wide range of photo effects in this well-known plugin.
Publisher: Alien Skin | Price: $129 | Best for: Designers
Alien Skin’s Eye Candy is one of Photoshop’s most recognisable 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 many seem initially to be useful only for creating cheesy effects, it’s surprising how many scenarios you’ll find them useful in. This is particularly true for freelance designers working to tight deadlines, and when the effects are dialled down from the default settings, they become less cheesy and more useable.
16. Luminar 2018
A focused photo editor for use within Photoshop.
Publisher: SkyLum | Price: £64 (Currently £53) | Best for: Photographers
Luminar is a little bit like having a photo editor inside your photo editing software. As odd as that sounds, it’s a focused tool that excels at making the most of your images without any of the non-photography stuff that Photoshop is full of. Using an AI routine alongside some 50 preset effects, this plugin simplifies masking, sky replacement, object removal and more. Available for both Photoshop and Lightroom, it’s well worth a look if you find yourself editing raw photographs frequently.
17. Nik Collection
A range of powerful photographic plugins available for free.
Publisher: DxO | Price: $69 | Best for: Photographers
We've long valued the many photographic plugins featured in the Nik Collection. Recently Google bought it, then agreed to hand over the collection to DxO in order to ensure continued development, and the upshot of this turmoil is that you can now grab the entire collection for $69 instead of the original $95 purchase price.
Equip yourself with top quality plugins such as Silver EFEX Pro and Viveza that provide a huge range of high-impact photographic effects. This is a no-brainer (figuratively, of course).
18. Fixel Edgehancer
Sharpen edges in a hurry.
Publisher: Fixel | Price: $29.99 | Best for: Designers and photographers
If you're a designer in a hurry, or you're not yet confident using Photoshop to create stylised images, Edgehancer is a quick and effective way to get some sophisticated looks. Edgehancer, as the name suggests, is used to enhance and emphasize edges. Unlike sharpening tools, EdgeHancer emphasizes the edges exclusively instead of increasing the contrast of the surrounding pixels. Edgehancer's effects can be recorded in Actions and are entirely scriptable, allowing simple automation.
19. Subtle Patterns
A library of quality, tileable textured patterns.
Publisher: Source | Price: $17.99 | Best for: Designers
Subtle Patterns is a high quality library of free, tileable textured patterns. The Subtle Patterns plugin feeds all this textured goodness directly into your Photoshop panel. You just click the pattern thumbnail and the texture is applied as a layer style to your current layer – a great time-saver and well worth the asking price.
20. Renamy 4.0
The Photoshop plugin takes the pain out of renaming layers.
Publisher: Klaia | Price: $14.99 (free demo) | Best for: Artists, photographers and designers
Naming your layers right is the first rule of Photoshop etiquette. But sometimes you need to rename layers retrospectively, which can be a pain. With Renamy you can rename multiple layers at once, and there's even a cool autocomplete function to save your typing fingers. There's a free demo version so you can give it a try before you buy.
Next page: More of the best Photoshop plugins