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Extensis PhotoFrame 2.5

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In: Reviews > Product Reviews

By Jesse Nieminen

Published on September 16, 2003

Extensis PhotoFrame 2.5 Extensis PhotoFrame is an interesting Photoshop plugin that applies unique and often complex border and edge effects to your images. Like many third-party Photoshop plugins, PhotoFrame has the potential to do either good or evil. Evil (in this case) refers to the type of cheesy or cliched effects most egregiously wrought through products like Eye Candy—remember fur? That’s not to say that PhotoFrame does not have legitimate and good professional uses. This plugin is not a replacement for good Photoshop skills and should be used with discretion.

With that caveat, here’s a look at PhotoFrame’s features. Version 2.5 adds support for Photoshop 7 and Macintosh OS X. Like Mask Pro, PhotoFrame opens your image (or the selected layer) in a separate plugin interface environment with dockable floating palettes that control various parameters of the applied effect. The interface itself is similar to Photoshop’s tools and is quite easy to grasp. Clear labeling and pop-up tool tips should have you running without much consultation of the manual.

There are two ways to add frames and edge effects to your image using the Frame Palette. First, you can choose from the provided library of 2,000 images in the proprietary .frm format. There are a lot of interesting frames in the library, but the downside is that you are always limited to using and modifying only from the stock provided. Though extensive customization is possible, it would be better if it were possible to create and import your own frame files.

Clicking the Add Frame File button imports a single image at a time, with the possibility of layering multiple images over each other to create more intricate frames. New frames stack in the Frame Palette like Photoshop layers and can be re-ordered by simply dragging them. Clicking the invert button quickly reverses the effect—a handy feature when you are layering different frames.

Second, you can create a customizable Instant Frame by clicking the Instant Frame button. Unfortunately, the choices here are limited to six rudimentary shapes without the option to add your own. Some customization is available for each shape, but it would be useful to be able to either import or create unique vector shapes.

The Edge Palette provides for altering both regular and instant frames with eight different effect types—up to four simultaneously. With choices like Wave, Triangle, Saw Tooth, and Diffuse, users can distort the frames to their liking. Using these effects is almost necessary to make any of the Instant Frame types visually appealing. With a product like this, it’s smart to give quite a bit of room for experimentation, and results with the .frm-based frames can vary wildly.

screenshot of Extensis PhotoFrame 2.5's interface

Six other palettes furnish the power to customize the image even more. Bevel, Border, Glow, and Shadow are fairly self-explanatory and are probably best left alone in most cases (refer to the first paragraph of this review). The Background Palette lets the user control the matte color for the frame orientation, opacity, size, and blur. Also, like the four aforementioned palettes, a blending mode control works just like layer blending modes in Photoshop. This is pretty sophisticated for a plugin.

The Texture Palette adds another level of image enhancement. Here you can import images to use as background textures, as well as applying them as customizable bump maps. The ability to mix textures with bump maps is pretty cool.

Once the desired frame has been created, a couple of options exist for applying it to the image/layer. Hitting the Apply button applies the frame directly, resulting in a single layer transformation. The Apply to New Layer button is a great alternative and creates a new layer for the frame that sits above the affected image. This is not only non-destructive but can provide for even more experimentation.

I found PhotoFrame 2.5 easy to use and stable, with no noticeable bugs. The main drawback is the inability to import your own artwork to be used as frames. Although the provided frames are way better than clipart, I still have an aversion to using any kind of stock imagery in my work. As a matter of fact, if you are a professional or aspiring Photoshop artist, you should know that it is possible to get these same kinds of effects through the creative use of scanned or digital imagery and Photoshop’s blending modes.

PhotoFrame 2.5 provides a nice shortcut with good options for customization, and the resulting effects will likely appeal to both designers and photographers. If you are in a production or creative environment where you need artistic border effects, this has great potential as a time saver. Though I would hesitate to buy it at the full version price of nearly $200, it’s well worth the extra $20 if you buy it as part of a bundle with Mask Pro 3. A free demo version is available at http://www.extensis.com .

Extensis PhotoFrame 2.5
full version: $199.95
upgrade: $49.95
bundle with Mask Pro 3: $219.95

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