Filter Forge 2 Review

Filter Forge 2 Review ImageFilter Forge 2 Review Image

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Introduction

Filter Forge is a software program which adds layers of effects to your pictures. Used either as a stand alone or plug-in, there are three tiers to Filter Forge and with each upgraded level, the amount of features increase.

Starting at $149 for the Basic edition you get unlimited downloads of filters, free access to an online filter library, resolution independence, seamless tiling, HDRI lighting, smart anti-aliasing, command line renderer, the ability to use filters that aren’t out of the library and the ability to select them as favourites. Should you choose the Standard edition instead, it’ll cost you $249 and will allow you to modify existing filters and create your own. The top of the range Professional edition costs $399 and on top of the aforementioned features, you can benefit from high precision file formats, it will support 16 and 32bit image modes, you can use an unlimited number of CPUs and it takes bitmaps larger than 3000 x 3000 pixels.

For the purposes of the review we had access to the Professional edition to explore all the features available from the Filter Forge labs. Some of the features in the program that we will touch on include the massive gallery of preset filters as well as the online library. There’s also some interesting technology in the program such as floating-point file formats which lets you save in less traditional JPEG or Bitmap. There’s also Dual-Core CPU support, Smart Anti-Aliasing and it can support pictures with incredible resolutions of up to 65,536 pixels.

We downloaded the program from the Filter Forge website which took less than 5 minutes while sat on a laptop with half meg broadband speed. Installing took around the same amount of time.

To use the program, you must first have an image open in Photoshop (if you’re using it as a plug in like we did). First, you need to duplicate the layer so that the filter you apply will be placed over the original. Then go to Filter and choose Filter Forge from the drop down list.

Nik DfineLaunching Filter Forge

The main window appears as a separate tile on the task bar and you can flick over to Photoshop if you like but you can’t do anything while Filter Forge is running. They’ve even gone to the extent of placing a little box with a link to click which sends you back to the Filter Forge window.

The main window fills the screen and is divided into just two segments. With the filters on the left and the chosen filter on the right taking up around 60% of the window. There’s a bit here which we found annoying. A small note at the foot of the picture says that the image has been shrunk in preview to speed up processing. This is certainly a good idea, so why does the picture still go below the bottom of the window so that we have to scroll down? The window can’t be resized and it’s slightly too big for a laptop screen. The filters are divided into 12 main sections and while any of the filters could be used in photography, we’ll concentrate on the photography section titled Photo.

Nik DfineMain Window

Clicking on the Photo tab will bring up 8 more tabs to the right. Below the tabs are an example of the filter over a picture of a random life belt. The default filter will be highlighted with a blue outline and clicking on any other preset will place that filter over your image in the window to the right.

Nik DfineApplying a Filter

 

Nik DfineHDR

As with most filter programs at the moment, the developers know that old fashioned film and retro vintage looks are very now so these are heavily used. Out of the 8 sections in the Photo tab, 5 of them simulate old photographs. The 8 are colorizer, dreamy, grunge, lomo, old photo, real contrast, sepia and vibrance. Within each of these main sections is a sub-section that holds variations of the main section you’ve chosen. Each one has a default setting and this will be automatically selected. Simply clicking on any of the life ring icons will select that filter and apply it to the picture.

Filter Forge 2 Review ImageFilter Forge 2 Review Image

Mac users, we’re pleased to announce Macphun’s all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for just $69£52, and now comes with 12 portrait presets created by Scott Kelby, plus 1 month of access to KelbyOne photography training.

Use coupon code “PHOTOBLOG” to save another $10 on Luminar.

We rated Luminar as “Highly Recommended”. Visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.

Download Luminar & Try Free »

There are some really nice filters in there such as the old photo which places scratches over the picture and an old photograph style frame.  Some of the filters are too aggressive for certain pictures and my photograph of a white dog got too bleached out on many of the lomo pictures, all the dreamy ones and there was occasion when just the forehead in between his eyes was burnt out and no other area which was unappealing.

The idea is that you search through and find a more appropriate filter for the photograph. But what if we want to use that picture with the filter that burns out the white but we want to retain the white? Just above the preset filter icons are three more tabs called Presets, Settings and About. Clicking over to settings will allow you to make exposure adjustments to the picture using a series of sliders. The sliders vary depending on the filter but it’s great to know you can still fine tune your picture. Once you’re happy with the preview, pressing the apply button in the bottom right will load the filter over the picture in Photoshop. We would prefer to see the filter applied as a layer but it’s not, it’s laid on as a tool.

In the top right corner of the Professional edition is a button you can click to create your own filters. This means that if I didn’t find the right filter for my white dog, I can make one. If I submit this to the online library and it’s used widely or the gurus at Filter Forge are impressed, they give rewards out, which is a neat idea.

Nik DfineFilter Editor

Clicking on the button asks if you want to edit the existing filter or create a new one which is good if you need to simply tweak the existing one. We opted to create a new one and clicking on the correct button takes you into the area with a new, blank filter open.  All the effects you want to apply are on the right hand side of the editor and the space for adding them is in the centre. The image you’ve chosen isn’t displayed until you add it as a tool in the workspace. There’s a great deal to do and a lot of tools you can play with but the great thing is that if you start to create filters that look good and upload them to the library for people to use, if they become popular, you get rewards from Filter Forge.

Nik DfineFilter Library

To access this online library, the link is next to the button to go to the filter editor. It’s highlighted in blue, so you can’t miss it. It takes you to a page on the Filter Forge website that holds all the filters that users of Filter Forge have uploaded. They’re free to download and any level of program can access the library but you may find if you have the basic program, the amount of filters available are limited.

Nik DfineFilter Editor

The filters are available to view four ways; either by the featured filters of the moment, the most popular ones, recent additions or you can filter them by specifying parameters. There are 16 pages of filters just in the photo section alone and over 8000 in total, so there’s plenty to look at.

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