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One of the cool new tools from Adobe Labs is Pixel Bender. This free extension lets you apply any one of a series of filters that comes with the extension to your images in Photoshop CS5. But that’s not all – Adobe also provides a simple interface for Pixel Bender that lets you create your own filters. As a result a community is building around Pixel Bender with users sharing custom created filters with others. In this post I’ll show you how to get started with Pixel Bender.
You will find the Pixel Bender extension here for download: http://labs.adobe.com/downloads/pixelbenderplugin.html. Make sure to download the version that matches your operating system and your version of Photoshop CS5 (32 or 64 bit). The extension is an .mxp file and you need to install is using the Adobe Extension Manager.
You can install the extension by double clicking on the file to launch the Adobe Extension Manager. If you’re using Windows Vista or Windows 7, you should run the Adobe Extension Manager as an Administrator. So, from the Start menu, locate the Adobe Extension Manager entry, right click it and choose Run as Administrator. The reason for this is that the extension needs to be placed in a folder that you can only access if you have administrator privileges. If you launched the program manually choose File > Install Extension and locate and select the extension that you just downloaded.
Accept the license terms and the extension will be automatically installed inside the appropriate Photoshop CS5 program folder.
When you’re done, close the Extension Manager, close Photoshop and reopen it.
Pixel Bender won’t work on images larger than 4096 x 4096 so start by resizing your image if necessary. If desired, you can convert an image to a Smart Object before applying a filter.
To run Pixel Bender open an image and choose Filter > Pixel Bender > Pixel Bender Gallery. You’ll see a list of filters in the dropdown list which currently displays CircleSplash. Select the OilPaint filter and then adjust its settings. Using Stylization, you can adjust the length and bend of the brush strokes – the larger values look best. Cleanliness will adjust the smoothness of the effect and typically looks good at around 7 or 8. Colorization allows you to apply more or less color to the image. BrushScale changes the size and length of the darker brush strokes – a small value gives thin long lighter brush strokes and a larger value gives shorter thick very dark brush strokes. BrushContrast will adjust the contrast of the brush strokes and is probably better left at a value approaching 1.
In short, adjust the sliders until you get a result you like. If you are unsure how a slider is affecting the image drag it all the way to the left or right to see the effect. Then adjust from there.
When you’re done, click Ok to apply the result to the image. Unlike most filters which convert images to look like an oil painting, this one does well at identifying edges in the image so the painting looks more realistic.
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