Filter Forge

Filter Forge allows computer artists / designers to build their own filters. Filter Forge includes a visual filter editor and a free online library of user-created filters to which anyone can contribute. Filter Forge produce’s a wide range of adjustable and editable textures and effects which are seamlessly tiled, resolution-independent.

Review by Darren Winder

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Filter Forge

by Darren Winder

Filter Forge, Photoshop plug-in or a standalone application.

 


Filter Forge (www.filterforge.com) can work as a Photoshop plug-in or a standalone application. Filter Forge is for producing and applying filters and textures to your images.

Filter Forge allows computer artists / designers to build their own filters. Filter Forge includes a visual filter editor and a free online library of user-created filters to which anyone can contribute. Filter Forge produce’s a wide range of adjustable and editable textures and effects which are seamlessly tiled, resolution-independent. Filters include metallic surfaces, rocky surfaces, organic, distortions, abstract textures, repeating patterns, color corrections, photo filters and more.

To open Filter Forge as a standalone application (windows) go to the Start button > All programs > Filter Forge, To open Filter Forge as a plug-in for Photoshop, open Photoshop and go to Filter > Filter Forge.
To use the User Interface you simply pick a filter from the huge library of filters which you download from the Filter Forge library (for free, once you've bought the program), and either load a selected image of your choice to apply your filter to, or use one of the texture filters. Registered users have access to well over 6,000 filters and textures.


The User Interface.

Figure 02 – The User Interface.

Categories and Filters

This area contains the list of pre-installed filters and filters downloaded from the Filter Library. The filters are combined into categories which fall into three main groups: Texture filters which generate textures and don't need a source image, Effect filters which modify an existing source image, and finally Favorites and the My Filters category which stores filters made by you.

Filter Controls

Filter Controls is a tabbed area allowing users to adjust filter settings, save or restore presets of these settings, adjust the lighting and view the information about the filter.

  • The Presets tab allows you to save and apply presets ('snapshots' of filter settings).
  • The Settings tab lets you adjust and randomize filter settings.
  • The Lighting tab controls the lighting (it is available only for filters that support it).
  • The About tab shows filter information, author, popularity data and a link to the filter's web page.

Preview

This area lets you preview the image generated by a filter.

To pan the preview, hold and drag the right mouse button; or, when the preview cursor is in the Hand mode hold and drag the left mouse button.

To zoom the Preview in and out, use the mouse wheel.

You can also switch to the Zoom cursor. Clicking the Actual Pixels button sets the zoom level to 1:1 so that the image pixels correspond to screen pixels directly.

The Show Border checkbox allows you to see the image border on a seamlessly tiled filter.

The Show Original checkbox is useful for comparing the filter result to the original unmodified image.

The preview size can be reduced to make the rendering faster – choose View > Preview Size > Reduced from the menu.

The preview is automatically reduced for large images. This can be turned off in Interface Options.

Download Link

The download link above the preview lets you download filters from the Filter Library. All filters in the Library are free to download and use.

Apply / Save Image As Button

The Apply / Save Image As... button saves the result produced by a filter. When Filter Forge is running as a plug-in, the Apply button sends the resulting image to the host application. In the standalone mode, the Apply button is replaced by the Save Image As... Button which saves the rendered image as a graphic file.

Filter Editor

The Filter Editor button opens the Filter Editor, a visual node-based environment where you can build custom filters by connecting components into a network. All filters in Filter Forge were made in the Filter Editor and are fully editable.

  • To edit an existing filter in the Filter Editor, press Ctrl / Cmd +E, or click the Filter Editor... button and choose Edit this filter.
  • To create a new filter from scratch, press Ctrl / Cmd+N, or click the Filter Editor... button and choose Create a new filter.
  • All user-created filters are saved to the My Filters category.
  • Downloaded and pre-installed filters cannot be modified directly. When you edit them, the Filter Editor creates a copy in My Filters.

Filter Editor is where you create filters from components. Unlike the 'painting' approach common to all bitmap-editing applications, the Editor uses a 'node-based' approach – instead of modifying your image one step at a time like you do in bitmap editors, in Filter Forge you 'describe' what operations and in what order must be performed to produce the desired image. The operations are represented by components and the order of operations is defined by connections between them.

Figure 03 – Filter Editor.

  • To pan the Workspace, drag it with the right mouse button. To zoom, use the mouse wheel.
  • The Preview shows the output of the selected object.
  • The Properties pane lets you adjust the properties of the selected object.
  • To add components to the filter, drag them from the Components Bar to the Workspace.

Components

Components are the basic building blocks which you connect together to create a filter. Many components perform familiar operations such as blurs, color adjustments, distortions, and blending. Each component can have multiple inputs, but only one output.

Figure 04 – A closer look at a component.

Other Tasks

You can configure Filter Forge to show elapsed rendering time. See Show elapsed rendering time in Rendering Options.

To locate the filter file (.ffxml), select the filter and press Ctrl / Cmd+L or choose Filter > Locate File from the menu (not available in Starter editions).

To enter your License Key or change your licensing information, choose Help > Enter License Key from the menu.

To check for the availability of updates to the Filter Forge software, choose Tools > Updates from the menu.

To adjust anti-aliasing settings for the currently selected filter, use the Anti-Aliasing Menu.

To render normal, diffuse, bump and other maps, use the Render Maps Menu.

To download updates for Filter Library filters, use the Filter Updates dialog.

To submit filters you created to the Filter Library, use the Submit Wizard

Figure 05 - Original Photo.

Figure 06 – Filtered Version.

Filters Applied to this image are…
Watercolor painting by Kochubey
MeyeSky_v1 by meyendlesss
Simple Emboss by Vladimir Golovin
And some additional masking out in Photoshop by myself.

Figure 07 – Another Filtered Version.

Filters Applied to this image are…
Watercolor painting by Kochubey
MeyeSky_v1 by meyendlesss
Simple Emboss by Vladimir Golovin
Oldphoto by Kochubey
Watercolor Frame by Kochubey
Vibrance by Kochubey
Watercolor paper by DrEvil
Coffee Stain by Robb Allen
And some additional work in Photoshop by myself.

Figure 08 - Original Photo.

Figure 09 – Filtered Version.

Filters Applied to this image are…
Rusty Chain link by Mike Blackney.

There are a number of Filter Forge version’s to buy.

Starter-1 Edition (Windows / Mac)
With this edition, you can choose one filter from the 6989 user-made filters available in the Filter Library (you won't be able to create your own filters). Price $5

Starter-3 Edition (Windows / Mac)
With this edition, you can choose any 3 filters from the 6989 available in the Library (you won't be able to create your own filters). Price $11, the cost is $3.67 per filter.

Starter-7 Edition (Windows / Mac)
With this edition, you can choose any 7 filters from the 6989 available in the Library (you won't be able to create your own filters). Price $17, the cost is $2.43 per filter.

Basic Edition (Windows / Mac)
The Basic edition cannot create filters, but you have all 6989 user-created filters at your disposal. Price $59, that's just $0.01 per filter!

Standard Edition (Windows / Mac)
Best value for money – you get everything except specialist features such as 16-bit and 32-bit image modes, large resolutions and bump/normal maps. Price $119.

Professional Edition (Windows / Mac)
Filter Forge in all its glory – high precision imagery, ultra large bitmaps up to 65000x65000 pixels, bump and normal maps, and an unlimited number of CPU cores. Price $179.

Supported Operating Systems

  • Microsoft Windows 2000
  • Microsoft Windows XP
  • Microsoft Windows Vista
  • Mac OS X 10.4 and higher

Hardware Requirements

  • Pentium III 733 MHz or better
  • 128 MB RAM
  • 50 MB free disk space
  • Screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or higher
  • G4, G5 or Intel CPU
  • 256 MB RAM
  • 80 MB free disk space
  • Screen resolution of 1024x768 or higher
  • You'll also need an Internet connection to access the Filter Library and submit filters.

Supported Host Applications

  • Adobe Photoshop 6.0, 7.0, CS, CS2, CS3 and CS4
  • Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 6.0
  • Corel Painter 8 and IX
  • Corel PHOTO-PAINT 10, 11, 12, X3 and X4
  • Corel Paint Shop Pro X and XI
  • Jasc Paint Shop Pro 8, 9
  • Ulead PhotoImpact 11, 12

64-bit Operating Systems and Host Applications

The current version of Filter Forge cannot work as a plug-in for 64-bit host applications, but it works under 64-bit operating systems as standalone application or as a plug-in for a 32-bit host application. To use Filter Forge in the stand-alone mode, run it via the Start > All Programs. (Windows).


My thoughts

 

I found Filter Forge both powerful and easy to use. This is one tool any designer, artist and / or photographer (professional and amateur) should have. I am very imprested with this software. The User Interface can be improved. The outcomes of the filters are a very high standard.

The site also has a forum. The forum is a great place to learn more about how to use Filter Forge and to get help. (www.filterforge.com)

Pros:

  • Easy to use.
  • The range of filters available via the online filter library is well over 6,000. A very large number of filters to choose from and customize.
  • Support for bitmaps as large as 65,000 x 65,000 pixels, 16-bit & 32-bit images.
  • Filter Forge is a Photoshop Plug-in and a standalone application.
  • The Help feature is very informative but, is NOT available in pdf format.

Cons:

There is NO extension panel for Photoshop CS4 users.

  • Filter rendering time can be slow, especially with large images or complex filters selection.
  • You can only apply one filter at a time to an image; it would be practical if filters could be applied one after the other without saving the image first or going back to the image editor.
  • The Help feature is not available in pdf format.
  • No display output on a new layer. When you apply a filter to your image, it doesn’t automatically (or give you the option) to create a copied version of your image with the filter applied. So make sure that you duplicate / copy your original image first.
  • NO split preview screen, to view both the before and after filter applied versions.


A good solid 4 out of 5 (room for improvements).


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