These Are A Few Of My Favorite Plug-Ins; Classics, Brand New, And Stand-Alone, Too Page 2

My favorite item in the PixelCreation collection is the Northern Lights filter. It's certainly one of the few such filters in existence, and the only one I've seen able to create such impressive ribbons of color and light.

The PixelCreation interface, with a moon and stars being added to an image.

PixelCreation gives you complete control over the design of each Northern Lights effect. The effect is first drawn on the screen with a pen control; you can then add, remove, or curve points along the drawing to give it the precise shape you have in mind. As you use this filter remember that exact shapes are hardly necessary. Just as the real northern lights are random patterns, keeping a certain amount of randomness is important in creating an attractive effect.

The PixelCreation interface provides a total of 10 controls for fine-tuning the look and feel of your effect: Streak Length, Length Variation, Angle Variation, Curve Variation, Texturing, Color Variation, Softness, Global Variation, Fade Length, and Streak Gradient Color. In keeping with the importance of randomness, each of the "variation" controls help to add a degree of uniqueness to the effect you create. Perhaps the most important item is "Streak Gradient Color," which gives you complete control over the gradient colors used to create your effect.

PixelCreation is available for Mac OS X and Windows 98 to Windows Vista for $99.95. Visit for more information and to purchase.

A night sky photo before using PixelCreations.
The night sky after applying the Northern Lights effect.

Wondertouch's particleIllusion
Wondertouch's particleIllusion is one of the most unique programs that I have ever used. It's actually designed for adding special effects to video (it's been used in dozens of television programs and feature films), but can be used for adding special effects to photos as well. There are over 2000 special effects "emitters" available for particleIllusion, with more emitters released free of charge every month. The range of emitter types is truly amazing; they include, to name just a few: fireworks, explosions, transporter beams, sea creatures, butterflies, stage lights, water, and much more. Each emitter effect is completely customizable, and if you're also interested in video, keep in mind that by default, every emitter is animated.

Emitter libraries are loaded in the lower right of the interface. These contain the effects that will be used to enhance your photo. Each emitter can be examined by clicking on it, and then clicking in the preview window above the emitter library. The photo that you're working with is seen in the main window in the center of the screen; emitters are added to your photo by clicking on the emitter and then clicking on the photo.

To the left are settings for handling background transparency, and for controlling just about every aspect imaginable for each emitter. Many of these details are animation related, so you don't necessarily have to concern yourself with them when working with photos, since default values can always be used. However, if you enjoy fine-tuning, you'll truly appreciate the power and control available here.

The particleIllusion interface.

Wondertouch's particleIllusion is available for Mac OS 8 to OS X and Windows 98 to Windows Vista from Full and SE (Special Edition) versions are available. The full version contains added video effect tools, so if you'll be using particleIllusion strictly for photos, you may want to consider the SE version, given that there's a considerable price difference.

The full version of particleIllusion is $399 (download plus CD for Windows) and $389 (download only, no CD, for Windows or Mac OS X). The SE version is $99 (download only, no CD, for Windows or Mac OS X). The Mac OS 8 and 9 version is an earlier release of particleIllusion, with a slightly reduced, but still powerful, set of features, available for $299.

I decided to change this pink firework emitter's colors to red, white, and blue, which was quickly accomplished using the emitter's Properties settings.

Although particleIllusion's tools are very intuitive, if you haven't worked with video-oriented programs in the past you'll probably want to take advantage of particleIllusion's demo version, which is available for both Windows and Mac. If you find that you enjoy working with particleIllusion, I recommend the SE version for photographers. If you enjoy working with video effects as well, I also recommend that you check out Wondertouch's Professional Emitter Libraries, see for details.

A photo before adding fireworks emitters.
Adding some fireworks with particleIllusion.

Anthony Celeste appreciates feedback from his readers. You may contact him via e-mail at: