Filter Forge Adobe Photoshop Texture Filter Creation Plugin Updated

Filter Forge is used by graphics pros, game studios, design agencies, photographers and even the US military, which apparently employed it to design camouflage patterns. Included are 5,900 visual effects, which can be applied directly to any image, but what sets Filter Forge apart from other texture tools is that it allows users to create new Photoshop filters for the generation of seamless textures, visual effects, distortions, patterns, backgrounds and frames. Filter effects are adjustable and editable, seamlessly tiled, resolution-independent and support real-world HDRI lighting. They can also generate diffuse, specular, bump and normal maps, essential for the creation of realistic textures.

The heart of the plugin, which is also available as a standalone application, is the Filter Editor, a visual node-based environment that makes it possible to create custom Photoshop filters without the traditional need to write code. Instead, filters are assembled by connecting components such as blurs, gradients, distortions, blends and color adjustments into a network to combine their effects. Notable is the inclusion of multiple types of seamless fractal noise, HLS and HSY color models, and color-preserving adjustments. A significant resource is the Filter Library, a free online repository of more than 11,000 adjustable user-created filters, which can be accessed directly by the plugin/application. Users who contribute high-quality filters can earn rewards, including a free copy of Filter Forge.

Included is a filter manager, which lets users organize their filter collection by using folders that can be navigated via a tree view and back/forward buttons. And component grouping allows filter authors to “package” parts of the filter tree into reusable components that have customizable inputs and parameters. Also notable is a Loop component, which makes possible automated, controlled repetition of graphical operations by employing nested loops and recursions within Filter Forge's code-free filter creation environment.

New in version 5 are several enhancements to randomization, such as the ability to protect filter settings from being randomized and quickly randomize specific parameters, as well as a simplified randomization settings menu. Bomber is a particle-spraying component that has been given a significant boost. Now called Bomber Plus, it comes with 10 slave components that make it possible to individually customize each particle, based on multiple random numbers generated uniquely for the particle. As well, the number of particle types has increased from five to... unlimited! Bricks Plus, Tiles Plus and Pavements Plus now come with 13 slave components, which make it possible to randomize or customize each individual brick or tile, with support for HDR color added for good measure. Map Switch is a new component that allows users to switch subtrees based on a mappable Selector input, which is related to the use of Bomber Plus. While resolution independance is a core feature of Filter Forge, this made impossible textures that depended on effects requiring exact pixel coordinates. So say hello to four new slave components that make possible the creation of effects and textures using pixel coordinates.

Filter Forge is offered in three editions: Basic, Standard and Professional. Basic lets you use the many existing filters but not modify them or create new ones. Standard adds those capabilities while Professional also includes 16- and 32-bit image modes, support for large resolutions and bump/normal maps.

The Professional edition of Filter Forge 5 for Mac and Windows can currently be purchased for $79 (regular $399) on the Filter Forge site. Basic is priced at $29 (regular $149) while Standard is $49 ($29). A trial version is also available.