If you want to increase the functionality of Photoshop without investing any money, you can experiment with free Photoshop plug ins. While Photoshop is an unquestionably powerful application, there are some instances when you need to add some bells and whistles or modify some processes. While these plug-ins are not issued by Adobe itself for Photoshop, these free plugins will allow you to get the most out of your photos while using the award-winning program.
Plug-ins by Type
The term "plug-in" is a little generic and is used as a reference to various little "extras" you can add to Photoshop that give it more functionality. Plug-ins for Photoshop can be anything from a unique brush to a texture or even an action. Whether using the plug-ins below or those gleaned from other sources, it's important to know what different types of plug-ins can do for you.
Actions are a pre-recorded set of steps that a designer has developed to produce a specific look in a photograph. These are steps that anyone can make individually using Photoshop, but an action allows users to attain the look by simply pushing a button. Some great resources for Photoshop actions are:
- Creative Bloq: "50 Free Photoshop Actions to Create Stunning Effects" is an absolute treasure trove of free actions that can contribute a great deal of uniqueness to your images.
- Adobe.com: Adobe is the software developer behind Photoshop. While it doesn't make its own actions, it allows developers to share theirs using the official Adobe Photoshop page.
- MCP Actions: This company sells actions and plugins as part of their business, but MCP Actions also offers a decent number of free actions as well. This is an especially good resource because the people designing the actions here are actual working professionals who do this type of thing for a living.
Brushes are designs that can be used with the brush icon. Photoshop comes pre-loaded with many unique brushes that can suit most needs, but sometimes it's nice to have the option to use something a bit different if you can't get the effect you're looking for.
- Brusheezy.com: Brusheezy is a great resource for free brushes for use in Photoshop. The brushes here can be anything from solid vector brushes to dotted designs that follow the path created by your brush tool.
- BrushKing.eu: BrushKing.eu offers a wide range of free brushes that are on par with some of the best you'll find online. There are also special premium brushes that you can browse for a fee, but payment is not necessary to use the free brushes.
Filters are used to apply a look to a layer in Photoshop. They are different from actions because they are not a set of pre-recorded steps used to attain a specific look. A filter is simply a piece of third-party software that works within Photoshop to create the look you want to achieve.
- OptikVerve Labs: OptikVerve produces some of the highest quality filters online. Their assortment of free filters can be easily downloaded from their site. Their big offering is known as the Virtual Photographer, which provides over 200 filters and even a batch mode for processing large amounts of photos in bulk.
- Auto FX Software: At Auto FX Software you'll find a wide range of free and premium filters that can be used for many different applications. They offer some of the most comprehensive free filters that can be found online.
Other Sites for Free Photoshop Plug-Ins
There are many other sites offering completely free Photoshop plug-ins. The plug-ins that you download will be .8bf files, and once you have them, you need to copy them to the Presets>Plug Ins folder found within the main Photoshop installation folder. Once the plug ins are in this folder, they will be available the next time you launch Photoshop. Some plug ins work for both Mac and Windows computers while some only work for one or the other.
- Pure Mac: For Mac users, this site has a list of great free plug ins including Eerk's iMetal, which creates a brushed metal appearance. It also includes Berg Design Plug ins which are color manipulation tools for RGB images.
- BPelt: Some great flattening plug ins for both Mac and Windows can be found at this site.
- Dreamy Photo: Dreamy Photo is a Mac and Windows plug in by Auto FX Software (linked above) that gives your images a soft, romantic feel. You can also add ghost contrasts to images and introduce tint highlights to create warm images.
- Face Control: This fun plug in by Redfield allows you to change the facial expressions of people in your photographs. According to the website, humans, animals, and even aliens are welcome.
Set Your Creativity Free with Photoshop Plug-ins
While it can be overkill to overuse these plug-ins, the truth is that they can be a great way to express your creativity beyond the basic images you shoot. Sometimes an image needs a little something special added to it to give it the look or feel you think it deserves. For situations like these, plug-ins offer excellent options and can provide you with a lot more control over what your images are saying to your audience.