Filter Forge 2 Review

4.0
April 21, 2011 | Matt Grayson | Software Reviews |

Introduction

Filter Forge 2 is a Photoshop plugin that enables novice and expert users to create a wide variety of effects. With a strong community and over 8,000 filters, Filter Forge could be the only effects program that you need. We take a look at the photographer-friendly effects in our Filter Forge 2 Review.

Filter Forge is a software program which adds layers of effects to your pictures. Used either as a stand alone or plug-in, there are three tiers to Filter Forge and with each upgraded level, the amount of features increase.

Starting at $149 for the Basic edition you get unlimited downloads of filters, free access to an online filter library, resolution independence, seamless tiling, HDRI lighting, smart anti-aliasing, command line renderer, the ability to use filters that aren't out of the library and the ability to select them as favourites. Should you choose the Standard edition instead, it'll cost you $249 and will allow you to modify existing filters and create your own. The top of the range Professional edition costs $399 and on top of the aforementioned features, you can benefit from high precision file formats, it will support 16 and 32bit image modes, you can use an unlimited number of CPUs and it takes bitmaps larger than 3000 x 3000 pixels.

For the purposes of the review we had access to the Professional edition to explore all the features available from the Filter Forge labs. Some of the features in the program that we will touch on include the massive gallery of preset filters as well as the online library. There's also some interesting technology in the program such as floating-point file formats which lets you save in less traditional JPEG or Bitmap. There's also Dual-Core CPU support, Smart Anti-Aliasing and it can support pictures with incredible resolutions of up to 65,536 pixels.

We downloaded the program from the Filter Forge website which took less than 5 minutes while sat on a laptop with half meg broadband speed. Installing took around the same amount of time.

To use the program, you must first have an image open in Photoshop (if you're using it as a plug in like we did). First, you need to duplicate the layer so that the filter you apply will be placed over the original. Then go to Filter and choose Filter Forge from the drop down list.

Nik DfineLaunching Filter Forge

The main window appears as a separate tile on the task bar and you can flick over to Photoshop if you like but you can't do anything while Filter Forge is running. They've even gone to the extent of placing a little box with a link to click which sends you back to the Filter Forge window.

The main window fills the screen and is divided into just two segments. With the filters on the left and the chosen filter on the right taking up around 60% of the window. There's a bit here which we found annoying. A small note at the foot of the picture says that the image has been shrunk in preview to speed up processing. This is certainly a good idea, so why does the picture still go below the bottom of the window so that we have to scroll down? The window can't be resized and it's slightly too big for a laptop screen. The filters are divided into 12 main sections and while any of the filters could be used in photography, we'll concentrate on the photography section titled Photo.

Nik DfineMain Window

Clicking on the Photo tab will bring up 8 more tabs to the right. Below the tabs are an example of the filter over a picture of a random life belt. The default filter will be highlighted with a blue outline and clicking on any other preset will place that filter over your image in the window to the right.

Nik DfineApplying a Filter

 

Nik DfineHDR

As with most filter programs at the moment, the developers know that old fashioned film and retro vintage looks are very now so these are heavily used. Out of the 8 sections in the Photo tab, 5 of them simulate old photographs. The 8 are colorizer, dreamy, grunge, lomo, old photo, real contrast, sepia and vibrance. Within each of these main sections is a sub-section that holds variations of the main section you've chosen. Each one has a default setting and this will be automatically selected. Simply clicking on any of the life ring icons will select that filter and apply it to the picture.

Entry Tags

photos, images, photo, software, standard, photoshop, image, professional, application, processing, editing, filters, effects, filter, Filter Forge 2, Filter Forge 2 Review, basic, forge

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Your Comments

10 Comments | Newest Oldest First | Post a Comment

#1 Chris

This is what I hate about digital ‘photography’, nasty filters trying to make a poor photo look good by covering the faults with applied filters. Filters often mask poor work. Either way, the end result is often a pale emulation and simulation of the real thing especially in terms of sepia thiocarbonide, gold, copper, cyanotype and other toning processes.

It’s also a very lazy way of ‘creating’, if you can even calling that. I don’t think putting your photo in the hands of a large number of technicians and software developers can even be called photography. Digital ‘art’ yes! Photography no.

11:16 am - Friday, April 22, 2011

#2 Filter Forge Fan

Chris- I must defend Filter Forge and a flexible definition of ‘art’ and ‘photography’. Everyone is entitled to their opinion- here’s mine. Whenever new technology arrives, the old vanguard resists change and discredits the inevitability of progression. Perhaps when the camera first came into existence and with just a ‘snap and flash’ you have an instant ‘still painting’. It might not have taken 3 months to finish or 20 tubes of oil paint, but in it’s own fashion, to some it was still valuable.
Filter Forge is great on many levels. For one, not everyone can afford an expensive camera & has time or money for ‘proper’ photography lessons. By playing around in Filter Forge, I have been exposed to terminology like HDR and LOMO I wouldnt have been. This makes me curious about ‘proper’ photography and one day may inspire me to go deeper.
Filters sometimes mask poor work- but I think it salvages and creates a piece that might have been trashed otherwise- I think this is a good thing. You obviously havent been to the Filter Forge site, so many professionals and top notch work.
Beauty (art or photography) is in the eye of the beholder. To me, Filter Forge is beautiful :)

10:40 pm - Friday, April 22, 2011

#3 Steven Brooke

From the examples shown, this program looks absolutely awful: artifical, tacky, artless.

1:24 pm - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#4 David

Chris - so you never used the cokin filter range on your film camera? Remember the awful rainbow filter?
Love to see some of your examples of handcrafted “sepia thiocarbonide, gold, copper, cyanotype and other toning processes” -I’m genuinely intrigued that you have worked with these chemical processes.

5:12 pm - Tuesday, April 26, 2011

#5 rob

I can’t see any images here, so I can’t comment on the effects provided by this filter set.

However, regarding the difference between “art” and “photographic art”, I have to disagree with Chris. Photography has long grew out and above its roots in painting and became a significant and unique technique. Yes, photography IS a technique, just like painting is. The art has nothing to do with tools you use. It has to do with an idea, a concept, a message, a skill—all combined in one. Filters and Photoshop are just tools, just like paint, brushes and canvas are tools of a painter. Whether you use film or digital tools, that is completely inconsequential. And there is an awful lot of bad traditional photography around, as well as some really good one.

As a matter of fact, digital photography is a giant leap over and ahead of everything that the traditional photography has been able to achieve in its century and a half (roughly) of existence. There was more worthless crap produced with traditional cameras and film than there is produced now (despite the fact, that digital photography has such huge appeal to millions of absolute novices who never took one photo with film cameras).

Just in case you think I am such a biased novice myself, I can tell you that my involvement with traditional photography spanned about 35 years. As soon as I hesitantly bought my first digital camera 8 years ago, I knew, that there will be no turning back for me. All it takes to see the obvious advantage of digital over film, is an open mind.

12:46 am - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#6 Keith

So Chris thinks processing a digital image is, somehow, cheating. Isn’t he aware that all JPEG images are very heavily processed in the camera, often with unsatisfacory results? This leads many keen photogrsphers to shoot in RAW and do all the processing themselves. This is no different in principle to the old fashioned darkroom and, for best results, requires just as much skill. Show us some of your JPEGS, Chris, to prove me wrong!

10:30 am - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#7 bedran

ba?e

12:16 pm - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#8 bedran

gelek ba?e lê ajokar danakeve

12:19 pm - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#9 Peter

Interesting that previous comments have focused on traditional processing against digital.  I believe this software gives another ‘String’ to our photographic ‘Bow’ and as such should be welcomed.  Whether you like the images here or not is always a matter of opinion, but if not, I’m sure others created with this process must be good under law of averages. 

Advances in photographic technology have caused an explosion in sheer volume and everyone has the opportunity to achieve the ‘perfect moment’.

10:53 pm - Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#10 Craig Bothwell

Like the guy who currently occupies the White House, Filter Forge is great, other than the fact that it does NOT WORK. I tried the trial version with P.S. 6, but the software did nothing.  If you like your software, you can keep your software. I definitely won’t be keeping Filter Forge. What a waste of time.

4:49 am - Wednesday, March 26, 2014