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Plug In to Design


A Helpful Assortment of Applications


By Gretchen A. Peck


Part 2 of 3


Designers utilize plug-ins for a variety of reasons, whether to enlarge images, create 3D or CAD effects, nesting, and more. Below we include comments from vendors and designers regarding important plug-ins compatible with leading software from Adobe Systems Incorporated.


According to David Macy, senior product manager, Illustrator, Adobe, “a few plug-ins to look at are CADtools from Hot Door, which adds CAD types of functionality to Adobe Illustrator; MAPublisher from Avenza Systems, Inc., which is used by a lot of cartographers; Artlandia, Inc.’s SymmetryWorks for creating repeating patterns; and Astute Graphics Ltd.’s Phantasm CS, which adds a number of great effects and productivity enhancements.”


Eric Schneider, owner, Optixa Gallery & Studio—a custom photography, interactive design, and creative consultancy based in Raleigh—says that creative tools like Adobe Photoshop are essential, but working in the large format realm calls for software additions that other creative professionals might not need.


“Alien Skin Software, LLC has some great tools, like Blow Up 2,” he suggests. “I also find Autodesk, Inc.’s Maya 3D software to be indispensable. It allows me to show a customer what their installation is going to look like, right in the virtual space with simulated lighting, so we can identify any problems long before we even print—for example, columns or other obstructions,” explains Schneider.


He also cites Apple Inc.’s Aperture as a great tool for content management. “When you’re managing a lot of jobs and images, you need help keeping track of content,” he proposes.


“We use a special Adobe Photoshop plug-in—onOne Software’s Genuine Fractals,” notes David Steinberg, systems specialist, INTRIGUE Design, Ltd.—a full-service creative studio based in Melville, NY that provides photographic and design services. “It’s perfect for scaling up files for large format output,” he shares.


Application Rundown

Alien Skin Blow Up 2 enlarges images using an innovative algorithm that temporarily converts pixels to a vector representation, resulting in perfectly smooth, crisp edges. Simulated texture and film grain keep photos looking natural even in extreme enlargements. Blow Up even cleans JPEG compression artifacts from a low-quality Web image. Nearly every color space is supported, including grayscale, duotone, RGB, CMYK, and lab. All bit depths are supported, including 16-bits/channel—for raw images, and 32-bits/channel—for HDR images.


Apple’s content management program, Aperture—now in version three—allows users to multi-task as soon as files are imported. The program grabs data such as shutter speed, aperture, lens, and focus points, and sorts immediately. For extra flexibility, Aperture allows users to store images directly in Aperture 3, on external drives, or in original folders. Import RAW and JPEG images together or as separate images. Organize by faces, places, and anyway you want. Compare images side by side and make adjustments. Dozens of ready-to-use adjustment presets allow for professional-style imaging effects to a single photo or across an entire project. Quick Fix presets take care of common problems including blown highlights and low contrast. Other adjustment presets apply processing techniques and styles, such as a toy or vintage camera look.


Artlandia’s SymmetryWorks is a plug-in for making repeat patterns in Adobe Illustrator. The program enables designed motif to hot-linked to the pattern. Edit the motif and the pattern rebuilds instantly. All the necessary rotations, reflections, and other transformations are automatically applied behind the scenes.


Astute Graphics offers image enhancement applications with its Phantasm CS program. Color adjustment tools—curves, levels, hue/saturation—work directly in an Illustrator document on all embedded vector objects and images. Creative tools include vector halftones and duotones. Print production previews feature quick and full separations and ink coverage. Embedded image editing and linking is also available.


Autodesk’s Maya 3D software offers artists an end-to-end creative workflow with comprehensive tools for 3D animation, modeling, simulation, visual effects, rendering, matchmoving, and compositing. Newly available for the Mac OS X 64-bit operating system, Maya 2011 delivers a revitalized user interface, enhanced viewport interaction, new 3D editorial capabilities, integrated color management, and improved character animation.


MAPublisher from Avenza transforms Adobe Illustrator into powerful map making software. Features include import and export of all major GIS data formats, such as ESRI shapefiles and geodatabases with all attributes and georeferencing intact; geospatial PDF export; MAP Web Author Flash export; automated labeling; and MAP Stylesheets.


Hot Door’s CADtools Amaze adds CAD functionality to Adobe Illustrator. Draw in any scale, edit, and dimension artwork with a click, and numerically control objects or points. Click and drag with 67 tools to make design work easy and elegant. Features include snap to handy 2D or isometric grids; measure area, perimeter, and length along curves; create customized labels with text, numbers, alphabet, or object geometry; and create scaled offsets for paths and objects.


onOne Software also offers an image resizing program, Genuine Fractals. It increases image size over 1,000 percent without the loss of sharpness or detail. Users can eliminate edge halos, crop and resize images in one easy step, all while maintaining fine image detail.


Plug-in to Proof

The third part in this Web series discusses the importance of hard proofs in the design world. Read more about design software in the September print issue of Digital Output.


Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, Bridging the Gap.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Aug2010, Digital Output

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