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Alien Skin Blow Up 2 for Photoshop

Go huge with even small images By Ko Maruyama
Alien Skin is a plugin developer that has been around for a while and it's nice to see that they're continuing to keep their product line alive with new tools that we are all looking for.  The new version of Blow Up works in Photoshop and Photoshop Express, giving us the option to get clean scaling solutions even when we have to get closer than we should.

I first used Alien Skin software back in the late 90s when I was first introduced to Photoshop.  The art director at the studio told me that he didn't know how he designed elements before he had their plugins.  You will feel the same about resizing images after you check out Blow Up 2.

Blow Up 2 is less than $250 (or you can upgrade for $99), so it's a great value right?  But does it do what you want it to do? (yeah, and then some).  First of all, need to download the free demo version - you can use all of the features.

Alien Skin has some images on their website that demonstrate how "beautiful" and how "cleanly" the plugin works.  But EVERY plugin developer will give you images that work.  What happens when you throw your worst garbage at it in a real production environment?  Well, that's what I did.

I took some nasty video on a 3gp recorder.  This is a tiny little camera that isn't made to create even 640x480 video.  The image was obviously poor quality when I started out, but it was "passable" at 320px.

Alien Skin is known for its filters (plugins), but this particular tool isn't found in Filters, instead this procedure is an AUTOMATION. (Why this is a great thing, later)

Blow Up 2 does a hell of a good job pushing this up to print size @ 300 dpi, event cleaning up the JPEG artifacts that occurred during the original filming. Green image scaled from 320 image to 1920x1080.  Red circle shows what Photoshop did with regular bicubic scale.

One of the big improvements in the new release is the inclusion of multiple presets for print.  If you're working in video, you know that all of your captures are only 72dpi.  Even in HD 1920x1080, which is 26x15" at 72dpi becomes about 6x4" when you translate it to 300dpi without resampling.

If you want to resample the image for video, Blow Up 2 has video presets as well.

Presets aren't the only way to uprez the image in Photoshop.  Instead, head over to the controls panel and you have access to multiple attributes individually.  Not only does Blow Up 2 allow you to resize the image, but you can also crop it automatically in the tool.

If you have a custom uprez setting for Blow Up 2, you can save it under your User Settings.   What's really nice for us video compositors, is that Blow Up 2 also features a BATCH AUTOMATION.  This means that you can take a sequence that may not have existed in HD (maybe even DV) and use Blow Up 2 to scale a sequence that you might use as a Photoshop video layer (You know you can use video in Photoshop CS3 Extended, right?).

Yes, Blow Up 2 does introduce some of its own sharpening and blurring into the image in order to get your pixels to the target size, but it appears much more organic than the regular bicubic sampling that Photoshop CS3 does.

One feature within the automation tool from Alien Skin that is particularly nice is the ability to access the tools with shortcut keys.  Shortcut keys are necessary to any efficient workflow, and Blow Up 2 comes with a bunch of them, including a shortcut to the preferences dialogue box.  

If you want to run the automation tool through your own series of stress tests, you can download the demo at  You'll be impressed by the results.

For rants, ramblings and general announcements - check out a chaotic blog in the BlogZone:

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Ko Maruyama is a freelance animator in Los Angeles.  In addition to working on film and broadcast animations, Ko teaches at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design - focusing on motion design.  When working, writing or testing software allows, you can find him lending a hand in the After Effects board and lurking among the Cinema4D, Visual Effects and Photoshop posts within the DMNForums.
Related Keywords:review, photoshop cs3 plugin, alien skin, blow up, up rez filter, scale HD, print resolution, automate, Adobe, ko maruyama


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