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Alien Skin Snap Art

Nifty collection of natural media art plugins for Photoshop By John Virata

Alien Skin Snap Art is a collection of tweakable filters that enable you to quickly turn your photographs into pieces of natural media art. Snap Art works as a plug-in to Adobe Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and includes its own interface for tweaking the plug-ins to your satisfaction. The filter set includes color pencil, impasto, oil paint, comics, pastel, pen and ink, pencil sketch, pointillism, stylize, and water color. Each of these can be individually tweaked using the tools located under each of the five tabs in Snap Art. These tabs include Settings, Basic, Colors, Canvas, and Lighting.

The contents under the Settings tab changes as you switch between the filters. For example, when the Color Pencil filter is selected, the Settings available with this filter range from Abstract (fewer colors, more colors, pastel, etc.), to Black and White, to Portrait, each with its own subset of the setting. The same goes for the Basic Tab. These tabs change based on what filter you are working with. The other three tabs, colors, canvas, and lighting, also change based on what filter you are working with.

Color pencil



When you click a specific setting, Snap Art will render a quick preview of the filter and display it. You can then move about within the image using the red square in the mini preview window, or you can zoom in and out within the bigger preview window. However, each time you make an adjustment within the mini preview box, using the redbox, Snap Art re-renders what is viewed on the larger preview window.

Preview split

You can also do a preview split, which will show the image in its original state along with the preview of the image with the filter applied. The available preview splits include horizontal top, horizontal bottom, vertical left, vertical right, diagonal top left, diagonal top right, diagonal bottom left, and diagonal bottom right.

Oil paint


Pen and ink

One of the nice features about Alien Skin filters are the infinite possibilities of tweakability that you can perform with them. For example, using the oil paint filter, in addition to previewing the settings, you get to also tweak the brush size, paint thickness, paint stroke length, and preserve edges. You can then go into the color tab and work with the saturation, brightness, color temperature, and random color variations. Then, you can go into the Canvas and Lighting tabs and tweak those parameters as well. When you are finished, you can apply them to your image, and save the adjustments as a customized user setting. Pretty nifty stuff, and powerful too. Consequently, when working with the filters there are adjustments that you can make not only to the settings, such as changing to a Charcoal, angled strokes, to a Charcoal, low coverage in the pen and ink settings, but also to the Canvas and Lighting effects that you can apply to the image.

Pencil sketch



Water color

Alien Skin's Snap Art plug-in collection offers a nice variety of natural media plug-ins that are each individually customizable using the easy to use sliders and controls. Each plug-in has a lot of flexibility to how you can tweak it for your desired effect, ranging from changing the setting to manipulating the media in which you are trying to emulate. It is a solid set, which is not surprising considering Alien Skin has been in the Photoshop plug in business for more than 10 years. Highly recommended for those who need a simple, yet elegant way to show their images with a natural media look to them.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
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