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Eye Candy 5: Impact

Filter effects collection for Adobe Photoshop By Dave Nagel
Summary: Eye Candy 5: Impact is the third collection in the newly revamped Eye Candy series of filters for Adobe Photoshop. Packed with 10 individual filters, the collection produces effects ranging from backlighting (with light rays) and perspective shadows to bevels and metallic surfaces.
Recommendation: Buy
Users: Professional graphic designers, graphics enthusiasts
Platform: Mac OS X and Windows
Price: $99 for the full versions (upgrade pricing also available for registered users of Alien Skin's produces when purchasing directly through Alien Skin)
More information: http://www.alienskin.com

With the release of Eye Candy 5: Impact, Alien Skin has completed its three-stage re-release of the Eye Candy filters, broken into three smaller effects collections. The latest release offers 10 miscellaneous filters for producing surface, lighting and shadow effects. Has Alien Skin saved the best for last?

I don't think I can answer that question with an outright "yes." Impact is a solid collection, as far as the Eye Candy filters go, but I don't think it stands out above the previous release, Eye Candy 5: Nature. Both Nature and Impact contain filters that come in handy in everyday effects/compositing work, but neither one has any particular filters that shout, "Buy Me Now!"

Features
As has been the case with the previous two releases in the Eye Candy 5 series, Impact contains filters that are carried over from Eye Candy 4000, which was released back in 2000. In this case, seven of the 10 filters carry over, although they have been rewritten to accommodate the new Eye Candy 5 interface/workflow and seem to have gotten some performance boosts in the process. Each of the rewritten filters also incorporate some features unique to Eye Candy 5--in other words, they've gained some parameters and capabilities that you won't find in their Eye Candy 4000 counterparts.


That said, the filters that do carry over in many cases are getting a bit long in the tooth and seem to have been included in the new collection just to round it out to an even 10 filters. For example, the Bevel filter is basically the equivalent of the Bevel & Emboss layer style that you already get with Photoshop, with the disadvantage that the Eye Candy version is applied as a filter, rather than as a non-destructive effect.



And "Super Star" is a filter that might have been impressive back in the days of MacPaint, but nowadays you have to wonder what it's doing in a commercially released filter collection, particularly one that costs $99. Its sole purpose is to generate star shapes and similar objects.



Nevertheless, there are some filters that are worth noting in Impact. The first of these is the Brushed Metal filter. Obviously this type of effect isn't too uncommon these days, and it wouldn't be too tricky to reproduced it with a little manual labor. But the effect does come out looking pretty nice, and it gives you the option of using linear and radial patterns on the effect. (This is one of the new filters in the Eye Candy 5 collection.)



Also new is the filter called Backlight, which produces light rays that seem to come from behind the object on the layer. (It also has plenty of options for producing other kinds of lighting effects, although the light ray effect is going to be its most popular application.)



And the last of the new filters is Extrude, which, of course, extrudes the contents of a layer and gives you control over things like lighting, length and angle of extrusion.



Of the filters that carry over from the Eye Candy 4000 collection, I think four are worth positive mention. These include Chrome, which produces metallic effect but gives you a huge amount of control over lighting, reflections and bevel parameters, including fully customizable bevel profiles.



Like the Chrome filter, the Glass filter in this collection, while nothing new, does produce some nice results, again with several options that you won't find in other plugins designed to produce glass/plastic-like surfaces, such as reflections, various bevel and lighting options and the like.



Motion Trail is also worth mentioning because it allows you to create motion blurs while controlling the curvature and length of the trail the effect produces.



And then there's Perspective Shadow, which allows you to create shadows while giving you control over not just the perspective, but also the fade, color (including reflecting the original) and perspective blur.



The last filter in the collection is Gradient Glow, which is another throw-away because it doesn't seem to do much that you couldn't accomplish easily using inner and outer glow layer styles in Photoshop.


Performance/workflow
One of the selling points for me of the Eye Candy series is its fantastic interface and workflow. Alien Skin has done a great job in this collection--and in the previous Eye Candy 5 collections--of creating an environment outside of the main Photoshop interface that easy to use, intuitive and packed with useful little features, like multiple levels of undo, the ability to switch between filters in the collection on the fly, navigation controls, customizable backdrops and the ability to save and recall presets easily.



And, with seven of the 10 filters, it also provides you with the ability to render the effects to new layers, which allows you to manipulate the final appearance more easily than filters rendered to the same layer to which they were applied.



As for performance, Eye Candy 5: Impact is solid. I didn't encounter any filters that took an inordinate amount of time to preview or render, so I have no complaints to make in this area.

Overall
Although the Eye Candy series is beginning to look a bit old, many of the filters in the various Eye Candy 5 collections are still viable and produce great results. Nevertheless, it continues to disturb me that what we're getting in these collections is essentially a rehash of filters that are nearly five years old, broken up into separate collections and selling for $99 per collection, when the original complete Eye Candy 4000 set sold for $169. I like some of the filters in each of the Eye Candy sets, but I can't envision a time when I'd need all of the filters that come in the three collections. What would make much more sense for me, as a user, would be if Alien Skin would provide these filters a la carte for $5 to $15 apiece (depending on the filter), or provide a "Best of Eye Candy" collection containing just those effects that people really want (or, to make matters more simple, excluding the filters that people clearly will not want, like Super Star, Bevel and Gradient Glow). As it is, I see Eye Candy 5: Impact as something between a neutral and a buy recommendation, which I'll round up to a final Buy recommendation on the strengths of a few of the filters in this set.

Eye Candy 5: Impact is available now for Mac OS X and Windows for $99. It supports Adobe Photoshop 7/CS/CS2 and Photoshop Elements 2 or later; Macromedia Fireworks MX 2004 or later; Corel Paint Shop Pro 8 or later; and CADlink SignLab 7.5. For more information, visit http://www.alienskin.com.



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Related Keywords:alien skin eye candy, eye candy 5, impact, adobe photoshop, filters

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