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Shinycore Path Styler Pro

Bevel and material effects plugin for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop By Dave Nagel
Summary: As a plugin for Adobe Illustrator, Path Styler Pro addresses a long-standing need for a robust method for creating bevels. But it's not just a simple bevel effect; it's a deep, comprehensive solution that offers multiple layers of bevels, material options, texture and image mapping, reflections, light maps and more. As a Photoshop plugin, it does not address any gaps in the market for bevel effects, but, like its Illustrator counterpart, it does provide significant depth lacking in most other solutions.
Recommendation: Strong Buy
Users: Professional and semi-professional graphic designers
Platform: Mac OS X and Windows
Price: Available for $99 each for Photoshop and Illustrator versions or in a bundle that includes both versions for $129
More information: http://www.shinycore.com

Path Styler Pro is a recent addition to the list of plugins available for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Debuting just last month, the software offers a comprehensive and robust method for generating bevel and other 3D-style effects within these two hosts, something that's been sorely lacking from Illustrator for some time now. Obviously the need for yet another plugin that generates bevel styles in Photoshop is not so great; nevertheless, Path Styler Pro goes beyond any beveling software I've seen for Photoshop--and I've seen a lot--and delivers high-quality, path-based bevels that remain fully editable throughout the design process. But more than this, Path Styler Pro isn't just about bevels. Its strength lies in its ability to create surface effects, including bump maps, textures, reflections and the like. In this respect, there's really nothing that can match it.

The actual functionality of Path Styler Pro is virtually identical in Photoshop and Illustrator, with a few differences in workflow that we'll discuss below.




Features
When you launch Path Styler Pro (from the Effect menu in Illustrator or the Filter menu in Photoshop), the interface takes over your screen and reveals just the object to which you're applying the effect. (In Illustrator, this can be any vector-based object, including live text; in Photoshop, you can apply Path Styler Pro only to paths.) What you'll notice when you launch the filter immediately is the depth of options available. But it's even deeper than it looks.



Beginning at the top, you'll see the basic bevel features, including multiple surfaces/bevels, options for joins (rounded, beveled and mitered), size, depth, smoothing and contour shape. New bevel surfaces can be added at will (up to 30) and can be positioned inside or outside the object by adjusting the Path Border Indicator (the little triangle on the left of the surface list). Surfaces can also be moved up and down the hierarchy for repositioning just by dragging them to a new position in the list.


 
The contours themselves can be selected from a list of presets, which can each be modified and saved as new presets. And each individual surface can have its own unique contour.



Likewise, there's a number of parameters that each surface can take on beyond the basic bevel size and shape. The first of these is the Material parameter, which allows you to select from plastic, metal, glass, "multi-gloss" and "solid." And each one of these has its own sub-parameters, including color, contour, opacity, shadow, highlight, glossiness and reflectivity. As with the main surface, the material parameter allows you to select a contour from the preset Contour Picker and edit them at will. For color, you can choose from several preset types, including various gradients, solids, patterns and even raster images. (In the Photoshop version, you can apply layers from the current document or use an external image; in Illustrator, you use an external image only.) Depending on the type of surface color you choose (such as an image or pattern), the object can be moved, cropped and rotated manually, and you can adjust various parameters of that color--like the spacing of the checkers, the the roughness of noise, the number of spirals, etc.



What's more, you can even apply multiple color layers to your material, each complete with its own parameters and layer blending modes. And, if you really feel like it, you can even add image- or pattern-based masks. Below you'll see the parameters when using three color layers and a pattern-based mask. I don't know what the upper limit is for color layers; I stopped caring when I hit 32. Suffice to say there's enough flexibility here to create any surface you could dream of.



But that's just the color of the surface--and just the color of one surface at that. Don't forget that each surface can have its own material/color properties and that there are still four other types of surface properties that you can add to each surface: reflection, texture, separated texture and light map.

By adding a Reflection parameter, your object can reflect anything from the preset patterns (spirals, checkers, turbulence, etc.) to external images. And, as with the Material parameter, the Reflection parameter can include multiple image layers as well, with multiple blending modes and masks. You can also map the intensity of the reflection, or simply adjust the intensity bar.



Here's an example of text using a solid Material color and an external image for a reflection map. Note that it's not just an image overlay, but an actual reflection map following the contours of the bevel.




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Related Keywords:adobe photoshop, adobe illustrator, bevels, 3d effects, texture, reflection maps, 3d lighting

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