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Plug-ins are small software programs that can be used within a host digital editing application. Many image-manipulation programs, among them Photoshop, PaintShop Pro and PhotoSuite, support plug-in architecture, and there is a good selection of third party products. Before buying a plug-in, however, check that your main program does not already contain these tools. Effects such as Bevel, Drop Shadow, Blur and Emboss are often included in image-editing programs, as are many artistic, masking and text-effect tools. Used intelligently, plug-Ins can make a real difference to digital imagery. Of the many collections available, three stand out. .

EyeCandy 4000 from the excellent Alien Skin Software is a set of 23 well-designed filters that includes effects such as Corona, Chrome and Fire. Sophisticated parameter controls mean that you can be as subtle or brash as your imagination and taste allow.

Xaos Tools produce, in Total Xaos, a bundle of software programs that will enhance both image and typ production. (Paint Alchemy, in particular, can add fabulous painterly qualities to your images). For delicate, understated effects, these are hard to beat.

Kai's Power Tools 6 continues the creative legacy of Kai Krause,one of the most innovative digital designers, with some spectacular special effects. Some of these filters, - PageCurl and Texture Explorer, for instance, - have achieved near legendary, if cliched status, but applied properly they are very creative tools.

A huge range of freeware and shareware plug-In collections can be found at:

Most of the sites suggested here have preview pages that demonstrate the effects of the various filters.


Price: pound;100 from Computers Unlimited

Tel: 020 8358 5857

Kai's PowerTools 6

Price: pound;150 from Computers Unlimited (details as above)

Total Xaos

Price: pound;159 from Digital Toolbox

Tel: 020 8896 5622

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