Alien Skin Image Doctor

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Invisible - and at times almost magical - image repair and retouching.

Image Doctor is a new set of filters from Alien Skin the makers of Eye Candy 4000. It shares the same excellent interface and ease-of-use and the same focus on providing regularly useful functionality - but otherwise the two sets could hardly be more dissimilar. Where Eye Candy is all about eye-catching impact, Image Doctor is all about invisible repair.

Image Doctor is also much easier to get your head around as there are just four filters to come to terms with. The first is JPEG Repair. This works with JPEG images that have been over-compressed to keep file size down and so end up with clearly visible and distracting "artifacts". Image Doctor uses its knowledge of how the JPEG compression scheme works (breaking each image down into 8 x 8 pixel squares) to undo the damage. It can't restore the detail that's been lost but it does successfully remove the undesirable pixilated look.

The second filter is Spot Lifter. This is designed to remove low contrast blemishes such as acne, freckles and mould spots. Again it does the job well - I was particularly impressed with how it coped with seamlessly removing my eye bags. I would have been more impressed however if I couldn't do the same job with Photoshop 7's excellent new Healing brush.

The third filter, Remove Scratches, is designed to tackle high contrast blemishes. To achieve its results you make a selection around the scratch and Image Doctor looks at the surrounding areas and fills it in accordingly. The results are good, especially for wider scratches which can otherwise be problematic but, for most cases, it would actually be quicker to simply clone over the scratch.

The value of the Image Doctor texture-based approach really comes into its own with the final filter, Smart Fill. Here you select any size of object you want to remove from your image, such as an aeroplane against a cloudy sky or rubbish on the grass and call up the filter. Image Doctor picks up on the object's surroundings, generates a textured fill based on them and seamlessly blends it in to the image. It's as if the object was never there!

At its best the Smart Fill can seem to act like magic.

The results with the sample images are - not surprisingly - excellent, but how does Smart Fill work on other images? The effect does rely on your object being surrounded by areas which can loosely be called textured and you might need to fine-tune the filter by moving the texture source box or setting the size of the desired pattern. If anything though, I found the effects even more impressive than with the sample images. I was particularly impressed when I used the filter on a crane that was spoiling a distant skyline and the program not only generated a seamless sky but filled in the band of trees along the horizon!

If you only retouch your images occasionally then you can probably get by with your photo-editor's existing tools. If retouching and repairing is a regular chore, then you'll want to get your hands on Image Doctor - your audience will never know it's been used but you certainly will.

Tom Arah

Ease of Use
Value for Money

Tom Arah

March 2003


Image Doctor
Software / Upgrade
Save $$!   Save ££!

requirements Pentium II or higher, 64MB of RAM, 10MB of hard disk space, Windows 98, NT4, Me, 2000 or XP, Photoshop 5.5 or later or compatible host application


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