Extensis pxl SmartScale

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RECOMMENDED

Greater convenience and control mean that pxl SmartScale is the best route to high quality bitmap rescaling.

Like Genuine Fractals, pxl SmartScale promises to provide the designer’s holy grail - the ability to scale up bitmap images without losing quality. As Extensis puts it: “One image. Any size”. In fact Extensis even goes so far as to claim that the program “can scale images up to 1600% with no discernable loss in printed quality”. So how does it work and, more importantly, does it deliver?

Like Genuine Fractals, pxl SmartScale works as a Photoshop plug-in and one that lets you save and open images in its own proprietary PixelLive VFZ file format (these can also be password protected and Extensis provides a freely available viewer complete with scaling/zooming capabilities). Where pxl SmartScale breaks out on its own is in its ability to resize any open, single layer, 8-bit RGB or CMYK image directly from within Photoshop without the bother of having to save and reopen files.

In fact the process could hardly be easier. Simply select the Scale Current Image command from Photoshop’s newly added Extensis menu and your image instantly opens into the full screen SmartScale window complete with its own floating palettes and zoom, pan and crop tools. You can then set the new dimensions or resolution precisely, or select from a range of common preset print sizes, or simply scale your image with the interactive slider.

As well as offering greater convenience the SmartScale approach also offers greater control through its floating Detail palette. Here you can change the level of sharpness and smoothness for the image as a whole and for the image’s edges where colour varies significantly. The Extreme Edges option is particularly effective for ensuring crisp edges when used with non-photographic images such as line drawings or scanned text.  

The big question is: does it work? Again the answer is a qualified “yes”. Extensis’ headline scaling figure of 1600% should be taken with a large pinch of salt – after all any program can losslessly scale a bitmap of a black rectangle to any size – and it’s significant that the claim only refers to printed quality where halftoning comes into play. However there’s no doubt that you can achieve significantly better results with more hard detail and impact retained than you can with Photoshop’s Bicubic interpolation.

Again it’s important to stress that no program can add detail that wasn’t there in the first place so wherever possible ensure that your bitmap has the necessary resolution from the outset. Using pxl SmartScale doesn’t mean that your trusty 640 x 480 pixel camera can suddenly produce prints equivalent to those from today’s multi- megapixel monsters. However if you’ve no choice but to work with images that you need to scale up for print, pxl SmartScale is the best way to ensure that their quality is kept as high as possible.

Features
5
Ease of Use
6
Value for Money
4
Overall
5

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

October 2004

Requirements: Pentium III , 128/256MB of RAM , 12MB of hard disk space, Windows 98, 2000 or XP, Adobe Photoshop 6 or later

 


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