Alien Skin Eye Candy 4000

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Wide-ranging and seriously useful filter set able to give many images a dramatic lift.

Eye Candy 4000 from Alien Skin is probably the best-known set of Photoshop plug-in after KPT Effects. Unlike KPT however, which seems to pride itself on its esoteric environment and its one-off results, Eye Candy aims to be much more of an effects workhorse.

This is immediately clear in Eye Candy 4000's interface. With its simple parameter panel running down the left, the vast majority of screen space can be given over to the large image preview. Other welcome features are the ability to swap filters without closing the dialog and the range of presets provided for each effect. You can also save your own settings; particularly useful when working with Photoshop where Eye Candy 4000's support for absolute measurements means that you can experiment with a low-resolution image and then replicate the same results for high-resolution print.

The interface can't be faulted, but what about the power? Since it first appeared as Black Box, the Eye Candy filter set has now grown to no less than 23 filters - Antimatter, BevelBoss, Chrome, Corona, Cutout, Drip, Fire, Fur, Glass, Gradient Glow, HSB Noise, Jiggle, Marble, Melt, Motion Trail, Shadowlab, Smoke, Squint, Star, Swirl, Water Drops, Weave and Wood! As their no-nonsense names suggest each option has a clear and obvious function which makes a very pleasant change to most filter sets.

In some cases however this focus on core functionality backfires as Photoshop - the main target application - has incorporated many of the ideas Alien Skin first pioneered. Each of the Gradient Glow, Shadowlab, Bevel Boss and Cutout effects, for example, can now largely be handled as layer effects. In many ways this is preferable as layer effects are non-destructive but in each case the Eye Candy filter offers something more than its Photoshop equivalent so that Bevel Boss lets you create your own bevel shape profiles while Shadowlab lets you create true perspective effects as well as drop shadows.

Other core areas remain relatively untouched. Eye Candy 4000 offers a wide range of realistic material effects such as Chrome, Glass, Water Drops and Marble. In each case the range of power is impressive so that, for example, the Wood filter lets you specify factors such as grain density and even the number of knots. A particular favourite is the Fur filter which lets you add everything from subtle fuzzy textures through to an eye-catching punk Mohican.

Another area of strength can loosely be described as motion-based effects. Many of these such as Jiggle, which applies bubble-based distortion, and Swirl, which randomly places whirlpools across the image, produce beautiful near-abstract results. More realistic effects include Melt which produces realistic pooling and Drip which makes it look as if paint is dribbling down from the current selection.

Eye Candy 4000 is at its best in those filters that combine both texture and motion effects: Corona, which takes a selection and uses it to produce solar flares and gaseous clouds; Smoke, which can produce anything from billows to a haze; and Fire which lets you add and control realistic flames. The results are both eye-catching and regularly useful - and almost impossible to achieve without Eye Candy 4000.

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

Tom Arah

March 2003

 

Eye Candy 4000
Software / Upgrade
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requirements Pentium II or higher, 64MB of RAM, 10MB of hard disk space, Windows 98, NT4, Me, 2000 or XP, Photoshop 4 or later or compatible host application

 


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