the-designer’s-edge-?-an-overview-of-photoshop-plugins

Photoshop plugins are used by designers in multiple disciplines. They add functionality, increase efficiency, and enhance creativity. But there’s a problem. With so many options, it’s hard to know which plugins are worthwhile (even more so when they cost money).

To help, we’ve curated a collection of the finest Photoshop plugins available and summarized the strengths of each.

Problem 1: Cutting Layers and Shapes Is Time-Consuming

The Solution: Easy Cut

Easy Cut does what its name suggests—makes cutting Photoshop layers a breeze. With the click of a mouse, the plugin splits layers along guides, selections, and paths. In addition to pixel layers, Easy Cut works on shapes, smart objects, and text.

Even better, layer styles and shape attributes remain with the original layer and transfer to the newly created layer, and all cutting actions are controlled from an intuitive plugin panel.

Bonus: The creator of Easy Cut, Simon Henke, has an entire stable of Photoshop plugins that aid in tasks like grid creation, corner rounding, and layer organization.

Cost: USD $12

Photoshop plugins
Easy Cut allows designers to cut any type of Photoshop layer with guides, selections, and paths.

Problem 2: Digital Artwork Lacks the Warmth of Analog

The Solution: True Grit

True Grit Texture Supply isn’t a plugin but it might be the best collection of Photoshop brushes, actions, textures, and effects available to designers today.

Many digitally placed textures are obvious, and the effect feels cheap, but True Grit’s products are supremely crafted to look natural. Best of all, they’re backed by a no-nonsense return policy.

Cost: Varies by product

Best Photoshop plugins
True Grit houses an impressive collection of Photoshop brushes, textures, actions, and effects.

Problem 3: Guides Aren’t Precise or Reliable

The Solution: GuideGuide

When it comes to precision, Photoshop’s guide and ruler system leaves much to be desired. Thankfully, there’s GuideGuide, the plugin that guides guides. GuideGuide makes it easy to create custom grids, save guide presets, mark edges and midpoints, and add guides based on artboard and object dimensions.

Cost: USD $36 annually

Photoshop add-ons
GuideGuide greatly increases the precision of Photoshop’s guide and ruler system.

Problem 4: Enlarging Images Causes Pixelation

The Solution: Blow Up 3

Scale an image beyond its original size, and pixelation occurs—it’s one of the first lessons of Photoshop. Unfortunately, fuzzy pixels aren’t disappearing anytime soon. Not when our clients only have access to low-res graphics or we’re forced to crop photos because of strange objects (or people) lurking in the background.

Yes, there are techniques and tricks to obscure pixelation, but they’re not failproof. Blow Up 3 solves the pixelation problem with algorithms, but all that designers need to do is define a crop region, enter a few dimensions, and click a button.

Cost: USD $79

Photoshop extension
Blow Up 3 helps designers solve the decades-old pixelation problem.

Problem 5: Juggling Screen Design Projects Between Photoshop, Sketch, and InVision Is Tedious

The Solution: Craft

Well-known and widely used, Craft syncs Photoshop and Sketch files to InVision for design collaboration. More than that, it allows designers to make interactive prototypes, manage design systems, import high-end stock photography, and annotate design files.

Cost: Free

Best Adobe plugins
Craft syncs Sketch and Photoshop files with the InVision ecosystem.

Problem 6: Refining Pattern Repeats Requires Multiple Steps

The Solution: Rapport & Repeat

Creating patterns shouldn’t be hard, but it often is. Rapport & Repeat generates seamless pattern repeats in three simple steps:

  1. Arrange pattern elements as desired.
  2. Select all elements to be included in the pattern.
  3. Test what the pattern looks like using the Rapport & Repeat panel.

Adjusting patterns is as effortless as dragging elements around the artboard and retesting. Once a final design is achieved, pattern repeats are easily formatted, sized, and saved via the plugin.

Cost: USD $100

Best Photoshop plugins 2019
Rapport & Repeat was created by the talented pattern designer Mila Petry.

Problem 7: Color Is the Most Difficult Design Element to Manage

The Solution: Color Tools Bundle

Digital artist Rico Holmes crafted a collection of plugins that dramatically improves color selection in Photoshop. All four of his color plugins are sublime but the crown jewel is the Chameleon Adaptive Palette, a plugin worth the price of the entire Color Tools Bundle.

The Chameleon Adaptive Palette automatically generates a variety of color schemes and functions based on a document’s selected color. Dynamic updating of palettes can be locked so that desired colors aren’t lost, and the plugin panel can be scaled to any size (a thoughtful space-saving feature).

Cost: USD $24

Best Photoshop plugins for graphic design
Color Tools Bundle is a collection of four highly useful color controls created by digital artist Rico Holmes.

Problem 8: Photoshop Isn’t the Only Program That Designers Use

The Solution: Avocode

There are more digital design tools than ever, and the number continues to climb. The Avocode plugin allows Photoshop designers to join forces with digital product pros who prefer to use different programs. Avocode is a cloud-based tool where designers and developers can open an array of design file-types for inspection, asset sharing, visual feedback, code generation, and hand-off.

Cost: Starting at USD $17 per month

Best plugins for Photoshop
Avocode is a cloud-based tool where designers and developers can collaborate.

Problem 9: It’s Challenging to Create Realistic Cast Shadows

The Solution: Shadow

Drop shadows in Photoshop are easy. Cast shadows? Not so much. Shadow is a plugin that makes cast shadows as simple as drop shadows. Angle, scale, blur, opacity, color, and sun position are all editable in the plugin panel, and the parameters of shadows are linked and saved to their assigned objects.

Cost: USD $15

Cool Photoshop plugins
Shadow enables Photoshop users to create cast shadows like they would drop shadows.

Problem 10: Aligning and Distributing Layers Is Easier in Adobe Illustrator

The Solution: Align and Distribute

Compared to Adobe Illustrator, aligning and distributing objects in Photoshop always feels a bit awkward. Thankfully, Toshiyuki Takahashi created a plugin called Align and Distribute. A man of few words, Takahashi’s plugin description perfectly underscores its value, “It works like the Align Panel in Illustrator.”

Bonus: Takahashi also made a PathFinder plugin for Photoshop.

Cost: Free

Must-have Photoshop plugins
Align and Distribute brings Adobe Illustrator’s Align Panel to Photoshop.

Problem 11: Making Design Mockups from Scratch Is Labor Intensive

The Solution: EasyMockups

Mobile design mockups are a big motivator for potential design clients. Why? Because they position design work within real-world settings and help clients envision what their own product might become. Convincing mockups require time and skill—unless there’s a shortcut.

EasyMockups is a plugin that equips designers with 10 contextual mockups that can be used to showcase work. Backgrounds and devices are interchangeable, and designs are added to mockups via top-level folders.

Cost: Free

Plugins for Photoshop
EasyMockups helps designers create compelling mobile mockups in minutes.

Problem 12: Photoshop Wasn’t Designed to Be a Vector Editor

The Solution: SVG Layers

When an SVG is imported into Photoshop, it’s rasterized. This flattens the graphic, rendering its vector editing properties useless. SVG Layers is a plugin that amends this pain point by allowing users to open SVGs as vectors, edit SVGs as vectors, and save SVGs as vectors—all within Photoshop.

Cost: USD $19

The best Photoshop plugins
SVG Layers extends Photoshop’s vector editing abilities.

Problem 13: Retouching and Enhancing Photos Is Monotonous

The Solution: Luminar 4

A Photoshop plugin for editing photos? Imagine that. Luminar 4 is a powerful photo enhancer that both experts and beginners will find useful. In addition to its 70 preloaded filters, Luminar 4 leverages artificial intelligence to erase unwanted objects, reduce noise, and create realistic lighting effects within photos.

Cost: USD $89

Top Photoshop plugin
Luminar 4 is a comprehensive photo editing tool built for experts and beginners alike.

Problem 14: Professional Font Design Programs Are Too Expensive for Casual Use

The Solution: Fontself Maker

In the world of visual design, most designers work with text on a regular basis. As typography skills grow, a question emerges, “Could I make my own font?”

The answer is a resounding yes, and it’s relatively simple, just not with professional font design programs. There’s nothing wrong with pro font programs, but they’re overkill for the average bespoke font.

Fontself Maker allows designers to use their own, custom-made glyphs to create and export OpenType font files. Spacing and kerning are easily defined, and alternative glyphs and ligatures may be added.

Cost: USD $79 (Bundled with Adobe Illustrator version)

Photoshop plugins
Fontself Maker is an easy way for visual designers to step into the world of typeface design.

Problem 15: Animating in Photoshop Is Unintuitive

The Solution: Animator’s Toolbar Pro

Photoshop possesses an extensive set of 2D animation abilities. Unfortunately, they’re hidden within a poorly designed user interface. As a result, most animators leverage Photoshop’s brushes and effects to create scenes and characters before moving outside of the program to animate.

For artists and designers interested in making frame-by-frame animations within Photoshop, the Animator’s Toolbar Pro plugin significantly improves the user experience. How? By making the animation interface more intuitive and highlighting capabilities that are virtually invisible without the plugin.

Bonus: The Animator’s Toolbar Pro Cheatsheet

Cost: USD $20

Best Photoshop plugins
Animator’s Toolbar Pro makes frame-by-frame animation in Photoshop much more intuitive.

Nominate the Best Photoshop Plugins

There are more than 1,100 Photoshop plugins available at Adobe Exchange. It’s an excellent resource, but nothing beats a firsthand recommendation. Pay it forward and help fellow designers by sharing noteworthy Photoshop plugins, actions, and extensions in the comments.

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Further reading on the Toptal Design Blog:

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