My 3 Most Used Photoshop Plug Ins of 2011

Written by: Glyn Dewis

Published: December 22, 2011

Category: General

Hi Folks,
For today and in keeping with the Most Used theme I thought I’d share my most used plug ins of 2011; actually if I’m honest…the only plug ins I’m currently using 🙂

Now on the subject of plug ins regular readers of this blog will know that up until fairly recently I tended to avoid using them. Long story short when I first started using Photoshop I studied and studied to the point I started to feel like I knew my way around but then more client work started coming in. Consequently I needed to turn around images so much faster and so began using plug ins. The trouble here was that I relied on them too heavily and subsequently over time, my knowledge and skill in Photoshop (I felt) diminshed. People would ask how I’d achieved a certain look and I just couldn’t answer, or rather would bluff it because I somehow felt at the time that using plug ins was cheating.

Anyway because of this I made the decision to delete all the plug ins I had and start from scratch and that’s pretty much how it has been for me ever since … well, atleast up until earlier this year when I spent some time with my good friends Calvin Hollywood and Gabor Richter.

It was by spending time with Calvin & Gabor that I learned how to use plug ins. You see, as someone who teaches Photoshop I feel it’s vitally important that I know how to replicate the effects that can be achieved using plug ins because understandably not everyone I teach would have them so I need to show them how they can achieve the same results. I’m at the stage in my Photoshop life where I feel pretty confident I can do that now … or certainly as near as damn it anyway 🙂

Calvin has a stage in his editing that he calls 20/80 and by that he means the final 20% of his editing takes 80% of the whole time and it’s this last stage when I too use plug ins and other techniques that  I know in photoshop to come up with the finished look; except I just call it Play Time 🙂  Also for the majority of the time when I use a plug in, the effect is only applied to certain parts of the image as opposed to being applied ‘globally’ … if that makes sense.

Anyway, here’s a run through of the plug ins I have installed and use on a daily basis:

Nik Color Efex Pro 4
Absolutely love this plug…and one that was recommended by both Calvin and Gabor. The plug in itself has something like 50+ filters installed! A Superb plug in with a great user interface and allows you to stack multiple filters to create unique looks. Runs real quick too!

Color Efex Pro 4
Price: Standard Edition £99 (approx) ; Complete Edition £199 (approx)

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 
Quite simply THE best way to convert your images to Black & White!Price: £199 (approx)

Silver Efex Pro 2

Topaz Details 
Again, another I was recommended to use by Calvin & Gabor. The impact this plug in has on your images has to be seen to be believed…seriously good! During my workshops I do cover a technique to bring out a lot more detail in your images that works great but the downside of it is that it can introduce artifacts whereas Topaz Details doesn’t seem to. Don’t get me wrong, the Photoshop method works great and I do use that selectively on some images but Topaz Details just nails it!

The only negative I can say about this plug in is the User Interface as the preview doesn’t really give an accurate look at what the resulting effect will be.

Topaz Details
Price: £25 (approx)

Finally, rather than being a Plug In I want to point you to a Photoshop Script written by the legend that is Russell Brown.

Basically this script allows you to very quickly and easily take any layer you’re working on in Photoshop over to Camera Raw and back again. Obvious advantages here are that you can make use of sliders that you simply don’t have in Photoshop such as Clarity, Fill and Orange etc…

Seriously worth installing this little script and it’s one I use on most all my edits wat some point without fail.

Russell Brown CS5 Script: Edit Layers in Adobe Camera RAW

So there you have it, my favourite and only plug ins. I’m sure in the new year there’ll be some new additions or enhancements so when there are I’ll make a point of posting about them here but in the mean time if you have any plug ins you can’t live without then feel free to share them in the comments section below so we can all take a look.
Enjoy 🙂

•     •     •

Keep up with Glyn ‘Day to Day’ and get more from ‘Behind the Scenes’…

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  1. DaveT

    A useful roundup Glyn – thanks!

    Out of interest do you use the standard or full edition of SPE2 and Colour Effex 4?

    I have been looking at these two and SPE2 in particular. Having never used either I am struggling to determine which version is the one I need (full or standard). I tend to do a lot of my work in Lightroom and then go over to Photoshop CS5 for the fine dodging and burning and bringing out detail. Its fair to say that I use LR for ninety percent of the time.

    What I am unsure of is at what stage the Nik software would fit into my workflow and therefore don’t know which version is best for me.

    Any advice Glyn?


  2. Neil Holmes

    Hi Glyn, I’ve used Nik SEFP & CEFP pro for quite some time now, I’m looking at a trial download of Topaz Detail, would you say it has advantages over Tonal Contrast filter in Colour Effex which I tend to use quite a bit?

    Complements of the season, keep up the blog I find it a very useful resource 🙂

    Cheers Neil.

  3. Ronnie

    Hi Glyn. The CS5 Script is a real beauty! So useful, gonna make an action and assign it a function key 🙂 Thanks for sharing that mate.


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