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::: Alien Skin Image Doctor 2 - Review :::
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  Software Review

Alien Skin Logo


This photo was retouched using both Smart Fill to eliminate the distracting chair in the upper right corner and then Skin Softner to smooth both mother and daughters skin.

© 2007 International Press Association & Alien Skin. All rights reserved.



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Alien Skins Image Doctor 2, Another Great Addition...

Ease of Use • Superb Results • Low Cost

Their latest upgraded, plug-in suite can give the pro or beginner a powerful new arsenal of photo retouching and restoration tools to combat some of the most difficult and common retouching tasks.

Review by Len Rapoport - 2/8/08

If you are like me, you have figured out a number of ways to smooth out wrinkles on a subjects face using a number of Photoshop techniques. But this might involve creating a new layer, blurring that layer and then erasing areas in this layer to expose the areas one would expect to be sharp on the subjects face (eyes, nose, chin, hair). Of course there are many other methods photographers use to retouch their important photos and they may involve dealing with masks, channels, clone, actions and healing brush tools to perform some of these tasks.

You will probably have spent many hours doing these common and repetitive tasks and the results in many cases are not exactly what you expected. It is easier I am sure for the pro who has to do these tasks every day, but for the occasional user, the learning curve is steep and it requires doing these tasks over and over to become proficient. Well retouching and restoration now has a new friend in the form of a suite of plug-ins called Image Doctor 2 (replacing Image Doctor 1) and the results are amazing.

As usual Alien Skin's improved Image Doctor 2 has their friendly user interface and again has options to customize the many default SELECTIONS, which I found to do the trick 85% of the time. Service bureaus, web designers and photographers will love badly compressed image files (especially good for low resolution cell phone photos). Portrait photographers will love the their Blemish Concealer and Skin softner filters to remove skin imperfections (moles, pimples, scars) and smooth deep wrinkles without the aid of Botox.

If you have to restore old or damaged photos they have a great Dust and Scratch remover that is easier and more efficient then most photo editing programs offer and it is easier to use. Finally they have Smart Fill, which is a great filter for removing unwanted and distracting elements in your photos. In my sample you can see a floral pillow that is distracting in the photo of my niece and her beautiful daughter Ava.

From past reviews of Alien Skin suites this one is the one I feel I will personally use most often. I don't create works of art to sell in galleries, nor do I need to simulate film, but I do need to clean up photos for our web site and for print and this suite of filters will be my favorite. Image Doctor 2 requires a host program to install its filter suite and the following is the current list of acceptable applications: Adobe Photoshop CS (or later), Adobe Photoshop Elements 4 (or later Mac, 5 or later Windows), or Corel Paint Shop Pro Photo X2, and Adobe Fireworks CS3.

I once again need to repeat this statement, which seems to hold true on all the filter suites I have reviewed from Alien Skin: ... "they are really easy to use even for people with a limited amount of time, fast learning curve and the filters were actually fun to work with. Alien Skin has kept with this tradition in each and every product they create..." This suite of retouching and restoration filters have kept this tradition alive and well.

Here is an example of how easy it is to work with Image Doctor 2.

To use Image Doctor 2 to clean up a portrait all you need to do is open the image file you want to work on. Then select your lasso or other selection tool to choose the area on the image you want to apply the filter (wrinkles, blemish, etc.). Go to your filter menu and go down to Image Doctor 2 and select the filter you need to correct the problem. In this illustration, I wanted to smooth a few forehead lines on this subject.

You can see that I selected "Soften Light Wrinkles". You will also see my "Preview Split" is set on a diagonal and if you look at the subject you will see a white line which helps me see the area that was my original before softening and a preview of the area as it will look after I apply the filter. In some cases not having this white line, would make if difficult to see the degree of correction. Another small detail Alien Skin didn't miss when they designed this suite. If you need more of a correction you can then click on the Basic tab and make your own custom adjustments, or if you are like me, select the default setting, click OK and when you see your image and feel you need a bit more adjustment, simply apply the same filter one more time...on a Mac, Option F, will do the job or in the menu go back to filter and select "Last Filter" which will apply the filter to this selected area one more time. I found this technique easy for me when working with older clients portraits where wrinkles were a problem.

"Alien Skin offers many tips and examples on their web site, making the learning curve fast and easy "

Although I usually like to use my own examples when working with Alien Skin filters, the ones they supplied are so much better then mine. I have also included some of their descriptions which detail what each filter set will do. To download their complete PDF product guide from our server by clicking here.

Filter Overview

Blemish Concealer completely removes obvious blemishes, such as birthmarks, pimples, acne, freckles, moles, and shadows under the eyes. Blemish Concealer can also be used to remove low-contrast photo imperfections, such as small water stains, mold spots, or any softly colored, low-contrast defects from relatively smooth background textures. Blemish Concealer removes blemishes while preserving the texture and detail of the underlying image. Blemish Concealer is non-destructive – it removes the unwanted details but leaves behind a subdued version of the original skin. Blemish Concealer’s results are often improved by using the Skin Softener filter too.

Image Doctor’s Skin Softener: It allows users to smooth out or soften large swatches of skin. Skin Softener will reduce small shadows, remove oily skin glare, and generally improve the look of skin without making it look plastic. Skin Softener also works well at removing wrinkles and splotchy areas of redness. Skin Softener’s effects blend seamlessly with the nearby background so a feathered selection is not necessary. Used in tandem with Blemish Concealer, Skin Softener can produce outstanding retouching effects.

Image Doctor 2’s Dust and Scratch Remover Filter offers quick texture repair and defect removal. Dust and Scratch Remover works by intelligently filling minor texture defects found in fairly homogeneous surrounding textures. It should be the starting point for eliminating linear defects, such as tears, scratches and creases or for the removal of small text, such as time stamps, subtitles or logo text from an image. Dust and Scratch Remover automatically samples textures from areas surrounding your selection, and then recombines them inside your selection to organically repair images. This avoids the repetitive patterns that result from directly cloning source textures. Dust and Scratch Remover can also erase long, thin objects, such as microphones, power lines, stray hair or telephone poles.
Image Doctor 2’s Smart Fill replaces large objects by intelligently blending repairs into backgrounds. Smart Fill can remove signs and trash from landscapes, unwanted tourists from vacation snapshots, and uninvited guests from party photos, leaving no visible seams. Smart Fill is a unique filter. Rather than directly cloning parts of an image, Smart Fill samples image patches around the area to be removed, automatically detects details such as color and lighting, and then recombines the sampled image details to create a contiguous background texture where the original object once appeared. While Image Doctor’s Dust and Scratch Remover can achieve similar results with much smaller objects, Smart Fill provides more control for larger areas requiring replacement. 
JPEG Repair was the sleeper hit in Image Doctor 1. Graphic designers and web professionals love the way JPEG Repair reclaims the quality of images off the web, as well as images for which the high resolution version has been lost. The JPEG Repair filter revitalizes over-compressed JPEGs. Users can remove blocky compression artifacts and halos around edges while adding grain. Repairs can be made to an entire image or as needed to smaller selections.

The Alien Skin web site is an excellent place to start. On their Image Doctor 2 examples page , they have a nice display of original photos, click on them, they will open into a larger window and then mouse over them, they will show you how the various filters change the originals.

On my iMac 24" Silver, operating with 4 GB of ram and Leopard OX the rendering flew. You don't need the fastest processor out there, because unlike some of their other filters, the adjustments to the images are quite small in comparison to Snap Art or Exposure 2.

I found that many of my troublesome photos really looked spectacular using Image Doctor 2. As you will see it can change the way you retouch and restore your photos. I find Alien Skin products so user friendly that any Mac user will feel as if their products were produced by Apple. Windows users will find that Alien Skin products are free of warning windows, error messages and confusing menus. Any PC user, Mac or Windows will appreciate the well thought out filters and what they can do.

I encourage all of our readers to visit the Alien Skin web site and review all of their products. Visit our main reviews page and read our reviews on other Alien Skin filter suites, which we hope will make your decisions easier. If you aren't sure if a particular suite if right for you, take it for a free test drive. Go to their Demos page and download the one you want to try out. You will have 30 days to try them out and frankly after two or three days, you will want to buy them all.

"...Registered owners of Image Doctor 1 can now upgrade to Image Doctor 2 for only $99, new users can purchase the complete suite for $199. "

Image Doctor 2 gets our 4 Stars and our Featured Product Recommendation. Go to their site to purchase this package and get all the tech facts with lots of samples of the results of the various effects.


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