Xenofex 2

Company: Alien Skin Software
Price: $99.00 US

Adobe Photoshop is one of the most versatile programs on the planet today, and its open, plug-in architecture make it even more so. Xenofex 2.0 is a Photoshop Plug-in, meaning you use the software from within the Photoshop working environment.

Xenofex 2.0 is an effects package, allowing you to use it to create really professional looking effects in your graphic files. For instance, you can quickly and easily add a lighting-bolt effect to a picture of the sky. Or turn a drab skyline to a clear blue with little puffy white clouds. The different effects you can create using Xenofex 2.0 is limited only by your imagination and needs.

It has been four years, June of 1999, since I reviewed Xenofex in its original release. I was looking forward after all this time to jump back in to see just what the new release has in store, if it works with the latest version of Photoshop (7), and if the user interface was any different.

The price, $99US, is the same as the earlier version. But while the earlier version had 16 filters, the new version has only 14. I am not sure why Alien Skin has omitted the Distress and Origami filters, and the product is a little less desirable for it. I used the Distress filter often back in Photoshop 5.0.

The filters included, as well as a brief description of what they do, are as follows:

Brunt Edges. This will simulate, pretty nicely, the look of burnt paper around the edges of your graphic or picture, or even a burn hole. The effect is nice, and much easier to do with Xenofex 2 than Photoshop alone.

Classic Mosaic. If you have ever wanted to convert a picture into a mosaic, this filter is for you. The effect is really well done, and can help you create a good representation of what your face would look like, and what color tiles you would need, if you ever wanted to create a tile mosaic of yourself on your bathroom floor!

Constellation. The one filter I have yet to find a professional use for in four years. The Xenofex 2 manual describes this filter as ÒÉreconstructs images as starlike points of light.Ó The effect works well.

Cracks. Pretty self-explanatory. Cracks create, well, crack effects in your photos. Can be used to make some neat font types, help age items in your photo’s, and more.

Crumple. Think of a new piece of paper. Now think about taking it in your hand, and crumpling it all up. After smoothing it out, the paper will show signs of distress. That is just what this filter does, and does really well. I think Crumple is the most realistic effects in the entire Xenofex 2 library of filters. I have used it many, many times.

Electrify. Want to create something with electricity? Say, add bolts of high-voltage looking electricity to your co-workers head? This filter is for you. I have noticed not a few ads in popular magazines which add an electrify effect to an object, and often wonder if this was Xenofex that they used for the effect. Electrify is a great filter, one I would love to use more had I the need.

Flag. With this filter, you can convert any object into what looks like a flag. For instance, if you wanted to make your company logo looks as if it is on a flag poll, this filter will do it for you. The Flag effect works fairly well, creating a geometric flag shape in different configurations, as well as adding light and shadow to give it and even better realistic flavor. This filter, however, falls a little short of professional quality to me.

Lightning. A really well done filter that does just what the name implies. It lets you create realistic lighting in your images. I have used this filter often, and it works well.

Little Fluffy Clouds. I would bet you can guess what this filter will do when applied to a graphic. And you would be correct. This is a fantastic filter, creating very realistic clouds. For a test, I took a picture with a clear-blue sky, applied this filter, and then told a few people I drastically changed something in the image. Could they guess what it was? No one came close.

Puzzle. This filter will make any picture look like a jigsaw puzzle. Fairly simple concept, and would work well in an advertising agency. I have found very few times when I needed to use Puzzle, but it is nice knowing I could if the need arouse.

Rip Open. Possibly a fault of Photoshop (doubtful) but this was the one filter in which the Preview window would not show me what the effect would look like before applying the filter. Rip Open is another good example of the name explaining well what the filter does. It will create a ripped-open effect in your images. For me, I have always used this filter when I want to show one picture torn apart to reveal another picture underneath, such as ripping a hole or corner in a magazine and seeing the next page below it. Rip Open will also work with a single image, letting you show either a solid color or a transparency underneath.

Shatter. This filter is great if you want to make an image appear to have shattered, such as a broken picture or mirror. This is a well-done filter, with many of the same features as Rip Open as far as transparency, fill-color, and multiple images are concerned. A nice filter.

Stain. Have you ever wanted to create the illusion of a coffee-mug stain on, say, a picture of a table? With the Stain filter, you can do just that. While the effects actually work well with proper preparation and planning, I found that the ability to create photo-realistic stains with this filter tedious. Will it work for you? Yes.

Television. While I have used most of the filters in this package at least once or twice, Television is a filter I have never used. What does it do? It creates a faux television in a rectangular selection of your graphic. Think of a photo of a television, either with scan lines or monochrome. Yes, it works as advertised.

All the above filters have a variety of settings, so that while each filter will give you predicable results, each time you use one of them can produce totally different results. The ability to minutely fine-tune each effect is what sets a good filter from a great one.

I enjoy both playing with Xenofex 2.0 for pleasure, and using it to get professional graphic jobs done. While there are a few problems with the software, all in all Xenofex 2.0 is a stable and worthy addition to your Photoshop filter collection.


Macintosh OS 9 Ð 10.2.3 w/64MB RAM
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 or later
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 or later
Macromedia Fireworks MX or later

Windows 98/ME/2000/XP w/64MB RAM
Adobe Photoshop 6.0 or later
Adobe Photoshop Elements 2.0 or later
Macromedia Fireworks MX or later
Jasc Paint Shop Pro 7.0 or later

Tested in Photoshop 7.0 running Mac OS X 10.2.3 only.

Final Thoughts
Still not sure why Xenofex is missing two of the filters from the earlier version? All in all, however, the filters work well to great. I am pleased with the software, and consider it a bargain at $99US.

MacMice Rating: 4 out of 5

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