Sketch Master 1.19

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, November 2005
Published by: Redfield Plugins
Requires: Pentium III or faster CPU, Windows 98/Me/2000 or XP; Photoshop Plug-in Compliant host application
MSRP: $39.90

Have you ever wanted to take a photo and turn it into a great piece of art? As a designer and artist I'm lucky enough to be able to do that by spending a little time with both analog and digital tools. Most folks however don't have the time or practiced skills. Since the early days of Photoshop and similar programs, there have been plug-ins which promised to be able to modify photos to emulate the look of natural media. Redfield is a Russian software company which produces Photoshop-based effects plug-ins. Sketch Master is their foray into the world of artistic effects. When I first looked at their web site I found some great looking examples of what the plug-in could achieve and at first glance they certainly looked convincing. I couldn't wait to play.

Like all plug-ins, Sketch Master is interfaced through a Photoshop plug-in compatible application. I found the interface to be a little busy with many options for modifying the look of the effects. Unfortunately, the effects presets are at the bottom of the dialog when they should be at the top. That being said, the presets are quite effective and offer you much in the way of configurability. My favorite effects were the artistic brush strokes. At the other end of the spectrum, I found the crayon and stipple effects lacking in subtlety, but I get the feeling that with a bit more effort the effects could be further refined for the next incarnation of Sketch Master.

My favorite brush-type effects reminded me very much of some of the editorial illustrations produced in the 70's and 80's for fashion magazines. I found that using a brush effects on screen-sized images (1024x768) didn't really do much to maximize the effect's impression. To really get a more effective result you needed to use images that are at least 2 megapixels in size, and I achieved great results with images in the 3 to 4 megapixel range. I must warn you that using images of this size means that processing will take a long time (hence the reason I would like a selectable preview window).

The help system for Sketch Master is fairly comprehensive with plenty of coverage of features and variations to give any user a good idea of how the effects work. The lack of online support is a little disappointing, but seeing as this is a fairly simple plug-in I'm not surprised. I do feel that Redfield could benefit from using an online forum-based system so that users could swap ideas about Sketch Master and the other plug-ins Redfield produces. The samples and tutorials area on the web site includes some great presets and textures which I highly recommend.

Cons: Some of the filters aren't subtle enough in their implementation, but with a bit of refinement that could be improved. The interface needs to be further refined with a bit more thought going into where the presets are placed. A selectable preview size and a 1:1 view mode would be nice to be able to quickly preview effects at full size. As a professional Imageer, I am able to replicate most of the effects created with Sketch Master just using the capabilities within Photoshop. However, and as I am often reminded, not everyone has the luxury of my experience.

Pros: I have no problem recommending Sketch Master, but do have one guideline for anyone who buys it: to get the best results, use larger images and downsize them afterwards. Great filters and presets. Easy to install and fun to use. Highly configurable. I generally enjoy playing with plug-ins like this and while I was initially disappointed with the results of some of the presets, I found that after working with them further I could achieve some wonderful images. For the home user who wants to create some cool looking images from their personal photos, Sketch Master will certainly fit the bill.

(Ed. Notes: Redfield Plugins is offering Kickstartnews readers a 15% discount. If you decide to purchase SketchMaster, use this code at the Redfield checkout: 156876)

Comments? Questions? Qualms? Technical problems? Send an e-mail!





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