Blow Up is a Photoshop-compatible automation plug-in for
enlarging images. Alien Skin states that it enlarges without the
stairstep, halo, and fringe artifacts of bicubic interpolation. It
works with Photoshop CS or later and Elements 3 or later. It, also,
supports 8-bit, 16-bit, and 32-bit images and RGB, CMYK, Lab,
Grayscale, and Duotone image modes.
Blow Up can be recorded and played back as an action in
Photoshop; and it will make use of multiprocessors, multi-core, and
Blow Up is not alone in the market place. There are other
programs that are its competitors. The main one is Genuine Fractals
4.1 (GF) and Genuine Fractals 4.1 Print Pro. I did a
review on the latter. However, this review of Alien Skin's Blow
Up is not a comparison review. Fortunately, both companies offer
demos. GF and Blow Up enlargements are not referred to in a similar
manner. In Blow Up, 400% width and 400% height gives a 1600% area
enlargement which is the target, except in many circumstances where
it can be used to enlarge up to 6 times as well or nearly as well
as the 400%. One can also sharpen the image as it enlarges, but I
will discuss that later in the review.
I created images and enlarged them using Photoshop's bicubic and
bicubic with sharpening, Genuine Fractals 4.1 Print Pro, and, of
course, Blow Up. After creating and printing numerous images, my
basic conclusion was that the decision was up to the user.
Photoshop offered the least favorable enlargements after 400%. But
both Blow Up and Genuine Fractals 4.1 Print Pro offered visually
slightly different textures and hues when the images were enlarged.
Unfortunately, the differences were not large enough to be visible
on the web. To make a choice on what is visually pleasing, download
the demos and try them out.
Now, for a discussion of the interface where Blow Up definately
differs from its competition. The interface contains controls for
not only regulating the type of enlargement - percent, inches, cm,
mm, points, and picas but, also, controls for adding grain to the
image as well as a control for sharpening the image.
I first wondered why I would ever not sharpen when creating an
enlargement, but, then, I found that some enlargements actually
looked better when the Sharpen Amount was at 0. Grain is an
interesting addition. It adds texture where the image may appear to
be a little flat or the image tone not varied enough even though
the image looked good at a smaller size.
It was very hard, as I stated earlier, to create images at
screen resolution that showed variations. While the settings for
sharpening and grain were noticeable in print, at screen resolution
they were barely visible, and I did not feel that they gave fair
examples of the different programs. For that reason, alone, a demo
is great to have. I will, however, show some examples that I feel
show some variations. Portraits are excellent for this purpose. [I
used pictures of myself so that I would not have to get any photo
At 300 dpi, the original picture was 7/8x 1 3/8". At an
enlargement of 400% x 400% or 1600% area, the dimensions were: 3
3/8 " x 5 1/4". When the image was enlarged by 600%, the
dimensions became: 5" x 7 7/8". The dpi of 300 was kept
If you look at the product interface above, you will see that
there are other choices such as duplicating the images before it is
enlarged. Also, one can see how large the file was and will be
before actually enlarging it. One can set a preference for
receiving messages from Alien Skin as to updates, etc.
The program worked perfectly as stated in Alien Skin's printed
material. It was easy to use and it could be set up in more that
one program of Photoshop and /or Elements. So, if one had both
Photoshop CS and CS2 on a machine, it could go into both.
The requirements are:
- PowerPC G4 processor
- Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
A full version is $199 and an upgrade is $99.
- Pentium 4 processor
- Windows 2000 or Windows XP
Alien Skin Blow
For more information on Alien Skin and their plug-ins, please
visit the Alien
Skin web site
Genuine Fractals 4.1 Print Pro Demo
All supporting images are copyright, and
copied, printed, or reproduced in any manner without written
permission from the artist.
The Paula Sanders Report is a regular Renderosity Front
Page featured column, where Paula investigates and comments on
graphic software, techniques, and other relevant material through
her reviews, tutorials, and general articles.