I’ve always liked working with textures and several procedural texture generators have caught my eye over the years. At first I simply wanted an easy way to create textures and many professionals looked down at these automatic texture generators. Over the years they have gotten better and better and now it is possible to find some that will create photo real textures. Among the many commercial options Filter Forge stands out and has been at the top of my wish list.
Filter Forge is a high-end plugin for Adobe Photoshop that gives you the power to create your own filters without any programming knowledge at all. Filters include seamless textures, visual effects, distortions, patterns, backgrounds, frames, and more.
The key features of Filter Forge include the filter editor and a free online library of user-created filters. You can access the library directly from the user interface of Filter Forge. Currently the library contains more than 7500 filters.
All filters are adjustable, resolution-independent, support real-world HDRI lighting, and most of them can be seamlessly tiled. Also, filters can automatically generate diffuse, specular, bump, and normal maps, which makes Filter Forge an essential tool for artists creating 3D models and environments, architectural visualization and high-end game content. All filters are built in the filter editor – a visual node-based environment allowing users to connect familiar operations, such as blurs, gradients, color adjustments, distortions, or blending, into a network to combine their effects.
Filter Forge Editions
Filter Forge comes in three versions. A Basic Edition provides unlimited access to the filter library but cannot create new filters. Currently there are about 7500 or so user uploaded filters and most of these have controls which allow you to generate many variations so this alone is a pretty substantial offering.
The Standard Edition allows you to create your own filters, effects, textures, patterns, backgrounds and more. You get everything except specialist features such as 16- and 32-bit image modes, bitmaps resolutions larger than 3000×3000 pixels and bump/normal maps. This edition is a good choice if you don’t need extra large resolutions or need bump, diffuse, normal and other maps for 3D.
The Professional Edition was designed with the needs of 3D content and game creators in mind. It includes support for very large bitmaps, 16 and 32-bit image modes, some specialized file formats, the export of various map types useful in 3D, support for multi-core, various anti-aliasing options and more professional options.
Creating your own filters with Filter Forge is accomplished via a visual node-based editor. You basically grab components and drop them on the stage, then link them together. It is conceptually simple and indeed creating basic filters is fun and fast. Most people would have no problem creating a simple effect in a minute or two.
As an example of this Filter Forge has a program that allows you to get points if you submit a filter that becomes popular -these points can be redeemed for dollars off or even a free copy of Filter Forge. In my very first test with the Filter Forge demo I submitted an Embroidery Filter that earned me a 20% off discount.
Advanced effects and filters, of course, will require more effort and exploring the different components in more depth. If you have the Standard Edition or higher you can download the 7500 or so filters, open them in the Visual editor and look at how they are set up. You can also edit or copy and paste bits of existing filters and modify them to create your own new creations. If you browse the filter gallery you’ll see that it is possible to create some pretty complex and stunning effects; achieving this level of mastery will take work. To assist you in accomplishing this there is also a very helpful and active community of users you can discuss your own filters with.
For some users wanting the Pro version the cost may seem daunting but professionals will actually find Filter Forge Pro Edition to be a great value compared to the price of some of the single function Photoshop filters out there. The average user who wants to create filters will find the Standard Edition to be a great value. Filter Forge does run sales from time to time so you should definetly keep your eyes open for that.
Since they say a picture is worth a thousand words I recommend you check out the Gallery to see the filters in use, Browse the filter library and Download the trial version.
I am planning to create some filters and will be posting them on the site. I may also turn out a few tutorials. I anticipate using this product to not only generate finished textures but layers and details I can use in my own Photoshop work. It really is amazing stuff - so check it out.
In the interest of fair disclosure I should mention that I signed up as a Filter Forge affiliate. My earnings average only about $1.25 per month so I am pretty certain my objectivity has not been comprimised by piles of cash.