The 23 best Photoshop plugins
Photoshop plugins offer a quick and easy way to get more from the software. The right plugin can save you time, unlock new features, and smooth out your workflow, but finding the right plugin for the job can be a time-consuming process. That’s why we’ve gathered our favourite Photoshop plugins and explained what they do, ready for you to pick the one(s) for you.
Photoshop continues to fight off the competition to be the best photo editing software, and is still many designers’ go-to tool for image manipulation and creation. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved with a great plugin.
While it was once solely about pixel-based bitmap images, Photoshop CC is now a capable vector editing tool, with 3D and video support built in. This collection of core features offers a powerful range of possibilities out the box, but occasionally it’s worth adding extras to get the most out of your investment. (If you just want some quick image adjustments for your Insta feed, then see our best VSCO filters.)
Extend your toolkit further by adding some free Photoshop actions. For any core software updates you need to know about, keep an eye on our Adobe MAX coverage.
Chameleon Adaptive Palette is a smart palette system that adapts intelligently. It offers a range of strips with slightly functions, but each of which automatically updates based on your chosen colour (select colours from any source, including on your canvas). The strips can be locked to act as a static palette, or unlocked to offer different variations. Watch the video above for more info. This Photoshop plugin is feature-rich but shouldn’t tax your CPU.
If you find yourself lost in a sea of brushes with Photoshop, then Photoshop plugin BrushBox could be the answer. BrushBox enables you to organise your brushes better by organising them into groups, which can be colour coded (and even have different backgrounds). You can tag your favourites, and override a brush’s default settings to save you making the same changes over and over again.
This isn’t that useful if you only use a handful of Photoshop brushes in their default sessions, but if you’ve built up any sort of brush collection at all, this one’s worth a look (to find more PS brushes, see our Photoshop brushes roundup).
Artists who want to play around with symmetrical designs or drawing can do so easily with the AD Brutus Symmetry Photoshop plugin. Simply place your grid or guide on your work and see it reflected where you choose. You can flip layers or selections and also rotate your work. Saving is easy too, as you can save either the active layer or a merged PNG version of the current view with just one click. This might not be the most useful plugin ever, unless you work consistently with patterns, but it is definitely a fun one to experiment with.
Need a stock image and working on a tight budget? This Photoshop plugin enables you to search images on Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels, from within Photoshop itself, for options that you can use for free. You then click and the photo will be downloaded and imported directly into PS (or any of the other Adobe app). As the name suggests, Free Stock Search itself is free, too, so it’s quids-in all round. If you need something more specific, there are a few more great stock image plugins in this list, so read on.
Powtoon enables you to turn your Photoshop designs into animated video content, with just one click. Choose to export all Artboards or select Artboards, then enhance your animated design with custom animation, stock footage and imagery, or add a soundtrack. Finally, export directly to YouTube, Facebook, MP4, Vimeo and more. This Photoshop plugin was new in Summer 2019, and quickly some great reviews – and it’s free, too.
If you’ve ever wished Photoshop’s colour picker was just a little less ugly and cumbersome, the Rico Holmes’ Hover Color Picker Photoshop plugin might be what you’ve been waiting for. It’s there when you need it with a good-looking set of customisable sliders that give you a lot more control than the standard picker, and when you’re done it’ll minimise itself automatically.
For professional retouching results that go a lot further than the default Photoshop filters, it’s worth having a look at Pro Add-Ons’ Ultimate Retouch Panel. Although it’s now getting a little long in the tooth, this cost-effective tool features over 200 functions in one panel, including seven frequency separation methods, four fast-retouch methods, and 15 tools for local retouching.
Ready to start creating your own fonts? It’s easier than you think with this handy Photoshop plugin. Fontself Maker lets you turn any image or vector layer into colourful bitmap fonts using Photoshop CC 2015.3 and above. It’s worth noting that if you want to create vector-based fonts, the plugin can also be purchased for Illustrator.
Drag and drop layers to create new characters, and capture any colour, shade or texture you desire. All the features you’d look for can be configured and controlled, including per-character kerning, ligatures, character alternates and more. The team behind the tool are also actively developing and updating the plugin so you can expect ongoing feature enhancements.
Everyone needs a bit of stock imagery now and then, so why make things difficult for yourself? Getty Images Photoshop plugin makes it easy for you to search for and filter images and hi-res comps. You can also use it with Illustrator and InDesign. Once you’ve made your edits and used comps to get client approval, you can licence a high-resolution image and retain all your edits making for a smooth workflow.
Painter is a long-established digital art favourite among illustrators, but, thankfully, Corel has finally brought its brush technology to Photoshop with ParticleShop. Brushes can make a huge difference to your creativity and productivity, and this powerful Photoshop plugin offers non-destructive brushstroke layer support and 11 updated brushes, including Debris, Fabric, Fine Art, Fur, Hair, Light, Space, Smoke and Storm. Currently you’ll get a free brush pack when purchasing too.
ON1 Resize will enlarge images taken on your DSLR or smartphone by up to 1000 per cent. The plugin uses genuine fractals’ powerful algorithms for optimising clarity and detail enhancement. This is more than just an image resizing tool, however. Featuring a full file browser, it also offers batch processing, image compression and a host of built-in presets and manual controls.
More or less any of Topaz Labs’ products would happily make it into this list; its Photoshop plugins are almost a must-have for any serious digital photographer. Whether it’s providing texture effects, making masking easy, or turning your photographs into impressionist paintings, there’s not much you can imagine that Topaz hasn’t developed a tool to create. That said, this black and white effects plugin is especially good. Using a unique B&W conversion engine that emphasises tone and texture to help you get B&W images that pop, this should be an essential part of your photo-editing toolset.
Filter Forge offers over 13,000 effects and textures, covering a diverse range of use cases. Filter Forge is now on version 9, but the previous brought with it the addition of tabs. Users can now load any image or filter into separate tabs, and compare them or fine-tune their settings. There’s also a handy new backup tool. If you need to move from one computer to another, you can use this to compresses your filters and settings into a single archive file that you can restore later on another computer, another version of Filter Forge or even another platform.
Alien Skin’s Eye Candy is one of Photoshop’s most recognisable plugins, and has been around for well over a decade. Version 7 provides a huge range of effects ranging from fire to chrome, glass to extrusions. While many seem initially to be useful only for creating cheesy effects, it’s surprising how many scenarios you’ll find them useful in. This is particularly true for freelance designers working to tight deadlines, and when the effects are dialed down from the default settings, they become less cheesy and more useable.
Luminar is a little bit like having a photo editor inside your photo editing software. As odd as that sounds, it’s a focused tool that excels at making the most of your images without any of the non-photography stuff that Photoshop is full of. Using an AI routine alongside some 50 preset effects, this plugin simplifies masking, sky replacement, object removal and more. Available for both Photoshop and Lightroom, it’s well worth a look if you find yourself editing raw photographs frequently.
We’ve long valued the many photographic plugins featured in the Nik Collection suite of Photoshop plugins. Equip yourself with top quality plugins such as Silver EFEX Pro and Viveza that provide a huge range of high-impact photographic effects. The most recent update added a new non-destructive mode, which allows you to export images as TIFF files and tweak any edits made (keeping the originals nice and safe).
Naming your layers right is the first rule of Photoshop etiquette. But sometimes you need to rename layers retrospectively, which can be a pain. With Renamy you can rename multiple layers at once, and there’s even a cool autocomplete function to save your typing fingers. There’s a basic free version so you can give it a try before you buy.
If you can forgive or overlook the gratuitous use of swearing on the Perspective Mockups site, the plugin is definitely worth checking out. Essentially it’s a great way to make perspective mockups for your designs. The plugin sits within your Photoshop tools palette and includes a range of different layouts to choose from. Simply click to set. It’s a quick way to give your artwork punch and lift.
Working across the full Creative Suite, this plugin from Shutterstock provides direct in-app access to the huge range of stock imagery available in the Shutterstock library. Search inside Photoshop, click to select and insert, and license directly for an easier workflow. This is especially useful if you commonly licence royalty free images for use in your designs.
Blow Up allows you to create pin-sharp enlargements from photos without compromising on quality. The algorithm is more advanced than Photoshop’s own bicubic filters, which allows the plugin to produce accurate images without artefacts. This makes it a great tool for designers where clients send over images that aren’t of a high-enough resolution.
PhotoMatix Pro is a high dynamic range (HDR) processing and toning tool that integrates with Photoshop either standalone or as a plugin (depending upon which version you go for). This tool goes beyond Photoshop’s built-in HDR processing capabilities, especially with the toning aspects and allows for the creation of extreme HDR images with relative ease.
ON1’s Effects is a handy tool for getting a quick effect on an image, whether that’s a colour treatment, addition of texture and noise, or creative borders. This plugin features an effects library (a bit like the filter gallery in Photoshop) and allows you to stack multiple effects to achieve interesting new results.
Exposure is a creative tool that allows you to simulate film effects on your digital images. For its X5 release, publisher Alien Skin has added 3D colour masking, including one-click selection of sky, foilage, skin tones and more. Exposure X5 is available as a plugin for Photoshop or Lightroom, or as a complete standalone raw photo editor.
GuideGuide is a simple Photoshop plugin makes it easy to create a grid system in your document, hijacking the built-in guides system to create a pinpoint accurate grid according to your chosen settings. You can use negative margins for special hanging columns, separately define individual margins and gutters, and save your preferred options for quick access in the future. Perfect for anyone using a grid to help them create their layouts.