Red Prince Pixie Dust

Original image

Despite recent advancements in digital photography, pictures rarely come out of the digital camera or scanner in perfect condition. They need to be enhanced in software.

On this page you will find plug-ins for Photoshop and compatible image editors to allow you do that quickly, completely, and efficiently.

Numerous filters are included in this collection. They range from high quality corrective filters to the wildest of special effects.

Why so many? Because they were born out of years of frustration. Frustration with plug-ins containing only one filter, or one small family of filters. Frustration with filters limited in their flexibility. Frustration with bloated filters that require enormous amounts of computer memory to achieve the simplest of tasks. Frustration with filters that take forever to do their task.

I decided to end this frustration once and for all. I spent several years working on a library of image manipulation routines that were different. In what way?

  • First of all, these routines work fast. They are written in 100% assembly language. That is the only programming language that controls the microprocessor directly.

    I don’t want to bore you with tech talk. Let’s just say that all other languages are designed to make it easy on the programmer. They produce bloated software which does many unnecessary things.

    Sort of like traveling from Los Angeles to San Francisco via New York. Or even Paris. Without the sight-seeing.

    That will get you there, naturally, it just takes longer. Assembly language makes it hard on the programmer but easy on the program user.

  • The library also is very small. It does not require much memory to run in: Just kilobytes, not megabytes. This is another advantage of the no-detour assembly language.

  • The routines are very flexible. Whenever possible they control each of the three channels (that is, red, green, and blue) separately. That makes them go beyond the usual effect they produce ordinarily.

  • Most of these routines can automatically set the opacity of their effect. It works similar to Photoshop layers.

    It is as if you created a duplicate layer, applied the effect, then set the opacity of that layer, and finally combined it with the original image to make the effect less pronounced. Or more.

    I don’t know why everyone only thinks of opacity between 0 - 100%. There is no reason for opacity not to go beyond 100%, or even to be negative.

    Now suppose you did this separately for each channel so you could fine-tune them with one opacity for red, another one for green, and a yet different one for blue.

    Too much work? I thought so. That’s why these routines do it for you automatically so you can concentrate on your creativity instead of technical aspects of your software tools. I guess, that’s my job, not yours. ;)

There is more, but these are the main points I can think of right now.

Anyway, since all these routines work on individual pixels, I named them Pixie Dust. I wrote and re-wrote them many times over a period of many years. The particular version I am presenting here works as a Windows DLL (dynamic link library).

The plug-ins provide an interface between Windows version of Photoshop (and compatible hosts) and the library. They, too, are written in 100% assembly language.

The Two Versions

Most of them come in two versions. One is named after the library, Pixie Dust. These plug-ins are simple to use as they do not take advantage of the full flexibility of the library: Most work on all three channels using the same configuration. And they work with opacity set to 100%. They are ideally suited for the hobbyist, a person who needs to fix his images quickly and does not want to be bothered by too many options. These plug-ins are free. You can use them for your own personal work or pleasure. They never expire, and they will not pop up any messages trying to get you to register them.

The other version, Pixie Dust Pro is for the professional, and anyone who wants professional quality of image manipulation. If you want complete control over what happens to your images, this version is for you. If you are a photographer, graphic artist, master of special effects, or if you have need for scientific imaging, or forensic analysis of images, you should consider the professional version.

Please note that this is still a pre-release, not the final release. Most software companies set deadlines by which they release their software, even if it is not quite ready. I prefer to release it only after I am fully satisfied that it does all I want it to do. I will never knowingly release software with bugs. Meanwhile, I make pre-releases available, so you can work with what I have done so far.

Here is the description of what these filters do so far:

Transcendental

A set of filters to transform colors using waves and pulses of a predetermined angle, amplitude, and frequency. In the free version, all filters are set to the angle of 0 degrees and the amplitude of 1.0 in all three channels. The frequencies are set differently for each channel: red = 2, green = 3, blue = 4.

Eight different transforms are included in the free version, twice as many in the Pro version. They are simply marked 1 - 16. Many options are available for each transform: It can be used either as a wave or as a pulse, with regular or reverse polarity, and it can apply a diagonal mirror.

Here are just four examples:

The beauty of these filters is that while the transforms produce a radical change in the appearance of an image, these changes are all natural. By that I mean, the changes are a result of common mathematical relationships applied to the channels of each color and nothing else. The transformation of each pixel depends on the color of that pixel alone, not on neighboring pixels as is often the case.

Why is that important? Because it means the transformed image is still an acurate representation of reality (at least in the case of photographs). It is a different representation from what we normally perceive, but just as real. Our perception of reality is filtered by the “wiring” of our brain. If we were wired differently, we might perceive reality differently. These filters effectively “re-wire” our brains and allow us to extend the way we perceive reality.

Solarize

Yes, you can find the Solarize effect coming standard with just about all image editing software. But I think the way they all present it is boring. So, I wrote my own version (included with the Pro package) in which I can set the thresholds separately for each channel, and set the opacity (or “effect level,” as it is often referred to), also separately for each channel.

For the example below, I set the red threshold to 31, green to 63, and blue to 127. I set the opacity of all three channels to 200%. Here’s what it looks like:

Living Moon

Click on the dragon to visit a FilmSFX.com tutorial on how to use my Solarize filter to turn the Moon into a living planet!

Posterize

Posterize is another common effect, of course. See below about the Contour filter, which is more exciting than Posterize because it achieves a similar effect but without changing the hue and saturation of the image.

However, the Pixie Dust Pro plug-in makes even this filter much more interesting as it allows setting different posterization levels and opacity for each channel:

Saw Tooth

Surprisingly, this effect is not common although it was described in Graphics Gems. I have enhanced it somewhat, so you can choose its frequency and offset.

This filter produces a very wild effect. Even slight changes in frequency and offset can produce drastic changes to the effect. It is cyclical, that is, the frequency of 1 and 256 produce the same result. Similarly, offsets of 0% and 100% are identical. The frequency of 1 and offset of 0% produce no change in the image. As you increase either slider, the image changes considerably. As you go above the frequency of 10, or so, the image turns into complete noise.

But, do not stop there! Around the middle (frequency 127, offset 50%), the image, while still noisy, becomes visible again. Increasing the frequency even further produces more noise. But as you come close to the other extreme (toward the frequency around 250-256), new wild effects take place.

You may want to play with this one a bit. You may also write down slider combinations that you find the most intriguing!

Just to give you the feel of Pixie Dust Pro, here’s a screen shot of this filter with all channels set to random options:

Here’s another one produced with the Saw Tooth filter of Pixie Dust Pro, this time with these slider settings: Frequency - red = 251, green = 254, blue = 127. Offset - red = 34%, green = 0%, blue = 50%. Effect Opacity - red = 137%, green = -32%, blue = 11%.

I discovered it quite accidentally, by simply clicking on the Random button. As I said earlier, these filters go beyond what similar filters by other authors do. The Random button is a nice way of discovering interesting new effects.

Flop

If you have gone through my website page by page, you have noticed I have several Flop filters in my Flips ’n Rolls collection. Here, I have combined all flops into one filter, and offer the choice of how much to flop, separately for each channel.

Choosing 100% in all three channels will have the same effect as my Flop All filter, i.e., it will produce a negative. Choosing 0% in a channel will leave that channel unmodified. Here is an example which flops the red channel by 200%, the green channel by -200%, and leaves the blue channel intact:

By the way, this particular filter comes with the full set of professional options even in the free version. Otherwise, it would do nothing that cannot be done with Flips ’n Rolls. What would be the point of that?

Haze

As I mentioned on the Flips ’n Rolls page, it is possible to create a haze effect by blending a flopped image with the original image at half the percentage of the desired haze. Back then, I copied the original to a separate layer, flopped it, then set its opacity to 25% in order to get a 50% haze effect.

But with Flop there is no need to go through all that trouble. To achieve the same effect, just select Same Values, then set the percentage to 25%, and you’re done. Plus, you can take it one step further: If you unselect Same Values and move just one slider to a different position (such as the negative percentage of the other two), you get a color haze effect. For example, I produced pink haze by setting the sliders to 25%, then moving the red slider alone to -25%. Here’s what it looks like:

Monochrome Conversion

Many different filters are included in the “Monochrome” plug-in (I am placing it in quotation marks because it does much more than mere color-to-monochrome conversion). This is because luminosity of an image, or anything we look at, is the most important factor in human vision. It is luminosity that determines the visual shape of an object. That is why, for example, we can still distinguish shapes of objects in the dark. As long as there is some light available, we can see the shape of objects even if we cannot determine their colors. That is also what makes “black-and-white” photography and TV possible. The images are not truly black and white, rather they are shades of gray, i.e., luminosity.

First of all, you will find four monochrome filters. Why would you want them? After all, doesn’t all image editing software come with the ability to convert images to monochrome?

Maybe so, but there’s monochrome, and there’s monochrome. At least one popular program only allows you to convert the entire image to grayscale. It will reduce it to the 8-bit grayscale mode. But what if you only want to convert a selection to monochrome, like this:

You need a plug-in... And here it is.

But, wait, there is more! Compare these two images:

8-bit traditional 8-bit CIE

Can you see a difference? I hope so, although I am not counting on it because web browsers are often not good enough at showing subtle differences.

The image on the left uses traditional method of monochrome conversion developed at the time color TV was invented. It is now considered inexact because the phosphors in TV screens (and computer monitors) are different today than they were back then. Yet, it is the most commonly used monochrome conversion in computer graphics, probably because it is easy to implement in integer math.

The image on the right uses a slightly different method, or rather different luminosity factors for the red, green, and blue channels. These factors were defined by the CIE for the use with HDTV.

Both images are limited to 256 levels of gray, which is nice if you want to use the GIF file format.

For anything else, you want more levels. Take a look at these two images:

12-bit traditional 12-bit CIE

Again, the one on the left uses traditional luminosity factors, the one on the right, CIE factors. More importantly, they were converted using Rich Franzen’s pseudoGrey algorithm, which produces up to 1,786 levels of gray.

Here are all four again, so you can compare them: Traditional on the left, CIE on the right; 8-bit in the top line, 12-bit in the bottom line.

8-bit traditional 8-bit CIE

12-bit traditional 12-bit CIE

The Red Prince Pixie Dust collection then comes with four filters for monochrome conversion. However, they are combined into one plug-in, simply named Monochrome....

Custom Monochrome Conversion

In addition to the CIE and NTSC monochrome conversion methods, Pixie Dust Pro lets you select your own conversion factors. That means you can determine the weight of each channel for monochrome conversion. It can be any number, integer or decimal, positive, negative or zero.

The values are self-scaling. That means that if, for example, you choose red = 0, green = -24, and blue = 11, the conversion will ignore the red channel altogether, and put -24 parts of green and 11 parts of blue into each channel. Here’s what that looks like:

Please note that whatever factors you choose, they may not add up to 0. However, if they do, Pixie Dust Pro will simply choose some default factors instead.

Saturation

The Pro version has a very flexible saturation filter in the monochrome plug-in. It lets you set its value anywhere between -2.00 and +2.00.

If you set it to 0, you will simply get a monochrome image. If to 1.00, no change will happen. Values between 0 and 1 result in decreased saturation. Values above 1 increase it, and values below 0 negate it.

The free version contains these two, instead:

Increase Saturation

This filter increases the saturation of an image by a factor of 2. See below an original image, and one processed through this filter.

As you can see, the original does need some saturation boost, but perhaps not as much as the filter offers. No problem. I created a duplicate layer, used the filter on that layer, and set its opacity to 50%. Of course, it is much easier done in the Pro version by simply setting saturation to 1.50 (i.e., 150%). Here’s the result:

Quite a yummy dish of tofu!

But you can do more than just boost saturation with this filter. With the right picture you can produce some dramatic effects that go beyond everyday photography. For example, I took a picture of Lake Julia before sunrise:

Then I increased its saturation by the factor of 2. I did not do it just once, but three times. The result looks more like an impressionist painting than a photograph:

Negate Saturation

This one uses the same Pixie Dust filter, but with the factor of -1. As a result, the hue of the image is reversed, as in a negative, but with the luminosity of the original. To make the distinction clear, take a look at these two images:

The one on the left (or top if your browser cannot fit both next to each other) has been processed by the Negate Saturation filter. The one on the right is a regular negative created with my Flop All filter described elsewhere on this web site.

Again, with the right picture, you can produce some interesting visual effects. For example, the above picture of Lake Julia before sunrise set to the saturation of -2.0 looks quite dreamy:

Contour

Contour, surprisingly, is not that common in software, although it is produced by many hardware sfx generators. Indeed, a common misconception is that Posterize shows the contours in an image. In reality, the Posterize effect simply reduces the number of values in the red, green, and blue channels. But contours within an image depend on the luminosity of individual pixels. My Contour filter does just that, it reduces the number of levels of luminosity within an image, while preserving its hue and saturation.

The Contour filter, like all filters in the monochrome collection, allows the choice between CIE and NTSC modes. You can choose the level of contourization as well (2-256 levels). Naturally, the higher the number of levels, the less pronounced, and more subtle, the effect becomes.

Finally, the Monochrome... plug-in contains two duotone effects.

Gold Leaf

This filter produces a golden duotone effect (still in RGB mode):

Its effect is quite interesting when applied to embossed images.

Darkroom

Years ago I spent a lot of time in a darkroom, processing black-and-white film and making prints. I had a red light on, and always tried to see as much of the picture as possible.

This filter turns an image into what it would have looked like on black-and-white paper under that red light.

Other Duotones

Pixie Dust Pro lets you create a duotone based on any color, just like this:

Contrast

Several contrast filters are included. They will eventually be combined into one plug-in with many options available. But for now, we have:

Maximum Contrast

This plug-in reduces the image to eight colors: Red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, yellow, black, and white. That is how an image would look with its contrast at maximum level. The result is an interesting posterization effect:

Linear Contrast Filters

These are nothing new. They simply scale the image about the center value (medium gray). You probably already have this functionality available, but, of course, Pixie would not be complete without them. For now, this filter is implemented in two plug-ins, Increase Contrast and Decrease Contrast.

One scales each pixel up to 200% of its original value, the other down to 50%.

Non-Linear Contrast

This filter is, in my opinion, much more exciting. It does not just scale the image, it applies a trigonometric transformation. As a result, it always preserves the highlights of the image. Two plug-ins are included for now, Enhance Contrast and Reduce Contrast.

The former uses a blend factor of 1.0 (i.e., it just applies the filter), the latter, of -1.0 (i.e., it uses negative opacity).

Just to see how much more interesting the non-linear contrast transformation is, here are all four images again. The linear ones are above the non-linear:

Random Hue

This filter replaces the hue of each image with a random value. The result, however, is quite different from that of my Random Noise series:

Because human vision is more perceptive to shape (luminosity) of an image than its colors (hue), this image appears almost monochrome with color sprinkles all over it. But if you zoomed in close, you’d notice the image is not monochrome. It is an illusion, reminiscent of poor color reception on TV.

Randomize Hue

This is a similar filter, but the effect is different. Rather than replacing hue with random values, it multiplies the hue of each pixel by a random number between 0 and 2:

Note that both hue filters have stronger effect on pixels with high saturation. They have no effect on black, white, and gray pixels (or monochrome images).

Exposure Correction

Three different exposure filters are enclosed in Pixie Dust Pro to correct the exposure of an image.

They can underexpose the image. The effect is stronger on darker pixels in the original image. Thus, the image is darkened overall, but without the loss of highlights.

They can also make the image overexposed:

They also allow each channel to be controlled separately, so you can, for example, overexpose the red channel, and underexpose the blue channel, all at the same time.

In the free version, they are combined into one filter which either overexposes or underexposes the image.

Switches

It has come to my attention that certain professional quality monitors have a blue switch, i.e., a switch which turns off the red and green channels, so only the blue channel is displayed. I thought it would be useful to obtain the same functionality in software, so I can do the same on my computer. And, of course, a red switch and a green switch might be equally useful.

So, I created three new filters called, you guessed it, Red Switch, Green Switch, and Blue Switch. They do just what the hardware switch does: They delete two of the channels, and only keep whichever channel is in the filter name:

If you created slides from each, and projected them on the same screen, you would get the original image, as shown below. At least, that’s the theory, I have not actually tried it since I am not equipped for it.

Please note that the Red Switch is not the same as the Darkroom filter, which is a duotone derived from a monochrome combination of all three channels. The difference is clear if you compare the image on the left (Red Switch), with the one on the right (Darkroom).

Rheonic

Truly a Heraclitean filter, this one “can never enter the same effect twice.” To see what I mean, take a look at a NASA photograph of Saturn, and the same picture run through Rheonic three different times (each time starting with the same original):

Flute

No, flute is not a filter. If you have already tried my filters, or any of my software, you noticed what a speed freak I am. I write everything in assembly language to get the most performance out of the processor.

But, when I started working on my transcendental transforms, which are computationally very intensive, I started wondering how I could speed things up even further.

Of course, these filters were already faster than what I have seen coming out of even the biggest players in the filter industry, but they were not fast enough for me.

So, I came up with an algorithm I named flute. When working on images that come from my digital camera, the filters that use flute run about 4,000 (yes, four thousand) times faster.

And that’s a decent improvement even in my book. Naturally, I have applied flute not only to the transcendental transforms, but to all the existing filters that can benefit from it. That’s most of them.

Download Red Prince Pixie Dust

Download

To install Red Prince Pixie Dust, you need a computer running Windows 95 or better. You also need a floating point unit (FPU), also called math coprocessor. If you have a Pentium, the FPU is built in already.

Guess what. There are no special memory requirements. Pixie Dust is written in 100% assembly language, which makes it very small and very fast. If you can run Photoshop or a compatible program, you have enough memory to add Pixie Dust.

Just click on the dragon to download setup.exe and run it. It will install both, the library and the plug-ins, on your system.

Current plug-in version is 0.20. The library is version 0.20 as well. It contains all functionality that will be present in version 1.0. The only difference will be in user interface. I will group filters, and add more options. I have decided not to add anything new before version 1.0 because otherwise I would never release version 1.0 - too many new ideas are born every day.

Pixie Dust Pro

Click here to register
Click here to register

Should you get the free version, or the Pro version? That depends on your needs. If you are a casual user, the free version will satisfy all your needs.

If you spend much time editing images, you should upgrade to the Pro version. It gives you much more control over what you can do with your images.

What’s different in the Pro version? More options. You have already seen screen shots for several filters above. Now, let us compare the difference in the Monochrome filter family. Here are the options for the free version:

Monochrome filter - free version

You get to choose between NTSC and CIE conversion, and you get to choose between the 8-bit and deep gray, or contour, gold leaf, darkroom, or increase or negate saturation.

In the Pro version you get a larger preview window, but, more importantly, you have more options:

Monochrome filter - Pro version

You have everything as before, but you can choose your own monochrome conversion factors, you can choose any level of saturation between -2.00 and 2.00, and you can create a duotone effect based on any color.

As I said before, if you are an occasional hobbyist, the free version may satisfy all your needs. If you edit images regularly, the Pro version is the way to go.

Plus, take advantage of all these filters being put together in one collection. If they were distributed separately, they would cost anywhere between $500.00 - $700.00, and much more when version 1.0 is released. The price of version 1.0 has not been determined yet, though it will be at least $165. But right now you can register Pixie Dust Pro for only $143.

Naturally, as I add more features to newer versions, the registration price will go up. But that is really of no concern to you: Once you have registered, the newer versions of Red Prince Pixie Dust will automatically run in the Pro mode on your computer regardless of the increased price for new users. In other words, your registration is for life.

Registration is simple. First, download and install Red Prince Pixie Dust. Then get your serial number, as described below.

Once you have your serial number, load Photoshop (or whatever editor you use), choose Effects / Red Prince / About Pixie Dust Pro... and enter your serial number in the space provided (marked by a red arrow in the screenshot below). That’s all it takes!

Screenshot

You can register on the web using Register Now! safe server.

If you do not feel comfortable with web ordering, you can order by phone. The toll free number is 877-353-7297, or outside the US, you can call 1-425-392-2294. These numbers are for Register Now! only, not for Red Prince. They cannot answer technical questions, they only handle registrations.

You can also fax your order to 888-353-7276 (US) or 1-425-392-0223 (international).

You may also mail a check to:

Register Now!
Dept# 3553-1
PO Box 1816
Issaquah, WA 98027
United States of America

The checks need to be drawn in US dollars. They, unfortunately, do not accept Eurochecks.

Please note, if you are ordering by phone, fax, or mail, tell them you are ordering item 3553-1 (Red Prince Pixie Dust Pro).

Click here to register

Don’t be a stranger!

Please, don’t be a stranger! I want to hear from you. You can e-mail me (click on the dragons to get to the main menu, then go to the e-mail section of the site).

And you can participate in the online discussion forum available at http://pub6.ezboard.com/bredprinceatelierbbs.html

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