Review : Alien Skin Image Doctor 2

Fix your photos and film stills with this Photoshop plug-in.

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: Alien Skin Software, LLC

Price: $199.00 US

The Good

  • Rich feature set. Good performance on newer hardware. Convenient presets and views for editing.

The Bad

  • Somewhat pricey for a plug-in. Won’t work on Mac G4 processors. Doesn’t work well on seriously dusty photos.
Alien Skin, known for its Eye Candy Photoshop plug-in series, makes Photoshop worth the price of admission. For photographers and filmmakers who employ stills, Alien Skin offers two important tools: Blowup, which allows you to upscale images to increase resolution without degradation, and Image Doctor 2, to assist in restoring old photos and JPEGs. Here we examine Image Doctor 2.

The Filters

The Image Doctor 2 Photoshop 5-filter set includes tools for repairing rips, scratches, those annoying dust spots that shimmer and twinkle like stars as you zoom through a rich scan for video import. If you spend hours removing scanned dust spots with conventional Photoshop tools like the Brush and Rubber Stamp, Image Doctor 2 is a valuable plug-in.

There's a set of tools for digital cosmetology too. You can use Image Doctor 2 to remove unwanted blemishes; handy for removing that regrettable tattoo from a subject's skin. Image Doctor 2 even has presets to soften the undesirable sheen that lighting often adds to skin tone. There are dozens more examples on the Alien Skin website.

The Interface

The toolset is so rich Alien Skin provides its own interactive filter interface. A nice feature is the vector-configurable Split View, a before-after display that includes a diagonal divider - useful for gauging subtle improvements you've made in oddly shaped subjects that don't fall into the straight vertical or horizontal. You can deploy factory settings for filters or tweak and save them as your own custom settings, which are all timesavers. The handsomely laid out dialog is easy to use too.

Image Doctor 2 screen

Interface with Dusty Slide Scan of ilene's Mother
The top cheek area was filled with black dust.

The JPEG restoration set should also interest filmmakers who have nothing but JPEG's to animate. Normally this heavily compressed format is poison to video, but the format is everywhere now, with sources coming from digital still cameras and mobile phones.

Artifact Removal

The most noticeable artifact of JPEG compression is the blockies. Image Doctor 2 reduces these annoying block-like artifacts. Without Image Doctor 2, you could spend hours dressing up inferior photos for presentation, flailing about with Gaussian Blur, then Sharpen, then Blur, etc. While a JPEG will never approach the quality of a native Photoshop file or a TIFF of the same size, you get very respectable results.

Image Doctor 2 screen

"The Blockies" get deblocked with Image Doctor 2

Image Doctor 2 improves on the original release's rendering speed and quality, with Mac and Windows multiprocessor capability. Its simplified interface offers new skin enhancement power, and improved JPEG face lifting. There's also an update for Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) on the site.

For those who use the entire feature set, Image Doctor 2 is well worth the $199.00. The only real downside is backward compatibility. On Macintosh, you'll need a G5 CPU with Mac OSX 10.4 or later, and either Adobe's Photoshop CS2 (9.0.2), Photoshop Elements 4, Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 or Adobe Fireworks CS3 or later to enjoy this cool tool.

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Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor