The following review was written by Roberto
Muscia, a first time user of Filter Forge, in July 2009:
The review is based on using FilterForge on a 32-bits single processor
Microsoft Windows XP system.
However, FilterForge currently supports single, two and four processor
systems and is available for Microsoft Windows (2000/ XP/ Vista)
as well as (new!) Apple OS X operating systems.
The stand-alone even works under 64-bits operating systems (Win
First it might be a good thing to start this review with briefly
summarizing a few features of FilterForge so that you can get an
overall impression of what it can do:
- Applying -resolution independent- graphical effect filters to
8-, 16*- and 32*-bits images by choosing from a categorized and
thumbnailed, easily extendable menu of effect filters. (* FilterForge
Trial and Professional licenses only)
- The program can be started up either as stand-alone or as an (Adobe
Photoshop-compatible) plugin (in the last case 32-bits images might
not be supported, depending on the image editor FilterForge is run
- The list of installed filters can easily be extended with a click
of a button which gives the user access to an organized online library
of thousands of free* and yet high quality filters, created by other
FilterForge users. (* Depending on the FilterForge Edition there
is an (un)limited number of downloads from the online Filter Library).
- New effect filters easily can either be created from scratch or
existing filters can be modified through an intuitively layed-out
graphical user interface which requires not even the slightest bit
of programming skills. In the Filter Editor one simply can drag
items from a large categorized toolbox of basic filtertools, connect
the modules together with input- and outputlines and set certain
options in the modules. All-in-all very intuitively and effective.
PURCHASE OPTIONS AND INSTALLATION:
FilterForge currently is available in no less than six Editions
each in a different price range, starting from symbolic prices upto
just over $200. In the free one month Trial everything is fully
functional as if it's a licensed Professional Edition. The number
of functional features depend on the Edition you have a license
Installation is straight forward: during setup you choose a location
on your computer where you want FilterForge to be installed and
in which installed (recognized) editors you want the FilterForge
plugin (.8bf) additionally to be installed to.
When starting FilterForge for the very first time you will instantly
notice that the layout of the dialog looks clear and intuitively.
It is easy to figure out how everything works even without reading
the well written help feature. The FilterForge plugin accessed through
an image editor basically starts up the stand-alone (within a few
seconds) with only one visible difference: the "Save image
as" button is replaced by an "Apply" button.
In the main dialog you can browse through installed categorized
filters, look at filter example thumbnails, select one, choose a
preset and/ or set the available filter controls to your taste.
The large preview updates instantly when changing anything.
Once a filtersetting is chosen you can apply it to the image (save
image or return to image editor).
It doesn't matter how large your original image is; the effects
are resolution independent and therefore always will produce high
quality results. One sacrifice for that is that is rendering speed
(the larger the image the longer it takes to render; particularly
when complex filters are applied). Most major image editors nowadays
support the use of "Adobe Photoshop-compatible" plugins.
High quality is not what ordinary plugins always offer since they
might be resolution dependent.
FILTERS ... WANNA MORE!
No problem, simply click on the "Filter Library" link
and you will be brought to the online Filter Library. There you
can browse through currently 6100+, but ever growing, free* and
high quality filters, created by other FilterForge users. The filters
are conveniently organized in different categories like textures,
frames, photo, organic, techno, distortion, etc. If you found anything
you like just click on the "Open in FilterForge" button.
That's all what it takes to extend the menu of your installed filters
in FilterForge. It's remarkable that the filter selection available
in the online Filter Library are pretty much all of medium to high
quality while they are totally free of charge: it depends on the
FilterForge Edition you have, how many Filters you can retrieve
from the Filter Library. With the FilterForge Basic Edition and
up you can download as many as you want, whenever you want.
the node structure of a very complex filter
CREATING OWN FILTERS:
Entering the Filter Editor is just as simple: with a click of a button
the Filter Editor dialog shows up and the currently active filter
is shown in every seperate component of it: kind of a flowchart of
the fundamental filter modules and connection lines are shown in a
graphical way in the editor's workspace. Modiying existing filters
is a good start to get the hang of it: dragging lines to other module
inputs to see what happens. Open the "Components" column,
drag a component into the workspace, add some connections between
modules and play a bit around this way to get a feeling how it works.
Tiny filter changes this way can produce totally different filters
or improve them to what you had in mind. Or you can just add more
control to existing filters by adding sliders. For more thorough understanding
and flexibility it's wise at least to consult the Filter Editor section
in FilterForge's help feature so you can get more understanding of
what the individual tools are for. Then it doesn't need to take long
until you are able to create your own filters which you never imagined
being able to.
Eventually you might want to submit your own filters to the online
Filter Library yourself, and if they get popular with the Filter Forge
users, you can even earn rewards including a free copy of Filter Forge.
All installed and (sharable) custom filters are stored in a seperate
folder in the FilterForge programfolder (comes to handy when backing
up your collection of filters). There's a handy search tool in the
"Filter" menu worth to know about: clicking on the "Locate
Filter" option a Windows Explorer dialog pops up with instantly
the currently active filter highlighted. This way one quickly can
locate a certain filter on the computer, even when they have undescriptive
- The program can be run on many modern operating systems and take
advantage of the available hardware performance.
- Intuitive user interface is logically set up and very practical
to work with.
- FilterForge is a powerfull source to a large number of usefull and
high quality filters for only a fraction of the costs compared with
gathering Adobe Photoshop-compatible plugins: usefull plugins can
be quite expensive, especially the very good ones.
- FilterForge is an ideal alternative to create new or modify existing
graphical filters because there's no need to know anything about programming.
Anybody can do it and it's an exiting process, too!
- FilterForge is available in a number of different Editions in different
price ranges so there must be one Edition that suits someone's needs
and affordability perfectly: actually ALL Editions are great value
for the money. Besides, users can always upgrade anytime they like.
- The Help feature is thoroughly written in a clear, informative and
- Filter rendering time can be significant, especially with large
images or relatively complex filters.
- Menu of installed filters lacks of organizability: self-created
and modified filters are added to the "My Filters" category
and apart from that there's only one other ("favorites")
menu category inwhich the user can affect its contents.
- Saving a result to jpg doesn't show any visually feedback when setting
the jpg image quality.
- Additional Patterns and Textures for filter design cannot be imported;
would be nice if other images for that purpose could be imported eventough
that would affect resolution-independency.
- There can only one filter be applied at a time to an image; would
be practical if filters could be applied one after the other without
saving the image first or going back to the image editor and back.
- The Help-feature is not available in pdf.
- A version for Linux is not (yet?) available.
- The Random generator affects ALL sliders in a filter; would be usefull
if one or more filtercontrols could be protected from being affected
by the Random generator.
Personally I think the simpler FilterForge Editions are an amazing
value for money for those who like to use a wide diversity of high
quality effect filters in their workflow. And for people who are interested
in creating their own filters, while not knowing anything about programming
languages, the Standard and Pro Editions are an easy, fun, effective
window to that goal. Actually I found once you get the hang of it,
after messing around with FilterForge for an evening or so, it actionally
starts to be addictive!
For those who got attracted to FilterForge after reading this review:
have a great time playing with the demo! ;-P