General Usage

Before using Plugin Galaxy you have to start your preferred image editing application and open an image or photo. Please note that Plugin Galaxy only works on images in 8bit or 16bit RGB and grayscale mode. If your image has only 256 colors or is a CMYK image, you have to convert it in your image application to RGB before you can start working on it with Plugin Galaxy. If the opened image is not RGB or grayscaled, Plugin Galaxy will appear grayed out on the menu.

To run Plugin Galaxy please open the menu that leads to the plugin filters (usually the "Filter", "Effects" or "Image -> Plug-ins" menu) and choose "Plugin Galaxy 3" from "The Plugin Site" sub menu.


Basic Design

Plugin Galaxy offers four modes: Novice Mode, Classic Mode, Manual Mode and Expert Mode. Expert Mode offers all controls whereas the other three have several controls hidden to make it easier for beginners to start. For more information see the Modes page. Plugin Galaxy features a total of more than 160 effects which are sorted into 17 different filter groups. For more information on the various filter groups, please read the Effects page. Additionally Plugin Galaxy offers preset and layer options, which are described on the Modes page. If you want to batch process images, please read the Cloak Mode page.


The Preview

On the left-hand side of the dialog box is the preview box that shows you what the final effect will look like. When executing Plugin Galaxy it will always display the full image in the preview. This is also the recommended way to work on an image. If you zoom into the image, only a part of the image is displayed in the preview. The image can then be moved by holding down the left mouse button and moving the mouse. While it is moved, the original image is shown, and after you release the left mouse button the preview is recalculated.

Some effects allow you to set a preview coordinate, which is displayed as a cross, by right clicking on the preview. This influences the look of the effect. You can also interactively drag the cross over the preview by holding down the right mouse button. If an effect supports preview coordinates, you a small cross appears in the hand cursor.


The Zoom Buttons and Zoom Check Box

At the right bottom of the preview box you can see a '+' and '-' button with a percentage label in between. These zoom buttons let you adjust the size of the image in the preview box. 100% means that the original size of the image is displayed.

By default when starting Plugin Galaxy, the zoom rate will be automatically set to make the image fit into the preview. If you hold the Shift key when pressing one of the zoom buttons, the zoom factor will be set to the highest (100%) or lowest acceptable value (fitted zoom). If you hold the CTRL key when pressing one of the zoom buttons, the zoom factor will be set to the highest (100%) or lowest possible value (6%). To jump from one preview zoom rate to another you can use the zoom combo box which is located between the two zoom buttons. It also offers the option "Fit" which should be used most of the time.

For more convenience use the Fit button, which activates the Fit zoom option, and the 100% button, which switches to a 100% preview zoom.


Auto Preview, Progress Bar and Preview Coordinates

If the Preview check box is deactivated, the effect will not be displayed on the preview and you will see the original image. Alternatively, you can also see the original image by clicking on the preview.

The progress bar is displayed while an effect is rendered. After the effect is displayed in the preview, you will see three figures on the progress bar. The one indicated how many milliseconds it took to render the effect for the preview, the second displays the number tells you how many frames per second can be displayed with the animation feature and finally the third value estimates how long it would take to apply the effect to the full image after pressing OK.

The label at the right hand side of the progress bar shows the current preview coordinate. Click on it to display a menu for setting the preview coordinate at a special position.


The Animation Box

The Play button display as an animation in the preview. The animation is produced with the help of random slider values. While the animation plays you can use the other controls, e.g. change the zoom, drag a slider, choose another effect. To stop the animation, click on the same button again. The Play button is a nice way to see what effects a filter can produce and a big help for finding an fitting effect. If you have a slow computer, try decreasing the zoom to make the animation run more smoother.

Clicking arrow down button at the left of the Play button displays a menu for controlling how fluid and fast the animation runs. The top half of the menu lets you choose the number of frames per second that are displayed. The Auto option automatically chooses a frame rate that is suitable for your computer's processor. The second half of the menu lets you choose the speed with which the animation is running. You can choose a speed from "Slower" to "Faster".

The Jump button assigns random values to the filter parameters. You can use it during the animation or after the animation was stopped. The Default button sets the filter parameters back to some default values.


The Help & Prefs Tab Sheets

The Help feature makes it easier for new users to get started and makes it possible to use Plugin Galaxy without a glance at the manual. Other than that it can provide useful hints on how to use Plugin Galaxy. If you move the mouse over a certain control, the text box will display some explanations and hints about that control. After you know all about Plugin Galaxy, you can deactivate these explanations by deactivating the check box in the bottom right corner of the Help box. We recommend that you keep it nevertheless activated.

The Prefs tab sheets offers two combo boxes and various check boxes. The Interpolation combo box determines the effect quality of the Feedback, Grid & Glass and Warp effect groups. It also influences certain Filter Factory effects. The default setting is "Bicubic", which produces the highest quality, but also requires the longest render time. For a slightly less sharp but two times faster result choose "Bilinear". The "None" setting produces sharp but pixelated results (but still less pixelated than Plugin Galaxy 2). The Fast check box deactivates interpolation (like the "None" setting) during slider dragging, preview cross dragging and preview animation. This updates the preview faster and displays more frames per second.

The Skin combo box lets you choose between 15 skin types. Skinning means that the user interface receive a new look. There are different options for imitating the user interface of Lightroom, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro. There is also a dark version of Aero (the default UI style of Windows Vista/7), a special PhotoWiz skin style as well as an option to only skin the sliders. Each skin sets its own preview background color, but you can change it again with the Preview color box that is discussed next. The None option of the Skin combo box recreates the standard controls and deactivates skinning, which requires restarting Plugin Galaxy.

If you encounter any problems, you can deactivate the support for multiple cores and hyperthreading processors with the Multi-CPU Off check box. But this usually also make the rendering much slower. The number in brackets displays how many CPUs were detected. For example, for a hyperthreading quad core processor you will see "8 CPUs" displayed. If you only have a non-hyperthreading, single core processor, this check box will disabled by default.

The Constant Size check box is activated by default and should be kept activated. If it deactivated, the many Plugin Galaxy effects will be image size dependent and look different on images of different size. Only deactivate it if you want to reproduce an effect from a earlier version of Plugin Galaxy.

If the Settings by Group check box is deactivated, then each filter has its own settings. If you want to have the same settings for each filter group, you can activate the Settings per Group check box. Alternatively you can also use the Copy Settings option from the arrow-down button menu, although doing that more than a few times can be a bit inconvenient. If the Instant Sliders check box is activated, the preview is updated with every movement a slider knob. If the Instant Sliders is not activated, the preview is updated after you released a slider knob. The Hide Cross check box prevents the preview cross from being displayed. It also makes switching between effect layers in Manual and Expert Mode faster, because the preview does not need to be updated if the preview cross is not displayed.


OK, Cancel and ?

Clicking on the OK button exits Plugin Galaxy and applies the effect to the image. The current settings are saved and restored when you use Plugin Galaxy again. The Cancel button simply exits Plugin Galaxy without changing the image. The current settings will be saved and restored, however. You can also cancel by clicking on the second icon in the top right corner of the Window.

If you hold down the CTRL key while clicking on OK or Cancel, you will be prompted for Cloak Mode. In Cloak Mode the current settings will be applied to the image without displaying the Plugin Galaxy dialog. For more information, please read the Cloak Mode page.


Changing the Window Size

You can enlarge the Plugin Galaxy window to get a larger preview. However, doing that will also increase the time that Plugin Galaxy needs to update the preview.

To resize the Plugin Galaxy window and make the preview larger under Windows you have to move your cursor to the border of the Plugin Galaxy window. The cursor will then turn into a double arrow. Holding down the left mouse button and dragging the mouse changes the size of the window. Clicking on the first icon in the top right corner will maximize the window. Clicking it again will restore the old window size.

You can also drag the handle at the bottom right of the ContrastMaster dialog to make the dialog larger.