Flaming Pear WebMaster plug-ins

by Joe Gillespie — Aug 1, 2004

Flaming Pear have been producing Photoshop format plug-in for a number of years now. I've already bought several of them and have been very pleased with the results.

The WebMaster Series, as the name suggests, is aimed specifically at Web designers and is actually a set of three separate plug-ins. They are Photoshop 3 format plug-ins, so they will work in any program that supports that standard. Apart from the obvious Adobe ones – Photoshop, ImageReady, Elements and Illustrator on Mac or Windows, they also work in PaintShop Pro and others.

When you are using 8-bits or less paletted images for GIFs or PNGs, it's always a compromise between image quality and file size. The fewer the colours, the smaller the size, but the image either has to posterise or dither. With dithering, you are juxtaposing coloured pixels in an attempt to create an illusion of intermediate colours. How successful this is depends very much on how far you are prepared to go. Dithering red and yellow pixels of similar tone to make an orange will work reasonably well but the further apart the tones or colors are, the more spotty the results will look.

Web Scrubber gives you a lot of control over how your images look as low-bitdepth GIFs (or PNGs). You can instantly preview different colour depths and adjust brightness and contrast. A set of RGB sliders go from what is effectively 'adaptive' colors over to 'Web safe'. Colours being 'Web safe' is no longer a big issue as most modern computers run in 16 or 24-bit these days.

An interesting feature is the 'randomise' button, which will set a different color depth and palette with each click and will allow you to explore a lot of 'special effects' options very quickly.

Web Scrubber

Where Web Scrubber is for controlling dithering and keeping images as close to their originals as possible, Web Posterize assumes that you are not so concerned about the original image and want a deliberate high colour contrast effect.

The original RGB file can be processed using six slider controls, which shift the colours towards, or away from, red, green and blue. You can also control brightness and contrast. The resulting image will be much smaller in size than the original because of the colour reduction but there is also the opportunity to 'spice-up' a mundane or ordinary image to make it more visually interesting.

Again, a 'randomize button' provides lots of effects that you probably wouldn't have arrived at deliberately. Buttons to desaturate or invert (negative) the image are also provided.

Browser Preview

Browser Preview shows how an image will look in a web browser under the influence of GIF and JPEG compression, Macintosh/Windows color sets, GIF bit depth, and different computer monitors.

Browser Preview is the most useful of the three plug-ins. It lets you see what an image will look like in GIF or JPEG format at any compression setting and will also show you the effect of different screen gammas – like the difference between Mac and PC screens, for instance. You can switch dithering on or off and use 'Web safe' colors if you want to.

The big difference between this plug-in and your graphics program's built-in facilities, is that you can preview a selection of an image. When you OK the effect, only the selected portion of the original image is processed – which would allow you to have different compression amounts within a GIF image with more colours/detail in the main subject area and lesser detail in the background or areas of less importance.

The plug-in doesn't actually save the file in the chosen format, it only shows what the end result will look like and what the file size is likely to be. For a JPEG, you shouldn't process the image at all and should press 'Cancel' otherwise you will be further compressing something that already has been degraded.

For GIFs (or PNGs) you can 'Ok' the effect and then save the image using 'Adaptive' to produce a pixel-for-pixel copy.

Common to all three plug-ins is the ability to save or load the settings so that effects are repeatable.

Most of the effects and facilities offered by this set of plug-ins can be produced by other means in most graphics programs – with a little more effort. You can try them for free 30 days and if you find them useful, the price is only $39 for the set.

And, have a look at some of the other Flaming Pera plug-ins – India Ink is particularly impressive!

Flaming Pear WebMaster Series plug-ins
Features red bar85%
Ease of Use yellow bar90%
Value for Money green bar85%
'Must Have' Factor blue bar70%
Manufacturer Flaming Pear
Price $39 – Mac and Windows
Summary Useful, if not essential plug-ins
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