Extensis pxl SmartScale Review
A Photoshop plug-in, it makes simple and painless the often-needed task of scaling graphics up or down in size with minimal loss of detail. It does this from within the most common graphic-manipulation software or as a stand alone program. Since it preserves color and brightness data without the need for intervention from the user, you can scale — up to 1600% — a small image and maintain its visual integrity.
Precise Scaling of Photographic Images
Put to work on a 58K JPG photo, pxl SmartScale enabled this user to scale up from 1.5 inches square to 5 inches square, live, in real time. It was clear that some pixel smoothing was necessary since the original image was overly compressed and had some ragged edges. In the Detail portion of the program, smoothing was done gradually until the image lost some of its unattractive sharpness, while maintaining all the essential image information.
Using a 1.5MB digital camera image of 16 x 22 inches at 300dpi, within Photoshop, we made the image one-third smaller and took the bright edges down using varying degrees of blue and unsharp mark filters, with each step visible only after hitting Enter. If this was not successful, the step had to be undone and repeated. We then put the same image into pxl SmartScale, reduced it one-third, and the smoothing and edge detail were addressed live. Comparing the two images at 1600% and 600%, there were some clear differences in how the pixels had been handled in Photoshop that showed detail loss, color changes, and some slight darkening. In the pxl SmartScale copy, none of these changes occurred, and when compared to the original image at 600%, was identical to this user’s discerning eye. Tested against the user’s tools available within Photoshop, pxl SmartScale handled the job in 1/10th the time and results were 10% better!
There are other plug-ins that can do what pxl SmartScale does, some shareware or freeware. And any user can scale images in Photoshop without a plug-in. But at $199, Extensis is offering the unique PixelLive technology from Celartem Technology, Inc., which adds a valuable dimension to scaling images and graphics. It’s possible an expensive one, but this user found that the savings in time and effort could well make the price worth it over time.
Though deceptively simple, with an intuitive interface (especially for native Photoshop users), Extensis pxl SmartScale is a workhorse of a plug-in, and now a new staple for me in Photoshop.