By Lola Wong:
Lola here with a review on Image Doctor 2 from Alien Skin Software, the Photoshop plug-in that restores, retouches, removes and repairs photos and images.
Over the past few weeks, I had an opportunity to put this plug-in through the ringer as several large projects landed in my lap that could potentially benefit from using Image Doctorâ€™s â€˜unique software algorithmsâ€™. The software claims to be able to restore old photos such as healing a rip or scratch, retouch new photos such as removing blemishes and softening wrinkles, remove unwanted objects like an entire person from a party photo and even repair low quality JPEG images by smoothing out some of the aliasing that occurs.
My first test actually came from installation – unfortunately, Image Doctor 2 only runs on a PowerPC with a G5 processor or Intel processor, which basically ruled out my Powerbook G4. The software does need a hefty processor to run the filter and of course it needs a host application like Adobe Photoshop CS2 particularly later versions as well as a few other host applications (You can check out the acceptable system requirements on alienskin.com website.) Just be aware if youâ€™re working on anything less, as chances are you wonâ€™t even be able to install Image Doctor 2 much less run it.
After successfully installing it on a Mac Pro running Photoshop CS2 9.0.2, running Image Doctor 2 is as easy as applying a filter in Photoshop. It sits under the filter menu, and then pops up a preview window with 5 factory settings to choose from: Blemish Concealer, Dust and Scratch Remover, JPEG Repair, Skin Softener, and Smart Fill. Each setting has sub-settings for fine-tuning the particular repair, and you can even create custom a user setting.
The interface gives various preview styles so you can magnify an area and do split screen previews of the original state and the new state. The preview can take a few seconds (and by a few I mean 3-5 seconds) to render on screen even on the mac pro, but undeniably is helpful when deciding on what setting is the best to use for the repair.
I tested Image Doctor 2 on various images: a digital photo portrait, a scanned slide with quite a bit of dust on it, and a scanned older photo with slight rip. It was quickly revealed that this is truly a very powerful tool. Although it is not a miracle-worker plugin that will take your entire image and remove all the imperfections in one click (believe me, I canâ€™t wait for that software to be developed), if used like the stamp tool or dodge & burn tools, in small selected areas, Image Doctor 2 seems to calculate several conditions and amazingly adjusts the selected area with similar fill and levels to itâ€™s surrounding environment, thus making the repair look natural in a fraction of the time it would take to touch up using the base tools in photoshop. Thatâ€™s the key thing with Image Doctor 2 â€“ Photoshop experts can probably recreate the same effects with native Photoshop tools, but this plug-in can make the retouching process much faster and with not nearly as much fine tuning or effort to blend in a cut and paste or stamp fill with the surrounding areas.
I was able to remove blemishes and smooth out wrinkles in a digital photo that normally would have taken much longer with stamp & blur and cutting & pasting small areas. Image Doctor 2 was able to not only remove unwanted artifacts or patch up a scratch in the ripped scan photo, but it made the replacement fill look more natural than any Healing Brush and Patch Tool could do. The dusty slide became quite a challenge as Image Doctor 2 is best used in small selected areas, so itâ€™s obviously best to start with as clean of an image as you can.
I recommend Image Doctor 2 to those who use photoshop to retouch or restore photos on a regular basis. Priced at $199 USD, Iâ€™d first recommend it to professionals and designers for the amount of time it can cut down on retouching and repairing. For the novice working with images & photos, if youâ€™re only doing small touch ups or repairs, the retouch button in iPhoto will probably suffice. However, itâ€™s definitely worth the $199 if you want to play around with removing unwanted items from photos and fixing an image with a complicated background. Remember, you still need to put in a bit of effort in the retouching or removing of objects, but the results from using Image Doctor 2 are pretty amazing. Although it isnâ€™t a magical filter that can restore a photo in one full swoop, it certainly is a powerful tool and one that is easy enough to use.
You can check out before and after examples of retouched photos using Image Doctor 2, and download a fully functional 30-day demo from alienskin.com.