Best Buy
  • Price: 109

  • Company: Alien Skin Software

  • Pros: Better results than other solutions. The add grain tool delivers richer results than the competition. Works with 16- and 32-bit images.

  • Cons: Can take a while to process images.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

Alien Skin’s Blow Up is a plug-in tool for Adobe Photoshop that deviates from the company’s usual fare. It doesn’t offer wacky image effects, but instead lets you boost the resolution of an image up to 3,600 per cent.

There are several of these products on the market – including OnOne Software’s pxl SmartScale and Genuine Fractals. Digit uses both tools, particularly to boost film stills in the Projects section. All work using different technology and give varied results – photographic images work best, but they often fall down on line art.

New entrant Blow Up is something of a revelation. Once installed, it lives under the Automation menu in Photoshop CS, and delivers a preview of the enlarged image. It supports CMYK images, as well as 16- and 32-bit files.

Once selected, it delivers a no-nonsense interface that allows you to scale an image by percentage or other measurement, set the resolution, and navigate around the enlarged file.

Better still, it offers two unique sliders – a Sharpen Amount and an Add Grain option. The former focuses on high-contrast edges, reducing haloing and pixelation, while the latter can add texture back into an enlarged image. This is a boon, as many scaling tools produce very flat images, with smudged colours – kind of like a watercolour effect.

We found Blow Up to produce better results than its competitors – a film still enlarged to A3 was a smidge better than pxl SmartScale. You can see the resulting image on page 52 of Digit 105 in our feature on Snakes On A Plane. The opening image was enlarged from a 10MB file to a 65MB file.

Blow Up shows its mettle when working with line art – graphic-heavy files were sharper and richer in comparison tests, with a clearly visible difference in image quality.

The only downside is the zoom controls didn’t work in our test version, and it does take around twice the time to process an image as its competitors. But, for pixel pushers regularly looking to boost images, there is none better.