• Price: 75

  • Company: Alien Skin Software

  • Pros: Large set of controls. Many presets with more available online.

  • Cons: Cheesy effects. Slow. Fiddly to use. Emphasis on small/Web images.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 5 out of 10 We rate this 5 out of 10

Photoshop plug-ins have come a long way since the cheesy filter effects that made up the first few generations. Now you can buy truly creative tools for everything from compositing to authentic recreations of photo lenses and gels. Snap Art, however, is a throwback to an old age.

As a concept, Snap Art makes a lot of sense. Photoshop’s faux natural-media tools – such as Colored Pencil and Watercolor – are notoriously ropey and no designer will touch them. Snap Art aims to make them usable by offering a much wider set of options and multiple presets, so you can flick through to find the approximate look you want and then fine-tune it to get a realistic result.

The problem is that it can’t. We found getting a realistic-looking pencil sketch, oil painting or watercolour from SnapArt nigh-on impossible. We don’t expect perfect realism, but the plug-in’s results reminded us of the kind of images found on low-rent tourism Web sites, no matter what settings were used.

No cheese please

Snap Art’s ten filters cover pen and pencil techniques through Color Pencil, Comics, Pen and Ink, and Pencil Sketch – and the faux paint effects of Impasto, Oil Paint, Pastel, Pointillism and Stylize. The first set is more successful at coming up with images you could actually use – with the Comics filter producing some interesting cartoon-style output – but almost everything coming out of the paint tools looks cheesy.

The filters can be fiddly to use too. When you apply a filter, your image appears in the Snap Art dialog at 100 per cent. Zooming out to fit your image to see the overall effect would have been more sensible.

Just like their Photoshop equivalents, Snap Art’s filters are very slow. Every change made in Snap Art’s dialog required a wait of between ten and 30 seconds to redraw the preview on a medium-resolution (approximately 2,000-x-3,000 pixels) stock image.

A plug-in that doesn’t add much to the host application can only really be deemed a waste of time.