• Price When Reviewed: 109

  • Pros: Excellent cartoon- and graphic novel-style output; lots of flexibility to styles.

  • Cons: Slow; many redundant options.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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This review is taken from our group test of Photoshop CS4 plug-ins.

Like Akvis’ Sketch, Digital Anarchy’s ToonIt Photo replicates a hand-drawn style well that almost all plug-ins do very badly indeed. In ToonIt’s case, it’s comics – covering techniques from black-and-white outlined cartoons to full graphic novel-style art.

After applying the plug-in, you choose the type of shading and colour flattening you want to use in the Style Creator panel. There are 12 options here; the key ones are Flat Shaded or Flat Detailed. The others range from the mediocre, such as Crackle, to the pointless (Goth).

Each of the styles has a series of options for how it’s applied, with Flat Shaded offering Flatness, Simplicity and Strength to change how flat your colours are and how much detail from your original image is preserved.

To the left of the Style Creator is the Effects Palette, which gives six tabbed sets of controls: Blur/Color, Halftone, Stipple, Shadow, Outline, and Marker Outlines. The most useful controls here are the blurs, which work before the cartoon effect is applied for flatter tonal areas; the duotones for lighter flat areas that contrast with the black outlines; halftones for newspaper and Roy Lichtenstein-type effects; and a choice of comic and soft outlines.

In the top right corner is a list of presets in a cramped box that gives you an idea of ToonIt’s flexibility. The useful ones range from the old colour newsprint of ‘1940’s ad’, to the detailed graphic novel styles, to the unusual ‘MacPaint drawing’. There are some duds, including Frank Miller-style black-heavy attempts that never work.

ToonIt Photo is slow, with changes taking a few seconds to render. However, it runs as a Smart Filter and in every colour space Photoshop supports – even 32-bit.

Supported hosts: Photoshop CS3/CS4, Fireworks CS4