10 Must-Have Photoshop Plugins That Are Free

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I'm a professional landscape photographer living on the coast of Maine. Through my work, I like to show a vantage point that is rarely seen in reality; a show of beauty, emotion, and serenity. Feel free to visit my website.

If you’re looking for new and creative ways to edit or enhance your images,  plugins can make your Photoshop workflow go so much smoother. Whether you want to add some noise or create some stunning color effects, we’ve got a fantastic list for you – and all completely free!

1. virtualPhotographer by optikVerve Labs

For those who haven’t grasped all the nooks and crannies of Photoshop yet, or simply don’t want to spend hours tweaking an image, virtualPhotographer is a simple plugin that has over 200 presets for you to apply to your images. There is also a very nifty split-screen preview function that allows you to see the before-and-after of your edit.

2. SuperPNG by fnord

This incredible plugin works with Photoshop to process and save PNG files much faster, and also saves them in a smaller size. If you work with PNG files often but dread the amount of time it takes to process them, then this plugin is for you.

3. Curves by Mehdi

If you haven’t mastered the idea behind curves yet, this plugin has eight common presets to select from, allowing you to choose which one compliments your photo the best.

4. B/W Conversion by photo-plugins.com

While you can change your image to black and white in Photoshop, this plugin takes it a step further by allowing you to select presets that imitate the common tonal effects of popular black and white films. Those who have an appreciation for black and white analog photography will enjoy this versatile plugin.

5. Local Contrast Enhancement by photo-plugins.com

Another great resource from photo-plugins.com, this Photoshop plugin allows you to accurately increase the contrast without losing too much detail. The effects from this are more representative of an image sharpening plugin rather than a contrast adjustment, but it still works nicely as it can also help clear up any “cloudiness” in your photo. Before-and-after samples are available on their website linked above.

6. Photomatic by Cybia Software

This Photoshop file has 8 different plugins in one, ranging from a night-vision effect to replicating the fast, grainy effects of b/w film. You may not find use for all of the plugins, but it’s definitely a great collection to experiment with.

7. Grain Generator by Richard Rosenman

A fully customizable grain producer that also looks fantastic on color images. Richard also has many other free Photoshop plugins on his download page.

8. Hot Pixel by Red Paw Media

If you’re a digital photographer, then you’ve encountered the annoying hot pixels that plague long exposures, especially taken in low-light situations. This handy plugin can automatically detect and remove those hot pixels without having to use your clone stamp or healing brush.

9. Wire Worm by MV’s Plugins

Personally, I can’t wait to use this plugin. If you have outdoor images spoiled with telephone wires draping across your skyline, then this tool will help you remove them without spending hours with your clone stamp. The best part about this plugin is that it has unlimited undo/redo and advanced color matching for seamless patches.

10 . Plug-In Switch by Cybia Software

With all your new plugins, you need a seamless way to organize them before things get out of control. This plugin is actually an application that organizes your existing plugins by allowing you to disable and enable them with a single click, which will cut down on your PS desktop clutter.

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28 thoughts on “10 Must-Have Photoshop Plugins That Are Free

      1. Morgan

        How do you use virtual photographer is CS5? I can’t find it under the filter tab, which is where it is supposed to be, in order to apply any of the plugins to my photos.

        1. Bren

          Going by several articles I’ve read, Virtual Photographer will run on CS5 on a 32 Bit system. If you’re trying to install VP with CS5 on 64 Bit you’re out of luck,,as am I unfortunately

        2. Jason

          By default, the plugin is saved to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Photoshop Elements 7.0\Plug-Ins\Filters. If you are using it on CS5, you have to change the dir to C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Photoshop CS5\Plug-ins\Filters

    1. Drew

      You should keep a alt copy of photoshop on a old junker just for plugins and stuff. I have every version needed for compatibility. It’s a good guess that you probably have a junker collecting dust :P

      I set all mine up with virtual access so I don’t even need a screen for them. It’s always good to have for extra storage,older software,version of windows, and the rest of that good stuff ^^ Plus since it’s all on the same network the virtual usage works pretty much flawless.

      As much as we upgrade computers in this day and age it’s good to put the old ones to some use. I hate to throw away computers or sell them for next to nothing.

      I think I might be a junkie I do have about 30 systems in my lab “A crappy plywood table and box fans in the basement” I lug my ass down there once a month or so to clean them up and make sure my damn cat has not been trying to eat the wires.

  1. Dave Lundy

    Thanks! Now that CS5 has Content Aware Fill & Photoshop Elements 9 has essentially the same function in its Spot Healing Brush, is Wire Worm still needed? I’ve got a few photos that could use Hot Pixel.

  2. Christopher

    Hi Dave –

    That really depends on your image…PS5 can work very well in removing it, but like a lot of Photoshop plugins, they’re tweaks and improvements upon existing ones in Photoshop (Photomatix, Noise Ninja, etc.). I’d say stick with your PS and if there’s a lot left to be desired, try out Wire Worm.

    Hi Anne – I don’t know if they’re compatible as I don’t have PSE7, but it wouldn’t hurt to try!

  3. Moira

    Can you note where there are PC only tools, that would be a wonderful help to us Mac users. I followed a blog link earlier today to find out the tool was only available on Windoze.
    M

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