Working in advertising, you see all types of trends in media and messages used. Of recent, you often get the request to use a logo or other images from a web page for something in print. The people responsible for the advertising are busy owners and managers whom simply don’t have the experience in the field of media reproduction to understand why their images look bad in print as a result of this.
Author: Dean Neitman
So, often the best has to be done with what is provided but any tool that can help improve quality in the reproduction process is welcomed into my arsenal so I was intrigued when I was asked to look at a plug-in for Photoshop that enlarges bitmap art images. There have been a couple of other options in the past that offered this but the Pixenlarge plug-in or extension (http://pixenlarge.com/) focuses more on the hard edged graphics or the illustrated type graphics vs. photos and complex graphics with gradients. I was immediately interested to see how this could work for low resolution logos to help in my profession.
That excitement was short lived unfortunately. My first experiment started with a recognizable logo. I grabbed a copy of the Flickr logo (for example only… no affiliation) at a smaller size of 198 pixels wide by 109 pixels deep. I tried enlarging it ten times using Photoshop’s image size function (example A). Then I tried Pixenlarge plug-in (example B) and compared the results.
The results were a bit disappointing. The logo enlarged by Photoshop was as expected, a bit fuzzy around the edges but using levels cleaned up most of the blur. The logo enlarged by Pixenlarge wasn’t any better. The letters of the logo had rough edges with some irregular curves and lines.
Maybe it was the settings in Pixenlarge I thought. So before I gave up on this style of image, I tried several different settings and still didn’t get the result I was looking for. There are really not many settings to the plug-in. To access the it, I had to have my file open in Photoshop while navigating to the File>Automate>Pixenlarge setting. This brings up a dialog box shown in the third example (example C).
The threshold is the main control that decides how adjacent color pixels are treated according to their difference in color. There are a couple of other radio check boxes that offer additional options. Edge improvement is used to improve edges in the image, if it has been anti-aliased. The Smoothing filter is used to remove dither effects etc. from the image to help smooth out transitions.
Often, you will have to experiment with these settings to get the most desirable result. My testing with different settings using this style of image still made no improvement over just the Photoshop enlarged version. This disappointed me but, the authors of the software had clearly stated it was designed for illustrated art first and foremost.
There is no option for a preview of settings used so it becomes a trial-and-error process. Clicking the ‘Ok’ button sends the plug-in into action processing the image. It uses a progress bar to show how much is completed but in my experience, the progress bar worked only up to about 25% before I see “Pixenlarge (Not Responding)” show on the bar which made think it had crashed or was stuck. Patients is needed here because a few more minutes will show the plug-in is not stalled but finishing up the process. After completion, a new and unsaved file will open in Photoshop with the enlarged image.
If the results are not to your liking, try adjusting the tolerance setting. If it is still not creating the desired result, it is possible that image you are using is not a good source for this process. This is what I discovered when trying various images including the Flickr logo. The plugin seems to work best with cartoon type images which contain solid colors and dark outlined or inked edges. These are the images most responsive to the plug-in’s processing as seen in the penguin art, example E.
So, the Pixenlarge plug-in does work but its usefulness is limited when you consider the file types. It is decent tool if you work with a lot of low resolution cartoon illustrations or cheap clip art where the variation in line work is not critical but don’t expect miracles from it. It will not make a tiny 32×32 pixel icon turn into a wonderful piece of art for your next poster design. The less information in the original image, the less desirable the end result will be. It may help turn that comic illustration your client sent from their website into a usable hi-res image without the noticeable jagged edge look often associated with enlarging web graphics and this could make the reasonable cost of the plug-in ($45 USD) worth it to some.
About the author
- Storybook Album Designer: ReviewOctober 27, 2010
- Imageskill Background Remover Plugin: ReviewOctober 26, 2010
- PhotoshopCAFE – the leading resource for Photoshop training.October 5, 2010