Filter Forge 2.0 – New Horizons in Texture Realism

Filter Forge 2.0 is an innovative versatile Photoshop plugin which lets both novice and expert users create a wide variety of realistic and abstract textures and effects. It will be the best choice for any digital artist — 3D modelers, photographers, web designers and scrapbookers alike. Its unique features are the free online library containing over 7500 ready-to use filters, and a visual filter editor allowing computer artists to build their own filters. You can view the filters here.

Here are a few of the new cool features added in Filter Forge 2.0:

Full HDR Support

Filter Forge 2.0 supports high dynamic range (HDR) colors across its entire rendering pipeline, from input images through components to rendered results. Why would a user need HDR in Filter Forge?
Of course, for making fire and explosions! Creating flaming-hot stuff is a lot easier when you’re not confined within the limited color range:

Over 60% of components in Filter Forge 2.0 have been rewritten to support HDR colors. Many familiar operations, like Blur, High Pass, Blend, Levels and Perlin Noise and many more are now able to natively handle HDR colors where RGB values can range from zero to basically infinity.

Point/Area Lights

Filter Forge 2.0 allows you to create point or area lights that allow you to specify how exactly you want your texture to be lit. You can create any number of light sources which support unlimited HDR colors and work together with other Filter Forge lighting methods – which is great for augmenting the default HDRI environment lighting:

Negative light is an interesting side effect of the unclamped HDR that allows negative RGB channel values, and since the lights use HDR colors, you can pick a negative color for a light! The primary use of negative lights is “sucking out” the light added by other light sources, HDRI environment or ambient lighting which helps you create deeper, darker shadows:

Ambient Occlusion

Filter Forge 2.0 features fast, accurate and seamless shadowing via ambient occlusion that can be applied to any texture.

It calculates how much environmental light can reach a certain point of a surface, and darkens that point accordingly by filtering the incoming diffuse light – which dramatically enhances the level of realism. Ambient Occlusion works perfectly well with all three lighting methods implemented in Filter Forge 2.0 – HDRI environment lighting, point/area lights and ambient lighting.

In addition to Ambient Occlusion which deals with diffuse lighting, Filter Forge 2.0 can calculate Reflective Occlusion which removes excessive specular reflections from shadowed areas. The benefits of Reflective Occlusion are especially visible on reflective surfaces with deep dark areas:

You can see more examples how ambient occlusion is applied to the textures in the Gallery on the Filter Forge website.

Additionally, you can render separate Ambient Occlusion and Reflective Occlusion maps for use in your 3D projects.

Bomber Component

The new Bomber component is an incredibly versatile, very fast tool that lets you spray multiple image particles in a controlled manner – it lets you specify over 30 particle placement, coloration and randomization parameters, most of which can be mapped with images – which gives you tons of creative power!

Bomber lets you apply a color tint to each particle individually – you can specify the color and amount of the tint (both of which can be mapped with an image) which will be used for applying the color to the particle. This seemingly simple addition provides you with a great way to add variation to your particles:

Filter Forge comes in three differently priced editions ranging from $99 to $399. The free fully-functional 30-day trial versions for Windows and Mac OS X can be downloaded at the program website. *So check out the trial and see what you think.

This was a paid review from FilterForge.