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The Essence of Alpha
Your graphics application lets you do all you want to the colors of an image.
But why doesn't it allow the same type of flexibility with the transparency?
Surely being able to decide whether a color can be seen at all is at
least as important as being able to decide what that color should look like.
AlphaToys™ is a set of 16 filters that let you work on the transparency of
images; the Alpha channel.
Sure, your graphics application will probably allow you to change parts of
the transparency in your image using an eraser tool, and you can probably delete
selections. But can you quickly convert from color information to transparency.
Can you easily blur the transparency? Can you conveniently sharpen the
transparent edges without having to resort to a longwinded process? And if you
do, can you go back and tweak it afterwards without having to go through all
those steps again?
AlphaToys provides you the tools to do so!
The AlphaToys set of filter plug-ins is a complete set of tools for
alpha-channel manipulation. 16 filters provide you with all the
necessary effects to do what you need.
Included are filters to convert color to transparency and back, invert
the transparency or limit the transparency and opacity to bounds.
"Gaussian blur" and "Unsharp mask" filters give you full control over
the sharpness of the alpha channel, or anything but the alpha channel if
you wish to do so, and "Brightness/Contrast" and "Auto
Contrast" let you stretch the range.
Using the "Posterize" filter is an ideal way to create cartoon shading.
Because the "Posterize" filter lets you separate intensity from hue and
saturation, it will in fact do so much better than normal color-only
posterizing. A "Noise" filters applies random noise to the alpha channel
With the level of control offered by alpha processing, this noise can be
used much more flexibly than color-only noise. We've even included a
"Custom" filter you can use to create your own convolution filters. Use
the "Custom" filter for anything from sharpening, blurring to edge
detection and embossing. The AlphaToys "Custom"
filter can load and save filters created using the Photoshop™ color-only
AlphaToys puts you in full control of your images again. Not just by
changing transparency, but by changing the way you work.
Smart Objects, actions, scripting and events.
AlphaToys has full support for Smart Objects. Smart Objects are a way to
apply filters to images and change the filter settings at a later stage,
even from a old image file. If you need to apply more than one filter to
an image layer, Smart Objects saves you time and keeps you in a creative
flow without having to worry about technicalities.
For example, apply the "Dark to Alpha Black", "Brightness/Contrast",
"Gaussian blur" and "Posterize" AlphaToys filters to a layer, then tweak
the "Brightness/Contrast" and "Gaussian blur" filters without ever
having to re-trace any of your other steps. The AlphaToys filters were
specifically created with this type of creative workflow in mind. Try
it, and we'll guarantee you'll like it!
You can record any of the AlphaToys filters in actions or macros and
apply them automatically, without user intervention. If you ever find
yourself applying the same set of filters more than a few times, the
ability for AlphaToys to be placed into actions will be a real
Most graphics applications that support actions, also support batch
processing of images using those actions. This means you can
automatically apply effects created with AlphaToys filters to many
images at once. Process entire photo shoots or even movies without
having to do anything.
You can even call AlphaToys filters from your own scripts and integrate
them into dynamic processing systems. If your graphics application
allows you to automatically apply actions or scripts when certain events
happen (for example after loading an image), AlphaToys will happily work
with those systems as welll.
Using AlphaToys, creating your own photographic filter effects has never
been easier. Want to add a warm glow? Use the "Bright to Alpha" filter
on a duplicate layer and apply some Gaussian blur. Need a soft focus?
Use the "Bright to Alpha White" filter. A white net filter can be
created using the same filter with a different mixing mode and for a
black net filter, use "Dark to Alpha Black". For something really
special, use any of these filters and set the color yourself.
AlphaToys are not just for changing existing images, you can also use
filters to prepare an image as the basis for new creative works. The
"Fill" AlphaToys filter lets you set the transparency level of an entire
image layer at once. Apply some "Noise" to roughen it up a little and
add a splash of "Gaussian blur" to make it bumpy.
One less obvious aspect of AlphaToys is it's ability to process textures
for use in games or virtual environments. Many games don't allow you to
have transparency information in your textures in the conventional way.
They require you to separate the transparency from the color data and
either supply the images separately or in special layers. For example,
the TGA file format requires a special non-standard channel explicitly
Typically, the designer would have to keep this technical limitation in
mind whilst working, requiring her to visualize transparency in her mind
instead of with her eyes. Using AlphaToys, you can do separation of
transparency information at any time. You can design the texture as you
would normally, then use AlphaToys afterwards to split out the texture
in transparency and color information. Using actions and events, you can
even create a working environment where this process integrates
seamlessly into the workflow.
AlphaToys filters are easy to use. Half of the filters are so easy, they
don't even have a user interface! The other filters each have
their own simple window with only the sliders, checkboxes and buttons
The AlphaToys filter effects are similar to their non-alpha supporting
counterparts provided by your graphics application, and so are their
controls. If you've ever used a normal brightness/contrast filter, the
AlphaToys "Brightness/Contrast " filter will be instantly recognizable
and usable. Some filters, like the "Unsharp Mask" filter add a few
reading "Apply to alpha" and "Apply to color"; you can correctly guess
what those do without reading the manual.
Should you ever find yourself lost, though, help is always nearby. Press
the "Help" button from one of the filter windows for context-sensitive
help or use the special "Help" plug-in to read about all the other
Compared to similar color-only filters in graphics applications,
AlphaToys filters will finish on par and sometimes even faster.
AlphaToys support multithreading in the "Gaussian blur", "Unsharp mask"
and "Custom" filters; if you have multiple processors or multi-core
processors, AlphaToys filters are usually faster than your own graphics
application. If you enjoy taking coffee-breaks, don't use AlphaToys!
Visit these links for more information:
Download and try
of AlphaToys in action.
"Before and after"
examples of what you can do with AlphaToys.
details and system requirements.