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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!

Full control

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 Custom filter.

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 time-saver.
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.


Be creative.

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 labeled "Alpha".
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.


Work faster

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 you need.
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 filters.

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 AlphaToys now!
See screenshots of AlphaToys in action.
"Before and after" examples of what you can do with AlphaToys.
Technical details and system requirements.