By Wendell Benedetti
Artists and photographers have used picture frames, edges and borders for hundreds of years. Such creative embellishments enhance the original artwork while integrating it into the environment where it's displayed. That's true for physical frames, edges and borders, and it's true their digital counterparts. These days you can find a vast selection of specialized Photoshop-compatible add-ons and plug-ins that can be used to add professional-looking borders, frames and edges to electronic images.
Images ©Ron Eggers
I've looked at borders and edges plug-ins before and have been impressed, if not overwhelmed, with the large number of configurable templates they offer. Most offered so many possible configurations it was difficult to find them again in order to re-use them. In most cases, the search was so time consuming that it was easier to go with an application that only offered a few hundred borders and edges than to wade through the literally thousands that others included.
In this review we'll examine the features and functionality of three digital framing software options:
onOne Software's PhotoFrame Pro 3 and the optional Pro Digital Frame Bundle; Kubota Imaging Tools Sloppy Borders, Volume One; and Graphic Authority Library.
Before purchasing and installing a borders and edges package, make sure your system has enough available space to accommodate the border and edge libraries. For most Photoshop users that's not a problem. However, if you're running a bit tight on free space, better clear some room. Some packages take up more hard drive space than Photoshop CS3 and all of its required files.
Also, do yourself a favor and brush up on Photoshop's Layers options. While some borders and edges applications don't require the use of layers, others extensively depend on the user's understanding of how layers work and what can be done with them.
Current borders and edges plug-ins still offer more templates than anyone would ever use. The three we cover in this review are good examples of content overkill. Fortunately, all three include an interface of one sort or another that makes the selection process easier than you might expect.
The onOne, Kubota and Graphic Authority packages each generate professional level output that will meet or surpass even the highest quality requirements. There the similarities end. In fact, no three Photoshop compatible add-ons could be any more different. One is a standard Photoshop-compatible plug-in filter with proprietary interface, another uses Photoshop actions and scripts, while the third relies solely on the use of pre-configured templates and Photoshop layers.
onOne Software PhotoFrame Pro 3, and the optional Pro Digital Frame Bundle, is a standard Photoshop compatible plug-in package that runs on Mac and Windows systems. The two packages require a minimum 4GB of free disk space, most of which is taken by PhotoFrame Pro 3. PhotoFrame Pro 3 includes thousands of borders and frames; the Pro Digital Frame Bundle is made up of custom borders and frames created by noted photographers Jim DiVitale, Helene Glassman, Jack Davis, Rick Sammon and Vincent Versace.
The Windows version I reviewed supported Photoshop CS and CS2, but not CS3. An updated 3.1 version is now available on the company's Web site and worked without a hitch. onOne suggests having 512MB or more of RAM and a speedy microprocessor, however, I didn't notice any delays when using the plug-in on an old 1.7 GHz Windows XP system. The plug-in rendered edges and borders almost instantaneously on a 6600 Intel Core 2-based system.
PhotoFrame Pro 3's user interface consists of three palettes that float over a full-screen proxy preview of the image. The proxy window, in turn, supports Photoshop's basic Move, Zoom and Hand tools, which work just like they do in Photoshop. You select which frame you want to apply in the large palette that displays thumbnails of the 4294 frames in a scrollable list. This palette also includes a textures menu and the option to choose a recently selected or favorite frame. To apply a frame, simply double-click it. To remove the frame, click on the trash icon near the top of the palette. Multiple frames can be applied, which gives the plug-in practically infinite possibilities.
The other floating palettes apply edges and bevels or configure the background, border, glow and shadows characteristics of the frame. Once you've chosen and configured a frame, you can apply it directly onto the image (not the best idea) or to a new layer. Anyone familiar with conventional Photoshop plug-ins will have no problem quickly learning how PhotoFrame Pro 3 works. (Price: $159.95, www.ononesoftware.com)
Above: One of the Pro Digital Frame Bundle borders designed by Vincent Versace. Image ©Ron Eggers
Above: A 35mm film frame simulation from onOne Software's PhotoFrame Pro 3. Image ©Ron Eggers
Kubota Imaging Tools Sloppy Borders, Vol. One, works with both Mac and Windows. The CD includes three different types of files, which must be moved to three different folders on the computer's hard drive. Basic instructions that tell how the program works and where the files go are included in a short, well-written PDF file.
Sloppy Borders take advantage of Photoshop's Actions and Scripts menus, which means they can be individually or batch applied. For this review I used the Scripts method, which consisted of selecting the Scripts' Sloppy Border Single option and then the folder where the appropriate borders were stored. Single-clicking on specific border files brings up a thumbnail of the border at the bottom of the Open dialog box. Double-clicking on the file automatically applies the border to a newly created layer.
Once you've applied a border, you can be manipulate it using all of Photoshop's extensive layer commands. Borders can also be sized and distorted using Photoshop's Transform commands. The process is so straightforward even novice Photoshop users will find it relatively easy. Experienced users will find the tweaking possibilities almost endless. (Price: $125, www.kubotaimagetools.com)
Above: Examples from Kubota Imaging Tools Sloppy Borders, Vol. One, which can be scaled and distorted using Photoshop's Transform tool. Images ©Ron Eggers
The Graphic Authority Library bundle is one of several extensive frames and borders packages the company offers for Mac and Windows systems. It consists of three DVDs, a full-color printed catalog of the frames, borders, brushes and masterpiece images contained on the DVDs, and a handy Simple Start foldout that quickly gets users familiar with what's on the DVD.
Included on the DVDs are PDF and video tutorials that walk users through the process of selecting and then applying any of the application's numerous frames and borders templates onto an image. Don't skip the tutorials. View all of them. They walk you through the various routes you'll need to know in applying the frames and borders templates. Once you've become familiar with the process, you only need to select the DVD where the template is located, load the template into Photoshop and then, using the layers commands, configure it to your requirements. Since there's more than one way to apply templates, it might be a good idea to take some notes as you view the very clearly presented tutorials.
Graphic Authority tutorials describe which Macintosh key combinations are used in the layers manipulation process, and in most instances, the Windows key combinations are also mentioned. But, just to be on the safe side, Windows users would do well to brush up on the equivalent Photoshop key combinations in Windows for those instances when the Windows equivalents are not mentioned. It's not a big deal, but something Windows users need to consider. (Price: $179.95 for complete library, $59.95 for Photographic Frames only, www.graphicauthority.com)
Above: Graphic Authority Library offers realistic cardboard slide holder selections in its catalog. Images ©Wendell Benedetti
Above: Example of Graphic Authority Library edges. Image ©Ron Eggers
Professional quality borders and edges can add value to any digital image or graphic composition. More importantly, they can finish off a picture and make it look complete.