Review: onOne Software PhotoTools 2

By Kim Larson

PhotoTools 2 is a Photoshop plug-in from onOne Software that allows you to quickly apply a variety of Photoshop effects to your photos and video clips. PhotoTools 2 provides an extensive library featuring multiple effects created by onOne and Photoshop Gurus Kevin Kubota and Jack Davis.

I was concerned that PhotoTools 2 would not compare to my own vast library of Photoshop Actions (My name is Kim, and I am a Photoshop Action-holic). But after using PhotoTools 2 for one month, I realized that the power of PhotoTools is not the effects themselves, but really the way the effects are organized and applied.

Finding the Right Effect

With PhotoTools 2, finding the effect you want to apply to your photo is extremely simple because you can search for it in multiple ways. I am very impressed with how well-organized the effects library is. If you’re looking for an effect that applies specifically to eyes, simply do a search for “eyes” and you’ll see a list of effects meant to enhance eyes. If you’re looking to apply a moody effect to your photo, you can select “moody” from the keywords list. A good description and sample before-after photo is provided with each effect, so it is easy to pick out the one you want!


The PhotoTools 2 Library provides a very organized and keyword-searchable set of effects, making it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for. (Click image for larger view.)

Stack, Unstack, Modify, Repeat

PhotoTools 2 allows you to apply effects in a stack. You can take up to 16 effects and apply them to your image at once, and you can go back to modify, hide, or remove individual effects at any time. This is a great advantage over using multiple Photoshop actions because typically when you apply multiple actions to an image, you cannot go back and modify the first actions. With PhotoTools 2, you’re free to go back and edit the first effect without destroying the effects you applied after it.


You can modify any layer of the stack without changing the other layers.

When you find a combination of effects you like, you can save them as a preset, and can then apply them to other photos with one click. You can import and export presets from PhotoTools to share them with friends. You can even post them on the onOne Exchange site, where many people have already shared their favorite presets.

PhotoTools 2 also lets you apply the effects to multiple photos in a batch from Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and Apple Aperture.

The Effects

I’ve found that I rarely use only one effect on an image—my average seems to be two or three. Here are a few that I tend to use most often.


Above: Radient People A2 at 75% opacity stacked with 85A Warming at 30% opacity. (Click image for larger view.) ©Kim Larson

I wanted sort of a vintage effect on the photo below, but I wasn’t satisfied with the vintage presets provided by onOne so I decided to venture out on my own.


This one is Blue Dawn Leonidis A4 (75% opacity) and 85A Warming (50% opacity). (Click image for larger view.) ©Kim Larson

PhotoTools 2 also has some retouching effects for smoothing skin. In the photo below, I used only the Model Skin effect. Of the choices available, it seemed to be the strongest skin smoothing effect.


Model Skin effect. (Click image for larger view.) ©Kim Larson

If you apply the Model Skin effect to the entire image, the results will have lost of a lot of detail in the eyes, mouth and hair. This is where the brush tool in PhotoTools 2 is extremely useful. With the press of a button, you can mask the photo and choose to “paint in” the effect with the brush. I painted over all the areas of skin that should be smooth so the eyes, mouth, and hair remained sharp. I then decided to apply the Magic Eye Fixer effect, and painted it in with the brush only on her eyes. Voilà!

Lightroom and Aperture

With the Professional Edition of PhotoTools 2, you can apply your presets to photos right out of Lightroom and Aperture. It does still use Photoshop to render the effects, so you must still have Photoshop CS3 or CS4 installed, but it still provides a quicker way to apply a PhotoTools effect to a photo without having to manually open it in Photoshop.


The PhotoTools palette in Lightroom allows you to apply
a PhotoTools preset to one or multiple photos without opening Photoshop.

Video Support

You can also apply any PhotoTools 2 effect to your videos. Simply open the video in Photoshop CS3 or CS4 Extended and use the Animation timeline to apply the effect. onOne provides a great tutorial on their website for using PhotoTools 2 with video. But you should be aware that it is only intended for video clips under one minute, as it can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to render the effects!

Is it for you?

If you’re in need of a centralized place where you can retouch, and easily find and apply multiple photo effects, then you should definitely try out onOne PhotoTools 2. Even if you’re like me and already have a very organized set of Photoshop actions, you may still want to test it out. Many of Kevin Kubota’s effects in PhotoTools match his famous Photoshop actions, and Jack Davis’ effects are useful and unique. onOne provides a free trial of the software, so you don’t have anything to lose. It is very intuitive to learn—just start applying effects to your photos and have fun!

Professional Edition: $259.95
Standard Edition: $159.95
Lite Edition: FREE


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