add-on/plug-in for Photoshop & Paint Shop Pro
This page is not yet finished. Please check back later. In the meantime, check out the samples and explanations on their website.
Why is a website about Escher-style tessellation art doing a review of a $50 graphics program add-on that doesn't make tessellations?
Well, firstly, think about Escher's other art. He did quite a few illustrations that are wonderfully weird only because they contain warped perspective. Let's face it: the Escher pictures to the left and right of this paragraph would be sleep-inducing landscapes if they didn't have warped perspective. (Click on either picture, by the way, to buy it from WorldOfEscher.com) During his lifetime, which started when computers didn't exist and finished before the first IBM and Macintosh personal computers existed, the warped perspective yet hyper-realistic art he did was a great feat. With Flexify 2 you can do similar perspective distortions by just clicking your mouse a few times.
Secondly, it's a fact that tessellation art can seem boring after the audience gets past the initial "wow!" moment. There are many things you, as an artist, can do to spice up your tessellation: morphs, removing a single tile, having tiles interact with the remainder of the picture, and bending your tessellation's construction lines. Bending the perspective without something like Flexify 2 is haaaaard work. With Flexify 2 it's only a moment's work.
On this page you'll find a slideshow of about 20 tessellation pictures to which I've applied random fun Flexify 2 filters. The original picture I've kept as a background; the filtered picture with an outline and shadow is in the foreground. The initial artwork is tessellations done by Ms. Sorrentino's 4th grade geometry class, Hawthorne Elementary School, Elmhurst, Illinois in 2013. Have a look at how Flexify 2 makes each picture more interesting.
Is Flexify 2 a perfect program? No, but it's close. There are at least two things I would've liked to see. Perhaps those features will be in a future version.
One thing I'd like to see is better installation instructions. The installation instructions available on FlamingPear.com are a bit vague, generalized for ANY PhotoShop plug-in or filter, and don't explain what error messages you might expect at start-up if you're using a 32 bit version of PhotoShop. That's all something I can fix right here, for the Windows+PhotoShop users who're reading this review. Here we go: After A) downloading Flexify 2as a ZIP file from FlamingPear.com/flexify.html, you'll B) unpack the ZIP file by right-clicking on it and choosing "extract". This extraction will create a folder called "Flexify 2". C) Right-click on that folder and choose "copy", not "cut". D) Use Windows Explorer to find the right folder in which to place your copy of the "Flexify 2" folder. The folder we're looking for is probably on your C: drive, in a folder called "program files", in a subfolder called "adobe", in a subfolder of that called "Adobe Photoshop (version number)", in a sub-folder of that called "Plug-Ins". If the "plug-Ins" folder has a subfolder called "Filters", then go into that. Wherever you are now, let's call this the "destination folder". E) Paste the entire copy of the folder "Flexify 2" into that folder. F) Go into the new "Flexify 2" folder and right-click on the help document (a PDF file). From the pop-up menu choose "send to...", and from that submenu choose "send to the desktop as a shortcut". This will make the Flexify 2 help menu easy to find: just a mouseclick away from your desktop. G) In an ideal world, that would be the end of that. However, if you're using the 32-bit version of Photoshop, then you'll see this error message when you start up Photoshop:
Error message you may see after installing Flexify 2 in 32 bit Photoshop:
"The application or DLL C:\Program Files\Adobe Photoshop CS6\Plug-ins\Flexify-275 64bit.8bf is not a valid Windows image.
Please check this against your installation diskette."
A message like that could scare a newbie! The good news is, this is an error message that you could actually ignore, although you'll see it every time you start PhotoShop or until you deal with it. The even-better news is, this is an error message that's easily explained and dealt with. You see the "64 bit" mentioned in the file name? It's an indication that this file is not intended to work with the 32 bit version of PhotoShop.
Right-click on the file with "64 bit" in its name. Rename its extension," .8bf", to something harmless like ".AnythingBut8bf".
All you have to do is change the filename extension from 8bf to something that your copy of PhotoShop will ignore. To do that, go to the "Flexify 2" folder in your "plug-ins" folder, find this file, right-click on it, and choose "rename" from the pop-up menu. Change the three letters after the "." to something harmless, like "TXT" or "AnythingBut8bf" (Yes, you can put in a filename extension that's longer than 3 letters.) You'll want some indicator that 8bf was the original filename extension, in case you later want to restore it after you transplant Flexify 2 to a 64 bit version of PhotoShop. Bang, you're done: the error message will never reappear.
The second improvement I'd suggest requires a little explanation.
To use Flexify 2 in PhotoShop, first load a picture into PhotoShop. Then click on "filter", then "flaming pear", then "flexify 2". You'll then see a great little pop-up menu that asks you what format your original picture is in, and what format you want the results to be in. There's a preview image, and a circle of little check-boxes around it. Click in those boxes and you get varied lighting results.
The upgrade I'd like to see is: it would be nice if the "in" list was exactly the same as the "out" list, so that to some degree reversing any of the processes would bring you back to an approximation of the original. Imagine, for example, you're in the CGI (computer graphics imagery) or sublimation printing business. You have thin flat sheets of plastic that are vacuum-wrapped around an object and the image is transferred from the sheets to the object. That's how the skin image gets wrapped around a wire-frame CGI model in your video games and in Jurassic Park™. That's also how wrap-around images get onto your iPhone case, your coffee cup, soup bowl, and your toy truck. The trick is, the image gets distorted as the flat plastic gets pulled around the round soup bowl and the tricky truck. The distortion is predictable, so in theory if you could reverse that distortion you'd know how to place the ink on the flat plastic sheet so that the result is a perfectly shaped Toys'R'Us™ logo on the curved surface. If Flexify 2's filters could do that distortion and reverse that distortion, Flexify 2 would be one extremely handy tool for folks in the CGI and sublimation printing professions.
Flexify 2 even has a button to turn graph lines on & off in the preview, which makes lining things up and understanding the distortions easy-easy-easy. Notice in the screenshot below, that the big white preview window shows graph lines on, and also gives tabs around the edges so that if you were to print this image you could cut and paste to turn this into a 3D paper sculpture...in this case, a dodecahedron, to be exact.
The Flexify 2 interface in PhotoShop
There are plenty of things to celebrate in this inexpensive toy. For one thing, it's incredibly fast. For another, there's no shortage of filters to distort your pictures. There are dozens of input formats (though you'll want to stick mostly with the "equirectangular"-- that is, a normal picture-- as input), multiplied by over 200 output formats (Click here to see'em). For adding lots of visual interest to your picture with very little effort from you, Flexify 2 is a dream machine that works in the waking world. Treat yourself. Indulge and enjoy!