Corel’s new plug-in brings its impressive Particle brush technology to Photoshop. But are its limitations too severe?
Corel’s new plugin brings its impressive Particle brush technology to Adobe’s Photoshop – but are its limitations too severe?
The aurora borealis brush will have you painting the Northern lights in minutes
ParticleShop is a promising program, with a lot of potential. It’s an official plug-in for Photoshop made by Corel (also compatible with Adobe Lightroom, Corel PHOTOPAINT and PaintShop Pro) that offers a starter range of 11 brushes powered by Painter’s Particle brush technology, making them technically more impressive than anything supplied by Adobe. Each brush in the starter pack gives an example of the 11 additional brush packs (including flame, light, smoke, hair, space and debris) available for purchase.
Running ParticleShop launches the program in its own window rather than inside Photoshop. But the user interface feels very similar and it’ll only take you a few moments to acclimatise to the controls. The brushes are described as photorealistic, which is indulging in hyperbole a touch, but they are genuinely impressive and considerably more advanced than your usual Photoshop custom brushes. The aurora borealis effect brush will have you painting the Northern lights in minutes. A lot of the light effect brushes are lovely, and will enhance photographs and illustrations to give them a fantastical feel. However, despite being gorgeous brushes, they do have some unfortunate limitations that detract from the overall product.
Most disappointingly, there’s no Layer functionality within ParticleShop, so you’ll need to make a copy of your original photo or painting because you’ll be painting directly on to it! Alternatively, you could make a new layer on top of the image in Photoshop before running the plug-in, but you’ll be painting effects on to a transparent layer with no original layer underneath to use as a reference point. When the file is back in Photoshop, you could transform the effects into place, but this seems counter-productive.
ParticleShop’s brushes are effect brushes, intended to supplement and enhance an image rather than create one from scratch. If you think about print adverts where athletes are hurling flaming basketballs while leaving energy trails, then this is the sort of look ParticleShop would not only make easy, but excel at. Futuristic landscape concepts would also be augmented well with ParticleShop.
So do we recommend you purchase ParticleShop? Sadly, not yet. With further development, ParticleShop could find itself in the must buy category. But for that it would need the addition of layer support, some stabilisation so the plug-in doesn’t cause Photoshop to crash when other apps are running simultaneously (we had to turn off Spotify to get ParticleShop to load correctly) and a more reasonable pricing structure (currently if you want the entire set of ParticleShop brushes you’d be looking at paying over £300). But right now, despite its numerous excellent brushes on offer, ParticleShop needs more versatility and stability to earn its current price tag.
The impressive realism of ParticleShop’s effect brushes means you can add dust, shine and general chaos to your scenes. Dramatic-looking backgrounds, such as nebulas and the aurora borealis, can be quickly rustled up with ParticleShop’s brushes. Once you install the plug-in, it won’t take long to enhance your landscape paintings by adding sci-fi elements – such as this interdimensional rift.