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15 Useful Photoshop Plugins You Should Not Miss

15 Useful Photoshop Plugins You Should Not Miss

Anybody who is into image editing probably knows their way around Photoshop. Indeed, it is one of the most ubiquitous names in the design industry, especially for those who are graphic artists or otherwise in the business of creating fantastic pieces of art for one reason or another.

I myself have not been a heavy user of Photoshop since CS2. Still, I have kept up with it as it has evolved over the years, and thus am familiar with most of its capabilities. The current version is incredibly powerful, capable of doing more than I could ever imagine when I used it for graphic design purposes in 2006.

That said, there will still be times when the vanilla version of Photoshop won’t do exactly what you need it to do. This is where plugins come in. Plugins are, for those unacquainted, essentially small bits of additional software that add to Photoshop’s functionality.

Here are fifteen that should be particularly useful in almost any project.

1. CSS Hat ($34.99)

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    CSS Hat is, to put it succinctly, the web designer’s dream. What it allows you to do is take one of your layers, and transform it into CSS3 code. This basically means you can copy your designs from Photoshop and paste them into your website.

    2. Flaticon (free)

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      If you need to insert some sort of vector-based icon into your designs, Flaticon is for you. It is essentially a database of free-to-use icons, which you can access in Photoshop by downloading the plugin.

      3. Pixel Dropr ($19)

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        Pixel Dropr is great if you are working on a project that requires the use of many of the same assets. So, for instance, if you are working on five separate projects in Photoshop, you can use Pixel Dropr to transfer up to 100 “icons, buttons, UI kits, or photos” from one project to another. As you might imagine, this saves a lot of time in the long run.

        4. Silver EFEX Pro 2 (free trial)

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          Silver EFEX Pro 2 is great if you want a simple, non-time consuming way to create beautiful black and white images. It’s like an advanced version of a filter you might find on Instagram. As such, it comes packed with a number of advanced controls that experts can use to get the best black and white images possible.

          5. Fractlius ($39.90)

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            Fractalius is a plugin that allows you to easily create interesting works of art out of normal everyday images. What it does is extract the “hidden fractal texture” within a picture, allowing you to reveal certain eccentricities that weren’t visible before.

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            6. Exposure 7 (free trial)

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              Exposure 7 is a straightforward plugin with a single purpose: to make digital images appear as though they were originally captured in an analog manner. As such, you have several options to add film-esque effects, such as scratches, grain, and other finishes.

              7. Machine Wash Deluxe ($99)

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                Machine Wash Deluxe accomplishes a simple task: it takes your clean designs and applies a kind of weathering effect, giving it a more aged and worn-in look. It works best when used with basic typography, but can also be applied to more complicated works of art as well.

                8. Blow Up 3 (free trial)

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                  Ever find an image you want to use but discover that it’s too low of a resolution, causing weird graphical artifacts to show up when you try to enlarge it? Blow Up 3 tries to solve that problem by making it so that images maintain their graphical integrity as you enlarge them.

                  9. Noiseware ($79.95)

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                    Noiseware is a powerful tool used to clean images that are contaminated by an unusual amount of “noise,” which are basically elements within an image that reduce its clarity. This plugin lets you remove these, giving you a sharper final product.

                    10. Portraiture ($199.95)

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                      Portraiture is a plugin that’s targeted towards smoothing skin. What makes it special is that it is able to remove blemishes like acne scars without tampering with details like skin texture and hair. The end result is that you get a much more realistic image than if you tried to manually remove acne with something like the clone-stamp tool.

                      11. Cut & Slice Me (free)

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                        Despite its lighthearted name, Cut & Slice Me is quite useful for those of you who need a free and easy way to transfer your Photoshop designs to your website. As its name suggests, you can direct the plugin to cut out layers of your design, and export those assets to wherever you need them online.

                        12. GuideGuide (free)

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                          GuideGuide is a free plugin that allows you to create an Excel-like grid in Photoshop, making it easy to design web layouts. What it really does is ensure that your creations are mathematically proportional.

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                          13. CSS3PS (free)

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                            CSS3PS uses cloud computing to take your layers and turn them into segments of CSS3 code. This means you can easily transfer certain works, as well as any effects you may have applied to them (like drop-shadows), to your website. This tool is far easier to use than the export tool included in Photoshop, and, best of all, it is free.

                            14. Wire Worm (free)

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                              Wire Worm accomplishes the the incredibly useful task of removing distracting telephone cables from your pictures. Thus, it makes it much easier to appreciate whatever it is you captured on film without having to deal with a jungle of wires obscuring your vision.

                              15. SuperPNG (free)

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                                SuperPNG makes up for one of Photoshop’s deficiencies, which is that it has a hard time processing PNGs in a timely fashion. This plugin allows you to manage your PNG images in a more hands-on manner, allowing you to edit them so that they are rendered by Photoshop much more rapidly.

                                Are you a heavy Photoshop user? Did these plugins help you accomplish tasks in a more effective manner? Let me know in the comments!

                                Featured photo credit: Using Photoshop To Remove Acne/ Bark via flickr.com

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                                Published on September 25, 2020

                                10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

                                10 Best VPNs to Browse the Internet More Securely

                                When it comes to digital security, public Wi-Fi networks aren’t safe enough, making it much easier for hackers to access your personal data. Whether you are studying in a library or scrolling through Facebook in a coffeehouse, it is vital to have a VPN installed on your device.

                                VPNs work wonders when it comes to securing your internet connection. By creating an encrypted tunnel between a remote server run by the VPN service, they protect your personal data from prying eyes. There is a variety of VPNs available on the web, and we have collated a list of the best VPNs that stand out from the rest.

                                How to Choose a VPN

                                • Free trial period – Free trials allow you to try the product risk-free. The same idea technically applies to those with 30-day full refunds as well.
                                • Speed – You want your VPN to be just as fast as the internet speed at home. Good quality VPNs are ones where you see little difference between those speeds.
                                • Device connection – Of course, the more devices that can connect to VPNs, the better. It increases the customers’ coverage and the product’s value. You also want to consider compatibility since fewer VPNs may work for Mac or Windows only.
                                • Number of servers – The number of servers determines how much capacity a VPN can handle while you are connected. The more servers there are, the more users it can handle without running into potential disconnections or slow speeds.
                                • Kill switch feature – Having this feature means that your IP address isn’t exposed if the VPN disconnects for some reason. A lack of this feature is a big deal since the whole reason why you’re paying for a VPN is to hide your IP address, among other things. (Find out how to avoid getting tracked online here: Big Brother Is Watching You Online: How To Avoid Being Tracked)

                                Why You Should Trust Us

                                Our hand-picked VPNs are incredibly efficient and offer such distinctive features that grant you safe browsing. They outperform many VPNs in terms of both speed and security. Their primary aim is to provide you the utmost security, thus enabling you to surf the web safely and prevent any potential threat from causing harm.

                                Among the best VPNs’ many unique features include split tunneling, strict logging policies, high encryption level, and availability of international servers. We have gathered them in this article to enlighten our readers and offer the best pieces of advice before you get one. Therefore, take our word for it, and if you go for a VPN mentioned below, you’d be fully appeased.

                                1. NordVPN

                                The most popular VPN on the market these days is NordVPN, and it’s easy to see why. It has widespread coverage, offering a selection of over 5,000 servers spanning across 59 countries.[1] Due to the high number of servers, its speed is similar to your Wi-Fi at home.

                                Lifehack’s CEO, Leon, has been using NordVPN for many years and wants to recommend it for its remarkable server count in different locations with no-logs policy. The VPN perfectly works with Netflix and Fire TV stick, too.

                                NordVPN is also compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. You can download the app onto Chrome, Firefox, Android, and Mac OS. Thanks to its massive coverage, it’s easy to connect multiple devices onto these servers.

                                In terms of pricing, while NordVPN doesn’t have a free trial period, they argue that their plans are considerably cheaper than those of their competitors. For example, a one-year plan for ExpressVPN costs $8.32 per month, but NordVPN only charges $6.99 monthly.

                                NordVPN has a new protocol called NordLynx that is based on WireGuard with speed benefits, though it’s still under development.[2] If you’re looking for general quality and affordability, this is one of the best VPNs around.

                                Buy this VPN.

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                                2. ExpressVPN

                                ExpressVPN is the second-best option out there for keeping your privacy while browsing the internet. Like many other VPNs here, they will encrypt your IP address, offer vast coverage, and can have multiple devices connected to their servers.

                                Compared to NordVPN, while the pricing point is higher, ExpressVPN’s biggest selling point is the number of countries that their connection covers. Depending on where you are in the world, this may be the only option you have. They have fewer servers — 160, to be precise — but they make up for the low server count by covering 94 countries.[3]

                                Cost-wise, your best bet is to go with the yearly plan where they charge $8.32 a month. They also have one- and six-month plans.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                3. Surf Shark

                                With regards to Surf Shark, you can connect multiple devices to its servers, and it’s compatible with Windows, Linux, and Mac. It is also available on Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and FireTV.

                                Furthermore, Surf Shark can whitelist apps and sites, letting them bypass the VPN. This, along with the lines of split-tunneling, is another feature that many VPNs offer. The difference is that Surf Shark allows you to whitelist specific apps or any website, while most VPNs will whitelist all sites or none at all.

                                The other consideration for this app is the price. While lower-tier plans are more expensive compared to others, Surf Shark’s 24-month plan is priced at $2.69 a month, so it’s cheaper than even NordVPN’s equivalent plan!

                                Buy this VPN.

                                4. CyberGhost

                                Another top-reviewed VPN is CyberGhost. They’ve been around for 15 years and have fine-tuned their offers and features to stay competitive. They provide the standard package of browsing the web and logging into accounts safely and give you access to regionally blocked content.

                                The network also maintains security from hackers, malware, and phishing. Aside from that, you can connect multiple devices, and it’s compatible with all kinds of platforms.

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                                What separates CyberGhost from the others is their extensive coverage. They have multiple servers, and the pricing point is still very low. It covers over 88 countries and has roughly 6200 servers for you to choose from, all while charging $2.75 for their 18-month plan.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                5. IPVanish

                                IPVanish’s prime purpose is to give users online freedom by providing fast speeds and private connections. It’s clear that they can meet that promise as they provide many of the features that have been listed previously from their competitors.

                                IPVanish is a part of SugarSync now. What is that, you may ask? It’s a cloud-based service that syncs files across devices and computers for sharing, backup, and many more. What this means is that other devices can access various files and videos so long as they are connected to your specific VPN. Furthermore, it can serve as a backup plan if you get hacked or lose your device for some reason.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                6. Private Internet Access

                                Private Internet Access (PIA) is a remarkably generous company in many ways. Aside from the obvious features, they offer great incentives and discounts for people to try out their products. They claim to be the most trustworthy and reliable VPN around, and we believe that.

                                One notable thing is that PIA offers a free two-month trial. Compared to other VPNs to this point, none have provided free trials (though all come with a 30-day money-back guarantee). On top of that, small businesses can avail of their VPN at a discounted rate. There is also the fact that their pricing plans go as low as $2.69 a month for two years, and they let you pay with gift cards.

                                In terms of specs, PIA has over 2695 servers that cover 47 countries right now.

                                These particular aspects make PIA unique and one of the best VPNs to consider.

                                Buy this VPN.

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                                7. Hotspot Shield

                                Hotspot Shield is all about offering protection while you’re browsing the internet or using streaming services like Netflix. The encryption is military-grade, and its speed is ultra-fast. In truth, it is even marketed as one of the fastest VPNs.

                                Hotspot Shield offers a plan that only costs  $7.99 a month; however, it’s one of the few in this list to provide its services for free. Like other Freemium apps, the free version comes with limited features. That said, it gives you a much better feel for the VPN.

                                Also, take note that the encryption feature is still there, though the limitations in the free plan include connecting to one location in the US and having limited streaming options and speed.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                8. TunnelBear

                                As unusual as a name choice for an online security protection service can be, TunnelBear is nothing short of incredible. It makes our list of the best VPNs for various reasons.

                                The biggest one is that the company goes through a yearly security audit. This is notable because many VPNs don’t bother about independent audits to ensure their systems are secure and safe from any issues. This is critical as VPNs have gotten some bad reputation over the years, as TunnelBear has noted in their post about their security audit.[4] The fact that they are doing this annually ensures that nothing is being compromised.

                                Furthermore, TunnelBear offers limited services for free, but even their paid plans are pretty cheap. For individuals, you’re merely paying $3.33 per month. The only catch is that you can connect five devices regardless of which paid plan you pick.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                9. Norton

                                Norton has been on the security scene for some time, and it’s actually one of the founders of the internet security industry. It started with virus and malware protection in 1991 and has since branched off to other sectors as the industry has shifted.

                                As you might expect from a company that’s been around for a long time, Norton provides excellent services, and a few of their other services have gone into the VPN package. In reality, Norton is the only one thus far to offer a password manager with their VPN services. They provide 50GB of cloud storage as well.

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                                Norton has one of the cheapest VPNs, considering you can get their deluxe plan at $49.99 per year. That comes up to roughly $4.17 a month. It might be slightly higher than other equivalent plans, but you get a lot of extra value that makes it worth the price.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                10. StrongVPN

                                The final VPN we want to cover is StrongVPN. Like many others, it’s great at blocking unnecessary web traffic and providing a fast and simple solution to navigating the internet without any hindrance.

                                StrongVPN has over 900 servers. It is available in more than 30 countries and compatible with all devices. Beyond that, the only notable selling point it has compared to others is that it also offers Sugarsync services and 250GB of storage, irrespective of your chosen plan.

                                As for the pricing, their year-long plan costs $5.83 a month, while their month-long one is $10.

                                Buy this VPN.

                                Bottom Line

                                Getting online protection is important these days, and companies recognize this.

                                With more hacks and breaches occurring every single day, the best VPNs can provide an excellent haven for many people who value their security and privacy.

                                We hope that by putting together this list, you’ll be able to find the best VPN that you can trust and enjoy using. As you can see, there are several great options with no real wrong one out there. Pick the VPN that’s best for you.

                                Featured photo credit: Petter Lagson via unsplash.com

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