Sunday, March 22, 2009

REVIEW: Alien Skin Software BlowUP 2

Blow Up 2 Box ShotFor those who print their own images, you probably frequently turn to onOne Software’s Genuine Fractals for resizing their images to the desired output size. However, those of you who read my review for Genuine Fractals 6 back in December saw that the king has lost a little of its edge to the (almost) new kid in town – Alien Skin's BlowUP 2.

In that original article, which turned into a mini shoot out, I used this image of the Capitol of Texas in Austin:

Click for the originalI then used several different products / techniques for increasing the image to 200%.  The clear winner was Alien Skin BlowUP 2. The following image shows how good the 200% upsizing was using a 100% crop (refer to my previous review for other examples):

Click to see full 200% image

All I can say is WOW - that's good! This was with its default settings and no sharpening as shown here in its UI (which renders the results in near real-time):

Click to view the Alien SkinBlowup 2 User Interface

Alien Skin claims it can upsize to 400% which is hard to believe, but I tried it and sure enough the results are amazing. Click here to see the 400% image, but warning its a huge file (compressed using JPEG 10, so there are some compression artifacts).

Why is Alien Skin BlowUP so good?

The reason why this product is so good is because it has looked at the issue of resizing differently than any of its competitors. When BlowUP resizes an image, it first detects all of the edges and converts them into a vector image. The resize occurs and the vector is flattened which results in perfect edge retention. To put this in more concrete terms, its basically the same technique used by ClearType fonts on your computer versus old raster-based fonts of the past that would look jaggy at certain sizes.


As was the case with the Genuine Fractals 6 review, my emphasis on this product is resizing for screen. However, I have sent off a 200% image for printing and will report back if the results are anything but perfect. Given how great the image looks on screen (which is MUCH less forgiving than print), I fully expect the results to be wonderful.


I’ve been using Alien Skin's BlowUP 2 almost exclusively for the last couple months and the only area I can complain about is the fact that I have hit out of memory errors a few time. I ultimately discovered I had to set my Photoshop memory settings to 100% on my 3GB 32-bit Vista machine to make those errors go away in CS4 (they happened much less in CS3). Beyond that this product has been smoking fast and a pleasure to use. I can say, without reservation, that I highly recommend this product as the best resizing tool on the market that I have seen to date!

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