Ready to become a Photoshop power-user? Good, because the Photoshop plugins, add-ons, and extensions we list in this post will supercharge the already impressive capabilities of Adobe’s preeminent software.
Yes, Adobe Photoshop CC is outstanding on its own. But there are plenty of features that users wish they had access to but don't. Plus, there’s no way that Adobe could’ve packed in every add-on, extension, or plugin and still kept the software at its current price point.
Lucky for you, not all of the plugins you’ll read about today cost money!
That’s not to say that you should only look for free plugins. Some of the premium Photoshop plugins we list are so good, you’ll want to buy them immediately — if you’re really serious about upping your Photoshop game, that it. But before we get into the best free and premium Photoshop plugins for 2021, let’s quickly cover how to install Photoshop plugins:
How to Install Photoshop Plugins
Here’s a simple way to install Photoshop plugins:
- Open Photoshop.
- Select Edit from the dropdown menu, and select Preferences > Plugins.
- Check the "Additional Plugins Folder" box to accept new files.
- Download a plugin or filter to your desktop.
- Open your Program Files folder and select your Photoshop folder.
- Open your Plugins folder, found inside your Photoshop folder.
- Drag your new Photoshop plugin from your desktop into the Plugins folder.
- Reopen Photoshop and find your new plugin under Filters in the dropdown menu.
Now that you know how to use Photoshop plugins, let’s take a look at some of the best free and premium Photoshop plugins available in 2021.
Best Free Photoshop Plugins
As the old saying goes, “the best things in life are free.” Of course, these plugins may not be “the best things in life” (unless Photoshop IS your life), but they’re pretty good and can be used completely free of charge.
1. Camera Raw
Camera Raw is a Photoshop plugin that lets you edit and enhance raw files from your digital camera, along with JPEG and TIFF files. If you’re unfamiliar with a raw file, it’s simply the unprocessed picture data from your digital camera.
The best part is, Camera Raw uses non-destructive editing, which means it doesn’t alter the original picture file in case you want to revert back to it after you’ve finished editing. This plugin has been a must-have tool for photographers and should definitely be in your editing toolkit.
Ink is one of the best free Photoshop plugins on this list. It allows designers to create useful mockups and user interfaces, which lets an inexperienced Photoshop user — like a developer, for example — understand the design elements within a coding framework.
In other words, Ink makes it easy to communicate your design by generating full specs such as text formatting, layer styles, and dimensions.
This is especially helpful if you have to hand off work to a developer on GitHub and want to ensure that he or she will accurately interpret your design. Fortunately, this handy app can be accessed and used for the low price of zero dollars!
3. Texture Anarchy
Texture Anarchy is a Photoshop plugin that offers its users a library of different filters and textures to edit their photos with. What sets it apart from similar plugins like ON1 Effects is the fact that the textures it produces are based on fractal noise, which makes it easy to create natural images like fire, smoke, or marble.
If you're new to Photoshop, or photo editing in general, and the above paragraph sounds confusing, don't worry. Texture Anarchy is actually pretty easy to use. It even comes with presets to help you get started on the right foot.
FlatIcon is a Photoshop plugin that will give you access to thousands of free vector icons, which can be downloaded in multiple formats such as SVG or PNG.
With FlatIcon installed, you can search through its database of icons from within Photoshop and insert them directly into your design panel. What kind of icons are we talking about? Just about anything! FlatIcon has millions of icons available for use.
Now, FlatIcon does have thousands of icons available for free. But, they require attribution to use legally. Alternatively, you can sign up for a FlatIcon subscription and get access to many more, attribution-free icons and priority support. FlatIcon plans start at $8.25 a month.
Best Premium Photoshop Plugins
As Warren Buffett once said, “Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.”
While these premium Photoshop Plugins come with a price tag, they pack a serious punch and provide artists, photographers, and casual Photoshop users alike with tons of value. Here are the six paid plugins that we believe will make the biggest impact on your output and workflow:
1. RH Hover Color Picker
RH Hover Color Picker is a Photoshop color plugin that isn’t ugly or cumbersome (unlike the color picker built into Photoshop) and gives you more control over the colors you pick with its set of customizable sliders.
RH Hover Color Picker is really easy to use and will speed up your Photoshop workflow dramatically. Luckily, it can be had for just $16. Make the process of picking colors much easier and more enjoyable with this premium plugin.
2. ON1 Effects
ON1 Effects is a Photoshop plugin that gives you access to hundreds of built-in presets, filters, LUTs, textures, and borders. These effects can then be combined, blended, and otherwise customized to create a unique look for each of your photographs.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one tool for adding complex effects to your photos, ON1 Effects is the solution you need. Get it for a one-time payment of $59.99.
3. Fluid Mask 3
Masking, i.e. making part of a layer invisible, is a delicate and often difficult process. Fluid Mask 3 is one of the few plugins that will give you a clean and accurate mask, especially with problem areas like hair and fur.
Even though Fluid Mask 3 costs $99, its ability to detect edges, blend layers, and simplify painstaking tasks makes the high price tag worth it. That's why big companies like Disney, NBC, and Macy's use it on a regular basis.
Noiseware is an award-winning Photoshop plugin for noise reduction. Noise is the colorful grains or discoloration found in Photographs that give it a splotchy or blurry look. In simple terms, it's the part of your photographs that you usually don't want.
Noiseware removes graininess from images and sharpens them simultaneously, allowing you to clean up your photos quickly and professionally.
Although it costs $79.95, it justifies its premium price tag with unparalleled targeted noise reduction that few other plugins can even come close to matching.
Have you ever taken a picture of yourself and thought, "Oh no, is that what I really look like?" Don't be ashamed, it's happened to all of us. The camera can be quite unkind at times. When you're not happy with the results of your latest portrait, get PortraitPro.
PortraitPro is a Photoshop plugin that helps users retouch and edit portraits without giving them a “Photoshopped” finish. It prides itself on being a software built to enhance human beauty without making faces look plastic or fake.
PortraitPro accomplishes this feat by using a slider interface to sculpt and refine a subject’s features. Use this editing tool to smooth skin, apply makeup, correct poor lighting, change hair color, and more.
Whatever aspect of your portraits that you need to adjust, PortraitPro can help you do it for a one-time payment of $89.90.
6. Machine Wash Deluxe
Last, but certainly not least, we have Machine Wash Deluxe, which is a Photoshop plugin that adds scratchy, weathering effects to your photos. When you want your images to have that cool, retro vibe, Machine Wash Deluxe is the app you need.
The plugin comes with over 3,500 presets, which can be used to texturize and alter photographs in thousands of different ways and make them look old, vintage, or otherworldly.
Machine Wash Deluxe is an incredibly fun plug-in to play with and will help you create unique images that stop viewers in their tracks. It will cost you $99 to access. But if you have a little extra cash to spend, you’ll love the abstract photo transformations you can make with it.
Honorable Mention: CloudApp
CloudApp isn’t technically a Photoshop add-on, plugin, or extension — at least not yet. But it will help you get the “raw materials” you need to create great photos.
Our free screen recorder lets you record videos and take screenshots on mac and win of virtually anything, edit them in Photoshop, and then pass them on to your developer. If your developer has questions, they can take a screenshot of your finished product, annotate it, and send it back to you. You’ll then be able to comment on those annotations and easily make the required changes.
CloudApp is available as a Mac App, a Windows App, and as a Chrome Plugin. This means that just about anyone can create visual content from their desktop device of choice!
If you want to streamline your Photoshop workflow and easily create the stunning visual materials needed to get the job done, consider signing up for CloudApp — it's free and it integrates with Adobe products, Slack, and other workflow tools.
There you have it, the 10 best photoshop plugins in 2021. If you regularly use Adobe's legendary software, these tools will help you supercharge your workflow and create better visual content. Now you just have to decide which ones you want to use!
And don't forget about CloudApp! Our visual communication software is a great way to create the raw materials you need to edit inside of Photoshop. From screenshots to annotated images, use CloudApp to capture anything on your computer screen. Get started today for free!