Ready to become a Photoshop power-user?
Good, because the Photoshop plugins 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’s plenty of features users wish they had that Adobe didn’t create (or think of creating).
And there’s no way they could’ve packed in every add-on, extension, or plugin at the current retail price.
Lucky for you, not all of the plugins you’ll read about today cost money.
That’s not to say you should only look for free plugins. Some of the premium Photoshop plugins we list are so good, you’ll want to buy them today if you’re serious about upping your Photoshop game.
But before we get into the free and premium Photoshop plugins, let’s quickly go over 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 today.
By the way, you can find more Photoshop CC Plugins beyond the ones we list in this post on Adobe Exchange under Creative Cloud.
Best Free Photoshop Plugin
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 completely free.
And while this isn’t an exhaustive list, it does cover some of the top Adobe Photoshop add-ons that you can download and use immediately at no cost.
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.
With the Adobe Camera Raw plugin, you can sharpen raw pictures, set white balance, and adjust the contrast among many other features.
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.
ON1 Effects is a Photoshop plugin that gives you access to 23 stackable filters which allow you to build layers of different effects. It also provides hundreds of presets, borders, and textures.
You even gain access to a variety of tools that help you blue, soften, and paint your pictures with ease.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one tool for adding complex effects to your photos, ON1 Effects is the tool you need.
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 - 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, for example, you have to hand off work to a developer on GitHub and want to ensure the developer will accurately interpret your design.
Texture Anarchy is a Photoshop plugin that offers a library of different filters and textures for Photoshop.
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.
FlatIcon is a Photoshop plugin that gives you access to thousands of free vector icons that 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 icons directly into your design panel.
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 bring with them a lot of value for artists, photographers, and casual Photoshop users alike.
Instead of showing you all of the paid plugins, we picked out the ones that will make a significant impact on your output and workflow.
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.
It’s aptly named the “Hover” Color Picker because it only reveals itself when you hover over its minimized version and then conceals itself once you’re done using it.
For $16, it makes picking colors easy and enjoyable.
Fluid Mask 3
Fluid Mask 3 is a Photoshop plugin used to remove backgrounds and perform cutouts.
Masking - making part of a layer invisible - is a delicate and often difficult process. Fluid Mask 3 is one of the few plugins that 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.
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.
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 that price with unparalleled targeted noise reduction that few other plugins come close to accomplishing.
PortraitPro is a Photoshop plugin for retouching and editing portraits without 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.
From realistic digital makeup to sharpening eyes, mouths, and the subtle characteristics of children, PortraitPro is well worth the $79.90.
Machine Wash Deluxe
Machine Wash Deluxe is a Photoshop plugin that adds scratchy, weathering effects to your photos.
The plugin comes with over 3,500 presets that let you texturize and alter photographs in thousands of ways to make them look old, vintage, or otherworldly.
Really, this one is just fun to play with. For $99, you’ll have a blast making retro designs and abstract photo transformations.
Honorable Mention: CloudApp
CloudApp isn’t technically a Photoshop add-on, plugin, or extension (yet) but it will help you get the “raw materials” you need to create great photos.
You can take screen recordings, screen capture or screenshots of virtually anything, edit them in Photoshop, pass them on to your developer, and if your developer has questions, they can take a screenshot of your finished product, annotate it, and send it back to you. You’re able to comment on those annotations and easily make the required changes and send it back.
CloudApp has both a Mac App, a Windows App, as well as a Chrome Plugin. This allows anyone to work visually on virtually any top web-based and desktop medium, so you and your team instantly know what was done and what needs to be done.
If you want to streamline your Photoshop workflow and be able to gather the visual materials needed to get the job done, then consider signing up for CloudApp - it's free.