I’d heard of Genuine Fractals — onOne Software’s scaling plugin — from Tim at Blue Moon Printing but I had yet to try it out for myself. It’s basically a plugin for Photoshop which uses a proprietary algorithm (as opposed to Photshop’s built in resizing modes) to enlarge images. I was pretty skeptical but finally decided to try it out tonight when faced with some daunting upscaling projects.
I’m in the process of working through some older posters and sizing them up to the larger formats. For a long time I created all of my prints at 12×18″ (or thereabouts, depending on the format) as my computer just couldn’t handle anything bigger. For many I’ve been able to go back and recreate them, but some elements in the posters are scanned from smaller sources and just couldn’t be scaled up (e.g. the sky background in the above example. It’s made from a photo of a textile which is of a finite size and I don’t have access to anymore). So I figured now would be a good time to give Genuine Fractals a try. To my amazement it handled everything I threw at it beautifully. The interface and workflow are dead simple: you just initiate the Genuine Fractals dialog from the File > Automate menu, resize, click apply, and you’re done. It’s even fast, about the same speed as Photoshop’s resize command. There’s not much more to say as the results really speak for themselves. Simply put: Genuine Fractals can scale your images up to 1000% larger without any noticeable degradation. That’s what it says on their site and from my experience I’d say that’s absolutely true.
Genuine Fractals excels at photographic imagery, but that’s to be expected. With complex raster images it’s easy for imperfections to hide amongst all the shapes and colors. I thought the true test would be it’s ability to scale up flattened vector images. That is, vector shape and text layers flattened into raster images. I am doing this just to better illustrate how clean the scaling is but Genuine Fractals can actually handle multi-layered images (text, raster, and vector shape layers), scaling each layer individually and maintaining the original layer type. Meaning, if you feed it a document with a raster layer, a text layer, and a vector layer, it will use it’s algorithm to scale the raster data but will also scale the text and vector layers without rasterizing them. All the layers will be maintained as they were in the original document, they will just be scaled up. For my purposes, this is what makes Genuine Fractals truly powerful.
Here are some of my results. I know, none of this is very scientific but it’s a small glimpse of how well this program works. See the subtext under each image for a description.
As you can see, the lines are still crisp and defined with the Genuine Fractals enlargements. It’s not exactly perfect when compared to the original, but it’s a greatly improved alternative to Photoshop’s native scaling algorithms. My only question now is: At $700, why doesn’t Photoshop have this kind of power built in? New features like content aware scaling are nice and all, but I’d much rather they spent their R&D money on core functionality like this.
You can download a demo of Genuine Fractals from their site to try it out yourself. At $150, the software is a little too pricey for casual use, I’d say this is more for print shops and professional photographers looking to scale up their work for large format printing.