There’s some interesting movement from AKVIS, makers of rather over-priced but robust single-purpose graphics plugins.
1) Their AKVIS Decorator 8.0 is now finally ready for prime-time, having introduced a 3x speed boost with version 7.0 just before Christmas 2019, and their version 8.0 in early 2020 polished that up even further. It works as a Photoshop plugin and replaces clothing and wallpaper while retaining shadows, folds etc…
I’ve given the Photoshop plugin version a good test in PhotoLine, and it now works fine and fast, having previously been very slow. It can now take only seven seconds to replace a dress at 2400px, compared to many minutes before. Just remember to tweak your material scaling up to 150% or above, for a huge speed boost. The higher the scaling, the faster it runs.
2) Their AKVIS Charcoal 5.0, which I’ve not been impressed with in the past, now runs on a completely “new photo-to-drawing conversion algorithm” as of the new 5.0 (29th July 2020) version. A change which kind of confirms my feeling that previous versions were lacking something. Again, I’ve tested the latest version, since they have ten-day demos. As you’d expect from the name, it tries to convert your cute cat / boyfriend / selfie photo etc into a mixed charcoal/chalk drawing. It’s fast and on my test Poser comic-book render I found a few of the thirty or so presets that I could just about imagine making a stylised horror comic with. Most were too scribbly and the scribbles had no respect for the eyes, though, and did little better than the free G’MIC. AKVIS needs a “detect and partly protect the eyes” module in the algorithm, I’d suggest. Still, I was able to brew a pleasing custom preset fairly quickly…
…and I like the software far more than before. This picture is still sharp at the edges, because Charcoal was running on a masked PNG render. Provided you want heavily ‘smudged and gauzy’, with a little work it could give you a style that could work for a Halloween ghost tale. There may also be some potential for hatching into shadows, but I didn’t immediately see it other than in some promisingly-labelled sliders. Otherwise, for charcoal also look at the free G’MIC plugins before you spend $50 to buy this. The only drawback there is that, last time I heard, the G’MIC suite is for Krita, GIMP, Paint.NET… but not for Photoshop. G’MIC for Photoshop will likely happen, but it could be a while yet.
The cost is the main drawback with AKVIS, with each plugin costing around $50. $49 for Charcoal, and $54 for Decorator. And even at that price, neither are commercial-use and amazingly they’re feature-restricted unless you go for the even more expensive Business version. For example, the $49 standard version of Charcoal won’t let you select an earlier frame unless you have the $89 Business version.
It’ll be interesting to see if AKVIS Watercolor gets the overhaul treatment next, as the February 2020 changelog suggests it’s about where Decorator and Charcoal’s changelogs were a while back.