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We enlarged this little ladybug 300 percent using Blow Up 2.
In a perfect world, we wouldn’t ever have to upsize digital images. But as long as there are clients who blithely provide low-res pictures for use in print publications, we’re stuck having to figure out the best way to get the most out of the pixels we’re given.
If you try to upsize an image more than 15 percent or so using Photoshop’s Image Size, you’ll likely end up with over-pixilated crud. You can try the 10 percent trick that appeared in one of Scott Kelby’s books—set up an action in Photoshop to resample the image size 110 percent in Bicubic Smoother mode, assign a function key, and then just keep whacking the key until you get to the size you need (check out Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 on Amazon.com: tinyurl.com/5w24pp). This can produce good results if you need to make a near-perfect image about 40 percent (or thereabouts) larger.
For more complicated resizing jobs, Alien Skin’s Blow Up 2 plug-in for Photoshop is awesome. We tried it with a dozen images, and with great photos, we could increase the size by about 150 percent with virtually no visible loss of image quality. Some strongly graphic images could be pushed twice as far. When working with more problematic images—lower resolution, lesser quality, or pictures that had a lot of fine, detailed edges (like a leafy forest scene) we could upsize about 70 percent before the image started to look too pixilated. Blow Up’s simulated texture and film grain options did a great job keeping images from acquiring that too-smooth plastic look that often occurs during upsizing—though for serious control when adding grain, you’ll want to use a separate tool specialized for the task.
Blow Up 2 processes images faster than before and deals with digital noise better. You can manually tweak images or work with one of the dozens of prefab settings for standard paper sizes up to 13-by-19 and media output type—the presets that deal with JPEG compression artifacts are particularly useful. The new Crop to Size Tool does just what its name indicates: You can now crop and enlarge images in one step, rather than having to crop before you upsize. And resizing a folder of photos is a snap with the new batch-processing tool.