Phantasmagoria: transform your images with an arsenal of cool effects

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Phantasmagoria is a free image manipulation program that offers a number of potential interventions, ranging from common editing operations (scaling, rotating, cropping, annotation, etc.) to sophisticated effects such as adding background textures, applying color adjustments, distortion and warping, blurring and sharpening, and a number of other effects.

It also includes Flickr and Twitter uploading support, as well as the option to receive Twitter messages.

This program offers you the ability to load an image and perform a wide number of possible operations.

It is the kind of tool that lends itself well to experimentation (in fact that is probably the only way to use this tool, at least until you are familiar with the kind of effects it can do that you like).

The idea behind Phantasmagoria is to provide a collection of tools that can be used to produce interesting images without the need for any other editing program. Alternately, of course, you can use these effects to transform images that you then go on to use in other editing or design applications. For examples of the type of things that this program can do, see the examples above (these are a small subset taken from the examples page on the program web site). Here are more notes on this program:

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  • Phantasmagoria effects chooserThe user interface: clean and sleek, however, I do think it could have been better (see wish list below).
  • The effects: a wide range. The first thing to do after you install this is open the effects chooser (select “effects” then “effects chooser” from the menu) and see what’s on offer.
  • Region of interest: you can select this option from the ’edit’ menu, select a (rectangular shaped) region from within you image, perform any number of operations on that region, then select ’region of interest’ again to reveal your entire image with whatever manipulations only applying to the area you had selected (and the rest of the image unchanged).
  • Background textures: you can a number of cool textures to the transparent regions of images, or, through the “effects chooser” overlay a texture transparently on top of your image.
  • Undo: an interesting implementation of this. The program does not have undo functionality but will allow you to create a “restoration point” at any time, and can revert you to that point if you so choose – so don’t forget to set it frequently.
  • Other editing functions: scale (i.e. resize), crop, rotate, add text or add image, adjust color properties (hue, saturation, intensity), remove R/G/B or transparent color band, remove red eye, equalize contrast (in HSI or RGB space), add spotlight, and others.
  • Flickr, Twitter: you can upload your images to these. For Twitter you have the option to receive updates straight into Phantasmagoria, or set it to send updates whenever certain events occur such as opening the program, uploading an image, etc. Note: I did not try these personally.
  • Capturing webcam images: is possible, but requires downloading the Java Media Framework.

Wish list:

  • Effects chooser placement: should have been on the main interface, in my opinion, next to the image and adjacent to (or in place of) two histograms
    that currently display quantitative information on god-knows-what.
  • Live previews: in most instances you will have to select your filter and any associated values then run them to see what they will look like. “Live previews” would be a very welcome feature.

The verdict: a nice set of tools overall. This program contains many effects which can be found as standalone programs (e.g. creating a “sketch” or stained glass effects), and its nice to have all of these in one place. If you are a designer and/or you work with images a lot you will appreciate these effects for (if nothing else) the ideas and inspiration they might stimulate just playing around with them. Overall an interesting program – try it for yourself.

Version Tested: 1.00

Compatibility: Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista, Mac, Linux. Install-free version through the browser is available. Requires Java Runtime Environment (JRE) versions 6 or later (get it here).

Go to the program page to download the latest version (approx 3.4 megs).