Category Archives: Pixel Bender

Pixel Bender discontinued in PS, AE CS6

In CS6 the Photoshop & After Effects teams have decided to move away from enabling the Pixel Bender language for writing imaging filters.  The popular Oil Paint effect has been brought into Photoshop CS6, but the Pixel Bender Gallery plug-in will no longer be offered on Adobe Labs.

Pixel Bender is very cool technology, but it just didn’t get widespread adoption from developers, and it’s important to focus dev efforts. This step frees up Adobe’s graphics whizzes to help bring GPU-accelerated filters to everyone via CSS shaders, like this:

and this:

Oil Painting, upside down

Mark Barbieri captured rollercoaster video using a GoPro camera, then ran Photoshop’s Pixel Bender Oil Painting filter on the clip. “The idea,” he writes, “is that as we ride through the launch building, we transition from the real world to a fantasy world.” I like it.

Tangential: He used the After Effects Warp Stabilizer on a clip from the same ride, though not on the one above. “For reasonably stable video with an annoying amount of wandering,” he writes, “I’ve found it to be miraculous. It was worth the price of the upgrade to CS5.5 by itself.”

Painting with lasers & Photoshop (seriously!)

Honest to God, I kind of live for seeing inventive people like Russell Brown combine the tools we make in really novel, unintended ways. Here Russell uses Pixel Bender CS5, a laser etching machine, a printer, and some old-school artistic media to create digital paintings with real depth:

Russell’s also giving away ten copies of his book on the subject, From Reality to Renaissance; see more info if you’re interested.

Pixel Bender revised for CS5

I’m pleased to say that the Pixel Bender Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS5 has been revised to address a number of bugs discovered after the initial release.  It’s ready for download from Adobe Labs. [Via Zorana Gee]

[Update: Thanks to readers for pointing out that the package version number was set incorrectly. The team has re-wrapped/re-posted the plug-in with the correct number (2.1.0). There’s no need to re-download, and sorry about the confusion.]

Pixel Bender comes to CS5, adds Oil Paint filter

I’m pleased to announce that the Pixel Bender Gallery plug-in for Photoshop CS5 is now available for download from Adobe Labs. Key points:

  • It runs filters really, really fast on your graphics card (GPU)
  • The plug-in is not one filter, but rather a harness into which you can drop Pixel Bender files (.PBK and .PBG)
  • Pixel Bender also runs cross-platform in After Effects & Flash Player 10
  • The filters people write for Flash will also work in Photoshop

In addition, the plug-in now includes a very cool Oil Paint filter that produces some painterly results (see this pair of screenshots), nicely complementing all the painting enhancements in Photoshop CS5.

The plug-in is essentially the same as the version that was available for CS4, but it has been revised for CS5 & 64-bit Mac compatibility. Here’s a one-minute demo movie that shows the plug-in in action. You can download additional filters from the Pixel Bender Exchange, discuss PB authoring in the user forum, and use the Pixel Bender Toolkit to create your own filters.

2010 Creative Suite Developer Summit coming soon

If you extend or integrate with Creative Suite apps–or if you’d like to–the 2010 Creative Suite Developer Summit may be up your alley. It’s being held in Seattle May 3-6, and topics will range over everything from porting plug-ins to 64-bit, extending Suite apps using Flex and new dev tools (more on that very soon), to using technologies like ePub and Pixel Bender. I’ll on hand to show off a new version of Configurator, and I hope to see you there.

New Pixel Bender Toolkit available

A new version of the Pixel Bender Toolkit, used for writing imaging filters that run super fast in Photoshop, Flash, and After Effects, is available for download from Adobe Labs. Engineering manager Kevin Goldsmith writes,

This new version includes the ability to edit, compile and run Pixel Bender Graphs (supported in Photoshop and After Effects). It also has a number of bug fixes, specifically in areas around PBJ generation.

If you’ve haven’t yet grabbed the PB Gallery plug-in for Photoshop CS4, you might want to do so as it lets you run an ever-growing set of very fast filters. (Plus, we’d like to get your feedback on where to take it in the future.) I’ve collected lots of PB-related resources & links here.

Cool Pixel Bender experiments, resources

  • The always inventive Mario Klingemann has created a pair of interesting pieces:
    • Feedback couples motion tracking with a Web cam + Pixel Bender. He’s uploaded a set of screenshots created with the app. (It makes me look like a bad hallucination out of Natural Born Killers.)
    • Passing By is a “meditative piece which uses copyright-free images from the Flickr Commons project to generate a never-repeating illusion.”
  • Lee Felarca does on-the-fly green-screening with your Web cam.
  • The new Pixel Bender Explorer AIR app that demonstrates how to apply PB animations & effects to your JavaScript-based AIR applications. [Via]

New painting tools: Watercolor, Pollock, and iPhone

Pixel Bender contest extended; new examples

To give developers more time to write killer code, the folks at NVIDIA have extended the Pixel Bender contest deadline to Feb. 28.  For more info (links to dev tools, etc.), see previous.


By the way a couple of developers have pointed out that contest entry is restricted to US residents.  I don’t know why that is, and hopefully it’s something that can get changed.  (The same limitation has popped up in various Adobe contests.  I don’t know why it does, but everyone agrees that it sucks & would like to change it.)


Elsewhere, Paul Burnett shared some more PB coolness: a spinnable globe (complete with source) featuring a spherize filter + throw physics, as well as the bizarre Dancing Dudes demo (see screenshot).  (Me, I would’ve gone with some vintage Rockwell for the soundtrack.)


And one more thing: Adobe announced today that Flash Player 10–needed to run Pixel Bender in a browser–is now installed on more than half the Net-connected PCs & Mac in the world, and that’s after just two months of availability.  If you think browser-based image editors like are powerful now, wait til they really start embracing PB.

New Pixel Bender bits

Pixel Bender comes to your Web cam

Rich Tretola has created FotoBooth 2, a free Adobe AIR app that applies Pixel Bender effects on the fly to data coming in from your Web cam.  To check it out, make sure you’ve installed AIR 1.5, then download FotoBooth.  (Here’s a deeply unflattering screenshot.)


The app idea & features aren’t new–in fact, it’s nearly a clone of Apple’s Photo Booth–but it’s neat to see how the Flash/AIR platform has evoloved.  All these fast Pixel Bender effects could be run in Photoshop via the free Pixel Bender plug-in for CS4.


By the way, in case you missed it over the break, NVIDIA is sponsoring a Pixel Bender creation contest.  Give it a shot and win some great loot.

Create with Pixel Bender, win loot

Feel like winning an Alienware Area-51 PC, or perhaps one of several NVIDIA Quadro CX graphics cards?  Then get cranking creating some killer Pixel Bender code for use in Photoshop, Flash, and After Effects.  Here’s the official blurb:


NVIDIA and Adobe are joining forces to encourage artists and developers to write Adobe® Pixel Bender™ Kernels for Adobe Creative Suite® 4. The first place winner will receive an Alienware Area-51 Personal Computer. Category winners will receive a NVIDIA Quadro CX graphics card. The categories are coolest Pixel Bender kernel, most useful Pixel Bender kernel in the Adobe Photoshop® workflow, and most technically compelling.


Contest entries will be accepted from January 1st 2009 – January 31st 2009. Afterwards, all entries will be open for viewing at


For some guidance on jumping in, you might want to check out the "Creating Effects With Pixel Bender" MAX Lab materials posted by Kevin Goldsmith, engineering mgr. for Pixel Bender.  Other resources:


Pixel Bender arrives in Photoshop

I’m delighted to announce that the Pixel Bender Gallery plug-in for Photoshop CS4 is now available for download from Adobe Labs.  Key points:


  • It runs filters really, really fast on your graphics card (GPU)
  • The plug-in is not one filter, but rather a harness into which you can drop Pixel Bender files (.PBK and .PBG)
  • Pixel Bender also runs cross-platform in After Effects CS4 & Flash Player 10
  • The filters people write for Flash will also work in Photoshop
  • We should therefore see an explosion in the number of new Photoshop filters becoming available


I recorded a quick (1 minute) demo movie of the plug-in in action.  The package includes great sample filters from developers Joa Ebert, Petri Leskinen, Frank Reitberger, Jerry Lin, and Allen Chou (thanks again, guys), and you can grab new ones from the Adobe Exchange & other developer blogs.  Simply drop the tiny PBK text files into the "Pixel Bender Files" folder that’s created in your Photoshop CS4 folder, open the filter (Filters->Pixel Bender->Pixel Bender Gallery), and go to town.


Miscellaneous notes:


  • The Pixel Bender plug-in has the same GPU requirements as Photoshop CS4.  The more memory on your card, the larger the images you can process with it.
  • This being a Labs release, it’s a little less polished & a little more utilitarian than what you’d expect from a filter that’s installed by default.  (For example, you can’t click onto the filter preview to manipulate parameters directly.)  Even so, we expect it to work well.
  • A couple of commenters have given me grief about Photoshop’s old-school Radial Blur & Mosaic filters (the former for not having a live preview, the latter for not offering independent height/width controls).  Both requests are addressed by filters included in this download.  (The radial blur option does spin only, but you can grab Ryan Phelan’s Zoom Blur sample to do zooming.)
  • Adobe has released various PB developer tools as well.  Engineering manager Kevin Goldsmith provides details on his blog.


Fundamentally, Pixel Bender demonstrates that Adobe’s significant architectural investments are delivering a faster, more interactive, much more easily extensible Photoshop & Creative Suite, now and in the future.



Pixel Bender + Your Photos

I’m a big fan of Todd Dominey’s SlideShowPro component for Lightroom (using it pretty much incessantly), so I’m extremely pleased to see Todd adding support for Adobe’s new Pixel Bender imaging technology. PB is a way of running fast filter code in Flash Player 10, After Effects CS4, and–very shortly–Photoshop CS4. In this example (which you’ll need FP10 to see properly), color images are being converted to B&W on the fly, and the gallery is running a blur effect as the transition.

On-the-fly filtering opens up all kinds of possibilities for altering images non-destructively, from adding custom vignettes to applying sharpening (example). At a more humble (but arguably even more important level), the same graphics architecture enables color management support in Flash for the first time. Look for a more detailed post on that subject soon.

Pixel Bender support isn’t yet in the Lightroom version of SlideShowPro, but I’m looking forward to it. As for Photoshop, we decided to give the PB plug-in for CS4 a couple more weeks to bake, so look for it on Adobe Labs in early November. (In the meantime, just to be annoying, let me mention that being able to cruise over to the Pixel Bender Exchange, download filters (e.g. a fast zoom blur with preview), drop them into PS, and have added super-fast filters without restarting the app doesn’t suck at all.)

New Pixel Bender hotness

At Photoshop World I demonstrated Photoshop running a plug-in that houses Pixel Bender, Adobe’s new cross-platform, cross-application technology for running filters silly fast on GPUs & CPUs.  Because it also runs in the upcoming Flash Player 10 (due in conjunction with CS4) and in After Effects, I expect Pixel Bender to usher in a whole new era for Photoshop filters.  It radically lowers the barrier to entry (all you need is a text editor–which Adobe happens to provide)–and did I mention that it’s fast?


I’m seeing plenty of interesting examples popping up online.  To check them out you need to install the Flash Player 10 beta.



A couple of other notes:


  • Kind of a technicality: Pixel Bender won’t be supported in the box in the next version of Photoshop, but we plan to offer a PB plug-in as a free download when CS4 ships.  Therefore it’s effectively part of the release.
  • I expect the ability to run filter in the Flash Player to have a big impact on what Flash-based RIAs like Photoshop Express can do.

Pixel Bender now showing in Flash Player

Earlier today I found myself over at NVIDIA, demoing some of the new OpenGL-accelerated Photoshop technology we’ve got cooking in the labs.  The latest GPUs are just crazy-fast, and it’s a great pleasure to see a 2-gigabyte, 442-Megapixel Photoshop file gliding around like buttah*.


Adobe’s efforts to take advantage of the GPU certainly aren’t confined to Photoshop.  In a short video on Adobe Labs, Flash Player PM Justin Everett-Church demonstrates Pixel Bender filters running in Flash Player 10.  If you’ve installed the FP10 beta, you can play with Pixel Bender yourself in this interactive demo.  It comes pre-loaded with some cool (and very fast) filters, and you can grab more from the Pixel Bender exchange.  If you want to experiment further, check out documentation from Adobe’s Lee Brimelow.


On a slightly tangential note (using the shipping Flash Player 9, not FP10/Pixel Bender), Robert Lewis & co. of Fashion Buddha have created "dynamic
that arrange the byte arrays of the images and then re-compress them as JPEGs – all within Flash.  By displaying a sequence of
these byte-tweaked images quickly we can create an effect similar to
an old TV tuner that badly needs to be adjusted. The glitch effect is
subtle by default, but can be increased using the slider in the menu."  I can’t wait to see what these guys can accomplish with FP10 & Pixel Bender.


* Incidentally, to the folks recently carping that nothing meaningful ever improves in Photoshop, I’d submit that expending a heck of a lot of energy to make the display of every single pixel faster and smoother is, well, *rather meaningful*.  Effort really doesn’t get more fundamental, or more broadly useful, than that.

[Update: Flash Player engineer Tinic Uro gives a detailed overview of Adobe Pixel Bender in Flash Player 10 Beta. Pixel Bender code runs well on a GPU or CPU, and FP10 introduces more GPU support, but it doesn’t run Pixel Bender code on the GPU.]

Adobe "Hydra" now "Pixel Bender"

No, it’s not a low-res portrait of an "alcoholic, whore-mongering, chain-smoking gambler"; rather, "Pixel Bender" is the official name for Adobe’s new scripting language for writing fast imaging filters.  Engineering manager Kevin Goldsmith explains,


Hydra is an awesome name for a language like the one we created. At the very beginning, Jonathan Shekter came up with it as a code name for this cool language that could run on different kinds of hardware efficiently. The problem is that it’s a great name for any kind of technology that does multiple things, so it is pretty popular. We didn’t want to confuse folks, so we worked with the Adobe branding team to come up with a new name that we could use moving forward. That name is Pixel Bender™.


As someone whose mind was blown by the original MacPaint, I was pushing for "Phat Bits"–a fun way to combine a reference to the old-school "Fat bits" display mode with an equally dated bit of 90’s slang.  But hey, they don’t pay me to come up with the marvels of Adobe branding.


Developers wanting to take Hyd–er, Pixel Bender–for a spin can grab the coding & preview environment from Adobe Labs.

New AIF Toolkit on Adobe Labs

Time for an update to The Greatest Technology You Don’t Care About… Yet. 🙂

Engineering manager Kevin Goldsmith has announced that a new version of the Adobe Image Foundation (AIF) Toolkit Preview Release is available for download from Adobe Labs.

Think of AIF as similar to Apple’s Core Image technology (running really fast filters on your graphics card), but with added goodness.  For one thing, in addition to working in desktop tools like After Effects and (maybe, someday, I’m not sayin’) Photoshop and others, AIF will work in the next version of the incredibly ubiquitous Flash Player.  So…

AIF = Fast-as-hell filters on every desktop, everywhere

In addition to opening tons of doors for Flash animators, it’ll give the Flash Platform a huge bump in its ability to support apps like Photoshop Express.  And it’ll encourage lots of cool cross-pollination, as developers can leverage the imaging code they write for Flash in order to create filters for Adobe desktop apps, and vice versa.

Back to the news at hand: the Toolkit helps developers write and test their imaging code in a scripting language codenamed “Hydra” (real name TBA).  If that sounds like your bag, head over to Labs, grab the build, and try out & share examples in the gallery.

Adobe unveils Hydra imaging technology

Greetings from the show floor at Adobe MAX*.  During the keynote yesterday, the Flash team revealed some really interesting news–what I think may be the sleeper announcement of the show: the Flash Player is being equipped to run Hydra, a new graphics programming language from Adobe. [Update: You can see the technology demoed in this video, starting around 5:30.]

Instead of running just the built-in drop shadows, blurs, etc. that were added in version 8, Flash (and by extension Adobe AIR) will now be able to run an essentially unlimited number of imaging effects.  Hydra is tuned to run ridiculously fast on modern graphics cards (GPUs), and it’ll be tuned for multi-core CPUs as well.  You can download a free beta of the Adobe Image Foundation (AIF) Toolkit from Labs and get started creating your own Hydra-based filters.

Here’s a key point, though: the same Hydra technology is being used to power the fast filters in After Effects CS3.  Therefore an AE plug-in developer could effectively also develop runtime effects for Flash, while a Flash developer could leverage her work inside AE.  And wouldn’t it be something if that same work could run in other Adobe apps that crunch pixels (I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…).

Here are some quick screenshots of Hydra running inside the AIF Toolkit, which allows you to write & preview code in one environment.  Developers have already started to share their code, and AIF/Hydra engineering manager Kevin Goldsmith has posted a bit more info on his blog.  Kevin will talk through the engineering details in a 3pm session tomorrow at MAX (see below).

[Update: Mario Klingemann has uploaded some screenshots of his experiments plus info on his blog. [Via]  Elsewhere, Flash Player engineer Tinic Uro shares details & code on his blog.]

[Update 2: Kevin has just uploaded his slide deck from MAX, featuring example filters, code walkthroughs, and more.]

*The WiFi here is free, but you get what you pay for, and I haven’t gotten it to work all day.  Therefore I’ve surreptitiously snagged an Ethernet cable out of the back of one of these “PDF Kiosks.”  Guerilla blogging at its finest…