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.



16 thoughts on “Pixel Bender arrives in Photoshop

  1. Hey John,
    I’m just curious if the Pixel Blender tech will work from Flex 3 at all?
    I’m just now getting started with Flex so this question may or may not be obvious to someone who already uses it, but I thought I’d check =)

  2. Note that the install instructions don’t exactly work on Vista. Double clicking in the mpx file runs the extension manager as a regular user and then you get errors saying you don’t have enough permission. You have to run the extension manager in administrator mode (right click and select run as administrator) then install the mpx from there.

  3. Ah, awesome, another cool feature that will not work on my Windows XP x64! Keep them coming, to make me more jealous.
    [Unfortunately XP64 has a couple of things working against it. The XP graphics model isn’t nearly as robust as what’s in Vista, and because of XP64’s low market share (esp. among consumers/gamers), driver makers haven’t made it a priority compared to other platforms. My advice is to go to Vista64. –J.]

  4. Ha! This is sooooo cool! I just managed to add the long-missed (at least by me) “Unpremultiply/Unmatte” command to Photoshop in less than ten minutes! This is going to save me loads of hours when doing complex knockouts. Thanks!!!
    Don’t get me wrong, the plug-in and toolkit still need work (stuff like allowing to call up the color picker and the eyedropper for color parameters, the IDE telling me my shader is running slow just because I have a file selector dialog open et cetera, basically it is obvious in many places that it’s still a beta) but it is extremely useful where it is right now and we finally have a way to extend Photoshop that is 100% PiPL-resource-free. Congratulations, great job, keep up the fantastic work!

  5. Cool! I just gave it a spin and it works really well – even on my slow laptop GPU. Most of all, it’s great to be able to write simple plugins without needing to bother with the Photoshop SDK and (possibly worse) the OS SDK.
    I do have two suggestions for the next release, though:
    1) It would be nice if it would support Pixel Bender bytecode filters as well, for those cases where you don’t want to distribute the source.
    2) An option to receive the image data in a common color space (linear ProPhoto RGB?) would be very useful. That way, one can write color-space aware plugins without any effort. Currently, you’d need to supply a version for every individual color space.

  6. Jack,
    Just got my CS4 creative suite 4 design premium vista 32.
    The pixel bender is a real blast.
    I changed over and added this inDesign this year….Want to learn how to use it….really cool app….guys like me in KY just can’t read and write.
    My best
    Ken in KY

  7. John, some questions:
    When will there be a final release?
    [This is the final release, actually. We don’t plan to revise the plug-in for CS4. Sorry, I should have made that clearer. The purpose in using Labs in this case it to publish the code in a way that flags it as “useful, interesting, but experimental”–but not to suggest that there will be a subsequent version coming for this release. –J.]
    I have a Geforce 8600GT with 512MB graphics RAM. The max image size that Pixel Bender can work with (on my PC) is 4096*4096 pixels. Why is it limited? The max. texture size of my card is 8192*8192.
    What card do I need to work with larger files?
    [Hopefully someone from the PB team is lurking and can offer an answer. –J.]
    Btw., I`d like to see some “standard” filters like gaussian blur or smart sharpen.
    Pixel Bender is really great, because it`s extremely fast!
    [Yeah, people tend to like fast. 😉 –J.]

  8. Hi Jack,
    do you intend to support the other graphic cards for Pixel Bender, too. The Geforce 9500GT or the ATI V3700/V3750 ?
    [I’m not really up on those cards’ specs, so I’m not sure. –J.]

  9. So this is the “wicked fast” stuff I saw in the pre-release keynote video.
    It’s disappointing to get this tool as a plugin with a small preview window, but considering how much a headache the current GPU implementation is for many PS CS4 users, myself included, I can see why this wasn’t integrated into the application’s filters.

  10. I could live with the preview window, because I have 2 monitors and can stretch the slider panel to the secondary monitor. So I have the preview window as large as my primary monitor.
    But…..Pixel Bender is not colormanaged. If I use anything other than sRGB colors are off.
    And currently it`s limited to 4096*4096 pixels. Over at the Pixel Bender forum I was told by one of the developers that they limited it, because there were problems with larger pictures even if the card could theoretically handle larger textures than 4*4K.
    John, this limit is really a big handicap, because many new DSLRs have larger file sizes. Please press on the card makers to get their drivers updated and release a new PB version without that limit!

  11. the 4k x 4k limit was added because we saw some issues using larger textures even on cards that supported it. As far as which cards will/won’t work. We test card capabilities, so if you have a discrete graphics card that you bought in the last few years, it should work.

  12. Even though logged in as admin, I get an error message saying I don’t have permission to install pbplugin_ps32b_111708

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