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The best free Photoshop plugins in 2021

free Photoshop plugins
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best free Photoshop plugins allow you to extend the functionality of Photoshop, and provide a wider range of options to enhance your photos. 

They open up a whole new world of image editing opportunities, from new ways to reduce noise in your images to removing the "digital gray" that comes with HDR photography. 

Below, we've gathered together the very best free Photoshop plugins for you to download today. Some of them perform relatively simple tasks, such as adding a soft focus effect to portraits, or generating dot grids based on selections. Others are more advanced, allowing you to create complex 3D shapes or gradients, for example. But either way, none of the plugins on this list will cost you a penny.

Meanwhile, if you're a Lightroom user too, then also be sure to check out our list of the best free Lightroom presets.

1. Best free Photoshop plugins: HDR Sharpener

Closeup on fox

(Image credit: Orange Box.com)

HDR Sharpener is a free Photoshop plugin that lets you easily create HDR-like effects. Use it to increase the dynamic range of the image and sharpen it, within a level ranging from 1 to 10. Best of all, this is a non-destructive editing tool, and leaves the original image unharmed. 

Download here

2. Best free Photoshop plugins: Variable Channel Inversion Plugin

Cartoon ant

(Image credit: Richard Roseman)

This free Photoshop plugin allows precise, independent and variable color channel inversion. Unlike standard Photoshop tools that only provide on- or off-channel inversion, Channel Inverter allows you to adjust the amount to by degrees. You also get the ability to output (or repress) specific color channels. 

Download here

 3. Best free Photoshop plugins: Tint and Black & White Conversion Plugin

Inside of train carriage

(Image credit: Colormancer)

Want to add tints to your images for artistic and retro looks? This free Photoshop plugin gives you a range of choices including sepia tone, warm, cool, bleach bypass, and more. You can also use it to convert colour images to black and white, plus it can emulate the use of color filters used for black and white photography.

Download here

4. Best free Photoshop plugins: Diffuse

Woman looking at sealion in tank

(Image credit: Richard Roseman)

Diffuse is very similar to Adobe Photoshop’s own diffuse filter with a key difference: it supports sub-pixel (fractional) diffusion. This killer feature makes this free Photoshop plugin a great choice for production where antialiasing effects are necessary.

Download here

5. Best free Photoshop plugins: Texture Anarchy

Variety of jewellery

The best free Photoshop plugins give you exciting new possibilities for what you can do in Photoshop, and this one is no exception. It's a set of Adobe Photoshop filters for creating both 2D and 3D textures and borders. The textures are procedural textures based on fractal noise, which can be helpful for natural images like fire, smoke, clouds, and marble. 

The palettes for lighting, layers, fractal noise and color gradients make up building blocks for the textures. It has color wells and gradients to generate different color combinations, and they have a selection of blend modes that set how the patterns and colors interact with each other.

Download here

6. Best free Photoshop plugins: Super PNG

Dialog box

SuperPNG is one of the best free Photoshop plugins for using with PNG files. It has more comprehensive support for the format than Photoshop's included plugin, and provides control over alpha-channel handling. It includes the additional options for saving PNGs:

• Alpha channel control
• Variable Compression
• Smart Quantization
• ICC profile embedding
• Metadata saving

Download here

7. Best free Photoshop plugins: HDR Tools

Dramatic sky above buildings

(Image credit: HDR Tools)

Free Photoshop plugin HDR Tools is designed to remove the "digital gray" (the lack of contrast, or true black) that comes with HDR photography. Creator Forfie found that when using the HDR technique, the contrast became very flat. He created HDR Tools to boost the blacks and erase the "digital gray" effect in your HDR imagery.

Download here

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8. Best free Photoshop plugins: Layrs Control 2

City skyline by a river at night

Layrs is designed to help you keep your workspace nice and tidy, and speed up your workflow in a few key areas, with a click of a button. Its functions include deleting all unused effects on all selected layers, deleting all empty layers, flattening all effects on selected layers, rasterizing every layer, making every selected layer an individual smart object, and finding files and folders with similar names. Used right, this free Photoshop plugin should save you a lot of time and effort.

Download here

9. Best free Photoshop plugins: Ink

Cartoon octopus

Ink is a free Photoshop plugin that gives you extra information about your mockups by documenting your layers, from typography to effects and shape sizes. The latest edition features artboard support.

Download here

10. Best free Photoshop plugins: Tych Panel

Range of views of harbourside at night

Tych Panel is a free Photoshop extension that automates the creation of diptychs and triptychs. It supports an arbitrary number of layouts using a row/column compositing paradigm. Together with a handy panel interface, Tych Panel is a very good diptych, tripych and ntych automation tool.

Download here

11. Best free Photoshop plugins: Auto FX GRFX Studio Pro 

Software box and DSLR

Studio Pro is a selection of free Photoshop plugins from Auto FX. These plugins help you cut down the time you spend editing photos. They include a suite of tools and presets that you can quickly apply to photos, along with a host of other functions. 

Download here

12. Best free Photoshop plugins: Griddify

River leading to range of mountains

Griddify is a small and quite unique free Photoshop plugin. It helps with composing guides and custom grid systems, as well as achieving vertical rhythm.

Download here

13. Best free Photoshop plugins: Denoiser

Two aquatic birds

Ximagic Denoiser is a free Photoshop plugin for image noise reduction. It provides you with seven different ways to reduce noise, namely Median, Gauss, Wavelets (DWT), Wavelets (CWT), DCT, NLM and Anisotropic diffusion. Each method tackles a different quality of noise, to help you improve the image quality in your photo. 

Download here

14. Best free Photoshop plugins: Free Mockups

Laptop screen showing photo of mobile phone

Easy Mockups allows you to automate iOS design presentation. This free Photoshop plugin allows you to choose from predesigned mockups, background and artwork layers, and then it will automate a design for you. It comes with 10 unique high-resolution mockups to choose from.

Download here

15. Best free Photoshop plugins: 3D Shadow creator

3D render of the word '3D'

This handy tool easily creates various types of 3D shadows from objects such as letters, numbers and shapes. All settings are present in a single window: transparency level, perspective, shadow color and position, X/Y/Z angles, and more.

Download here

16. Best free Photoshop plugins: Curves

Selection of fruit

This free Photoshop plugin allows you to apply a curve with easily controllable shape characteristics. With only three parameters (contrast, brightness, bias), you can easily retouch your photos in just a few seconds. To help make your editing process even easier, eight thumbnails show you different suggested presets that you can choose with a click.

Download here

17. Best free Photoshop plugins: BW Conversion

Mountain range

You can find a lot of black-and-white conversion plugins, but this one has a powerful set of controls and features. It gives you total control over the tonal response of  Red, Yellow, Green, Cyan, Blue and Magenta, and the intermediate hues. You can boost each color's tonal response all the way up to white, or limit it down to black, without affecting the other colors at all. 

This free Photoshop plugin plugin comes with presets that simulate the tonal response of popular black-and-white films, and you can add a grain effect through it too. You can even save the settings in parameter files for future use.

Download here

18. Best free Photoshop plugins: ASCII Art

  • Empty list

Ascii image of cartoon ant

This free Photoshop plugin generates Ascii art from a preview image. It does this by converting the image file into an ASCII text file and mapping heavier-toned Ascii characters to darker areas, and lighter toned Ascii characters to brighter areas. For instance, the character ‘#’ maps to a darker color while the character ‘.’ maps to a brighter color. It's fun little plugin that lets you try creative experimentations with your photos.

Download here

19. Best free Photoshop plugins: Local contrast enhancement

Mountain range

This Photoshop plugin's main purpose is to draw out detail in an image. This is done by increasing the contrast between a pixel's value and the mean value of the adjacent pixels in a local area of the photo. This allows you to control the amount of contrast, the size of the local area, and the amount of blending with the original photo. 

Download here

20. Best free Photoshop plugins: Fractal Flames

Fractals

Fractal Flames is a free Photoshop plugin based on fractal work created by Scott Draves in 1992. Aside from boasting fast, multithreaded processing combined with 16-bits / channel high-color support, Fractal Flames offers a number of additional sophisticated features. It provides full control over all six fractal coefficients, resulting in a virtually unlimited number of different possible fractal combinations.

Download here

21. Best free Photoshop plugins: Selective Saturation

Children's slide

Sometimes, parts of a photo require a saturation adjustment, while others don't. If you increase the saturation of the entire picture, the most saturated parts get oversaturated. Similarly, if you decrease the saturation globally, the less saturated parts get undersaturated.

In situations like this, youneed a Saturation Mask based on the individual pixel saturation so you can adjust it solely where it's needed. Selective Saturation lets you define a Saturation Zone by setting its centre and range with two sliders. This means that every saturation adjustment will only affect the parts of the photo where the saturation value lies in the specified saturation zone.

Download here

22. Best free Photoshop plugins: High Pass Sharpening

Red flowers

This free Photoshop plugin sharpens photos with the high pass method. This generally produces less haloing and other sharpening artifacts than USM. You can also adjust the high pass filter radius, and control the blending with the original image. A high pass output preview is also available to help the user adjust the filter radius up to the point the edges to be sharpened show up. 

Download here

23. Best free Photoshop plugins: Halftone Pattern

Halftone image of cartoon ant

Halftone is a free Photoshop plugin that simulates halftone imagery through the use of dots. It converts an image to black and white, using the pixel intensity to define the dot size. Halftone works on black and white images as well as full-color ones.

Download here

24. Best free Photoshop plugins: Magic Enhancer Lite

Cathedral

Magic Enhancer helps you improve your photos by adjusting lightness, contrast and color balance. The color temperature control helps to fix color balance defects easily. This free Photoshop plugin has a user-friendly interface that lets you keep an eye on the result via the histogram. 

Download here

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25. Best free Photoshop plugins: Lens Correction

Chequered graphic

This free Photoshop plugin corrects the barrel and pin-cushion distortions that many zoom camera lenses produce. To use it, simply move the sliders to the left to correct barrel distortion, and to the right to correct pin-cushion distortion.

Download here

26. Best free Photoshop plugins: Absolute Color

Fruit image with green tone applied

Absolute Color is based on a hue wheel, subdivided into six sectors of 60 degrees each. With this free Photoshop plugin, you can choose a sector and restrict all the tints within an image to that sector.

Download here

27. Best free Photoshop plugins: Gradient Blur

Ancient ruins

This free Photoshop plugin applies a gradient blur that can help you focus an image onto its main subject. You can control the blur's starting position and strength by using the sliders provided. A preview mask can be displayed, and you can choose between a horizontal, vertical and radial blur.

Download here

28. Best free Photoshop plugins: Freeware Boundary Noise Reduction

Closeup of cotton reel

This freeware version of the Boundary Noise Reduction plugin enables you to remove noise from DSLR images and film scans. In some ways, it can be considered an improvement on the native noise reduction tool in Photoshop. The filter comes bundled with a Smooth Area Detector. You can use this accessory filter with the suggested Photoshop Actions included in a downloadable zip file. 

Download here

29. Best free Photoshop plugins: Local Equalization

Bird of prey

This free Photoshop plugin processes a local equalization of the luminosity of every pixel, with a matrix of 17x17 pixels. 

From an artistic point of view, local equalization can be interesting if you wish to stress the aspect of a given texture, and can provide a highly creative result. This process can be also used to analyze an image where certain details are barely perceptible.

Download here

30. Best free Photoshop plugins: Soft Focus

Two parrots on tree branch

This free Photoshop plugin applies a soft focus effect, which is often useful in portraits or fashion photography. It includes controls to adjust the softness, the overall strength of the effect, and the blending mode of the overlaid blurred image.

Download here

31. Best free Photoshop plugins: HSL Plus

Fruit selection

HSL Plus 2 is similar to the traditional hue/saturation/luminosity balance tool, but it features with some additional functions, including:

• Better color integrity, especially for the luminosity
• Better control of the luminosity, notably the possibility of modifying contrast
• The ability to adjust chroma components separately
• The possibility to set an automatic contrast (with the Auto button) 

Download here

32. Best free Photoshop plugins: Fotomatic

Cat's face

Fotomatic is a collection of eight plugin filters for use with Photoshop or compatible host applications (32-bit hosts only).

Hi-Spot creates high contrast black and white photos. 

G-Force gives you some traditional monochromatic grain effects, similar to using "fast" B&W camera film. 

Techni-X will bleach out most of the mid-tone grays, leaving crisp, dark blacks and bright, clean whites. It will produce clear black and white images with limited tones, which are suitable for cheap reproduction via the office photocopier, or when published in newsprint. 

NightScope adds a basic night-vision effect to your images. It first removes all color from the picture and gives a very slight blur, to indicate the camera is trying hard to focus in a low-light situation.

Pseudo-IR produces a similar look as to when you use traditional black and white infra-red film. 

SkyGrad is for tinting the sky area of your photographs. It's ideal if you need to change the "mood" of your scene, brighten up a dull day, or make a darker overcast sky for dramatic effect. 

BW-Plus quickly turns your color images into grayscale, but with the added option of using a colored optical lens filter as you would in traditional black and white photography. 

FastFix helps you quickly access the most common image enhancement controls though one easy-to-use dialog. A simple but surprisingly useful filter that will help you fix many of your common photographic problems.

Download here

33. Best free Photoshop plugins: Composer

Series of dialog boxes

Composer has four distinct commands to help you stay in control of your document.

Update Layer Style: Used to sync the layer style, opacity, and blending mode of selected layers across selected layer comps.

Update Position: Used to sync the position of selected layers across selected layer comps.

Update Visibility: Used to sync the visibility of selected layers across selected layer comps.

Update All: Used to sync the layer style, position, and visibility of selected layers across selected layer comps.

Download here

34. Best free Photoshop plugins: Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope pattern

Kaleidoscope 2.1 is a plugin that creates symmetrical patterns out of the photo you're editing. It includes three creative effects. Mirror is a traditional effect; consecutive sectors are symmetrical. Copy takes a sectors and repeat it; transition between consecutive sectors is antialiased. And Blend turns the complete image several times and constructs a blend.

Download here

35. Best free Photoshop plugins: Halftone Creator

Halftone image of woman

This free Photoshop plugin allow you to create a halftone effect using any image with a single click. It installs in minutes and provides easy halftones from there on.

Download here

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36. Best free Photoshop plugins: Fur 2

Pattern of circles

This free Photoshop plugin creates a dispersion effect on an image, producing a simple repeatable figure (line or circle, configurable dimensions/thickness) across the entire photo.

Download here

37. Best free Photoshop plugins: Retrodots

Logo surrounded by dots pattern

Retrodots is a nifty Photoshop plugin for generating dot grids, which can be based on selections.

Download here

38. Best free Photoshop plugins: Eraser Classic

Statue on plinth

Eraser Classic allows you to erase a given color with ease. It's simple to use: all you need to do is activate the eyedropper, select the color directly in the preview window, and adjust the tolerance to your preferences. This will then enable you to remove all instances of that color in your image.

Download here

39. Best free Photoshop plugins: PSD Recover

Stylised PS logo

This free Photoshop plugin lets you grab image layers from any PSD/PSB file, without having to open the whole PSD in Photoshop, significantly speeding up the process of accessing a single layer. It also lets you open PSDs created by the newest versions of Photoshop from within older Photoshop versions that cannot read them directly. 

Perhaps its most important use, though, is it can often recover image layers from corrupted PSD files that Photoshop won't open. If Photoshop opens with a damaged file, this plugin recovers a more intact image.

Download here

40. Best free Photoshop plugins: Long Shadow Generator

Dialog box

As its name suggests, this free Photoshop plugin lets you create dramatic shadow effects. It enables you to control shadow length, opacity and angle, as well as choose between a dark or light 'shadow' effect, with an option between a flat effect or a gradient shadow. This can be a particularly impressive way to make text stand out.

Download here

41. Best free Photoshop plugins: Color Megamix

Statue on plinth

Color MegaMix 1.1 modifies the colors of any image. It is based on two rows of colors: eight source colors and eight target colors. Using this data, the plugin completely reconstructs an image's color space.

Download here

42. Best free Photoshop plugins: Harry's Filters

White sand beach

This free Photoshop plugin contains 69 image effects within nine effect groups. These include filters for color adjustment, artistic effects, colorful gradients, patterns, warping images, adding noise effects, encrypting and decrypting images, zoom effects, mirroring and paint effects, as well as natural effects like lightning, tornado and polar lights. 

It has a Play button for animations with random parameters and a Jump button for random effects. You get a choice of various blend modes and more than 130 presets included, with an included brightness slider.

Download here

43. Best free Photoshop plugins: Fine Threshold

Statue on plinth

Unlike the traditional threshold command of Photoshop, Fine Threshold allows you to quickly get sharp anti-aliased shapes. This free Photoshop plugin works particularly well with scanned logos. This can be useful if you wish to reproduce a logo for a website.

Download here

44. Best free Photoshop plugins: Craquelure

8 abstract pattern and decorative surfaces

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The Craquelure 3D Photoshop plugin is a filter that creates a wide range of craquelure effects. The filter is useful in designing abstract patterns, decorative surfaces and construction materials.

Two independent craquelure layers can be controlled to achieve a variety of texture effects, from etched metal and silk plaster to melted glass and water ripples. A random settings generator helps you to quickly and easily produce unlimited variations of craquelured surfaces.

Download here

45. Best free Photoshop plugins: Weaver

Blurred photo

This free Photoshop  plugin creates an effect that imitates hand-woven fabric. There are two main controls. Size Range gives you control over the size range of the weave, and Size dictates how much detail you'll lose from the original image.

Download here

46. Best free Photoshop plugins: Sinedots

Sinewave pattern

The Sinedots plugin for Photoshop uses simple sinus calculations to generate interesting patterns. The V2 of the plugin includes enhanced functions, including color support, blend modes, more control parameters, 16-bit support and enhanced software compatibility. Note that this free Photoshop plugin is for Windows only.

Download here

47. Best free Photoshop plugins: Blots

Water pattern

This Photoshop plugin generates blots to form nice, seamless textures. Version 2 has three modes. Normal is the simplest mode: blots combine the background color and the foreground color. Camouflage mode allows you to stack blots of different colors, to obtain a camouflage texture. And Gradient mode uses the Gradient Map effect to create gradient blots.

Download here

48. Best free Photoshop plugins: Water Ripples

Ripples in water

Water Ripples is a free Photoshop-compatible plug-in filter. It creates realistic water ripple effects, and has numerous options as well as a 3D function. The random settings generator produces unlimited variations of rippled surfaces.

Download here

49. Best free Photoshop plugins: Flat Median

Statue on plinth

Flat Median is a median-like effect that allows you to control level of flatness. At low levels of flatness the result will look like a regular blur, while at high levels, the result will have more contrast. It's isotropic, much like gaussian blur. Additionally, you can apply the effect in both horizontal and vertical directions.

Download here

50. Best free Photoshop plugins: Jama 3D

Series of abstract 3D renders

Jama 3D is a compact and easy to use way to create corrugated and cellular-like patterns from 2D images. You can easily make various bricks and herring bone textures. Sequenced filtering produces bizarre, often quite artistic deformations of the original picture, such as crumpled paper effect, etc. Using different 2D shapes on a transparent layer produces complex 3D border effects. The edge antialiasing option improves the dithering. 

Download here

51. Best free Photoshop plugins: Gradient Smithy

Statue on plinth

Free Photoshop plugin Gradient Smithy allows you to control any color and its luminosity within a gradient. This gives you the ability to generate quite complex gradient map effects. 

Download here

More free downloads:

65 free Lightroom presets for photographers
55 free brushes for photographers
63 free Photoshop actions
63 free Photoshop templates for photographers

Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art, photography, design and travel. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including The Sun, Radio Times, NME, T3, Heat, Company and Bella.