Alien Skin Xenofex 2

"Two Thumbs Up For This Effects Program!"
| Type of Product | User Level | Features |
| Product Analysis | Final Comments | System Requirements |
Type of Product

Alien Skin has created another must have sequel with their release of Xenofex 2, an effects plugin for software such as Photoshop, Fireworks, Paint Shop Pro, and Photoshop Elements. It has a revamped interface, four new filters, and ten totally rewritten classic filters.

The program is available for PCs and Macs. Price: $129; Upgrades $69. Or you can purchase a bundle that includes Xenofex 2, Splat!, and Eye Candy 4000 for $299. Further information about these products can been seen at the Alien Skin Web site:

User Level
burnt edges & crumple
Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced PC users. Like the first version of Xenofex, it's easy enough to use for individuals who are just starting to learn about special effects and have a grasp of the basics in Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop. And there are over 100 one-click preset effects that make it especially easy to use for beginners. But it's designed to serve graphic designers of all skill levels. If you are a Digital photographer you might want to use it to add realistic natural phenomena such as lightning and clouds to any digital photo. If you are a Graphic designer, you might want to invent logos and text effects. And if you are a Web Developer, you could use it to create eye-catching buttons, rollover graphics, and animations. See image to the left for view of using the presets for Burnt Edges and Crumple.

Features in Xenofex 2 include:

  • New Filters: The program has four brand new filters--Burnt Edges, Classic Mosaic, Cracks, and Rip Open.
  • Rewritten Filters: Included are ten totally rewritten classic Xenofex filters.
  • Interface: It has the simple and unclutter Eye Candy 4000 user interface.
  • Presets: There are over 100 one-click effects using presets.
  • Effects: Simulates photo-realistic effects.
Product Analysis

Manual and Installation

The installation is quick and easy and there are special instructions for Macintosh OS X and Windows XP/2000 users. The 63 page User Manual walks you through each filter and shows you how to use the various options and controls.




Xenofex 2 adopts and updates the simple and uncluttered interface of Eye Candy 4000 and is designed to emulate the functionality of Photoshop-style host programs. One of the main advantages of this interface is that each filter has its own range of controls to adjust how the effect appears. Another plus is that you can switch between filters right within Xenofex without going back to your host program. Some of the features and improvements are:

  • Show Original Button: Toggle back and forth between the filtered and unfiltered versions of your selection.
  • Online Help System: Pressing the F1 key in an active filter window launches filter-specific help.
  • Larger Preview with Visible Layers: This resizable preview allows you to examine an effect with all layers in the image visible.
  • Unlimited Undo/Redo: You can undo as many mess-ups as you want.
  • Photoshop-style Keyboard Shortcuts: Keyboard shortcuts accelerate and streamline filter use.
  • Command Menus: Use settings and presets. Switch between filters. Zoom in and out of your preview image. Access online help.
  • Mouseover Help Text: Help text provides instant guidance for each filter control.
Burnt Edges
burnt edges
Burnt Edges (new) realistically simulates charred paper. It can be used with any selection shape. You can use the Burn Inside option with the type mask tool to create great looking text. Burnt Edges also creates an acid eaten or weathered paper appearance. Control options allow you to choose the width, offset and roughness of the burned edges, plus the color and opacity. See image to the left for a view of using Burnt Edges to enhance a photograph.
Classic mosaic
classic mosaic
Classic Mosaic (new) converts text, photos, and other images into tiled mosaics with one click. It aligns tiles along edges in the original image which better preserves details in the mosaic effect. Controls allow you to adjust the tile size, grout width, edge sensitivity, and grout color. See image to the left for a view of using Classic Mosaic. I used a selection and applied the filter to just the palette.



Cracks (new) simulates the fault lines, cracks, erosion and fissures that appear in surfaces such as concrete, brick, granite, asphalt and marble. You can instantly create striking stone text using Cracks. Cracks works best on objects in layers. Controls allow you to adjust the crack length, crack width, crack depth, edge roughness, and light direction. See image to the left for a view of using Cracks.
  Rip Open

rip open

Rip Open (new) creates torn paper effects around any selection. Controls allow you to adjust the curl size, curl amount, curl variation, edge roundness, shadow width, and underside color. You can also control the fill color of the torn out areas or make the selection transparent. This is a fun filter and you can use it in all sorts of ways. See image to the left for a view of using the Rip Open effect.

Constellation recreates your images with stars. It emphasizes contrasting edges to preserve original image details. Constellation even adds Twinkle to your stars. With the controls you can adjust the star size, size variation, edge star density, overall star density, overdrive, twinkle amount, twinkle rotation, and background fill. See image to the left for a view of using Constellation to create the outline of a duck.
Crumple simulates winkled paper and works great on entire images or discrete objects such as text. Crumple includes a seamless tile option that is handy for creating skins, textures, and web backgrounds. Controls include options for the size and strength of the effect, background color, light direction and inclination, highlight brightness, highlight size, color and light boost. Even though this filter is great for the usual crumpled paper effect or to use on old photos and to produce a quite realistic effect, it can also be used in just the opposite. See image to the left for a view of using Crumple with the image of a lion to give a special look.

Electrify turns any mundane object into high-voltage art. Controls allow you to adjust the arc spacing, arc length, arc thickness, jaggedness, branching, branch spread, glow width, glow opacity, and glow color. You can also choose to have the arcs radiate out from the center of a selection or have them shoot out from the edges at a 90 degree angle. See image to the left for a view of using Electrify. I created a selection around the head and had the arcs radiate outward.



Flag creates flags, pennants, banners or any other flowing fabric. It has been improved with smoother shading and better control and you can choose Flag attachment points with wind direction, and wind strength. See image to the left for a view of using Flag and Burn together. I combined the Burn and Flag filters here, first applying the Burn effect around the image and then used the Flag filter.



Lightning imitates nature's fury creating photo-realistic lightning bolts. You can now specify beginning and end points as well as control the branching, taper and glow of arcs. By deselecting Taper Main Arc, you can create and position realistic arcs of electricity jumping from one conductive point to another. Controls allow you to adjust jaggedness, branch spread, branching, arc thickness and several glow parameters, including the size of the flash point. It also provides target markers for setting the start and finish points of the lightning you produce. See image to the left for a view of using Lightning and the target markers.

  Little Fluffy Clouds
little fluffy clouds

Little Fluffy Clouds adds lifelike color and clouds to a boring, gray sky. You can replace the sky in a photo, make transparent fog, or create a sunset from nothing at all. To create backgrounds for Web pages or skins for 3_D models, Little Fluffy Clouds now includes a seamless tiling option. There are controls for perspective, elevation, field of view, cloud height, haze and sky gradient and also adjustment of the basic shape of the clouds, the cover, color, and the sharpness of the edges. See image to the left for a view of using Little Fluffy Clouds.



Puzzle transforms any image into a jigsaw puzzle with smooth highlights and shading. You have complete control over which pieces are knocked out, and you can selectively invert the connecting nubs. Controls allow you to adjust the columns, connector shape, groove width, and knockout fill. You can also control the lighting of the 3D puzzle pattern effect. Puzzle is easiest to use on entire images or rectangular selections. See image to the left for a view of using Puzzle.
Shatter explodes images into three-dimensional shards that fly off the page. It is great for GIF animations. You can set the size, lighting, thickness and shadows of the pieces of the shattered image, the degree of tumble, and the point in time of the process of the shatter--early for the stage when the cracks are just starting to appear and late for when the pieces have already scattered and few remain within the visible portion of the canvas. See image to the left for a view of using Shatter on just the background layer of the graphic to create an interesting effect.

Stain adds blots, stains and grungy effects in the shape of your selection. You can create ring stains or solid blotches of stain. And you can emulate spaghetti sauce, motor oil, sweat, and more. Controls allow you to adjust the edge width, roughness, internal opacity, overall opacity, and stain color. Any selection shape will do, including text. See image to the left for a view of using Stain with text and then creating a ring effect.


Television distorts your image as if it were displayed on an old television, monitor, or other screen with bad reception. Controls allow you to adjust the scanline strength, scanline thickness, vertical shift, curvature, static, ghosting effects, and breakup. There is a great amber or green preset that emulates the look of ancient computer monitors. See image to the left for a view of using Television.

Final Comments
Xenofex 2 is an essential package for anyone interested in creating unique effects. If you are an original Xenofex user, you won't go wrong with purchasing this upgrade since it is a completely revamped package and not just the same old version with a few new filters. And if you are unfamiliar with it but want a fun, creative, and easy to use effects program, don't wait. Rush out now and purchase it!
System Requirements


  • Pentium II-class processor;
  • Windows 98/2000/Me/XP;
  • 64 MB or more of physical RAM.


  • PowerPC processor;
  • Macintosh System Software 9 or later; OS X 10.1 or later;
  • 64 MB or more of physical RAM.
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