Should you invest in an image resizing program? Before you pipe up, “Sure, I have some pictures I’d like to blow up to poster size,” you should realize that they’re not cheap. As of this posting, the two main contenders these days are OnOne’sPerfect Resize 9.5 ($79.95) and Alienskin’s Blow Up 3 ($99). Are they worth it or can you accomplish just as much by using Photoshop’s Bicubric Automatic resizing in its Image Size dialog box? Perhaps a comparison is in order here.
Here is an image a friend took of me with her cell phone. At 300 dpi, it is 8.16” x 10.88”.
I cropped the image to contain just my head, and it ended up being just .627” x .627”. I used each of the three methods mentioned above to enlarge it to 10”x10”. Each program has unsharp mask sharpening features, so I used these defaults with each sample: Amount: 50, Radius: 1. Perfect Resize has two additional options that allow you to protect highlights and shadows, as well as two other sharpening types: Progressive and High Pass. These additional options seem like overkill, since they are available in Photoshop (and can be used non-destructively). Blow up has “Sharpening for Output Medium,” which seems to adapt to certain paper types. I set it to “Medium” with no output type selected.
Here are the results.
Note that these are only thumbnail images; to see details, you must click on the image and load it. Feel free to download the images and examine them in a photo program such as Adobe Lightroom.
With even cursory examination, it’s easy to see the Blow Up and the Perfect Resize versions have superior resolution to the Photoshop Bicubric one. However, between the Blow Up and the Perfect Resize versions, the differences are more subtle. For example, the Perfect Resize has slightly more detail in the hat, but it comes with the expense of a bit more mottling. The Blow Up version is slightly smoother, but because of that, more realistic.
I should emphasize that I confined my testing to only the traits these programs have in common. Personally, I would purchase Blow Up and pursue its other options if I were doing a lot of resizing. That is the crucial point here. If you do only occasional resizing, and have Photoshop to start with, see how this old standard works out for you. However, if you don’t have Photoshop, know that both Blow Up and Perfect Resize work as standalone programs. They also work as plug-ins within Lightroom (although for both, you must enable an option that turns off Lightroom’s preset feature). So if you don’t have Photoshop, I would recommend that you purchase Blow Up 3.