How to Use Plugins in Photoshop

by Shea Laverty

Adobe Photoshop already features a diverse set of tools, effects and functions, but its capability can be expanded even further through the use of plug-ins. Plug-ins are additional programs added onto Photoshop, which augment existing functions or add entirely new ones. Plug-ins can be added in two ways: by using the developer's installer or by adding them to Photoshop manually.

Installer Program

Many Photoshop plug-ins come with an installer program that automatically integrates them into Photoshop for you. All you have to do is run the plug-in's installer program and follow any on-screen instructions. If Photoshop is open, you'll need to close and re-open it to see the plug-in integrated.

Manual Installation

If your plug-in didn't come with an installer program, you can still install it yourself with minimal difficulty. Open the Program Files folder, followed by the Photoshop folder and the Plug-ins folder. You can drag and drop or copy and paste the plug-in file into this folder, which will install the plug-in when you next start up Photoshop. You can tell what files are Photoshop plug-ins by their file extension, which is typically .8BF, .8BA, .8BE, .8BI or .8LY. Each extension refers to the plug-in's function, which are filters, importing, exporting, file format and automation plug-ins, respectively.

32-Bit vs. 64-Bit

Make sure you install plug-ins that match your version of Photoshop. Photoshop and its plug-ins are available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions. Mismatching your plug-in to your version of Photoshop, such as using a 32-bit plug-in with 64-bit Photoshop, will cause Photoshop to error and crash on start-up. If you've installed a mismatched plug-in, remove it from the Plug-Ins folder to resume using Photoshop.