How to Create a Photoshop Plug-In
By Brian Richards
Photoshop, Adobe's graphics design and photo manipulation computer software, supports user-made plug-ins to expand the program's functionality. These plug-ins can be shared on Adobe's own online marketplace or obtained directly from developers. While some plug-ins are free, many of the more feature-rich plug-ins must be purchased. In order to make your own plug-ins, you must know how to program using the C++ programming language. You must also have a C++ framework (Visual Studio for Windows or Code Warrior for Mac or Unix) and a development platform (Adobe Photoshop SDK). A good plug-in will also require sophisticated knowledge of the algorithms behind Photoshop graphic software.
Become a member of the Adobe Developer's Association. This membership will entitle you to discounts on Adobe products (including the Software Developer's Kit) and technical support.
Login to the Adobe Developer's Association using the credentials that were supplied to you when you created your membership, and download the Software Developer's Kit (SDK) specific to your version of Photoshop. For instance, if you use Adobe Photoshop CS2, download the Photoshop CS2 SDK. Windows and Macintosh machines will need different files, so make sure to download the correct bundle for your operating system.
Read all of the documentation that comes with your version of SDK. There are several hundred pages contained in multiple .PDF files that explain how the Software Development Kit works and how to use your C++ framework to code Photoshop plug-ins. You should become very familiar with the documentation before beginning to coding a plug-in.
Write the code of your plug-in. This process will vary dramatically depending on the type of plug-in you intend to create. The opportunities are limitless, and depending on the complexity of your plug-in, you may have to write several hundred lines of code before your plug-in is complete. Refer to the documentation accompanying the SDK for assistance, and make use of the technical support that came with your ADA membership,
Compile and test your plug-in. Plug-ins that you have made are installed the same way as downloaded plug-ins: simply place the plug-in file in your Photoshop Plug-ins folder. Use your ADA membership to obtain multiple versions of Photoshop for testing purposes, or request assistance from friends who own different Photoshop versions. Test your plug-in on many different images to ensure that your plug-in works as intended.
Upload your plug-in to the Adobe Marketplace, or distribute the plug-in on your website or on a software CD. You are permitted to charge a fee to users who wish to use your plug-in, so feel free to set a reasonable price. In 2010, many popular, professional plug-ins on the Adobe Marketplace were priced around $80.
- Be confident and familiar with basic C++ coding before attempting to develop a Photoshop plug-in. The SDK resources do not cover basic information like writing code and compiling, so you should be able to write a basic program before turning to plug-in development.
Brian Richards is an attorney whose work has appeared in law and philosophy journals and online in legal blogs and article repositories. He has been a writer since 2008. He holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from University of California, San Diego and a Juris Doctor from Lewis and Clark School of Law.