Photoshop Extension Panel Streamlines Your Workflow

Review by Scott Valentine

Some of the best investments you can make as a professional are in tools that help your workflow. Pro Workflow X is a Photoshop panel that automates many common retouching tasks, with a focus on specialty techniques for portrait and beauty images. When you choose a feature from the panel, pre-built actions run automatically to set up layers and tool presets, run filters, and other such repetitive tasks. Both the actions and tool presets are included with the panel.

The action buttons are distributed between three general task panels: Portrait, Beauty, and Scene. Below the tab region is a space set aside for Power Tools + Techniques, and Export + User Actions. The User Actions buttons can be assigned using the Actions panel, allowing you to combine existing actions or easily use your own favorite custom actions from the same interface. Also included are a few preset color-grading styles for popular looks, along with some RAW filters that can be loaded in Camera Raw or Lightroom.

Most of the features included will be familiar to retouchers and, in a few cases, there are multiple choices for a given technique, such as various dodge-and-burn methods. Several techniques also go so far as to auto-generate masks and apply them to neutral adjustment layers, meaning you can focus on working the image instead of Photoshop’s Layers panel.

If you’re not satisfied with the mask, it can be manually adjusted easily, or you can use the Scene tab to generate additional masks. One of the standout features here is how the masks are generated as previews using a complex set of adjustment layers. Once you apply the mask preview to an adjustment layer, or load it as a selection, the mask preview layers are deleted so you don’t clutter up your workspace. They can easily be reloaded at any time.

Pro Workflow X is really user-friendly once it’s installed. The layout is clean and makes sense, common tools are always available, and the developer includes pop-up dialogs (explaining how to use the features) for most of the tools. You can turn this feature off for each individual action from the Actions panel. Choosing a technique almost always results in being ready to go with the right tool preset loaded for the task at hand. But you can easily modify or choose other tools as you go.

The majority of tasks related to retouching portraits can be accomplished directly from the panel. Selection, healing, and brush tools are given their own space at the top, along with Undo and Redo buttons that allow you to step forward and backward through history. Another powerful addition is using smart filters for Liquify, which lets you update prior retouching elements without losing work on reshaping features. The color-grading section makes it easy to apply common looks to a series of images for thematic consistency. More specific techniques are available for detailed work on makeup, eyes, skin correction, and hair.

There’s not much to find fault with in this panel, although a couple of special effects features included for painting and grunge looks seem out of place in context with the rest of the panel’s functionality. While they produce good results, they seem like a novelty bonus, and wouldn’t be missed if left out altogether. It would also be useful to have an easier way to toggle the Help dialogs and change specific technique settings without having to edit the actions directly. No doubt some users won’t find their favorite version of a particular technique here, but they can be added to the User Actions panel.

Installation may be intimidating for some users, since you have to run a few manual operations and find the appropriate file locations; however, thorough instructions are included, and the entire event takes only a minute or two. There’s also a very useful walk-through of features available as an indexed video on the developer’s YouTube channel.

Overall, Pro Workflow X is a worthy weapon in the war on wasted time. The price may seem high, but the time saving represented has the potential to pay for itself with just a handful of images. ■