Prisma: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the One-Trick-Pony Filter

Back in the early days of Photoshop - let’s call it ‘BC’… ‘Before CS‘- third-party image filters were considered really important. Your Photoshop install was considered virtually naked without a copy of Kai’s Power Tools and Alien Skin Eye Candy.

But this was also the golden era of what I’m going to call the ‘one-trick-pony’ filter. These were photoshop filters designed to deliver one very specific effect usually in one very specific way. Classic examples of one-trick filters include:

The Page Curl Filter
The Jigsaw Puzzle Filter
The Posterizer Filter

Page Curl, Jigsaw and Posterize. ‘One-Trick-Pony’ Filters

These filters were sometimes fun but were they of any genuine, practical commercial use?

No. Not really.

With little control over the output, the results were inflexible. More importantly, the design demand for jigsaw effects and page curls was no higher than it is today – close to zero.

I like to compare these one-trick pony filter with this little beauty -it’s called the Fox Run Banana Slicer.

If you need to cut a banana of a certain size into precise, 10mm slices, boy, this baby can save you literally seconds! Caveat: If you need thinner or thicker slices or insist on working with rogue, non-standard bananas, the Fox Run may not be for you, my friend!

Like the Banana Slicer, one-trick filters never really caught on in the design community. Just as no professional chef would be caught using a banana slicer, no self-respecting designer would use a one-trick-pony filter. Ever.

Or… that’s what I believed until Prisma came along – now I’m not so sure.

So, what is Prisma?

Prisma is a phone app – iOS and Android – designed to apply image filters to your photos. It’s basically a glorified Instagram filter.

It offers very few adjustment controls. There’s little skill or genuine artistic expression. You pick a filter and hit ‘Go’. Prisma is, by any reasonable measure, a set of one-trick-pony filters.

I should hate Prisma. I want to. But I don’t.

Let’s have a look. Firstly, Prisma is free and offers 29 different filter effects with names like Heisenberg, Traverse Line, Gothic, Mosaic, Illegal Beauty and Red Head.

I’m going to start with this photo I took recently and demo just two filters.

The original photo

This first Prisma filter is called ‘Heisenberg’ and it has a hard, almost woodcut print look.


It’s scratchy and hard-bitten but also has an artisanal edge that could work on an architectural, social work, or fiction writing site.

Here’s the same photo treated with a Prisma filter called ‘Composition’. It’s a very different look to Heisenberg, but, a fresh and powerful image in its own right. I can’t claim much credit for creating it, but I genuinely like it.


‘Composition’ gives the image a hip, 50’s jazz feel. I could see a music or fashion blog using this treatment on their feature images to develop a really strong visual signature.
Continue reading %Prisma: The Rise and Fall and Rise of the One-Trick-Pony Filter%

via Reme Le Hane

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