I’m an avid user of Filter Forge and have been for several versions now. So when I was asked to write a little something about the latest version, I was happy to do it. Yes, I was provided with a free copy with which to write this review.

As I looked through the list of new features in Filter Forge 7, seeing that the new sample cache architecture speeds up rendering caught my eye. Especially when rendering very large textures, it can take a bit of time even on a fast system. I randomly picked two textures and rendered them in Filter Forge 6 and 7. The first one took almost the same time while the second one was about 8% faster in Filter Forge 7. My improvement wasn’t as impressive as the examples shown on the Filter Forge site, though they do say that it is very dependent on the texture being rendered. Any speed increase is an improvement in my book.

I’m not one who builds a lot of textures from scratch so the next two improvements, instant component search and mappable lists and sliders, weren’t as immediately important to me. While they may not be features I would use directly, they do allow artists creating new textures to do even more. In that respect, I’ll have more awesome textures to render.

Many of us have a favorite image editor, though we may all have our own favorites. Filter Forge 7 works as a plug-in within most of the popular image editors so that it is fully integrated. If you are using a tool that doesn’t support Filter Forge 7 as a plugin, they’ve now added copy/paste support. This allows you to use the images created in Filter Forge in any image editor.

Those of you who have worked with image editors have most likely at least heard of channels. Previous versions of Filter Forge referred to them as render maps. Render maps have been renamed to channels and now each of them can be rendered simultaneously. You’ve also got the ability to easily export multiple render channels at a time.

Users who’ve skipped a version or two will see a much bigger jump. New features added between Filter Forge 6 and 7 are more evolutionary than revolutionary. Yet I find a benefit in any feature that allows filter authors to do even more, especially if it takes less time. So while the feature list doesn’t immediately excite me, I know there is more than enough value to justify upgrading.

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