There's been a lot of tittle tattle from both sides of the fence about the use of plugins recently, and it's an argument that has been going on for years. I know I have ruffled a few feather, unintentionally to be sure, but ruffled they have been, with my comments here and there. I just want to put them into context. Clearly I am posting this here because this is the plugins forum.
Many years ago when the WWW was in its infancy I used Usenet to communicate with other artists and designers. There were no such things as web designers in those days, just designers. I remember I was using a very early version of Photoshop, 2 or 3, I can't remember. And there were virtually no plugins available. If you wanted to achieve an effect you did it yourself using Photoshop's far more limited set of tools than we have available to us today. But you did it and you were proud of what you had achieved.
I remember that we would sometimes upload reduced-size images to one of the alt.graphic.photoshop newsgroups on our steam-driven 9600 hayes-compatible modems (14.4 if we were rich!). Quite out of the blue, drop shadows started to become popular. You couldn't do them in PSP or any other raster app that didn't have transparent, editable layers. Only in Photoshop could you create proper, anti-aliased drop shadows of varying size, blur and intensity, and even then there were people who had Photoshop but who could do them. No, I'm not joking.
And one of the most common questions that came up in the graphics newsgroups (after "can somebody give me a serial number for Photoshop?") was "where can I get a plug-in for those drop shadows". Well there weren't any at the time, not for drop shadows. Many people just assumed that this "trick" had to be a plug-in. And it upset a lot of people (yes, me included) who had paid for their software and had "served their time" as it were.
The situation is, of course, completely different nowadays. the world has moved on at a rapid pace and software continues to evolve to make some of the most demanding tasks possible with a plug-in. I myself have and do use plug-ins. In the "Taj Mahal" image below I used the Chrome plug-in. In the "Chocolate bar" image I used the XXP4 3D plug-in, and again in the "XARA out of bounds" image. But in the "Salt and Pepper Shakers" image which I did in 2001, there was no chrome plug-in or 3D filter used. because they didn't exist. We had to create our own chrome and metal effects. In fact I did a tutorial way back then to show how I created a chrome look, and I know Gary has done at least one if not more chrome and/or metal surface tutorials.
In the "Cricket" boxshot image I didn't use a single plug-in, although I have one now that I use in Photoshop which creates a boxshot effect in minutes rather than an hour as before. We now have stained glass plug-ins whereas the "Beetle on Stained Glass" image was hand Xara'd (and at the time there were a whole bunch of great 'stained glass' images from other people on this very forum). I love Gary's tutorials because he's been teaching people for 10 years or so how to use Xara's tools to create works they can be proud of without relying on plug-ins.
Yes, there is an element of "blowing my own trumpet" in this post. I'm proud of much of the art I create, although it's not to everybody's taste. And, yes, I readily admit to using plug-ins where, not to use them, would take three, four, five times as long. But what I'm also trying to say is that if sometimes some of us sound a little overbearing about the overuse and over-abundance of plug-ins, you could cut us a little slack. Why? Because we were around when to creating certain effects took hours of patience and hard work, effects which now anybody can create with a plug-in. And so much of that hard work, patience and talent from years ago has gone out the window, unrecognised.
Honestly, I want to be polite and well-meaning. But, sometimes it's not easy when faced with people who upload something to the gallery and it's obvious all they've done is taken some clipart or a photo and run it or parts of it through successive plug-ins. So if some of us display a certain lack of enthusiasm for that kind of art (yes, of course I accept it is art) then please, try to understand where we are coming from.
I know I will get lambasted by some people for writing this but at least I've said my piece and got it off my chest. I promise to try my hardest to be polite, I'll try my hardest to be silent when it calls for it, but I won't lie. I will always encourage those people who are clearly interested in honing their creative talents, and whereas making images that are largely the result of plug-ins might be creative, it requires no talent.