$99 Upgrade/$199

Alien Skin Software Blow Up 3

Shrinking a photo is easy, but making it bigger is challenging. Stretching just resizes the pixels you have, so the result is blurry, pixelated images that don’t look too great. Alien Skin Software has been making Photoshop plugins for almost 20 years, and its Blow Up 3 ($99 Upgrade/$199) is a direct solution to this issue. It works with Photoshop CS4 or newer, Elements 8+, and now Lightroom 2+ as well.

Blow Up does one thing: it uses a sophisticated upscaling algorithm to keep your pictures clear and sharp when you enlarge them, creating lines in places where softening would normally have been the result. And it’s really, really easy to use. All of the mechanics happen behind the scenes, you just have to set your paper size and optionally, a crop region. You can bring your photos up to 300,000 pixels per side; that is to say, really huge. If you seriously need to blow your photos up, and are willing to pay for more impressive performance than Photoshop offers on its own, this is a smart way to do it.

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