The Characteristics of Excellent Software Plug-Ins for Profit

Bill Leek of Houston, Texas, has over 33 years’ experience in digital decorating system development and graphic design. He has developed several lines of color imprintable products utilizing inkjet, sublimation, and color laser transfer technologies. In addition, he has extensive working knowledge of color management and product durability testing and has consulted for many of our industry’s leading companies. He may be reached at

Thousands of plug-ins have been released over the years. Some are free and others are expensive. Some are essential while others are useless. Some are multi-functional and others are one-trick ponies, and the trick often isn’t very good. Some have great menu screens and intuitive controls, others have complex interfaces that are difficult to use. Some process fast, others operate painfully slow.

With a confusing array of plug-in software available, it is often difficult to determine the best ones for your needs.

Before purchasing any plug-in software, you should ask yourself several questions:

  • Will the software speed up daily processing and/or provide new creative capabilities to give me a competitive advantage?
  • Does the plug-in interface offer a controlled step-by-step workflow with intuitive controls and preview screens?
  • Are recommended presets provided? Are the presets effective? Can they be modified with a full range of controls and saved with new names?
  • Is the software fairly-priced given its capabilities? Does the vendor offer free or heavily-discounted version upgrades?
  • Are your computer, operating system, and software version fully compatible? What are the recommended hardware requirements? Does the plug-in perform with minimum delay?
  • Is the resulting image after the plug-in is applied free of noise, artifacts, and halos along edges?
  • Does the plug-in developer provide good documentation, tutorials, webinars, and videos?

—Bill Leek