Useful Outside VFX Tools


A useful Tools thread has been going on in facebook group. It would be good to have a stickied thread so here are a few tools that have been mentioned and some that I use.

Windows Explorer

Mystic Thumbs *, it generates thumbnails for all image types in Windows Explorer, including DDS and PSDs with transparencies and runs on all Windows versions including 64 bit. The latest version is now a paid software, it used to be freeware before. However, the last freeware version is pretty stable and good enough to be used in a production. The freeware version can be found here:

Image editing

Filter Forge * is a photoshop plugin that allows you to quickly create filters and texture effects though its simple node based editor.

NDO2 * An amazing normal mapping/occlusion mapping program that works with photoshop to generate Maps with real time previews and the ability to sculpt normals with photoshop brushes and make real time changes to already made normal maps.

PixPlant 2 PixPlant 2 is a smart 3D texturing tool that creates high quality normal, displacement, specular maps and seamless textures from plain photos.

Texturepacker Tool to quickly pack images into sprite sheets

Engine specific

Strumpy Shader Editor Strumpy is a node based editor for creating shaders in Unity. Its currently still in open Beta and breaks down for more complicated effects but works well for texture effects such as basic math.

Photoshop internal tools

Contact Sheet II
Useful for assembling flipbooks/Atlases/spritesheets in photoshop You pick a file full of images, set the sheet resolution (you have do the math ahead), then tell it how many columns and rows you need.
File/Automate/ContactSheet II
Note: It was moved to the optional installs in CS4 and up, so you will need to install it for your disc or the Adobe site. Bridge does offer a similar feature

Creates a tiling procedural cloud texture, great for adding variance to effects. I find it works great when used with other filters. ie… If you use Difference clouds with it then adjust the levels you get a lighting energy like effect, or if you use glowing edges you get ghostly smoke wisps, and dust & Scratches gives you a smooth blob look that’s great for distortion.

Allows you to quickly distort textures using brush strokes. great for redirecting flow or adding turbulence to textures.

I will keep adding tools from the facebook thread. Feel free to add any tools that you use, as well as common tools you use within larger packages such as 3ds, maya, or photoshop.

Because some of these tool I have heard about from facebook group or other sources the * is for tools I personally use in my workflow.


It might sound kind of funny but I really like irfanView as a replacement for the Windows image viewer. It’s always one of the first programs I install because it loads and opens images so quickly in a variety of common and not-so-common formats. I love being able to bind SHIFT-E as a shortcut to opening the image in Photoshop, also.

My only gripe with it is that it doesn’t have a per-channel view mode!

What do you guys use?


Thanks so much for documenting that thread Max - it’s a treasure trove of links. Sticky’d.


Time to update this with all the destruction and fluid-Sim software I"ve been hearing about.

Destruction Tools

Fracture is procedural, event-driven destruction plugin for Maya 2009, 2011, and 2012

MassFX is an unified physics simulation framework, introduced by Autodesk in 3ds Max 2012 (and 3ds Max Design). While being based on PhysX SDK.

BlastCode is designed for the destruction of objects. Its highly interactive design greatly reduces the time needed to develop totally unique blast scenarios. Blast Code provides animators the ability to test a multitude of destruction scenarios, and quickly make adjustments to any part of the simulation. For Autodesk Maya.

Digital Molecular Matter is fully integrated with Maya and 3D Studio Max and can take advantage of features such as fields as well as keyed kinematic movement.

PulldownIt is a brand new dynamics solver which allows for the creation of fractures as well as massive rigid bodies simulations. By using its technology digital artists are able to simulate fast and easily scenes made of thousands of objects and collapse buildings, bridges or any kind of brittle material. For Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max as a plug-in.

RayFire gives you the ability to fragment, destroy, demolish, wreck, break down, wreak havoc, blow up, burst, detonate, explode and do other similar things you have always dreamed of to do in 3d Studio Max.