No question about it, this has been the year of the great Photoshop plug-ins! I just decide that one of them has got to be the best and another one comes along that is just as good!!! What to do, what to do! My personal feeling had been that the Perfect Effects plug-in was not going to be as good as my favorite Topaz Black and White Effects or NIK Color Efex Pro, but I was wrong! Very nice plug-in with a very good interface. It can be used alone or as part of the updated OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 6.0 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar to access site). I had a great time creating the images below with just Perfect Effects and sometimes PhotoFrames (by far my favorite border app and it has not been updated for the Suite package).
Above is an inside view of some of the interesting antique items in the Florida Heritage Museum at the Old Jailhouse in St. Augustine, Florida. This image just kept getting better the more the effects were stacked up. This was a pretty easy image to do – just add and click away on all the different effects and see what you come up with. This image has stacked the following effects (press Add after adding an effect to each layer): Black & White effect Chrome with Blending Option set to Softlight at Strength 84; Vintage effect Honky Tonk set to Screen Blending Mode at Strength 99 – Apply Effect To Flesh Colors and Fuzziness 40; and Vignette effect Grunge Vignette Dark – Texturizer set to 73 strength. At this point I created a preset that was placed in my User Presets group and it was defined as a vintage feel. Very handy and easy to do!
Just another great example of the interesting results that can be achieved with this plug-in. The image is of one of the beautiful covered walkways at the University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida. It is an HDR image created from three photos in Photoshop CS5′s HDR Toning program using a preset I had created for dilapidated buildings. (Be sure to keep your HDR presets if you find one you like.) Next the HDR photo was taken into Perfect Effects and once again I did a vintage effect. Started with a Black and White effect Casablanca set to Darken; on the Empty Layer, the Effect Options was opened and Effect Duotone was selected using an Orange Color for Highlights and Blue Color for Shadows – Strength was set to 35, Midpoint 29 and Mode to Color; Movie Looks effect Urban Sickness at Strength 40; Vignette effect Subtle Vignette set to Strength 47; and Textures effect Scratched Film Light at Strength 100. A preset was created for this stack as I really liked the results. Back in Photoshop, an OnOne PhotoFrame (also part of the OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 6) border Dave Cross_14 was added – the beige color in the image was sampled to make the border that color.
In the Old Town Trolley image the basic issue was a very plain blue sky. Following one of the short videos supplied on the OnOne website, the clouds were added using the Masking Bug. It does not sound like it would work, but the bug did a really good job of adding the sky with a slight gradient to it. They also have this feature in the Focal Point plug-in and Lightroom’s Perfect Layers plug-in (also provided with the OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 6), and I like it in this plug-in. This is a big improvement! The border was also added in Photo Effects and adjusted using the Effect Options that are available once an effect is chosen. I have not completely figured out how to determine how to use all these effects as they change with the effect selected. This was a really fast and great way to swap out the sky.
This is a statue of Sir William Wallace over the doorway of an old church in the town of Stirling, Scotland. I liked the way the stone color turned out and the way the statue stands our from the wall. This stack incorporated Dirty Bird (Strength 83) applied to just Highlights (Fuzziness 60), Warm Polarizer (Strength 100) , Rice Paper Light (Strength 77) with the Masking Bug down center vertically, Amazing Detail (Strength 100 ), and Subtle Vignette (Strength 100). The nice thing about this image is that the first effect, Dirty Bird, the Apply Effect To drop-down was changed to Highlights – this makes for some great looking effects. The effects can also be applied to just the Shadows, Midtones, RGBCYM colors, Flesh colors, Vivid colors and Neutrals. This is a really nice addition. A OnOne PhotoFrame was added to this image (no update to this plug-in but it does not need it – still the best out there for frames!) and it is included in the OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 6.0.
The good news is that Perfect Effects is a much improved program over OnOne’s old PhotoTools 2.6 and it is now much easier to use. Download the manuals on how to use Perfect Effects and all the programs in OnOne’s Perfect Photo Suite 6.0. A good keyboard shortcut to use is CTRL+P to toggle between the original image and the current image. Go to the Help menu item for a complete list of shortcut keys.
1. The interface is much easier to use. There are many different ways to add interest to the basic effects. Many of them are shown in the preset views across the bottom but there are more variations if you use open up the Effects Options button that is available with each effect. The Blending Options are very versatile and as discussed above, the Apply Effect To drop-down creates some very interesting images – I do not believe this is in any other plug-in I have seen.
2. The Texturize Effect section and Landscape Effect section have some very different presets that can be applied including many weather effects. This could turn out to be a lot of fun. Adding the Clouds to an image is really easy using some of these choices. This is also something I have not seen in any other plug-in. And if you choose, say Dark Clouds in the Textures Section and go to the Effect Options drop-down box on the right, there are five choices for clouds besides many other textures to choose from. Blend mode and strength and scale of the effect can be set also. Very versatile and unique!
3. The Masking Bug that was made famous in the OnOne’s original Focal Point plug-in is a great addition that works very fast and creates some very nice results. It works very good in coordination with the Masking Brush.
4. The speed of the plug-in is much faster than the original PhotoTools plug-in. This had been one of my biggest complaints. It works much faster and you have much better control over the brush when masking.
5. Can Invert the effect and by selecting the Masking Brush, the effect can be brushed in just where you want it at whatever opacity you like.
1. It still bothers me that I cannot access this program like my other filters by going to Filters -> OnOne; instead, to get to the program you must go to File -> Automate -> Photo Effects. I am not sure why this is. This is also true for PhotoFrames. If you have the Suite, all the plug-ins can be accessed from inside one interface and do not have to be opened individually – that is a big improvement.
2. When the layer is first converted to a Smart Object before entering the program, the Masking Bug and/or Mask Brush results are not retained when you go back to adjust one of the effects. This can very annoying if you did not takes notes on what you did. All the other settings are retained. When stack is saved as a preset, all but the Masking Bug/Mask Brush results are retained, which is what you would expect since it is being applied to a different image.
3. If you had PhotoTools, the presets cannot be used in Perfect Effects due to the fact that PhotoTools is based on actions inside Photoshop and Perfect Effects has been re-engineered to stand alone now. They are currently trying to recreate all the presets from PhotoTools and hope to have them available soon.
In this final image the red trees and flag were selected in Photoshop using Color Selection. A layer mask was then added to the layer before it was converted into a Smart Object. I wanted only the background to be affected by the plug-in (the manual said this could be done so I thought I would try it out). I think the results turned out really nice – these settings were used: Black and White Effect Casablanca; Nicely Toasted (Strength 46) and Apply Effect To: Flesh Colors at Fuzziness 53; and Vignette – Edges to Black with Effect Options Brightness -86, Midpoint 47, Feather 56, and Roundness -28. The Casablanca black and white effect is turning into one of my favorites.
Well I believe this is a very good plug-in – OnOne has really stepped it up to compete nicely in the plug-in field – it is so very user friendly. The Pros definitely outweigh the Cons which I believe can be fixed pretty easily. I had a lot of fun working with all the effects and I know I have not even touched on some of the looks you can get if you get your combinations right. I will be checking out the complete suite when I get a chance. I already use many of the plug-ins included but there are a few new ones I want to experiment with. In the meantime, at least take a look at the Perfect Photo plug-in – it has a 30-day trial that is fully functional. I am looking forward to trying some of the other plug-ins – already tried Perfect Portrait (it is in brand new and in the Suite) and really like it. Hope to report on it soon!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Another OnOne Perfect Effects Pix – Got to Love It!
Pseudo HDR in OnOne Perfect Effects
First Try – OnOne’s Perfect Effects 3
“Perfect” Perfect Layers
UPDATE: Since posting the information on the cards below, I have created my own card template for free download – see my Tidbits Blog “Digital Lady Syd’s Free Christmas Card Template” – that can be used in Photoshop and Elements for your use and enjoyment! Also, check my newer blog Where to Find Those Cool Free Christmas Card Templates?
This is going to be a short but sweet post since I posted on the updated Topaz Adjust 5 plug-in earlier this week. Last year I attempted to provide some Christmas Card template links and resources as I was able to find them. Many of those templates are no longer available by various websites. But this week the wonderful people from MCP Actions have posted on their Facebook page a free download link for the card below along with a backside template. (You must be on Facebook to be able to get the download – click on link above and look at left column under Free Holiday Card.)
The postcard below is very nice and the clip art and type can be changed easily. This example involved going to Edit -> Place to add the image above the highlighted photo mask layer. Since this causes the new image layer to be a Smart Object, it is very easy to adjust and rotate to fit the opening. Then clip to the layer below (CTRL+ALT+G). A little Noise was added to give a graininess as in the holly clip art.
The red card is showing how you can take this simple template and make a totally different feel to it.
With this card I first created a New Layer and filled it with a bright green above the photo mask layer. Another New Layer was created and the star in the center was made by stacking several Texturemate Stars2 brushes in different colors. Then BittBoxes Grunge Ice Texture 5 was added below the star to create an interesting setting for the star. The texture was taken into Topaz Adjust 5 and the HDR Strong preset was applied to make the texture pop a bit. Back in Photoshop the blend mode was changed to Divide which makes it green and yellow. Next a Hue/Saturation layer was added above the beige background and the sliders adjusted to get a bright red. The lines were removed on the right side so the type did not have to line up. Snow Drops Frosto brush was used for the small white flakes sprinkled around the background. (This was the best snow brush I could find and it turned out nice!) The large white flakes are from Snow Flakes Brush by Ann Stock Brushes. The Merry Christmas and New Year fonts were changed to SecesjaPL. The text over the star was created using the Razzle Dazzle free font and was placed at the top of the pile. Finally the tape was removed from the frame by cloning it out and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it to make the frame whiter. It was then transformed to make it larger and straighter on the card.
I am sure there will be more card templates coming out in the next few weeks, but in the meantime enjoy this template and take some time to check out MCP Actions website – not all vendors are willing to share their expertise!
I wanted to show you how you can change things up with a nice basic template to work with. The resources above are a good start to finding more good Christmas oriented items. It is always fun to find new things! Well I guess this officially kicks off the holiday! Hope you have some fun with this template!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Free Christmas Card Template
Digital Lady Syd’s Free Christmas Card Template Using Photoshop Elements
Free Christmas Card Vectors and Brushes
Free Christmas Card Templates
Some Holiday Cheer
A no brainer here – another winner! Topaz Adjust has been probably the best plug-in value since the first version came out (and the first plug-in I bought). The price is always reasonable and the results are always great! Therefore there was no reason not to believe that this plug-in would not be up to the same standard and it is. The train engine image above was created using the classic Spicify preset which has been their signature look since they created this plug-in. Still looks great and there are many adjustments that can made to the preset to get the overall feel you want. (To access the Topaz website, click on my Tidbits Blog and click on the Topaz Adjust 4 sidebar.)
Below I created several different looks using the same HDR (done in NIK HDR Efex Pro – Realistic Strong preset) storefront image to show the vast variety of looks with a minimal amount of adjusting. So here they are:
This storefront image is from Jackson, Mississippi. The same tone colors used in my Tidbits Blog “Topaz Adjust 5 is Here! First Look!” image which were the same colors I have used in the Black and White Effects plug-in – see “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for exact colors. I really like the Tone section in Adjust – very similar to the Quad Tones in Black and White Effects plus the added benefit of a Tone Strength slider to change the amount applied. Another benefit over the Black and White Effects is that a preset with just the Tone section can be saved so the colors can be changed to your favorites easily.
The above uses two presets applied separately – first the Lomo III preset as is and then the Vintage III preset, both from the Film Collection. In the last preset, on the right side I adjusted in the Color Section the Hue slider to 0.1o to change the storefront color from orange to yellow and then the Color Saturation slider to 2.39. The Tone slider was set to 0.94. In the Local Adjustments section, with the Brush Out tool set at 100% opacity, the whole image was brushed out except for the yellow storefront. Therefore you are getting the Lomo III preset effect on everything except the middle storefront. I thought it turned out really nice and was very easy to do.
The unusual look of the image above was created by applying the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust 5 with a Tone Strength set to 1.00, Warmth set to 0.57, and Transparency set to 0.44. Then the photo was taken into Topaz Black and White Effects and a sunset effect preset I had created a while back with Transparency set to 1.00 (which is really 50% of the color in the image). Overall a very nice combination of the two plug-ins.
1. They have changed to the interface to look like their new great plug-in “Topaz Black and White Effects” and what a great improvement!
2. You can apply more than one effect to get some really great new looks like in their “Topaz Lens Effects” plug-in. This allows you to save your favorite Tone colors or Vignette settings as presets to apply individually. Much increased versatility here.
3. There is a new Local Adjustment Brush (like in Lightroom or ACR) that can used to brush out effects (at varying depths) that is totally fabulous. You can apply a new effect and brush out everything except what you want to show through. It is a great addition!
4. Price is still the best in the plug-in world and once you buy the plug-in, all the newer versions are free! Now that is unheard of in the plug-in world!
5. It loads in Photoshop very quickly – very refreshing!
1. Does not save the settings you applied with the first effect if using Smart Objects unless you saved that portion as a preset first.
2. Smart Object does not save your Local Adjustments that you did with the various brushes.
3. Topaz said that the plug-in can be set to save as a new layer with the changes instead of having to duplicate the background layer and then apply the plug-in. So far I have not been able to find how to enable this.
4. When you brush out the effect, I am not having much luck brushing out the vignette I applied within Adjust. It has to be turned off completely, not painted away from certain areas.
Here is a final image done with the new Topaz Adjust 5. It is of a closed cafe’s sign in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Extreme Color Blast preset in the Stylized Collection was applied and the letters and white part of the little pictures were painted with the Dodge brush to make them whiter. That was it and I love the beautiful texture in the wall and sign.
Well, once again I do believe that Topaz has created a very strong plug-in to compete with its more expensive competitors. I would say if you cannot afford much but would like a great plug-in to start with, this is the one hands down. Lots of versatility in a small bundle. The pros definitely outweigh the cons and the cons may be fixed without much difficulty. Have fun experimenting and see what you think – I will be…..Digital Lady Syd
I love landscapes but there are so many times when you take an image in the bright sunlight and the sky is just a blaring blue. My favorite method to add clouds is to brush them in using cloud brushes you create yourself or download from someone else. These are placed on a layer by themselves so that the opacity can be adjusted later if they start to distract from the main focus of the image. Add a layer mask and paint out with black over areas where there should be no clouds. Use a brush at 50% opacity to blend in some of the clouds edges if they are too bright or sharp.
In the shot of the side of the old Ponce de Leon Hotel (now Flagler College) in St. Augustine, Florida, clouds were added before processing the image in NIK Color Efex Pro4. I used my Cloud #4 and #1 brushes in my SJ-Clouds Set. If you would like to download some other great cloud brushes, Obsidian Dawn has some beautiful cloud brushes on her site, especially her Cloud II Photoshop Brushes.
The Old Courthouse Cupola in Fairfax, Virginia, and the Ghost House Cupola at the Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida, are both examples of brushed in clouds on a separate layer on top of the image and then masked out where the sky is not.
The cupola sky was actually a blown out gray color as the day was very overcast. In this case the color of the sky was changed to a soft blue using the Color Replacement Tool (see my Tidbits Blog “Like a Chameleon – The Color Replacement Tool“) and then another layer was added where clouds were brushed on to get the soft cloud bank look. Finally the image was processed in NIK Color Efex Pro 3 using the Tonal Contrast filter to get the crisp vintage feel.
In the Ghost House image the sky was changed to a blue color using the Color Replacement Tool and then it was processed using the digital workflow by Don Smith (see “Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software“) where the cloud layer was created with cloud brushes before processing in Color Efex Pro 3. This is one of my favorite cupola images with the unexpected bat flying on top.
One of the best ways to get the cloud effects you want is to photograph different types of clouds at different times of the day. Then create your own Photoshop brushes using you favorite clouds. I did a blog a while back that explains how to create your own brushes in detail – see “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text.” It is really not that hard and it is fun to see your own images in the clouds!
I believe this is the fastest and easiest way to add clouds to images – I have added cloud photos to images with pretty nice results but the selection process can be tedious and the edges will need to be cleaned up. I like being able to choose the clouds I want and place them where I want. The flexibility is very nice. Just be sure to try a Hue/Saturation or Curves Adjustment Level or paint some slight color in your clouds if you are not getting the contrast you need. Also try stacking your different cloud brushes to create some new clouds – possibly add a bit of color on your brush to add some realism. This can all be done on different layers so the color effect can be faded. Experiment!
Try out some of your own clouds or some I have supplied above and see what you think. It really is very easy to get good results!…..Digital Lady Syd
Since I have been giving such glowing reviews to their newest competitor into the black and white plug-in world (Topaz Black & White Effects), I really should show you why, if you totally love black and white images, this is the plug-in you want. I was reminded by a webinar sponsored by NIK and featuring Dave Devitale called “The Creative Edge in Digital Photography” (the sound quality on this video was not good), that Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2) really does give wonderful results. The interface is familiar and similar to the other great NIK plug-ins so it makes getting up to speed really fast. The presets give you excellent quick looks at the different effects and make it easy to get a pleasing result without a lot of adjusting. NIK really knows how to put together a great plug-in and this one is no different. It’s biggest drawback is the price.
St. George Street in St. Augustine was processed in black and white due to a large contrast in the original image. A simple workflow was followed and was a pretty basic use of NIK’s SEP2. Clean up your image, duplicate it and make it a Smart Object (right click on layer and select Create Smart Object since SEP2 remembers your plug-in settings and control points), got to Filter -> NIK -> Silver Efex Pro 2 and look at the presets. The 015 Full Dynamic (harsh) preset was chosen as a starting point. An Orange color filter was used and Sensitivity colors were adjusted for the image. Toning 4 was added. Back in Photoshop the standard layers were added: a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust contrast, a Sharpen Tool layer, and a basic layer style for the framing. That’s it and you get a very nice black and white image.
This image followed a slightly different technique that Moose Peterson, the famous outdoor photographer recommended in a NIK video called “Finishing Techniques Using NIK Software.” The original image was processed in ACR and then brought into Photoshop. The background layer was duplicated and in SEP2, the Full Dynamic Smooth preset was applied for a starting point. Moose prefers this preset. Then he duplicates the black and white layer and opens up the NIK Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in – he likes the Neutral Density filter where he can adjust the tonality of the clouds. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer is added and its layer mask filled with black – it is then painted on with a 20% white brush to darken the foreground and add detail to the clouds. For a better explanation check out the video which is very good.
Above is the current Casa Monica Hotel (was the Cordova Hotel in 1888 when it was opened) in St. Augustine, Florida, and one of the grand old hotels of city. I have used this technique before when processing color images – a color image is opened, the layer duplicated and turned into a Smart Object, and the top layer is taken into the SEP2 plug-in to create a black and white effect. (See next image explanation for settings used in SEP2.) Once back inside Photoshop, different blend modes are tried for the black and white layer. In this case, the Screen blend mode was selected at 59% opacity. A Curves Adjustment layer was added. Finally a New Layer was created for use with the Sharpen Tool where I went over the edges of the building and some of the window details. I love the final postcard look – perfect for this type of historic building. The SEP2 settings listed for the next image are exactly the same for the hotel except the Image Border is Type 13.
This is of the backside of run down storefronts in downtown Jackson, Mississippi. I loved the slight touch of color and texture that came through in this image. The workflow was very similar to the one used on the image above – except this time the blend mode was left to Normal at 70% opacity. It gives a very different look even though the same oo5-High Structure (Harsh) preset was used in SEP2 with slightly different settings applied. Different Control Points were used to add extra contrast in localized areas and the green leaves were darkened using a Control Point. In the Film Types section the Orange Filter was used and in the drop-down, Film Type Kodak ISO 32 Panatomic X was selected as a starting point. The creamy color is achieved using Toning 14. A slight dark vignette was created and Image Border Type 2 was added. Be sure to create your own preset at this point if you find some settings you like by clicking on Add Preset and name it. In Photoshop the Sharpen Tool was used on the ironwork to bring out the detail a bit more and a final Curves Adjustment Layer was added.
The Tomorrowland Sign is an example of using two different layers for your effect. Duplicate your original layer (CTRL+J) and turn off the top layer. On the bottom layer, a Topaz Adjust Spicify preset was applied to the image. This gives the really bright and edgy look of the actual sign. Now on the top layer, go to SEP2 and convert your image emphasizing how you want to the background of the image to appear such as softening the lines. Once out of the plug-in, add a Layer Mask and carefully mask out the Tomorrowland Sign. The final step involves going to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur to make the black and white background a softer feel so it does not compete with the colorful sign for attention. I believe this is a really nice way to apply the SEP2 plug-in for a different look.
I hope this gives an idea of what can be achieved with what is considered the best black and white plug-in ever created. I have enjoyed trying some photos in this program and I would suggest that if you like black and white, it is worth a trial download to see what you think. Enjoy yourself and try out some new looks and techniques…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Same Image-Different Plug-in
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2
Same Image-Different Look!