Digital Lady Syd Reviews Akvis Sketch Plug-in for Photoshop
I decided to try the Akvis Sketch plug-in after reading Theresa Airey’s Digital Photo Art New Directions book where she used it in some of her examples. The image above is of the Pulteney Bridge over the Avon River in England – I actually took this shot from a tour bus. Just goes to show that sometimes you get lucky! I am a huge Topaz (for website see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Simplify fan which has a very functional Line and Ink and Sketch sections. Many of Simplify’s presets and adjustments can get you a very similar result. I created a vertical tych (see my Using a Tych Panel to Show Off Your Images blog) as an example of how I was able to recreate a pretty similar result using both Topaz Simplify and Nik Color Efex Pro. For info on how all the images were processed, see the end of the blog.
For a little introduction to the program, there are two basic styles you can pursue: the Classic style for creating color or black and white drawing with contour lines, and Artistic style for creating “expressive” drawings that look they were hand-drawn.
It took me a while to get the hang of how to create a mask so the blurring effect was where it should be – the Instruction Booklet makes it look like you can use a very loose selection, but I had to keep redoing it to get it to look right. It helped to zoom in to 300% to lay down the lines, and it did take several attempts to get it to look natural. See screenshot below to see how the Colored Car background Blur Sketch was created. I also found the directions a little confusing for the Background tab – sometimes you cannot use the blur with certain slider settings and sometimes you can. Anyway, I was able to apply the blur effect on both the Classic Sketch car and the Colored Classic Sketch car, and it turned out very nice once it was done.
But I must say that Akvis Sketch offers different choices on how to set up your sketch look to get some very unique results that Simplify cannot reproduce. I spent a lot of time trying to get Simplify to create the look I created with Sketch and the image of trees on the Big Island in Hawaii. I loved the trees but could never get it to look the way I wanted it to – until I started playing with Akvis Sketch and got this very artsy sketch feel in the image.
I was surprised how sharp and almost realistic this hubcap display from the 39th Annual Turkey Run turned out. After looking at Akvis’s website, it seems that many of the images start by applying the Classic style using the Black and White default preset in the drop-down at the bottom of the Sketch panel. Then they recommend moving the Stroke Thickness and Midtones Intensity. In this case Coloration was added and Color Pencil was checked. (See Image 6 info for all settings used.)
In this example I added a texture using Sketch’s hatched texture. To be honest I am not a big fan of adding the texture in the plug-in although you can actually upload your own textures to add. I also tried that and did not like the result. But this image turned out pretty nice using Sketch’s B&W Sketch preset. It really does not take a lot of manipulation to get a nice result. And the program is not too taxing on your computer either.
What I Like!
- It has several different sketch slider settings that none of my other plug-ins provide. Like Midtone Hatching and Stroke Thickness.
- Getting a nice quick result is easy. If you need to get into the other tabs in the program it is more complicated, but the basic presets they provide are pretty good for a starting point. You can also save out your presets once you find settings you like.
- There is an Edges tab that gives you some very good sliders for enhancing just the contour lines of your image.
What I Don’t Like!
- The Background tab (see screenshot above) which sounds like it would be a great feature where you can make the background a sketch and your main object the actual photo, or you can blur part of your image using Gaussian Blur, Motion Blur or Radial Blur. I find the tools you are given to define this area does not give a good result – the defining red and blue lines you draw are of only one brush size and I had a hard time getting a good result. It required zooming in at 300% to get an accurate result, which I needed for my images.
- Fairly steep learning curve to do the more intricate effects, like applying blur to an image.
- Really need brush size adjustment – that drove me crazy!
Bottom Line: The plug-in is not perfect but once you start fiddling with it, you begin seeing some of the interesting things you can do with it. I will always love Topaz Simplify’s line drawing presets, but it is different and it does not have all the line choices you have with Akvis Sketch. I personally liked the result on landscape images – it brings out some details that are hard to emphasize in regular processing. I think if you do any type of architectural rendering or photos, this would be a great plug-in. If you are a NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals – this actually is a good deal due to all the discounts you get plus 10 Photoshop User magazines throughout the year for the $99 membership), you get a 30% discount on all Akvis products. Sketch is just one of many plug-ins that you can try-out for a 10 day trial period. I really liked some of the results I was getting. Give it a try and see what you think of this interesting filter……Digital Lady Syd
Image Post Processing Details:
Image 1: This was originally processed in Lightroom and opened in Photoshop. Topaz Detail 3′s Highlight Detail Strong preset was applied to a duplicate layer. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Adjust 5′s Mild Color Pop was applied. This layer was duplicated and Akvis Sketch’s B&W Light preset was applied and Watercolor slider was set to 33 and Colorization to 100. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add some contrast. That was it!
Image 2: The Tych contains Image 1 as the first example. For the Topaz Simplify 4 image, the same settings were applied but instead of opening up Sketch, Topaz Simplify was opened and I created a preset called Nice Sketch that started with the Sketch section Pencil Hard (Simplify Settings – Colorspace YCbCr, Simpify Size 0, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 1.58, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size o.44, Remove Small 0 and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust Settings – Brightness -0.04, Contrast 0.99, Saturation 1.10, Saturation Boost 1.05, Dynamics 0.37, Structure 0.30 and Structure Boost 1.20; Edges settings – Color Edge Fine, Edge Strength 1.32, Simplify Edge 0, Reduce Weak 0, Reduce Small 0.24, and Flatten Edge 0; and Transparency – Overall transparency o.47. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to desaturate the Cyans, Yellows and Blues. It looks like a fairly close approximation to the Sketch plug-in. For the Nik Color Efex Pro 4 image, Topaz Detail 3 was used. The layer was duplicated and Color Efex Pro 4 was opened and Tonal Contrast was first applied using the Contrast Type Strong; then BW Conversion using the BW Conversion method and the filter set to 19% opacity – just toned down the color some; and the last filter was Sunlight with Light Strength set to 20%, Light Temperature 6004 K, Brightness 0, Contrast 75% and Saturation -19%. A slight S curve on a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied and it was done. Looks a little more realistic than sketchy but still has a similar look.
Image 3: This is one of my Tych images again. All images started off with Topaz Detail’s Overall Medium Detail I preset. Next Akvis Sketch was applied to all images. The top left image used Artistic Style Expression with no changes to the preset. The top right used Akvis Color Pencil High preset in the Classic style. The Strokes section Color Pencil was set to 63, Edge section Edge Width was set to 56 and a Good Colored Sketch preset was created. The bottom left image was created using Classic style and Akvis B&W Default preset. The Background tab was selected and Mode set to Sketch and Blur – Blur Order was drawing on Blur Gaussian, Blur Method Gaussian, and Gaussian Blur slider was 10. The bottom right is Akvis Color Pencil High preset with changes to Stroke Thickness 2, Midtones Intensity 2, Coloration 97, and Colored Pencil 100. Background used 8.8 Gaussian Blur on Sketch & Blur.
Image 4: Screenshot of how the blurred background is created within the Background tab of the program.
Image 5: After processing in Lightroom and bringing into Photoshop, clean up was done to the photo. Then Akvis Sketch plug-in was opened and the Artistic Style was chosen using these settings (Strokes – Color Pencil, Lightness 0, Angle 45, Dispersion 81, Min Length 7, Max Length 71, Stroke Thickness 20, Uniformity 29, Curvature 37, Hatching Density 77, and Hatching Intensity 49. French Kiss Solstice Puissance texture was added and set to Multiply blend mode and 39% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the layer (ALT+click between the layers to clip) and the colors changed to a purplish feel instead of the greenish color. A New Layer was added on top of the texture and my free SJ Cloud Brushes 1 and 5 were painted in white in the top part of the image (it looks like sky but was actually a large hillside) and set to 55% opacity. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to darken the midtones down a lot. Next my free SJ Holiday Overlays Snow 2 Overlay slightly blurred was added and a purple Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to it. Shadowhouse Creations Tree Set 2 Deer brush was used to add the deer in the background. Finished off with a Curves Adjustment Layer to get just the right contrast.
Image 6: This was a pretty simple image to do. After some clean up, the image was taken into Akvis Sketch where a preset I had created called SJ Classic Color Pencil Landscape was applied. It was set to the Classic style, Coloration 70, Color Pencil checked and set to 61, Stroke Thickness 3, Min Length 1 and Max Length 5, Midtones Intensity 3 and Midtones Hatching 95. Back in Photoshop Kim Klassen’s Revolution Texture was added – beautiful texture that was free by signing up for her newsletter. The layer was set to Linear Burn blend mode at 87% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was then added to finish up.
Image 7: The image was opened in Photoshop and taken into Akvis Sketch using the B&W Sketch preset from the drop-down and with Hatched Texture added in the Texture tab. Back in Photoshop the layer was duplicated and set to Multiply to darken the image a little. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added and in the Colors Neutrals was opened – Yellow was set to +17 and Black set to +16; and Blacks Yellow set to +3 and Black +54. This gave the background more brown tones but left the flowers white. 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Aveline Grunge texture was applied and set to Linear Light at 100% opacity. In the Layer Mask, the white petals were painted out to remain white. My free SJ Pastel Watercolor texture was added next and set to Pin Light blend mode at 100% opacity. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to my texture to adjust the colors a little and reduce the saturation – Hue -58/Saturation -74/Lightness 0. A slight S-curve Curves Adjustment Layer was added next. A Bevel and Emboss Layer Style was added to extend the hatch effect to the edges of the image (Inner Bevel, Smooth, Depth 100%, Direction Up Size 0, Soften 0, Angle 120 degrees, turn off Global Light, Altitude 30 degrees – then check Texture and set Pattern to Gauze – it comes with Photoshop – and Scale 51 and Depth -200, and check Invert and Link with Layer).