I first reviewed this plug-in with its initial release back in my Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner! blog where I cover lots of things I still like about this plug-in. Behind Topaz Detail 3 and DeNoise 3, plug-ins I consider essential for any image, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects is my next most used Topaz plug-in – even more than Adjust. And black and white treatments are not the first thing I think about when using this plug-in – I think creative expression (as you can see by this and my related blog posts). It is a very easy way to adjust the tones and color effects without having to do more manipulation later in Photoshop, which is usually required with other black and white plug-ins. When I am stuck on what to do with an image and nothing seems to look right, I can almost always find the answer in Black & White Effects – it never ceases to amaze me what it can do with an image! The actual black and white effect creates very good results also. I loved the original version so to me the newer release is just a better and updated version of the original. It now supports very clear large thumbnail views of the large number of presets (over 200) that come with the program. It has a cleaner interface that is more in line with Lightroom (which I think has the best interface of any program) and its competitors.
The image above shows an example of how I like to use this plug-in. The Traditional Collection’s Warm Tool II preset was used as a starting point. In the Basic Exposure section only the Contrast and Brightness was changed slightly. The Adaptive Exposure slider was increased to 0.16 and the Regions was changed to 15.10 – these two sliders are usually where all the Topaz magic occurs when adjusting image exposure. In Local Adjustments, several different brushes can be applied to the image at different overall strengths. A Detail brush was used to paint over the cups, a Smooth brush was applied to the reddish hanging jacket and white sack, a Burn brush was added over the white sack to tone it down a bit, and a Dodge brush was used on the top cup to make it show up a little more. Only the Color brush was not used above, which can really give an image a very special effect. The final step in the program was to set the Overall Transparency slider to 0.35. For more info on the image processing, see Image 1 at end of blog.
WHAT I LIKE!
1. Price! Price! Price! This program has all the features of the other programs and is a great value if you are not specializing in black and white photography. All the bells and whistles are there. And the guarantee that you are will receive free upgrades – this is a no-brainer in my opinion. I got the upgrade for free and this guarantee is true with all their plug-ins. I do not know of any other software developers that offer this type of program. In fact recently, Topaz released a version 2.1 to add more depth to the program.
2. The Quad Tone section is, in my humble opinion, the major reason this program is better than the others. No one offers these Quad Tone sliders for changing the color combinations (except in Photoshop itself using an 8-bit flattened Grayscale, then to Indexed mode) – this is just plain unique! It also is one of the major reasons the unusual soft effects can be created quickly.
3. There is now a full screen window that shows all the presets on large thumbnails of your image. It makes it really easy to compare the various effects from the different presets. And it will also do this on your own My Collection presets and your Favorites. Very handy! If you do not want to do this, a larger thumbnail will appear with the effect applied to your image as you slide over the list of presets.
4. One little feature it now has, and that I love, is the ability to leave each panel open so you can go back and forth without opening up each section every time you want to adjust a slider. Lightroom has always had this capability and it can be very handy to have various panels open. This can be turned on and off in Preferences if you do not like it, but I think it is great feature.
5. The Overall Transparency slider (which maxes out at only 50% of the color in the image) – use this with the Localized Adjustments Color Brush and you can get some wonderful soft color effects on your images. This combination cannot be done near as easily in other programs.
Version 2.1 Update
6. My biggest complaint was answered – Topaz put in an Apply button so you can stack your effects. This allows you to create special Quad Tone presets and Diffusion setting presets that can be applied to an image after you have created your basic black and white image. What a great feature to have – now you do not have to go out of the plug-in and re-enter – it can all be done at once!
7. Another great addition - I particularly love the Silver and Paper Tone presets shown as drops of color at the top of the right panel in their new Quick Tools section. These can create some beautiful subtle changes to your image. And once again you can set up special preset effects just for this section to use after the original effect has been created. The Color Filter presets are very nice to have handy also.
8. They added many more variations in a drop-down list for black and white borders that makes this section much more functional. It still has a size slider to adjust how large to make it on the image. I will probably use it much more now.
WHAT I DON’T LIKE!
Topaz has been really great about adding new features to this plug-in, so it does not have too many things I do not like, but there are a few.
1. I have a problem with the Adjustment Brushes totally disappearing. This happens when using a brush tool(s) on your image, and you switch to another section to and change a slider in a any of the other section, like Diffusion Effect for example, leaving your brush panel open. When your return to the Localized Adjustments section the brushes will not appear even. This was a problem in some of the Beta versions and that was fixed but reappeared again in this latest version. Why let you keep the panels open if they do not work when you return to them? I have put in a comment on this in the forum so hopefully this will get fixed soon. This should be an easy fix for Topaz. The work-around is to totally close up the brush panel by clicking the little down arrow next to the number 3 Local Adjustments section (do not worry, your original brush strokes will remain), and re-open it up again. Your brushes will now start working again.
2. Wish they would put an Tone Effect slider for the Quad Tones section so just that area could be adjusted. This is available in Adjust5 and Simpify4. It would also be nice to have a Strength Slider active for the Color Brush, as it is for all the other brushes.
3. Watch out after applying an effect that used a Localized Brush – the brushstrokes are not reset after an Apply. This can really mess your next effect you are adding. Just be sure to reset the section if you do not want the same brushstrokes applied again. (This also happens in Topaz Adjust 5 and Simplify 4, but does not happen in Topaz Detail 3 with the Effect Mask.)
4. Still having trouble getting the correct basic settings back when using the image as a Smart Object – I cannot get them to stick. The Last Used preset usually appears from when the program was last opened. I feel this is the weakest point with all the recent Topaz plug-ins. If there are settings I really need to remember, I create a preset or create in Notepad a list of my setting to copy into a Note in Photoshop (sits with the Eyedropper Tool).
5. Little personal complaints here: I miss the old preset image that was on the top left. Sometimes the large thumbnails are just too much and stick a bit more than I like and it would be nice to have that choice back. That is just my personal opinion. Please make a larger Apply button at bottom like in the other programs. Another little request of mine. Please move the size icons back to the right – I do not like going up to the top of the middle of the image to increase to 1:1.
I guess I am sounding a little critical in this blog, but this is such a good plug-in that I would really like it to be perfect. I know Adjust is Topaz’s best known plug-in, but this B&W Effects has the ability of being one of the best ever created with just a few tweaks. There are some other really nice features too. There is now a Curves Tool section and a nice selection of curves to choose from in a drop-down list which other programs do not offer – this is very handy if you are not liking the way the image looks and need to add some quick contrast. It still has the Diffusion section where the Softness, Diffusion and Diffusion transition can be adjusted gives a slight softness to the whole image – add the detail back in a specific area by using opening the Localized Adjustments and selecting the Detail Brush. This is a wonderful addition to your images and also appears to be unique to B&W Effects. Usually this is found in a color effect plug-in. Another add-on that has been included is a Zone Mode (click the Z at the top right which changes the navigation window into a histogram). By clicking on a number underneath, you can see by different colors which areas are part of that zone on your image. Since I am not into black and white and the Ansel Adams effect to that extent, it is probably not a feature I will use a lot, but many people will find this extremely useful.
If you have other Topaz plug-ins, you will find they all have very similar interfaces and the learning curve is pretty quick for this plug-in. As you can see from my selection of images and previous blogs, I really like the artistic flair this plug-in can add to an image for a needed pop. It is especially strong with the vintage feel. Since I own the other plug-ins and I have been comparing results, I cannot find any areas that Topaz has missed for those interested in doing straight black and white conversions.
……These begonias were just ending up too bright for my taste. To tone it down subtly, as a last step this image was opened up in Topaz Black & White Effects II using a preset I created in the first version that I call SJ Vintage Feel (all my old presets were moved upon updating). This preset contains these settings for Basic Exposure: Contrast 0.06, Brightness 0.06, Boost Blacks 0.26, and Boost Whites 0; and Finishing Touches: Silver and Paper Tone – Tonal Strength was set to 0.64, Balance 0, Silver Hue 12.29, Silver Tone Strength 0.85, Paper Hue 43.90, and Paper Tone Strength 0.38. The Overall Transparency slider was set to 0.55. It gave the soft feel that I needed with just a few clicks. This is something that I cannot do as easily if at all in the other black and white plug-ins. See Image 2 below for more details.
…..Another image from the Native American Festival. These beautiful leather purses being sold by a vendor looked a little overcome by color in the original RAW image. But by using the Black & White Effects plug-in, it becomes much more interesting to view. For the post processing in this image, all I did was click the reset button down at the bottom of the right-hand panels. Then I just went into each section and adjusted each slider until I liked what I saw. One section to look very closely at is the Adaptive Exposure and Regions sliders in the Adaptive Exposure section – these two sliders will give some very good results (this is true with any Topaz filter that has these sliders – always check them out). See Image 3 below for more info.
These beautiful pink dahlias were so easy to process. It was hard to decide which version to present but this was basically created by combining a very rich texture with Black & White Effects. I used a preset I had created called Hawaiian Morning uses my favorite Quad Tone section to get the results that are always spectacular. See Image 4 below for preset settings if you would like to them. The Black & White Layer was set to a Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity so the original image is still preset.
To create my rather dark sepia toned image, Black & White Effects was applied to the image layer and also to one of the texture layers. The Platinum preset was applied with a Diffusion effect added, and then used a Detail Brush to bring back the fairies face. Another preset was applied to add a Quad Tone effect to the image for the nice sepia feel. See Image 5 information for more details, including my preset settings. A colorful texture was added in Photoshop on top of the fairy layer, and another of my old presets was applied to it to give it a similar color tone.
…..I took some artistic liberty on this image of the Towers at Westminster Abbey in London. I wanted to make the picture look different from what everyone else has. My first step once in Photoshop was to go to Topaz B&W Effects 2 and just added Traditional Collection High Pass I with the Creative Effects Diffusion – Softness slider at .16 and Diffusion slider at .14. Then three textures were added to get the final effect. See Image 6 info for more.
Bottom line – if you want a black and white plug-in, this is a fabulous way to go without spending so much and you get all the added color options. This program is one of the most powerful in the Topaz line-up in what it provides and the new upgrade just gives it a fresher look. It is still a solid contender as a black and white plug-in. It is definitely worth a second look if you want to add some creative aspects to your images. Check out my related blogs below – there are many different Quad Tones settings you may like. Definitely try out the trial and see what you think!
Sorry for the long post, but this is really that good a plug-in so I felt it needed to be reviewed thoroughly……Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs – check them out to see how I used this plug-in in different ways:
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 7: Check Out Your Local History
Clowning Around with Topaz!
Where Am I?
Hibiscus Flowers – I Love to Photograph Them!
Black and White Effects on Outside Art
Cleaning Up a Messed Up Photo
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
Image 1: Topaz Detail 3 using the Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied – a layer mask filled with black was added and the mugs were painted back. Next Topaz Black & White Effects 2 was applied using setting discussed above. Kim Klassen’s Return texture (sign up for Kim’s newsletter and get several of her beautiful textures including the Return texture used in this image) was added with a 78% layer opacity – a white layer mask was added and the center of the image softly painted back into view. Next French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was set to Overlay and 53% opacity. 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 was used as a border in white that was placed around the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was the last step to add some contrast back into the image.
Image 2: This image actually used Topaz Detail 3 twice and localizing the effect on the flowers. Also some leaves had to be added to cover some rather ugly tissue paper that was sticking up. Three textures were stacked: 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Destine texture was set to Soft Light at 100% opacity, Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Texture Florence set to Soft Light blend mode at 47% layer opacity, and French Kiss Artiste Avril texture set to Overlay blend mode at 29% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied and the Auto button clicked to get the good colors. Then the Black & White Effects plug-in was applied as stated above.
Image 3: This image was very simply processed. Just used Topaz B&W Effects 2 to begin with using settings under image, then added a slight S Curves Adjustment Layer and painted out the two purses in the middle to add focus. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added with the middle tab set to 0.65 and the Output Levels set to 41 to soften the image just a little.
Image 4: I bought these dahlias to plant in my yard, but before I did, I took their picture using a kid’s bent white poster board for a background. It was then easy to add a painterly texture to the image without any distractions in the background. Mellisa Gallo’s Painted Textures 2 for 5 Friday Spring Sky texture was added. The Dahlia layer was duplicated, moved on top, and set to Soft Light blend Mode at 100% opacity – this removes all the white areas so the texture shows through. A Levels Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between layers) and the Output Levels were set to 0 and 229 to lighten the image a little. Next I used created darken and lighten layers to dodge and burn on the flowers (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top where Black & White Effects was applied. (Here are the settings I used: Adaptive Exposure: Adaptive Exposure 0.41, Regions 26, Protect Highlights 0, Protect Shadows 0, Detail 1.11, Detail Boost 1.09, and Process Details Independently; Quad Tone: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08, Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9, Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5, and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0; Vignette: Vignette Strength -.039, Vignette Size 0.83, Vignette Transition 0.58, and Vignette Curvature 0.70.; and Transparency: Overall Transparency 1.00.). Once back in Photoshop, in the Layer Style Advanced Blending section, the B Channel was unchecked which gives a bluish tint to the whole image. The layer was set to Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity.
Image 5: Once out of Lightroom, Black & White Effects 2 was applied using the Platinum preset and changing Adaptive Exposure slider to 0.42. Next the Diffusion section was opened and the Diffusion slider was set to 0.79. In the Located Adjustments, the Details Brush at 0.50 opacity was used to paint detail back into the fairy’s face and hair. These settings were applied. Next a Quad Tone preset was applied and set to an Overall Transparency of 1.00. (Here are my SJ_Quad_DkB_Gr_Yel_Wh preset settings: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08 ; Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9; Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5; and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0.) Back in Photoshop Kim Klassen’s Framed texture was added on top and set to Soft Light at 100% to get the slight edge around image. Next Kim Klassen’s Abstract Texture was added and taken into Black & White Effects 2 where my SJ Partial Color Look preset (one of my favorites) was applied. (Here are the settings for this preset if you would like them: Basic Exposure: Contrast 0.10, Brightness -0.02, Boost Blacks -0.10, and Boost Whites 0.50; Adaptive Exposure: Adaptive Exposure 0.64, Regions 50, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.02, Detail 2.28, Detail Boost 1.00, and check Process Details Independently; Quad Tone: Color 1 Region (R16/G15/B11) 7.46, Color 2 Region (R79/G78/B68) 83.33, Color 3 Region (R159/G156/B143) 164.2, and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B242) 255.0; Film Grain: Grain Kodak TMaxPro 100, Grain Contrast 1.25, and Grain Size 32.50; Vignette: Vignette Strength -.058, Vignette Size 0.92, Vignette Transition 0.28, and Vignette Curvature 0.11; and Transparency: Overall Transparency 0.67). This layer was set to Soft Light blend mode at 43% opacity.) Now just a Levels Adjustment Layer and a couple text layer using free Radium J and Batik Regular fonts.
Image 6: The three textures used in the image were: Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Winter Storm set to Linear Burn blend mode at 42%, Taupe Canvas set to Linear Dodge at 48% opacity, and Confetti set to Color Burn at 60%. These textures were all obtained from her specials such as Black Friday or 2 for Friday specials.
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).
The above was my first attempt at trying out Topaz Detail 3 and I am not disappointed. (For Topaz website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar.) To sharpen an image I usually use the High Pass filter, Unsharp Filter or convert to LAB and do localized sharpening on the L channel. Detail 3 makes sharpening so much easier and gives several ways to adjust your sharpening to get the detail effect you want. This upgrade was definitely needed – and what I like most is that you can now localize the detail. All I can say is Love It! Love It! Love It!
Since I am such a big fan of Topaz anyway, I decided to use several of their plug-ins on this image from the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run Car Show, the largest in the US. If you look close at this guys face, you can see a slight smile – Detail really brought that out. I first started processing this image in Lightroom (see the RAW image below) with just the Basic sliders. In Photoshop I went immediately into Topaz photoFXlab, their new plug-in interface that I love. (See my Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1 blog.) Next the Black and White Effects plug-in (this plug-in does things like no other filter I have seen) and from the Opalotype Collection the Hand-Tinted Chiffon preset was applied. The only change was to the Vignette which I centered on the car and adjusted the vignette sliders. Back in photoFXlab, Adjustment tab settings using the Dynamics slider (my favorite), Sharpness, Highlights and Shadows were applied. On a +From Stack layer (composite), the new Detail 3 plugin setting using just the Large Detail set to 0.53 was selected. Then in the Effect Mask tab, I lightly painted out the grill so as not to overdo the sharpening effect on it. The Overall Effect slider was set to .78 and that was it. In Photoshop the last step was to add French Kiss’s free Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with grunge removed from center. It turned out beautifully!
What I Like about Topaz Detail 3!
1. Totally love the localized detailing that can now be done – the Effect Mask can be used to either paint in or paint out areas of the image so just what you want sharpened is affected.
2. The effect is usually pretty subtle but makes an incredible difference when viewing the image! There is an Overall Opacity slider in the Effect Mask tab that can be reduced to lower the detail globally if it appears to be overdone.
3. The Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green, and Yellow-Blue Tone sliders where you can enhance a single color have always been a favorite, even in Detail 2. Also Color Temperature and Tint sliders are now available. These sliders all use the IntelliColor feature that keeps unwanted color shifts under control.
4. What I just learned is that the Detail plug-in can also be used as a final sharpening for printing your images. Topaz did a You-Tube video called Output Sharpening for Print with Topaz, presented by Hal Schmidt using this process with Detail 2. I am planning on checking this out when I get a chance.
5. Details can actually just be added to the Shadows or the Highlights of your image or both with different settings. Really handy when you have a difficult image to work on.
6. New Deblur technology from Detail 2 that brings out micro details – great for macro photos. I have not had a chance to really use it yet but it sounds like a very promising feature.
What I Do Not Like!
1. I have a bit of a problem with the Effect Mask – I have a hard time making sure I am covering everything I need covered and at the correct amount. It would be nice if they had a colored overlay, as with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush, that would give you a feel as to where you were going out of the edges.
2. I wish the Undo/Redo buttons would work on the Effect Mask. The only way you can erase an area you accidentally painted over is to move the brush to a different amount and hope it covers. This works okay if using Brush Strengths of either 0 or 1.00, but when in between, it gets hard to fix. Sometimes it is easier to just start over by resetting the mask. The other plug-ins, like Adjust and photoFXlab, have these buttons working. (A request on Technical Problems has been posted in their Forum on this matter.)
3. This is a small nag, but when you apply an effect, you need to make sure you press Reset button in the Effect Mask to clear the mask window or it stays on even after pressing the Apply button. When you start to make other effect changes, the mask is still there. This is also true if you have painted out an area, for a certain preset and then change your mind about that preset, press Reset All in the Adjustments tab, the mask is still in the window. Sometimes this is good if you still want the mask, but sometimes it is frustrating until you realize what happened. Most of the other plug-ins will retain the mask before you apply an effect, but clear it after applying.
4. Another small nag, but often the program gets confused and opens up on my second monitor instead of over Photoshop or photoFXlab – not sure why it happens but just some of the time.
Overall the negatives are not that big a deal although I hope they do fix No.2. The revamping of this plug-in has made it so much more useful – I am looking forward to having it in my workflow!
These beautiful little miniature mums are once again my subject. This time a little processing in Lightroom, but not much. (See image below as it was brought into Photoshop.) DeNoise 3 was applied with just an overall Strength of .11 – now you do not need to adjust the Recover Detail slider if you are going to use Detail 3. Next Detail 3 was opened and applied 3 times! Yep – First in the Creative Detail Collection, the Overall Detail Strong II preset was applied and it really sharpened the flower petals and center. Next from the Stylized Detail Collection the Desaturated Blush II was applied and that beautiful texturized background appeared. Finally from the same collection the HDR Enhancement I was applied – in the Effect Mask the mask was inverted to black and with a brush set to 1.00, the center of the flower was painted back. Now to get just the right effect for the center, back in the Adjustments tab the Saturation Boost was set to .44. That is all that was done to this image to get this beautiful effect other than adding my B&W Border Frame Layer Style. I was totally surprised by how much detail was in the image that you could not see originally and by how beautiful a texture could be created by playing around with the presets and applying different ones.
This image of one of the Haunted Houses at for the Halloween Horror Night at Universal Studios Orlando was created very quickly – below is what the image looked like after just basic Camera Raw corrections were done in Lightroom. It is not bad but Topaz added those subtle changes that really improve the image. First Topaz photoLabFX was opened and the layer duplicated. Since the image had quite bit of noise in it as it was taken at night and without a tripod, I felt it needed to have Topaz DeNoise 3 applied first – just a little Strength set to .11 and Detail Recovery set to .26 (did this before I realized that it could be done in Detail 3) – the noise was cleared. (I love DeNoise!) Then I went into the new Topaz Detail 3 plug-in and applied the Architectural Detail II preset. Exit and a Stamped layer was created where Adjustment tab settings for the Temperature to -8 (for a more blue tone), Saturation to -23 (it was really bright and the light was coming from everywhere), Dynamics to 27 (my favorite slider in all of Topaz – just works!), Highlights to -89 and Shadows to -23 were applied. French Kiss Glorious Grunge Edging free overlay (see link above) was applied and that was it. I was amazed how much the Detail 3 and the Dynamics slider together made this image pop. I have to say this picture reminds me of one of my kids favorite childhood books, the Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree!
This is another example of the creative aspect of this plug-in – this image turned out very different than what I thought it would look like. This beautiful Monarch butterfly was not very happy with me taking her picture and it took off about two seconds after I captured this image. I got exactly two pictures! (See RAW image below.) After doing my Camera Raw work in Lightroom, the image was brought into Photoshop and Topaz Detail 3 opened. I applied this plug-in twice to get this effect on the butterfly and background. First application used the Stylized Detail Collection Abstraction I preset – then in the Color Section changed the Temperature and Saturation sliders. In the Effect Mask, at Strength 0.64 on a black inverted mask, the butterfly was painted in so the changes were made to just the background, but a little to the butterfly. This created the very soft background. Then Topaz Detail 3 was opened again and this time Creative Detail Collection Feature Enhancement I preset was used. This time it was applied just to the butterfly and not the background. Changes were made to the Tone sliders,including the Cyan-Red (0.82), Magenta-Green (0.68), and Yellow-Blue (-0.30) sliders – these are unique to this plug-in for Topaz and they can make an incredible difference in an image. These are not new to Detail 3 but are still one of my favorite parts of the plug-in. In Photoshop French Kiss Artiste Collection Charmante texture was added and the butterfly painted out, some text typed in and warped, and that wonderful grunge overlay applied again – I must be on a grunge kick?
I decided to try a little different effect for this image from the top of the Sky Tower of the Kraken Roller Coaster (check out the link for crazy roller coaster video) at SeaWorld Orlando. This image was pretty complicated as I used 4 different Topaz plug-ins to get the final effect. First my normal workflow in Lightroom. Next Topaz photoFXlab was opened and the Adjustment tab was used to adjust almost all the sliders including Dynamics that was set to 50. On a stacked layer Black and White Effect was opened and from the Albumen Collection, Chocolate preset was applied with Film Grain turned off and the Transparency set to .49. Topaz Detail 3 was applied – there were areas on the image that had been slightly lightened and blurred due to reflections from a window in the Sky Tower. To get rid of these reflection marks and make them blend into the rest of the image, I selected the Creative Detail Collection – Texture Enhancement II preset. This really over detailed the image as it was pretty sharp due to the wonderful Dynamics slider. In the Effect Mask, it was inverted and with a brush set to Strength .55, I painted over the light areas in the black mask. Then went into Adjustments tab and changed the Exposure to -.08 and Contrast to 0.45 to make the changes blend in. This is a terrific use for this filter and makes its value so much better than Detail 2. Topaz Detail 3 was applied again using just a change to the Cyan-Red slider – it was set to -1.00 to bring out the cyan roller coaster track. Finally Topaz Len Effects Vignette – Selective was set to draw the eye to the highest point of the coaster – very subtle. My Thin Double Edge Frame Layer Style was applied sampling frame colors from the image.
I love Topaz products and Detail 3 is no exception. I actually purchased Detail 2 as my first Topaz product – I did not use it to the extent I could have but I did use it at times for the detail and color toning I needed. Detail 3 is definitely a big step up and it does create that extra bit of sharpening and detail that is usually needed at some point in your post-processing workflow. And don’t forget that once you buy a plug-in from Topaz, the upgrades are free! I got this version for just owning Detail 2! You should definitely check it out!…..Digital Lady Syd
As everybody probably knows by now, I am a big fan of Topaz plug-ins (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link). If you like to create “photo art” (which I do), then many of their products are outstanding for this and Simplify leads the group. This is not the go-to plug-in to get that major realistic look or HDR feel to an image - stick to Topaz Adjust for that, although the lighthouse image below has a pretty realistic look to it. This beautiful Monarch butterfly image really expresses what Topaz Simplify 4 can do. You do not have to be an artist to give a beautiful artistic feel to an image. This latest version has opened up a whole bunch of new options and I am totally excited about trying them all out. Simplify 3 was a great product and I used it a lot. Simplify 4 adds more of the little extras that Topaz’s newer plug-in updates offer. But the real strength is in the addition of all the new presets – Topaz can make a basic photo look fabulous with just a few clicks. The image above used the Sketch Effect category Pastel II preset. Since I have photoFXlab (the new Topaz interface) that contains a great Adjust Tab – the Temperature slider was set to -100 and all of the sudden instead of a green and yellow image, which was really nice, it became a much bluer image. (This could easily be changed later in just Photoshop using ACR or a Color Balance Adjustment Layer.) Using the photoFXlab Mask Tab, the orange color was painted back in the butterfly – I really like the blue-orange color palette. In Photoshop the canvas looking border was applied using ShadowHouse Creations Assorted Mask Overlay Mask04 on top and set to Linear Dodge at 100% opacity. A little clean up was done to emphasize the eyes and blend some over bright colors. Very beautiful result and very easily created.
….. What I really love about Simplify is that it can save a “soft” image – that one shot you really want to save but the image is just not that good. The image above is an example of just that kind of problem. This shot was taken from a moving train using an ISO of 2000 – pretty high for my camera and it created a pretty soft look. How did I get this sharp look? First I used DeNoise set to RAW Moderate (be sure you have sharpening turned off in ACR or Lightroom – I did not on the first pass and it really messed up the noise removal). Next Topaz photoFXlab was opened and the layer duplicated – then from the Plugins Tab, Simplify 4 was opened. Lots of choices here – hard to make a decision which effect looks best. The Painting Effect category’s Impressions Color preset was selected – all detail is lost but the color is great! Back in photoFXlab, the layer was set to Color blend mode and the colors just popped as you see above. If you do not like the result, just delete your layer, duplicate again and go back into Simplify. A +From Stack stamped layer was created and the Adjust Tab’s sliders were set to: Temp 15, Saturation 14, Exposure 15, Contrast -12 and Dynamics 92. The Desaturation Brush was set to Strength -0.21 to brush out the bluish pavement and turn it back to a gray tone. The Detail brush was set to Strength 0.79 and used to paint over the buildings and the Burn brush Strength set to -0.33 and used to make the center building less bright. In Photoshop ShadowHouse Creations Blurred Smoke texture was added (a layer mask was added and the center painted out with black brush to reveal the image) and my B&W Border Frame layer style was added. I loved the results!
So what is new? Over 100 new presets that are organized into 7 Effect Categories: BuzSim, Detail Removal and Enhancement, Line and Ink, Painting, Sketch, Simplify 3 Preset List and My Collection which is where I save most of the presets I create (I put my old ones from Simplify 3 here also). I have not completely explored all the categories but I am loving the Painting Effects.
Here is a snapshot of a the new Simplify 4 interface. The Preset Thumbnail View is closed at upper left to show all the new Painting Effects presets. The image in the plug-in is shown at 1:1 (this is the recommended view by Topaz so you can actually see what the effect is doing) and has the Oil Painting preset applied with some slider changes in the Adjust Panel. It now contains not only my favorite Topaz slider, Dynamics for localized contrast similar to Topaz Adjust effects, but also Structure and Structure Boost sliders to get more detail like Topaz Detail uses. The Saturation and Saturation Boost sliders made this image a little more colorful than the original preset results (this is a common result with the Oil Painting preset) – these sliders were already in Simplify 3. You could play all day with the effects and sliders! The Simplify Panel and Edges Panel have not been changed with this revision but a new Curves Tool has been added to the Global Adjustments Panel with several choices in the drop-down Curves field or by just dragging with your cursor inside the grid. I usually do this step at the end of my workflow in Photoshop, but it might come in handy on a difficult image.
What I Like!
- All the new presets and new painterly effects!
- New Dynamics and Structure sliders. Fabulous addition!
- Localized brushes where the effect can be brushed out in places where it is too much – contains Dodge, Burn, Brush Out and Smooth brushes with the fantastic Edge Aware technology.
- Ability to add a Vignette from within Simplify.
- Ability to Apply an effect and then apply another one before exiting plug-in. This has the potential to give some interesting results.
- The addition of the Quad Tones to change the colors inside the program – learning curve here but could be quite useful!
- Detail Removal and Enhancement Effect category may have some good uses with some experimentation.
What I Don’t Like!
- Still have a little webbing problem when using the BuzSim presets. Usually on a separate layer in Photoshop the webbing color issue can be corrected. First try the various Simplify panel sliders to fix, especially the Simplify Size slider – just do not overdo adjusting this slider or you lose the painterly look.
- No Detail Enhancer brush in the Local Adjustments section – would be nice to have the ability to bring back detail, not just brush it out, on certain parts of the image like eyes and floral centers.
- Ability to save Quad Tones colors down as separate presets although I guess if you get a favorite color combination, it could be saved as a preset with no change to any of the other sections – then applied separately after applying the original preset. It seems a little cumbersome this way.
- Would love to have a color change tab like the HSL tab in Camera Raw. It would be nice to isolate just one color to change.
I have to admit, the things I do not like are not that big a deal – this is a great program for making an artistic statement and is totally fun to use! The upgrade has made this a very versatile plug-in for Photoshop users. And for us Topaz fans who already owned Simplify 3, it was a free upgrade! Can’t beat that!
…..Okay – here is my problem. Now that Topaz has this new photoFXlab interface, it is hard to keep what you are doing in the individual plug-ins separate from other things you can do to an image in the interface. That is a good thing! The Palamedes Swallowtail butterfly image above used the new Line and Ink Effect category with the Cartoon by D. Pacheco preset. The image does not look like it did in Simplify 4 because it was taken into InstaTone and the tones from Yellow Flower by Richard Susanto at 500 px were applied. This changed the whole color scheme to a better one.
The British scene above used one of the new BuzSim category presets – BuzSim Toned II. I did add an Overall Transparency of .34 to the image to bring back some of the natural colors in the image. In photoFXlab, the Dynamics slider was set to 76 and Contrast to -9 to pop the detail just a little. This image was taken back into Photoshop where a layer was added on top to clone in the correct color in the Coca-Cola lettering – just a slight webbing problem that was easy to fix in this case. The red awning was made brighter by using a Color Balance Adjustment Layer and setting only the Highlights to Red at +27 – the mask was filled with black and the awning was painted back in. The color was too bright so I set it to 57% opacity.
The beautiful purple orchids that were growing in Hawaii also uses Topaz Simplify 4 and the Painting category’s Watercolor preset. In this case I decided I wanted to actually paint the flowers and needed a really strong color background to base my Mixer Brush blending on. The Temperature slider was adjusted to reduce the blue tones just a little and the saturation was increased only a little to get finish the colors in Topaz photoFXlab. Many experts believe the Saturation sliders in Topaz plug-ins are superior to the ones in ACR and Photoshop. Back in Photoshop I used Fay Sirkis‘ Signature Watercolor Smooth Blender brush (you must be a member of NAPP to get these brushes – check out her videos there) to paint the flowers – the layers were set to around 73% so some of the Simplify detail is preserved. Fay’s Texture Regular brush was used to smooth out the background area and basic blender brush was used to smooth the transition edges of the flower. A final Curves Adjustment Layer added back a little contrast the Mixer brushes tend to delete and my Double Edged Frame layer style were added.
Another interesting preset category, Detail Removal and Enhancement, is included to help with actual dust removal in an image. On the image in the interface, there were little water drops on the long skinny leaves. When Spot Removal IV was applied, you can hardly see them in the original image. Rather amazing! It can be used on faces with blemishes. Using a layer mask in Photoshop or photoFXlab, move the corrected layer underneath the original with the blemishes – then just dab at the blemishes and they disappear. I need to experiment with this section but it looks like it has great promise. BuzSim has always been one of my favorite presets ever since Amphisoft came out with the the original Buzz Simplifier filter (see my blog Simplifier and Simplify Filters). Topaz did a great job in picking up this rudimentary filter and making it into a great filter. Now you have many choices to get this wonderful look.
If you want to add some beautiful effects to your images, get Simplify 4. It is easy to use and can be changed by using all the different adjustments layers and blend modes in Photoshop and Topaz photoFXlab. Even beginners will be able to feel great about their results. For more information on using this new version, see Topaz Labs video Introduction to the New Topaz Simplify 4 that explains everything about the plug-in. You may not use it on every image but when you do use it, it will create an effect that is very hard to duplicate with any other plug-ins on the market. At least download a trial and see what you think. Good job Topaz!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Using Topaz Simplify for That Artistic Feel!
Using photoFXlab v1.1
InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results!
Topaz Simplify and Topaz Detail Together
Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image!
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes
For years I have resisted the temptation to buy noise software – it seemed awfully expensive for how much I needed to use it. When Lightroom 3 (and Adobe Camera Raw) came out with their new Noise Reduction sliders in the Effects section, I thought – this is all I needed! But as I am learning more about shooting images and attempting the “harder to get” shots, having a more powerful noise reduction plug-in at my disposal is absolutely necessary. I downloaded a trial of Topaz DeNoise 5 and am discovering that some of my images have more of a noise issue than I realized. If you like to shoot at night, or need to set your camera to a high ISO level (1250 and above) due to movement in your image, then you introduce some big problems. That is what happened to me in these examples. The image above is one I took through a window (with lots of reflection) in a low lighted restaurant on a very cool night at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I really thought there was no way I would get a nice result of this beautiful view from my table. The image was shot at ISO 1250 and the original Camera Raw image was very bright and totally grainy. I was very surprised how quick Topaz DeNoise 5 (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) fixed up the noise in this night image – just one preset, RAW Moderate Preset, was applied and that was it! Bottom Line – definitely a sound choice for removing noise at any level!
Two things need to be done to use this plug-in effectively: 1) Make sure the Noise Reduction and Sharpening sliders in Lightroom and/or Adobe Camera Raw are turned off (if using Lightroom 3 make sure the Black slider is set to 0 also), and 2) use DeNoise first to avoid other problems cleaning up the image. The sliders are pretty intuitive once you play with them a little – usually all I am using is the Overall Strength slider and sometimes Recover Detail. The manual is an excellent resource if you have a bigger problem in your image.
This Flame Thrower image was cut out of a low resolution movie as a JPG from a luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. I have had a lot of trouble getting good image quality from my movie shots of that evening to look clean and sharp. This was a difficult image to clean up but with some effort, it does remind me of the luau show. In DeNoise the settings I ended up using were Overall Strength set to 0.10 and Adjust Shadow set to -0.09, but it also needed Recover Detail slider (which subtly brings detail back into the image) set to 0.30 and Reduce Blur (intelligent deblurring to fix soft or blurry edges) to 0.39. I am finding that when I use the Detail Recovery sliders I have to adjust the Overall Strength more. These sliders appear to be unique to the DeNoise program and I love them. Topaz recommends creating presets for each of the ISO settings on your camera(s) once you get settings you like. I created a preset for my movie images using the above settings. (Set preset to Absolute only if using preset for a series of images; use Relative when taking different kinds of shots with your camera and are using different ISO settings-the program will read changes in the image.)
This image was taken at SeaWorld‘s large Shark and Manta Ray Exhibit in Orlando, Florida. It was really hard to capture moving fish in a dark environment so they were not too blurry – an ISO setting of 1600 needed to be used to get the shot. DeNoise really helped clean up this image. Below is a comparison of what the image looked liked as a Raw image in Lightroom without Lightroom changes or DeNoise applied at 2 to 1 view.
Here is a similar shot as it appears in Photoshop at 200% view after Lightroom and DeNoise was applied but before the clean up layer and Curves Adjustment Layer were added.
To really see how the effect is being applied, the image should be viewed at 2 to 1 in a mid-tone area. It is not necessary to overdo getting rid of noise, a little remaining will not hurt an image. One of the features very unique to DeNoise is the ability to preview the noise not just in RGB , but also in the Luma, Color, Red and Blue. I usually start by previewing on the RBG mode and adjust the Overall Strength to get a feel for what the noise reduction is doing to the image. Next I go to Luma – sometimes there is more in this preview and the slider needs to be adjusted a little more. What I really like though is that on the tough images, the Blue and Red Previews are great – you can adjust out splotchy areas by moving the Adjust Color – Red and/or Adjust Color – Blue component sliders a little bit to remove. Usually I finish up with the Detail Recovery sliders. For the above image though, only the Overall Strength slider was set to .33 and Recovery Detail to .30. I really do not use the other sliders very often as I don’t seem to need that much adjustment. Nichole Paschal at Topaz Labs has done a great video called Introduction to Topaz DeNoise – Remove Image Noise, Recover Important Detail that goes into more detail on how to get good results with all the sliders – definitely worth checking out if you download the trial. Also there is a really good banding section if your image has color noise across the image (often seen in JPG images especially) – I have not had to try this yet. I used a Curves Adjustment Layer to open up the shadow areas a little more back in Photoshop.
Bottom line – I am really enjoying this plug-in. It does a good and fast job of noise reduction with just a couple slider adjustments. But if you run into that difficult image, the tools are available to adjust these issues. I am very happy with the results I have gotten – and once again Topaz gives free upgrades when you purchase their products, so any new advancements are yours. Got to love this plug-in!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Clowning Around with Topaz!
Topaz DeNoise 5 and InstaTone
I am a big HDR fan. There is always a big discussion about which is the best application – the NAPP Photoshop Guys RC Concepcion loves Nik HDR EFex Pro, Matt Kloskowski swears by Photomatix Pro, and Scott Kelby love Photoshop’s HDR. As you can see everyone is all over the place on this issue. Several people have felt that Nik has a very steep learning curve and it is hard to get good results easily. Even with the first version of HDR Efex Pro, I have not had many problems getting good results. Therefore, I was pretty excited to hear a new version had come out. All the images in this blog have been processed using this new version.
The above image was taken at the Halifax River (Intracoastal Waterway) at Fortunato Park in Ormond Beach, Florida. The skies had been building all morning and we did have a big drenching in the afternoon. I had been wanting to try some HDR imaging with my wide angle AF-S Nikkor 10-24 mm 1:3.5-4.5 G Ed lens – for some reason I have not tried this. I love the results I got above using 5 images between -2 and +2 bracketed. For all the steps and settings used to create all the images, see information listed under “Steps and Settings for Each Image.”
What I Like!!!!
1. Sliders corresponding to the new Adobe Camera Raw sliders have been added in the Tonality section which makes it very user friendly. Temperature and Tint sliders have also been added.
2. The new Graduated Neutral Density section is proving to be very handy to even out the tone in landscape images. I have used it several times now – it can have a very nice subtle effect.
3. HDR Method section gives you more flexibility than you had in version 1.0. You can now adjust individually the Depth, Detail and Drama of an image.
4. The Detail in the images is really good – seems better than other programs I have used.
What I Don’t Like!!!!
1. (UPDATED) The Smart Object issue that included the problem of ending up with an 8-bit image and no changes appearing after applying the plug-in is no longer an issue! Nik has released a new update - Version 2.002. (If you had bought an earlier version, be sure you have this new one applied now.) This will create a 32-bit image with the Standard CS6 version (they suggest using Photoshop CS6 64-bit compatible version due to the high memory usage) and I am no longer having Smart Object issues. Thank you Nik! I feel much better about recommending this plug-in now.
2. They have deleted several of the presets I liked – Clean City 1 and Clean City 2, for example. I cannot seem to figure out if there are equivalent ones in the new version, but so far I am struggling with this. When I compared Granny’s Attic preset from version 1 with version 2, I had trouble seeing how the settings have anything to do with each other. I wish they would put a list of equivalent presets together for those of us who were familiar with the old version.
3. Personally I miss all the method drop down choices we had in version 1.0. Again not sure how to recapture some of those settings to apply to the upgraded version.
4. If you opened HDR Efex Pro 2 up from inside Lightroom, then when saving your tone-mapped image there is no choice where to save it – it goes back to the one with the original HDR images. Small nag here.
5. I am slightly concerned about all noise I am encountering when using the program, especially in the sky area. Using the Noise Reduction Luminance slider in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw should help reduce noise issue.
Here is great link to Nik’s Support Page that discusses various questions about HDR Efex Pro 2 – scroll down for the page for more information on this plug-in.
This image was taken under the Granada Bridge in Ormond Beach, Florida. This time the HDR settings were created using just the Default setting and going through all the sections. A preset was created at the end to retain the information. See Picture 2 for detailed steps and settings. This took a good amount of adjusting to get the look I really wanted but it did come around. I might mention that it is a good idea to go through the On Demand Video Lessons Nik has presented on how to use the program – they give you a good overall feel for the program.
This is all that is remaining of the beautiful old Hotel Ormond that was torn down after a fire in 1992. Once again in this image Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 was accessed from Lightroom. Since you can’t save the settings down as a Smart Object, there is no reason not to do this from Lightroom where you can continue processing the TIFF image with Lightroom sliders before going into Photoshop. See Picture 3 below for further processing information.
This shot of the pennant on top of the cupola in image above gave me real problems. Five images were taken into Nik HDR Efex Pro from Lightroom and some really horrible white filled in edges around the pennant wrought iron pieces appeared. It looked awful and totally unsuitable to process. Therefore I decided to take the image into PhotoMatix Pro 4.1.1 (the major competitor) to see if those marks were also visible in that program – oddly enough, no problem! Also, in Nik HDR Pro Efex 1.0, there was no problem. This really disturbed me since I really like Nik products and this should not be happening. I took the image back into HDR Efex Pro and this time choose a different image to use for deghosting. This seemed to be the magic bullet – once this was done the image turned out much better. You can still see there is some white around the point in the HDR Efex Pro image. See the comparison of the tonemapped TIFF files below with Nik HDR Pro 2 on the right and PhotoMatix Pro 4 on the left.
This may look pretty bad, but it actually was fairly easy to clean up. Since the detail and color is so much better in Nik’s HDR, I decided to stick with it even though the other program did create a little better tonemapped image in this case. Also, there is more noise in the Nik image and I am not sure why that happened. Imagenomics Noiseware was used to clean this up some. The PhotoMatix image also had quite a bit of noise in it. For more info on processing, see Picture 4 below.
Since it is a Nik product you know it is good. Not sure I see that much difference with the first version, but I imagine as I work with it more, I will find more things I like about it. Nik has great webinars on their site and they will be doing several on this new software, so I should be able to get more information on how to use it effectively and will pass it on. I use Nik a lot for my HDR processing, but sometimes I will use one of the other HDR software programs to get the look I want. At this point that is all I can say. It is reasonably priced with its major competitors, it was and still is a fine program! I can’t say enough good things about how quickly Nik responded to the major issues this plug-in had – that in itself makes using their plug-ins great!……Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
This and That – Just Having Some Fun!
Nik HDR Efex Pro Example
Keeping Focus Where You Want It Using Focal Point 2 and Color Fill Adjustment Layer
Steps and Settings for Each Image
Picture 1: I accessed the program from inside Photoshop for this image. The settings for Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 are listed here: Settings for Nik HDR Efex Pro 2: Started by applying Granny’s Attic preset. Tone Compression: Tone Compression slider 65%, Method Strength 35%: HDR Method: Depth 3rd dot, Detail 2nd dot, and Drama 4th dot; Tonality: Exposure 6%, Shadow 100%, Highlights 73%, Contrast 65%, Blacks 95%, White 0, and Structure 28%; Color: Saturation -54, Temperature 0, and Tint 0; Selective Adjustments: 3 control points spread across lower water with same settings, Exposure 34%, Contrast -1, Saturation 0, Structure -100, Black 0, and Whites 57; Vignette: Lens 2, Place center in lower middle, Amount -2, Circle – under little c, and Size 67%; Graduated Neutral Density: Upper Tonality -0.51 stops, Lower Tonality 0.44 stops, Blend 61%, Vertical Shift -30,and Rotation 0, and Levels and Curves: Film (EV+0). Created preset SJ ICW Ormond Beach. As you can see, there are a lot of things that need to be adjusted. In this case I wanted to take the plug-in through its paces so everything was tried out. To get this image to look like it does there were several other steps that had to be taken: Nik’s Color Efex Pro 4 was used to add stacking the Cross Processing filter set to Method 802 at Strength 29% and overall opacity slider set to 80%, and Polarization with Rotate set to 106 degrees, Strength of 200%, Highlights 50% and overall opacity slider set to 68%. A layer mask was created to paint out some of the sky that got over-processed. A Curves Adjustment layer was created to add some additional contrast to the image. Imagenomics Noiseware was added set to the Landscape preset, and Nik Viveza 2 was used to add some sharpening to the far shoreline and smoothing out of the foreground water. A new layer was created to sharpen the shoreline more using the Sharpen Tool. Finally a layer style from Wow-Frame 09 was used to finish up the image. This was not a really quick image to process but the final results look like the extra time was taken to get a beautiful result and the Nik HDR Efex Pro2 worked like a charm.
Picture 2: First the five images were opened in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 from Adobe Lightroom and these settings were used. Tone Compression: Tone Compression 68%, and Method Strength 63%; HDR Method: Depth 3rd dot, Detail 2nd dot, and Drama 3rd dot; Tonality: Exposure -11, Shadows 41%, Highlights -100%, Contrast -19%, Blacks 100%, Whites 53%, and Structure 51%; Color Saturation 11%, Temperature 0%, and Tint 0%; Selective Adjustments – no control points placed; and Finishing: None used. After saying OK, the tone-compressed image is brought back into Lightroom as a 16-bit TIFF file. This is really great since you can now adjust your images more with Lightroom’s sliders – in this case Contrast (-20), Highlights (+29), Shadows (-20), Blacks (+43), Clarity (_45) and Vibrance (+35). This is also when the colors were adjusted individually to bring in the correct color: Luminance: Red (-9), Orange (+46), Green (+20), Aqua (+100), and Blue (+19) and Saturation: (Red (+11), Orange +35), Yellow (+33), and Blue (-13). The Lens Correction section was used to select the lens and check Remove Chromatic Aberration. Finally the image was taken into Photoshop CS6. The image just looked bland to me so this time Topaz’s new photoFXlab was used to bring out the contrast – layer duplicated in plug-in and with the InstaTone tab and 500 px selected, Memory Drift by Richard Baxter was applied to the image inverted in the Masks tab and just clouds painted in. Then another duplicated layer was created this time InstaTone 500pxx Swinging by Miles Story was applied – the clouds were painted out in the Masks tab. Now the layers were stamped (+From Stack) and in Adjustments tab these settings were applied: Exposure .27, Contrast 1, Dynamics 17, Sharp 0, Highlights -50, Shadows 16, Whites 0, and Blacks -8. Stamp again and paint in detail in distant shoreline and houses with Detail Brush Strength set to 0.29, stamp again and smooth clouds using Brush Strength of -.59 on clouds, stamp again and desaturate using Brush Strength of -0.51 on clouds and set layer opacity to 88%, and stamp again and pain in a little saturation into the sky and burn the center and horizontal lines of bridge. Noiseware was applied and it was done.
Picture 3: In Lightroom image was opened up in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 using these settings: Started with the Structured 1 preset; Tone Compression: Tone Compression 64%, and Method Strength 81%; HDR Method: Depth 4th dot, Detail 4th dot, and Drama 5th dot; Tonality: Exposure 41, Shadow -31, Highlights 20, Contrast 27, Blacks 100, Whites 97 , and Structure 80; Color: Saturation 34, Temperature -6, and Tint 2; Selective Adjustments: Two Control Points in clouds set the same, Method to -59, White 59, and Structure -100; Finishing: Vignette – Black Frame 2, Amount -41, Circle under a, and Size 72; Graduated Neutral Density – Upper Tonality 0.02 Stops, Lower Tonality 0.54 Stops, Blend 91, Vertical Shift -100, and Rotation 0; and Levels and Curves – N/A. After processing in HDR Efex Pro 2, these Lightroom sliders were used: HSL: Luminance – Red -13, Orange -59, Yellow -96, Green -33, Aqua -24, and Blue -11; and Saturation – Red -2, Orange 43, Yellow 19, Green 6, and Blue -26. The Profile was set and Remove Chromatic Aberration was checked in Lens Correction section. Nik Viveza 2 was used to sharpen the flag and body of the cupola. Imagenomics Noiseware using Full (weaker noise) preset. My layer style for the frame was used and colors sampled from the image (see DLS Free Layer Style Frames blog).
Picture 4: The pennant image was taken into HDR Efex Pro 2 from Lightroom. These settings were applied: Started by applying Bright 1 preset. Tone Compression: Tone Compression slider 56%, and Method Strength 27%: HDR Method: Depth 3rd dot, Detail 2nd dot, and Drama 2nd dot; Tonality: Exposure 11%, Shadow -17%, Highlights 49%, Contrast 44%, Blacks 71%, White 53, and Structure 16%; Color: Saturation 0, Temperature -2, and Tint 0; Selective Adjustments: 5 control points with 3 spread across sky and all set to Saturation +37, 1 placed on the cupola set to Saturation -27, and one placed on the pennant with settings of Exposure 6%, Contrast 0, Saturation 59, Structure 49, Black 0, and Whites -42; Vignette: set to Off; Graduated Neutral Density: Upper Tonality 0.33 stops, Lower Tonality -0.23 stops, Blend 40%, Vertical Shift -20,and Rotation -24; and Levels and Curves:Neutral with points set at 15 over and 15 up, 9 over and 14 up, and 13 over and 0 up. In Lightroom the image was cropped, the Lens Profile set, Removed Chromatic Aberration was checked, Exposure set to +0.39 and Contrast to +63. In Photoshop the Nik Color Efex Pro 4 plug-in was opened using these filters stacked: BW Conversion using BW Conversion set to Filter Color 53 degrees, Strength 73%, Brightness -16%, Contrast 49%, Shadows 31%, Highlights 32%, and overall Opacity 58% – two control points placed on pennant and red cupola area so color really showed through; Pro Contrast: Correct Color Cast 15%, Correct Contrast 47%, and Dynamic Contrast 96%; Vignette: Color black, Shape 2, Adapt Edges 52%, Transition 77%, Size 20%, and Opacity 26% with center placed on pennant; and Image Borders: Type 1 at Size -54%. A Curves Adjustment layer was applied to increase contrast in image. Imagenomics Noiseware was set to Stronger luma noise preset. Unsharp Mask applied to just the lettering and pennant with Amount 64, Radius 11.7 and Threshold 3.
Wow! What to say! What to say! This is a totally new direction for Topaz – technically this is a stand-alone interface that can also hook into Photoshop as a plug-in. It combines all their individual plug-ins into one spot to be accessed together, instead of individually (which you can still do if you want). For those looking for a quick answer, I am recommending photoFXlab for two very good reasons – InstaTone and the Dynamics slider. These are rather unique features and I commend Topaz for coming up with them. Also the Mask and Brush tabs with the already familiar Edge Aware technology is top-notch. For a full review, see below. Definitely worth downloading the trial and trying it out, especially if you have some of the other Topaz plug-ins. (To access the Topaz Website, see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog.)
Topaz had a difficult time getting Version 1.0 to work smoothly so Version 1.1 was released and now it is a much more solid program. This lovely bovine image from the Big Island in Hawaii is my first attempt at using photoFXlab and overall it went pretty smoothly. To create it, the original image layer was duplicated by clicking Duplicate at bottom right of the interface or CTRL+J can be used just like in Photoshop (the plug-in now has layer capability). Next the Plugins tab on the top left was accessed, Topaz Adjust 5 was opened, and the Sun-Dynamic preset was applied with Adaptive Exposure set to .25, Regions 5, and Tone Setting Strength set to 0.74. I did not use one of the canned effects in the Effects tab, to me that is not where the strength of this program lies. The sky’s reds and yellows were too harsh, so the next step was to go to the Masks tab at the top right and create a sky mask using the Mask Brush set to 125 (set to 0, it will be a totally black brush) to soften the color by 50%, and the Edge Aware slider was set to 100 to follow the skyline closely. The sky was selected very easily and inverted so only the sky was revealed. (Remember – White reveals and black conceals.) At this point you could go the Adjustments tab which is very similar to the Basic tab in Camera Raw and correct the sky, or just adjust the opacity of the layer or change the blend mode for a different look. In this case the layer was changed to Linear Light at 82% opacity, just as if you were in Photoshop’s Layers Panel. That is all that was done on this really basic attempt to try out the new product.
What I Like!!!
- The Dynamics Slider – might be worth buying this plug-in just because this is a great slider to have in your bag of tricks, and they have got the halo issue under control. It could be a plug-in all by itself. As Topaz says “It gives it the dynamic local contrast without the dirty grungy look.” I love it! Also all the sliders use IntelliColor technology which gives a more natural effect – for example, the Contrast slider does not increase Saturation like it does in Photoshop or Lightroom.
- Being able to use InstaTone – just click on a number of internet sources or use your own file of photos – it instantly will apply the tones to your image. (This is totally addictive!) By clicking the Remember button, up to six different tonal images can be revisited before you decide which one to apply. Of course, you may need to go to the Adjustments tab for some tweaking to make it look good on your current image. Still great idea and very easy to do! See the image below.
- The Masks tab with Edge Aware brush capability has made using the masking function very easy. Much easier and faster than actually going into ReMask 3 for detailed selections like the sky behind tree branches. Apparently it is best to use ReMask 3 when selections are fairly simple.
- The addition of layer capability such that the image can be duplicated and the Opacity and Blend Modes set – looks very similar to Photoshop’s layer palette. Great addition! Also, can just scroll over the different Blend Modes to see what effect they have on the image without actually applying it – very quick to see if you like it.
- The Brush tab – great functionality here – and all the brushes from Topaz Adjust 5 and Black and White Effects are included, just have to adjust the top slider to get the effect you want. The Edge Aware technology for general selecting is much better than anything Photoshop has IMO. Great time-saver here.
- Even though I do not love the Effects in the Effects tab, they do make it very easy for you to see what the effect will look like on your image by just clicking the Preview With My Photo checkbox. This has a similar feel to using presets in Lightroom.
- The Tools tab may actually help with compositing a couple of images together to get an interesting effect or to add a texture to an image. Still has some limitations here but does have some possibilities. See orange daisy image below.
- The addition of a History tab – have not had to use it yet, but I can see where it could be very useful in certain circumstances.
What I do not like!!!
- The thing I dislike the most is that you cannot get back into the Topaz layers once you have applied the settings. You would never know that you had applied a Linear Light Blend Mode at 82% Opacity to a layer if you did not write it down. It would be great if the final application would come back into Photoshop as a Group containing the Topaz layers that could then be adjusted for opacity, blend mode changes, sharpening, additional masking, etc. as a group or individually. It would be so much more functional that way. UPDATE: Topaz has added a unique file extension to their program. Now you can open the image up in photoFXlab and restore your settings as applied. Not a total solution, but much better than before!
- In a related issue, the Smart Object functionality does not work when entering from Photoshop – I have always had trouble with all Topaz plug-ins when using Smart Objects – they do not retain the settings applied, but the ability to save your own presets has kept this from being a major issue. I understand that they cannot add the individual image changes made from brush strokes, but it would be nice to have the settings available that were made in the Adaptive Exposure or Details sections of the individual plug-ins or the Adjustments tab in photoFXlab. The image is flattened upon exiting and that is it, even if converted to a Smart Object before opening the plug-in. This requires me to write down everything I did and then create a note in Photoshop for the image if I want to refer to the settings at a later date. Big problem!
- The Effects are not that great – so I still end up going into the individual plug-ins using the Plugin tab. This is the only way I can reach the presets I created with each individual plug-in, which tend to be the ones I use the most. You cannot save them in the Effects panel at this time.
- It will not read RAW files, although in Topaz’s defense, if you bring your image into the plug-in through Photoshop (which converts NEF files to PSD immediately and Lightroom creates a TIF) or some other program, it will read PSD, JPG and TIF files. I have not had a problem with this. It would be a problem if you used the stand-alone program and wanted to bring in a RAW file.
- When zoomed in to apply brush effect in tighter areas, it is hard to get around the image – no window to move where you are painting. Need to know that ALT + click in layer will switch brush to Hand Tool to move around and it is very jerky.
- The Tools tab has a Scale section but it only scales 1 to 1, does not transform or stretch so it is hard to get a texture with interesting borders lined up – they get cut off.
- This program does not come with their bundled package at this point – if you do not own all the different plug-ins, you get a much shorter list of examples in the Effects tab.
- As touched on before, no way to create presets, especially in the Effects tab, like you can in the individual plug-ins so that you can use the same settings again.
- When you use the bracket keys in the brush tabs be careful as it associates with the last slider you changed, so when you think you are changing the size of the brush, you might be changing the strength or some other slider. Also, the size jumps in large amounts – not a smooth change adjustment. Small nags here.
- In InstaTone Photo Library, there is no way of remembering which tonal image you used – have to count over rows and down to locate it again. This is another small nag. The work around is to use your own finished image next time you want that look applied.
- In InstaTone internet locations or when using your own folder of images, when a black and white image is clicked, the effect applied to your image is still in color - it will darken the image a lot, but the color is still visible. (Work-around for this is to switch your image layer to black and white first – easiest way to do this is to set Saturation slider to -100 in the Adjustments tab, then click on black and white image in InstaTone.)
This image of the Lagoon Towers at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii uses the InstaTone tab. The 500px.com button was selected and by clicking on different images that pop up, the tone is transferred to your image. This is ingenious! The image above uses an image called Chiesa die Croce Rossa by Sven Fennema. Next the Adjustments tab was selected and the wonderful Dynamics slider that simulates the Topaz Adjust HDR look was set to +75. The Brushes tab was used last and the Burn Brush Tool selected and set to a Strength of -.10 to darken the shadow of the palm trees just a little. Be sure the Edge Aware slider is set to 1.00 for sharp selection. I have to admit this turned out really nice with just a little effort. To see what my original image looked like, see below.
As usual, Topaz has good documentation for the plug-in with the User Guide (which needs to be slightly updated with the new version release) and forums. They also have a good video on U-Tube, Quick Intro into photoFXlab v1.1, which shows you all the bells-and-whistles in detail, and I found it very helpful as the program can be a bit confusing until you look at it.
This image is actually two images composited in photoFXlab using the Tools tab. Using the +From File and adding another of my orange daisy images as a new Topaz Layer, the Tools tab was selected and the image was scaled, rotated and moved to adjust over the original layer correctly. On the new image layer mask, the Brush Value moved between a Strength of black (0) and white (255) to create an effective mask – this was a little tricky until you get the hang of it. Clicking on the +From Stack, a composite of the two layers was created on top, preserving the layers underneath. Next the Adjustments tab was used and several of the sliders were tweaked including the Dynamics slider set to 94. On the top layer, another +From File was clicked and Shadowhouse Creations Scratchbox4 texture (and one of my favorites) was added and set to Linear Light blend mode. The centers and a little bit of the petals were painted out using a Brush Strength of roughly 125 or middle gray. The OnOne PhotoFrame (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) was added back in Photoshop to finish up the image. I believe with a little more time, I can probably do more creative things using the composite feature, but it might still be easier to do this in Photoshop where a Free Transform command can be used to adjust textures and images.
All in all this plug-in is a wonderful addition to the Topaz line up of plug-ins – just needs some smoothing out. What I love about Topaz is that once you buy it, you always get the upgrades for free and I do believe this product will get much better. It has lots of useful things going for it. If you have a mental block on what to do with a picture, the InstaTone tab is fabulous for that. I would never have thought to try out the tones in the Hawaiian image without using it. Also the Dynamics slider is a terrific addition. I am hopeful that Topaz will make it so you can at least retain their layers in Photoshop once the plug-in is applied. It would be wonderful to have that flexibility. I will definitely be trying out more effects and hope to bring you some new ways to use this plug-in in coming posts. In the meantime, try out the program, especially if you already have some other Topaz plug-ins on your computer. They have a great discount going until the end of the month. …..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Using photoFXlabs v1.1
Using Topaz photoFXlab to Replace Skies
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
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 bought this plug-in last December when it first came out. To be honest, I did not have a lot of luck with it so I never used it much. This week I decided to look at it again since Photoshop seems to be coming out with a similar effect in their next version. (See “Adobe MAX 2011 – Photoshop Image Deblurring Sneak” video or “Behind All the Buzz: Deblur Sneak Preview” article.) This sculpture was slightly out-of-focus when I downloaded it after going to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I decided to try the Topaz InFocus plug-in to see if I could improve the results. Afterwards the image was processed in Topaz Black and White Effects to get rid of that ugly yellow color cast.
Below is a close up of the original bottom area and the one with the plug-in applied. There has been a very nice improvement.
The image below is the final result of a photo I took in the Scottish Highlands from a moving bus so it has many issues.
It is a very subtle change but can be seen clearly in the plug-in interface. It is important to note that the program works best on images with edges that are straight and have a lot of contrast as in the bridge area. The trees and greenery have bad motion blur issues which the plug-in did not help in this case, so I used a heavy vignette effect in Topaz Black and White Effects along with Quad Tones that creates the warm and cool effect (Color 1 Region R1/G1/B12 set to 9.60; Color 2 Region R63/G78/B85 set to 143.9; Color 3 Region R216/G211/B129 set to 227.5; and Color 4 Region White set to 255.0 which gives a bit of a Vintage Feel). After applying Topaz Black and White Effects, the clouds now become a major focal point along with the bridge and this somewhat saves the image.
Below is another image that InFocus was used on first and then NIK Color Efex Pro to further enhance the image. The major area where the focus was improved is on the house windows and roof. The original is shown underneath.
My final thoughts are that there is a place for this plug-in but it does not work on every image, and as noted above it works best on sharp edges and clear features. Sometimes I could not even find a difference when applied. Yet I thought it worked great on the first image in this blog. I do not like the fact that it constantly is updating as you move around the image trying to see what improved (since you have to run the plug-in at 100% view). It really slows down the computer and it is hard to tell what is working. After looking at the Adobe Photoshop links above, it seems like they are doing the same thing and have the same issues as InFocus. Another problem is that InFocus creates haloing very easily and even though there is an Edge Softness slider, it is hard to completely eliminate. The plug-in can also create a lot of artifacts on some images, which Topaz recognizes is a problem and do have a slider to help get rid of them. I feel like Topaz set the standard for Adobe to try and copy and is a good first attempt at fixing a blurred image. If you are interested in trying it out, go over to my Tidbits Blog and look at the right sidebar for a link to Topaz products. Definitely look at the Topaz videos , especially the second video on Blur Estimation , on using the plug-in before trying it out or you probably will not get good results at all. These videos need to be updated as they are using an older version, but you can get the basic feel of what to do.
I am really looking forward to what Photoshop is coming up with and finding out if it gets better results. Until then, I believe this plug-in is the best you can get for that slightly out-of-focus (blurred) look. Have fun trying this out!…..Digital Lady Syd
Anyone who has followed my site knows that I am a big fan of Photoshop plug-ins. I remember wanting a copy of this plug-in’s first version. NIK is still one of the best companies making Photoshop plug-ins and this new upgrade does not disappoint! Here is a link to their product site.
The new program now allows you to stack filter effects – in CEP 3.0 you had to exit out of the plug-in and come back in to apply a different one. Now, instead of saving individual presets for each filter, you save recipes which contain the settings of each of the stacked filters. For example, this image contains the following filter effects: Detail Extractor (one of the new filters and why the details in the leaves are sharp), Foliage, and Vignette Blur. I still used my border from OnOne PhotoFrames though.
The image above of Metal Chris at DCHheavyMetal.com on The Mall in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, was first processed in Photomatix Pro 4 using five shots to form this HDR image. Then the final tone-mapped image was processed with Color Efex Pro 4 using a new stack of these filters: Darken/Lighten Center, Brilliance/Warmth, Tonal Contrast, and Image Borders. Finally I sharpened the image using the Photoshop’s High Pass Filter at 9.1 Radius.
In this Orlando Building image an HDR feel was actually created by the stacked plug-in effects: the Detail Extractor (I really like this new effect!), Brilliance/Warmth, Vignette: Lens, and Bi-Color User Defined filter effects. I first used Photoshop’s Lens Correction to straighten the buildings before processing. Afterwards, the image was sharpened using the High Pass Filter with the sky painted out so no sharpening occurred on the clouds which were looking overprocessed. The original of this image is shown below to show you what a change these filters can make to an image.
See my Tidbits Blog “NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – First Try!” for another example of this new plug-in.
What I Like
- The ease of use of the plug-in. It always comes up quick and it is easy to see what the original vs. the filter looks like. Now there is a new History section where you can go back to a previous state of filter application. Be aware that, just like in Photoshop, once you exit out of the plug-in, the History states disappear even when applying the plug-in as a Smart Object.
- There are several new filters that are totally terrific! Many of the older filters have also been updated. Here is a link showing all the filters in the plug-in that can be sorted to show the new and updated filters.
- Love the fact the filter effects can be stacked and saved to be reapplied on another image as a Recipe.
- Most of the effects have an opacity slider so you can tone them down a bit if they appear too strong.
- The Control Points are fabulous as always. Place a Plus Control Point to add the filter effect to a specific area and a Minus Control Point to remove the effect from a certain area. The points have the ability to not remove the effect from radically different adjacent regions so your image always looks right. The opacity for these control points can also be set and several points may be added to an image. Very quick to adjust. CEP 4 lets you copy all the set Control Points from one filter to another one – this has been a real time saver for me!
- Canned presets are now viewable with suggested settings to get a good starting place for each effect.
- The ability to drag the effects into a different order gives some very different looks.
What I Don’t Like
- The biggest issue I have is that you have lost the ability to set a preset for each individual effect. Instead you have to save it as a recipe. Unfortunately you do not have the ability to stack several recipes – if you change to a different recipe, you lose all the filter effects you had set before. The work around is to stack all your favorite filters with your favorite individual filter settings into one large recipe, then selectively delete effects you do not want to apply to the image you are working on. I contacted NIK Technical support regarding this issue and this was their response “Unfortunately, no, there is no way to bring your Color Efex Pro 3.0 presets into Color Efex Pro 4. I do see what you are saying about having a preset for an individual filter in addition to the recipes. It would improve and expand workflow capabilities, so I will put in that recommendation to our development team!” This is a big problem in my mind. A large number of Recipes will have to be generated to cover all the presets and scenarios for all your images.
- It is very easy to forget to click the “Add Filter” button. If you go to another effect, you immediately lose all the currently stacked filters and their settings – there is no warning note. I have lost my settings several times by forgetting to do this. (I have watched several videos where the instructor has done the same thing!) The work-around is to remember to click on the History section to restore it immediately.
- When you save a recipe, you do not retain the Control Points you have set. It would be nice if you had this option so you can reapply the settings to a similar image since you now can apply them to several effects at the same time. The partial work-around for this is to make your layer a Smart Object before going into the NIK Color Efex Pro plug-in, then you do not have to save the recipe or the control points – just apply the filters. This is only good for the current image. (To see what settings and points were applied, just double click on the Color Efex Pro 4 line, and they can be adjusted.)
- Need to remember to Save Recipe if you plan on using these same filters on another image. Here is a partial work-around. If image is converted to a Smart Object before applying the plug-in, you can access the settings and control points from image by going back into the filter later (see 3 above). Now you have the opportunity to save the filter stack as a Recipe (without the control points) that can be reused on other images. I am already starting to build up a huge amount of Recipes so this could get to be a real problem after processing images for several weeks.
- The new Image Borders filter is nice but still not up to the OnOne PhotoFrames level. Still a nice edition for quick processing and I give them kudos for trying to make it easy.
- It is not a cheap plug-in but then again, it offers lots of options.
Well, if NIK could fix a few of the problems I mentioned above, Color Efex Pro 4 may be the best plug-in ever made. Their effects are top-notch and they have added 7 new and very good filters to this version. (See my Tidbits Blog “The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter From NIK CEP 4” for information on just this one new filter.) They also updated several of their other filters although I have not had much time to play with all of them. The Brilliance/Warmth filter has a new slider called Perceptual Saturation that is fabulous. This was always a favorite effect of mine to begin with and now it is even better! I will be exploring some of the new filter effects in my Tidbits Blog in the next few weeks as I believe they deserve more attention than just a passing look.
Try downloading the Trial Version and see what you think. I believe you will be as impressed as I am…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blog:
Use NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2 Together to Create Fabulous Landscapes!