Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
I will start off and say I am a major fan of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 so I was not expecting anything as good. Still I have always felt Topaz does a great job for us budget-minded Photoshoppers and they have not let us down with this plug-in! These guys just keep making better and better plug-ins and still keep their prices reasonable. (Click on my Tidbits Blog for a link to Topaz and this new black and white plug-in – they have a 30-day free trial to download, and my short blog called “Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.”)
The above image was just a basic black-and-white conversion using the Traditional Collection and the Classic preset. Go to the Conversion section on the right and adjust exposure and color to enhance your picture and finally go to the Local Adjustments sections where the best part of the program lies (in my view). You can locally correct the image using a Dodge, Burn, Color (brings color back into the image slightly if you want), Detail (I love this one – like Structure in Nik) and Smooth brush; and you have an Overall Strength slider to increase the effect and a layer mask to see how it is being applied. If you mess up, just switch to the Erase Brush and remove while viewing the mask. This gives similar results to the localized points that Nik has (and which is why everyone loves Nik). It is interesting to see how Topaz has come at this same result from a totally different direction and it seems to work beautifully!
For this image, the Opalotype Collection Effect-Yellowing Lilac preset was the starting point, but major adjustments were made in the right hand sections and this is the final result. I love the partially tinted feel – it really felt like Arizona did that day (it was 110 degrees outside). This is why this program has a lot more to offer than Nik’s plug-in which is essentially a black and white plug-in. In Nik’s defense, their Color Efex Pro plug-in probably does cover what the rest of the this filter is doing.
If you find some settings you really like, be sure to save them as a preset so they appear in the list for the collection you were using. I always put an SJ in front of the ones I create so I know which ones they are. There are a couple of things I do not love. For one, in the Finishing Touches section the Vignette is a little hard to apply, and it cannot be applied in different colors. I do like the Edge Exposure option which frames the image really nicely (like in the image above), but I do not care for the Border option. I do not usually use a plain white or black border around an image, so I will be going back to my old stand-by OnOne’s PhotoFrame for this. One of the best parts is the Transparency option with the Overall Transparency slider to bring back some of the image color without having to go back into Photoshop and change blend modes.
Here are a couple more examples of what I did rather quickly in Topaz and got some really different results.
As you can see, there are a lot of variations to this plug-in and I have not even begun to explore all the options. I do believe Topaz has hit a winner here and will keep most Photoshop lovers busy with all kinds of creative results. I am happy to see this company take on the big guys once again and create what I think is a great new plug-in for a reasonable price! Thank you Topaz! ……Digital Lady Syd