Combining Plug-ins – Double the Effect!
NIK Color Efex Pro 4, Topaz Lens Effects, and OnOne PhotoFrame 4.6
The original image was of a shop on St. George Street in St. Augustine. My Vivid Drawing Look preset (see my Tidbits Blog “Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe“) in Lightroom was used with some luminance color adjustment before being brought into Photoshop. In NIK Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4), the Darken/Lighten Center filter and Film Efex: Vintage set to Film Type 27 was added. The layer was copied and Rasterized to get rid of the Smart Object (right-click on layer and select rasterize) and then the Topaz Lens Effect plug-in was used. The Fisheye Lens Effect was applied using 73% distortion amount and adjusting all the Image Adjustment sliders. A New Layer was added above and the Sharpen Tool was used to locally sharpen parts of the image. Finally the “acid burned controlled 05” OnOne PhotoFrame was added to finish the look. This is a crazy look but it shows what an interesting result you can get by stacking the plug-in effects on one image.
Photomatix Pro 4, NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust 4
This image is of the famous pedestrian St. George Street in St. Augustine, Florida. It was processed as an HDR in Photomatix Pro 4.0 and then brought into two of my favorite Photoshop plug-ins: NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust. To get this vintage artsy effect, six CEP4 filters were stacked into a recipe (Darken/Lighten Center, Brilliance/Warmth, Tonal Contrast, Image Borders, Dark Contrasts, and High Key in that order); and in Topaz Adjust 4, a preset was created from a Topaz video on “Rick Sammon’s Top Topaz Tricks, Tips, and Techniques” that used the Spicify preset to create a soft artsy effect.
NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0, Topaz Black and White Effects, and OnOne PhotoFrame 4.6
All my favorite plug-ins were used on this one. The Flagler Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine is one of the beautiful places to see while enjoying the city. NIK CEP4 was first applied using my Pseudo HDR1 preset from my blog “Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4” with an additional white Vignette filter. It was then toned down by using the Topaz Black and White Effects plug-in. The Albumen Collection – Aubergine preset was used as starting point and then adjusting the Basic Exposure settings and setting the Transparency setting to 0.58. Back in Photoshop this layer was set to 59%, a New Layer was added and the Sharpening Tool was used to bring out the edges on the tops of the little towers, and finally the “acid burned controlled 15” preset from OnOne PhotoFrames was added in a matching cream color. These three plug-ins really do go hand-in-hand to create some stunning results!
It is a lot of fun to use these plug-ins! It is even more fun to mix and match! I use the OnOne PhotoFrames a lot because it can enhance an image that lacks some pizzazz. It is very great that the colors can be changed easily and sampled from the image to match the colors in the image. I also like Topaz Black and White Effects and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 as my two favorite creative plug-ins. Topaz Lens Effects does a great job of recreating the fisheye look without having to buy an expensive fisheye lens – there are several other effects in it that can be a lot of fun to try out. See below for my other blog links to these plug-ins for further information on how to use them.
Try stacking some of these effects – you will be surprised what great results you can create! Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd
Related Digital Lady Syd Blog Links:
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in – A Real Winner!
NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 – First Try!
The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter from NIK CEP 4
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro Pseudo HDR Recipe
Same Image – Different Plug-In
I decided to do this blog because I was experimenting in Photoshop trying to see if different plug-ins can get the same look even though they are very different. I started with this basic image from Camachee Cove in St. Augustine, Florida. This is a really pretty place to take images and my beloved sailboat lives there. Only the Basic sliders in Lightroom were adjusted and all the following images used this one as a starting place. Also, whenever possible I used a Smart Layer to save the settings so I could easily go back to tweak the sliders. I am becoming a big fan of doing this with all plug-in adjustments!
Overall, the above is not a bad picture. That said, I still love the new Topaz Black and White Effect plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site) and decided to give it a whirl and see if the image feeling could be improved. Below is what was achieved using this plug-in.
Personally I loved the results (this is how I remember it) and the cool thing is that it took only two minutes to get this look and it was done! If you are interested in the settings for the Sunny Preset, my Tidbits Blog “Sunny Preset – Topaz Black and White Effects” list how to do it. There was just one further adjustment made in Photoshop which, unfortunately when adding most of these plug-ins, there is some noise created. I took the image back into Adobe Camera Raw (see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script“) but any Noise Reduction plug-in would work fine also.
Next I tackled the updated NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 (CEP4) plug-in to see what I would get. This plug-in is another fabulous NIK product and I totally love using it. I could not get it to do what Topaz B&W Effects did as quickly and as well. I spent a long time fooling around in CEP4 trying to get this effect, especially the color effect.
The sky has a really ugly edge in the upper clouds that I could not adjust easily. This image also has Hue/Sat and Selective Color adjustment layers and still is not quite right. The stacked CEP4 filters used for this image were: High Key, Brilliance/Warmth, Graduated User Defined, and Vignette. Normally this image could be adjusted nicely but when trying to copy the Topaz B&W image, it does not do this so easily.
Now to be fair, since Topaz B&W was used, I next tried the NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). The results are pretty nice, but they still had to be adjusted in Photoshop. Below is the final image that started as a black and white using NIK .
The results are pretty close. The image was processed in SEP2 using the High Structure preset and a Red Color Filter. The layer was set to Luminosity blend mode in Photoshop, a Color Fill adjustment layer using a a yellow-beige Fill Color (9f9f84) set to Vivid Light blend mode and 55% opacity, and a low opacity light beige edge added to the top and bottom of the image. The sky and water color is very close to the Topaz B&W results, but it took a lot longer and required Photoshop work to achieve the results, and you had to know what you were trying to do.
Now this next image uses OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site). They have a new version coming out shortly which may make this much easier to do but overall, it gave a reasonable approximation to the Topaz B&W result.
I do not use this plug-in as much since I seem to have trouble getting the look I want and it is very computer RAM intensive. It also does not support Smart Objects at this point. In all fairness, I do believe it is a really good plug-in and it already has stacking abilities for effects. Unfortunately, at this point it does not have different sliders for the effects, but they do offer several setting choices for each filter, and several filter effects can be brushed on using a brush and mask in the plug-in. I plan on reviewing the upgrade after it becomes available. In this case, the clouds just do not have the detail and water and sky color is not quite right. There were 6 effects stacked to get the effect and I saved it down as a preset to preserve. If I was more familiar with the program, I might have been able to get a better result since there is no shortage of filters in this plug-in.
Alright, let’s change things up a bit and go back to Topaz using their fairly new Lens Effects plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site).
It also gives a nice result even though it is a different type of plug-in. The Dual Tone Filter Effect was used as a starting point using the Green to Yellow preset. Both Regions A and B were adjusted – this is very similar to the Quad Tones in Topaz B&W Effects. That is one reason there is some similarity, especially in the sky horizon area. A Vignette was also added in the program. It is nice that you can get similar results without buying every plug-in module in the set.
Personally I still like the Topaz Black and White Effects result the best. I hope this gives you some idea about how similar but how different these plug-ins are when applied to the same image. I did not mean to make it look like one plug-in is better than the other, just that it really depends on what your picture is will determine how it looks finished. If you do not like the way it turns out with one of the plug-ins, try a different one – it can be totally different! Have fun experimenting…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Nik Color Efex Pro 4!
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!