Recently I discovered that several of the major Photoshop plug-ins all seem to be presenting a dual tone effect in their arsenal. I decided to create for you a Dual Tone Comparison using similar settings for each plug-in. In each case I used an image of a Spanish Cay beach in the Bahamas taken last year while sailing. I am trying to add a believable sunrise effect. So let’s get to comparing!
NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0
This NIK Color Efex Pro effect was created using the BiColor User Defined Preset. The swatches colors were set as follows: the Pink top color was set to R180 G152 B151, and the bottom blue color was set to R143 G141 B162. In the past I have used this preset with different colors on other images – it is really easy to apply and the BiColor Filter has many quick presets to choose from if you do not need to use specific colors. Personally I believe the real strength of most of the NIK plug-ins is that they provide quick, very visual choices which usually can create the look you want fast – and if you do not like the presets, you still have all the wonderful sliders to adjust to make the effect the way you like. Also, there are control points that can be applied on the image – in this case the opacity can be adjusted in the shadows and/or highlights areas. Four presets can be saved in the BiColor User Defined Preset Quick Save Slots to use again. To get a really nice look, the Polarization preset was also added with Rotate set to 0 and Strength set to 200%.
OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (Now OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0)
OnOne has a totally different way of accessing the plug-in which I find a bit cumbersome. I have to go to the Image -> Automate and select it from a list to open up the interface. My computer runs more sluggish whenever I use one of their plug-ins but not a big enough problem for not using their products. That said, I was surprised at what a nice result I got in OnOnePhotoTools 2.6 (no longer available – see OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0 – click on OnOne icon in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) on the above image. Since the interface is different from most plug-ins, it takes a bit of practice to find where all the settings reside to get this effect, but once there, your choices are unlimited.
When choosing the effect you want, you must first go to the Library section at the bottom of the interface and select a Category which brings up many different results. In this image, Photo Filters was selected and 30 results were obtained; the Polarizer effect was choosen by clicking on Add to Stack. If the effect looks awful, just click Undo and it disappears. If you look under the Navigation Panel on the right side of the image above, you can that I stacked three effects (they can be dragged up or down for a different order) to get this one final look: Polarizer, Graduated Red, and Graduated Warm-Cool. You can spend many hours finding the perfect formula to get very creative results. I was not able to add the exact colors used in the NIK BiColor User Defined preset above, but it was a pretty close approximation. I will try to cover this plug-in more thoroughly at a later date. Just note that it does create a good dual tone effect and compares nicely with the Nik Color Efex Pro result. (Also, as far as I am concerned, there is no better way to add a frame to finish up your image than using OnOne’s PhotoFrame – all images in this blog have the same one applied from this program.)
Topaz Lens Effects
I really figured that the Topaz Lens Effect Dual Tone Filter would not be as good as the two above. When I did my blog on this feature last week, it did not create exactly the look I wanted. But bingo bango, I think this is the most accurate effect and it was pretty easy to adjust the sliders to get the look.
As you can see, I have created a SJ-Sunset preset that contains the settings used to make this dual tone effect. The Transition Adjustments section under the Navigation window sets how large and where you want the filter to be applied. The Region A Adjustments and Region B Adjustments allow you to create the colors you want – there is not option to add a specific color as in the BiColor User Defined preset but you adjust Cyan, Red, Magenta, Green, Yellow, and Blue sliders to get the two colors. A Polarization Filter can also be applied after the Dual Tone Filter, but there is only one slider, Strength, and I just did not care for the effect on the water. The polarizations effect was not as good as in the other two plug-ins above. Still, just the dual tone filter created a very good overall representation of what I wanted to present.
Plugin Galaxy 2.0
Plugin Galaxy 2.01 surprised me with the above result. I did not think the plug-in had the capability to do what I wanted, but I was wrong. Once again, you have to get used to the interface so you can figure out where to find the look you want. The interface appears to be much smaller than on the other three plug-ins but all you have to do is drag out the bottom right edge and it will almost fill the screen. Also, one of the tricks of this plug-in is that whenever you see a (+) in the center of your image, you can right click and drag it to place the effect in a specific location. In the interface image below, you can see the (+) in the lower right hand corner of the image. This is where I placed the effect.
I used the Expert Mode which gives you the most choices, and selected the Nature Group with the Sunset FX (filter effect). The first attempt was not so great as the Mode under the Brightness slider was set to Normal. But by trying different modes, I was able to select Add and get a really nice effect. The color sliders I had to experiment with to get the look – it makes a big difference whether you add just a bit of green or blue to the red – and the intensity and brightness sliders must be adjusted carefully. The interesting thing is that this plug-in has a lot of versatility – you just need to work with it to get that final look. This plug-in contains one of my vary favorite effects, the Instant Mirror Effect, which I blogged about here.
For me this has been a very interesting comparison. Each plug-in definitely has strengths that I love about each. My final decision on which plug-in worked best for the above image is the result I got with Topaz Lens Effects Dual Tones filter. Why? Because the mood created looks like what I think it should look like – the way there is a touch of yellow in the clouds that gives a more believable look to me. I really thought the NIK BiColor User Defined filter would do the trick best – it is one of my favorite filters. And OnOne’s PhotoTools really surprised me – I had not considered how many choices I had with that plug-in and if I played around a bit more with the presets, I might have been able to get the best look. And even though I did not like the Plugin Galaxy’s overall look for this particular image (and actually I really liked the way there was some color in the sand on the left bottom side which none of the other plug-ins created), this plug-in has some amazing choices that I am definitely going to experiment with more. Both Topaz Lens Effects and Plugin Galaxy have very reasonable prices for their plug-ins so they do give you a good alternative to the more expensive plug-ins and are definitely worth downloading and trying out the trial versions. With that said, I hope you enjoyed this comparison and all the images turned pretty nice – maybe you can try some comparisons of your own. You might get some surprises just as I did with the image above……Digital Lady Syd