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