This week I am just going to give you a few of my favorite plugins that I think are worth checking out if you are interested in purchasing a few on Black Friday/Cyber Monday. I am a huge filter (plugin) fan and these are all ones I own and use a lot or I would not waste your time. The image above is the final after adding several of the filters below.
Topaz Sharpen AI
Hands down in my mind is Topaz (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Sharpen AI – it seems to be just getting better and better each rendition they release. Probably 80% of my images are improved by this filter, even if I do not realize the image needs it. The image below used the Topaz AI Sharpen set to my favorite settings of Processing Mode Stabilize, Remove Blur 0.80 (this is the sharpening slider) and Suppress Noise 0.30. For some reason these settings work on most of my images. I will try the other Processing Modes (Sharpen and Focus) if there is no noticeably improvement with these settings. And by applying and adding a black layer mask to the image back in Photoshop, just areas needing the sharpening can be painted back quickly. See my Topaz Sharpen AI – Good or Bad? and Yes, Free Upgrade for Infocus Owners blog for a quick review. Below is a split screenshot of how the image looked before using LR and after with this filter – it is especially noticeable in the little branches that are hanging down. Subtle but definitely better.
Luminar 4 or Luminar Flex – looks like Skylum has pulled Flex
Last week I did a quick review of Luminar 4 (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) and I have discussed Flex previously. Flex at one time was a free program for Luminar 3 owners and the was sold as a separate program. Until recently it was available on their site, but at this time I am having problems finding it. I hope that they have not quit updating or selling this product as it is very handy for people who do not need the cataloging function of the program but love the filters. I will try to find out more and update any new information. There is a difference – mainly in the filters. If you want the latest and greatest of the AI filters, Luminar 4 has them – the new AI Sky Replacement, AI Structure, and AI Skin Enhancer along with the new Portrait Enhancer are in it. Luminar Flex has the Accent AI Filter 2.0 and AI Sky Enhancer and a total of 51 filters that can be applied to your images. Luminar 4 has the cataloging capability but only 32 total filters (some are grouped together under a new name and were counted individually). This has upset some people. Also I have found in both programs that using the Structure filter with the Details filter gives an excellent Sharpening effect. Flex has been around for a while and the reason people loved it is that it had a Smart Object capability which Luminar 3 did not. Luminar 4 does have the Smart Object functionality, but if you are a Windows person, the recent update to Photoshop 2020 makes it uneditable – this is also true for Flex. The Tech team is working on it and the issue should be resolved soon. I think both programs do an excellent job at a fairly reasonable price. Once again, give them both a try. I find Luminar products seem to have really good color in them and some excellent photo filters. See my Checking out Skylum’s Luminar 4 blog and Luminar Flex – Exactly What Is This? blog for interface screenshots. I do use Flex all the time on my images – just got Luminar 4 so still deciding which is better.
DXO Nik Collection 2
They have now updated the original Nik Suite and added some new filters and a new interface. I am still using the original as it seems to be working fine for me with the new Photoshop 2020 update. My all time “Favorite” plugin that I use on 98% of my images is Viveza (the last step on the image above used this filter to emphasize some focal points). Many people feel that Lightroom does the same thing, but not for me. It was the second plugin I bought (behind the original Topaz Adjust) many years ago and I still love it (as well as Topaz Adjust – they have a Topaz Adjust AI program that I am still trying out). Back to DXO’s Nik Collection 2 – they claim to have added 40 new filters (8 to just the Color Efex Program). I can’t say enough good things about Nik – they supported my blog for years before Google bought them. I strongly suggest you try out their products.
TOPAZ STUDIO 2
Topaz considers this their “creative filter collection” and that is probably a fair assessment. Since it contains Topaz Impression and Topaz AI Remix leading the way to get some really unique results, it is probably the most versatile of all the suites available. It also contains Glow, Edges, Precision Contrast and Precision Detail, and Color Theme (a hidden jewel for changing colors in your image) filters besides all the useful Looks (presets). It is now available for just a flat fee – if you own some of the filters, there is a discount available to you but you need to contact them before you buy to find out what it will cost. That said, there is no cataloging and more limited Camera Raw ability going on here – just lots of filters to give unique effects and fabulous color results. Topaz has worked very hard to improve their original Topaz Studio 1 to make it easier and faster to use. I love parts of it, but I miss parts of it too. The biggest issue is that the older Topaz plugins are no longer linked within the interface (they can still be used from the Filter -> Topaz Labs back in Photoshop) – but it will link the newer AI filters. I use this program a lot – definitely worth getting. Check out my What About This Topaz Studio 2 Update? Not Bad! blog for more info on it.
OTHERS I LIKE BUT DO NOT USE ALL THE TIME
TOPAZ DeNoise AI
I am a huge Topaz fan so I must say that I do love their plugins, but some I do not use all the time. The Topaz DeNoise AI is a fabulous plugin – and it does contain everyone’s favorite AI Clear that can be selected when opened. I find I do not need to do this often since DeNoise AI seems to overlap with the Sharpen AI somewhat and AI Clear is in Topaz Studio 2. Usually I use Studio to add the DeNoise as this little filter is so handy to access (and you can use a brush to paint it off in parts of the image in Studio.) For more info, check out my Topaz DeNoise AI – And Yes, Free Upgrade When Your Own DeNoise6 or AI Clear blog.
Corel’s Painter Particalshop
This Photoshop plugin is a really great way to add some fun to your images. There are many new brushes that can be added to the plugin (at a cost) to get some interesting effects, so check it out if you want to see what is available. For example, Particleshop has a Perfect Pets set, Sketch, Sunny Rays, Rust and Patina, Trees & Foliage – all kinds of brushes to get. I do not this plugin a lot, but there are times it adds just the perfect touch. Most have several settings to change the look of the brushes. This plugin is working fine with Photoshop 2020. Check out my Intro to Corel Particleshop Brushes for Photoshop blog.
Flaming Pears Flood Filter
The Flood Filter has been around for years without changing much, but it is still one of the best effects for water I have ever seen. Lots of sliders and a very smooth effect with great reflections can be obtained as well as very rough waters and lot of waves. Great for getting some interesting effects. I have an older version and it works just fine with Photoshop 2020. And check my older blog called The Flood Look.
Still the best for enlarging your image – I love this program and use it all the time. It is constantly being upgraded and does a fabulous job! Now you can add some sharpening to bring in more detail when enlarging and denoise if there is a problem with this. One of Topaz’s best! And yes, I have done a blog on it too – see The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel! blog.
These are just some of the great plugins out there. I have found that I get confused when I use them all so I am trying to choose what are my very favorites and stick to learning how to use them better. That being said, sometimes getting a new set of filters really helps on the creative end of things. I hope this blog gives you some ideas for a few nice add-ins to Photoshop. Have a great shopping week and Happy Thanksgiving to those celebrating! I am taking next week off, so see you in a couple!…..Digital Lady Syd
I find that many times my images just look like everyone elses and I really want an image to reflect something slightly different without being over processed or unrecognizable. I struggle with this concept a lot. So this week I have been thinking about what I really like and it is not always what I am seeing. The image above reflects that very sentiment. The image is of the water from one of the boat docks at the Hilton Waikoloa Village but the sky is not the actual color and the highlights were accentuated by using plug-ins. (In Photoshop Topaz Adjust plug-in was used with the Lomo II preset as a starting point, then turned off the Grain setting, readjusted the Vignette by centering off center and adjusting the sliders, and added a little more Warmth. Next Topaz Simplify 3 was added using BuzSim but changed the Simplify Size to 0.05 to make paint strokes very thin, Details Boost to 0.79, Details to 0.13, and then adjusted Saturation to 1.38. See sidebar in my Tidbits blog for Topaz website link.)
The view of the Waikoloa Beach Marriott Beach Resort and Spa is a similar example. This image definitely has a real blue tone to it even though the original is not nearly as striking. The final result is how I would like to remember this place. (This image was processed using OnOne Software’s Perfect Effects 3 plug-in – Detail-Amazing Detail filter applied first; next a custom Black and White Effect was created with Color Filter set to 0, Contrast -52, and Toner Strength 22 – then a Masking Bug was applied and inverted so the middle of the image was not affected by the blue tone; and the last step added a Vignette – Big Softy to the image. For OnOne’s website link, see my Tidbits Blog.)
This is a beautiful Roseate Spoonbill taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in Florida. The bird was not shot with a reflection – that was added with Flaming Pear’s Flood plug-in. I really like the image with the reflection much better than the original – it gives that unique feel that I was looking for. (The canvas was extended at the bottom of the image to make room for the reflection. Even though Flood is an older plug-in, it is still the best one for a good reflection with many different sliders to control the effect you want. See my blog “The Flood Look” for more information on this plug-in. The frame is from OnOne PhotoFrame called Instant Film B Warm R2.)
A few week ago I did a blog called “Using Color Efex Pro and Texture for a Warm Hawaiian Landscape Effect” that also creates a very unique look to the images and they make me think of Hawaii when I see them. I believe this is what I am trying to convey in this blog.
I do love the classic images I take from my trips, but the ones I really like are the ones I make my own. The various plug-ins can make those ordinary images unique and if that is a look you want, give them a try. There are so many out there and it has surprised me how varied and unique a look you can get with a little experimenting. And that is why Photoshop rocks!…..Digital Lady Syd