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Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz DeNoise 5

For years I have resisted the temptation to buy noise software – it seemed awfully expensive for how much I needed to use it. When Lightroom 3 (and Adobe Camera Raw) came out with their new Noise Reduction sliders in the Effects section, I thought – this is all I needed! But as I am learning more about shooting images and attempting the “harder to get” shots, having a more powerful noise reduction plug-in at my disposal is absolutely necessary. I downloaded a trial of Topaz DeNoise 5 and am discovering that some of my images have more of a noise issue than I realized. If you like to shoot at night, or need to set your camera to a high ISO level (1250 and above) due to movement in your image, then you introduce some big problems. That is what happened to me in these examples. The image above is one I took through a window (with lots of reflection) in a low lighted restaurant on a very cool night at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. I really thought there was no way I would get a nice result of this beautiful view from my table. The image was shot at ISO 1250 and the original Camera Raw image was very bright and totally grainy. I was very surprised how quick Topaz DeNoise 5 (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) fixed up the noise in this night image – just one preset, RAW Moderate Preset, was applied and that was it! Bottom Line – definitely a sound choice for removing noise at any level!

Two things need to be done to use this plug-in effectively: 1) Make sure the Noise Reduction and Sharpening sliders in Lightroom and/or Adobe Camera Raw are turned off (if using Lightroom 3 make sure the Black slider is set to 0 also), and 2) use DeNoise first to avoid other problems cleaning up the image. The sliders are pretty intuitive once you play with them a little – usually all I am using is the Overall Strength slider and sometimes Recover Detail. The manual is an excellent resource if you have a bigger problem in your image.

This Flame Thrower image was cut out of a low resolution movie as a JPG from a luau at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. I have had a lot of trouble getting good image quality from my movie shots of that evening to look clean and sharp. This was a difficult image to clean up but with some effort, it does remind me of the luau show. In DeNoise the settings I ended up using were Overall Strength set to 0.10 and Adjust Shadow set to -0.09, but it also needed Recover Detail slider (which subtly brings detail back into the image) set to 0.30 and Reduce Blur (intelligent deblurring to fix soft or blurry edges) to 0.39. I am finding that when I use the Detail Recovery sliders I have to adjust the Overall Strength more. These sliders appear to be unique to the DeNoise program and I love them.  Topaz recommends creating presets for each of the ISO settings on your camera(s) once you get settings you like. I created a preset for my movie images using the above settings. (Set preset to Absolute only if using preset for a series of images; use Relative when taking different kinds of shots with your camera and are using different ISO settings-the program will read changes in the image.)

This image was taken at SeaWorld‘s large Shark and Manta Ray Exhibit in Orlando, Florida. It was really hard to capture moving fish in a dark environment so they were not too blurry – an ISO setting of 1600 needed to be used to get the shot. DeNoise really helped clean up this image. Below is a comparison of what the image looked liked as a Raw image in Lightroom without Lightroom changes or DeNoise applied at 2 to 1 view.

Here is a similar shot as it appears in Photoshop at 200% view after Lightroom and DeNoise was applied but before the clean up layer and Curves Adjustment Layer were added.

To really see how the effect is being applied, the image should be viewed at 2 to 1 in a mid-tone area. It is not necessary to overdo getting rid of noise, a little remaining will not hurt an image. One of the features very unique to DeNoise is the ability to preview the noise not just in RGB , but also in the Luma, Color, Red and Blue. I usually start by previewing on the RBG mode and adjust the Overall Strength to get a feel for what the noise reduction is doing to the image. Next I go to Luma – sometimes there is more in this preview and the slider needs to be adjusted a little more. What I really like though is that on the tough images, the Blue  and Red Previews are great – you can adjust out splotchy areas by moving the Adjust Color – Red and/or Adjust Color – Blue component sliders a little bit to remove. Usually I finish up with the Detail Recovery sliders. For the above image though, only the Overall Strength slider was set to .33 and Recovery Detail to .30. I really do not use the other sliders very often as I don’t seem to need that much adjustment. Nichole Paschal at Topaz Labs has done a great video called Introduction to Topaz DeNoise – Remove Image Noise, Recover Important Detail that goes into more detail on how to get good results with all the sliders – definitely worth checking out if you download the trial. Also there is a really good banding section if your image has color noise across the image (often seen in JPG images especially) – I have not had to try this yet. I used a Curves Adjustment Layer to open up the shadow areas a little more back in Photoshop.

Bottom line – I am really enjoying this plug-in. It does a good and fast job of noise reduction with just a couple slider adjustments. But if you run into that difficult image, the tools are available to adjust these issues. I am very happy with the results I have gotten – and once again Topaz gives free upgrades when you purchase their products, so any new advancements are yours. Got to love this plug-in!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

Clowning Around with Topaz!
Topaz DeNoise 5 and InstaTone

Digital Lady Syd’s Photo Art Workflow

I am constantly amazed at how some of my images turn out – not at all what I had expected. This week I am going to go through my photo art workflow step-by-step so you can see what a difference a little tweaking will do. One of my favorite image types to play with in Photoshop are shots of art works. It is a nice break from cleaning up photos of family and large travel landscapes and gives me the opportunity to be creative. This image is of a type of art I had never heard of before that is on display at my favorite local museum – the Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, Florida. These are examples of Victorian era cigar band art. The Photoshop-processed image above is my final photo art result and the one I liked the best, but there were several other choices I considered.

NOTE: If you want to see the settings used for any of the steps, just click on the image and the larger Flickr image will appear.

  • Here is the initial image as a RAW NEF file. The dishes were enclosed in a glass case and the camera settings were a 44-mm lens at F/4.8, 1/8 sec, and ISO 1250. There is a lot of light glare on the pieces. This image is not one I would normally choose to process, but I just loved the composition of the items and the colors in the cigar bands.

  • My next step was to create a Virtual Copy in Lightroom (this does not have to be done if using Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop) to try to clean up the tone a little before going into Photoshop. Since only a few changes were done here, it does not look much different. First I go to the Lens Correction section and select the Profile tab where I set my lens info, and then the Color tab where I check Remove Chromatic Aberration (this can save a lot of time later). The next step would be to adjust the Crop of the image if it needs it – in this case it did not. Now adjust the Basic sliders. Also check out the noise in the image and try to correct if needed. Next I right click on the image in Lightroom and select “Edit In -> Edit in Adobe Photoshop CS6” which now opens up Photoshop, if it is not already open, with your image.

  • I am a big fan of combining my plug-ins until I get just the effect I like. If I do not like what results, I just delete that layer and try again. I always duplicate the background first so I know what the image looked like to start. On a really difficult image, which I considered this one to be, I usually will first open up Nik Color Efex Pro 4 – they have so many filters, you can sometimes get a great look right away. Shown below are stacked filters Tonal Contrast, which I believe is one of the best filters in this plug-in; Pro Contrast, which is one of my personal favorites, and works wonders on many of the images I have processed; and Brilliance/Warmth, one of the most popular Color Efex filters – just adds a really soft warmth to an image. Usually I like the Detail Extractor, but it really looked bad on this image due to all the glare on the items. Note that before entering the plug-in, I created a Smart Object (right click on your duplicated layer in Layer Panel and select Convert to Smart Object in menu) as Nik plug-ins work very well with Smart Objects. It allows you to go back into the plug-in and all settings and control points will still be in place so they can be readjusted easily.

  • Since there is so much glare in this image, there is only one plug-in I know of that does a good job controlling it and that is my most used plug-in, Nik Viveza 2. It will almost always improve if not remove problem areas on an image. You can see I have added 10 control points on the glare areas (click on image to see the little round circles more clearly in Flickr) to try to even out the tone. By comparing to the above, it is not perfect, but what a difference it makes! The detail and saturation of the image is also much improved. (See my blog Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!)

  • Still have issues where the glare is – it needs to be cleaned up and the pink removed since it draws your eye into the left corner and it is distorted by the glare. The Color Replacement Tool was used to turn the pink color turquoise (see settings used in Options Bar in photo and turquoise foreground color in swatch) and some cloning was done on the dish to even out the pattern where the glare blows out the detail. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of another pink hot spot. I usually try to work completely non-destructively (meaning the original image was not changed by any of the adjustments made on the layers above), but the Color Replacement Tool is destructive and changes are made on the image itself – the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer may have been a better choice for this problem area.

  • I always add or at least try to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to adjust the contrast towards the end of my workflow. Since I thought I was almost done, it seemed appropriate to add it now. Below is what my curve looked like for this image. I usually just drag the Hand Tool (located in the upper lefthand corner of the panel) in the image to get this correct. It usually is just a subtle change but very significant. In this case I only wanted to brighten up the plate and mug where the color was located, not enhance where the glare was. The Curves Adjustment layer mask was turned black by clicking on the mask and CTRL+I to invert the color from white to black. Then a soft 30% opacity brush was set to white and used to gently paint back the areas where the I wanted additional contrast and color. This was a good point to create a composite layer that combines all the layers below into one on top by clicking (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) – this helps when the number of layers gets large as some techniques need a single layer to work correctly – this can especially be a problem with the Clone Tool.

  • At this point I thought I was getting the image to a final look. I decided I wanted sort of a vintage type edge on the image, so I used one of my very favorite textures, ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 6. After trying several blend modes, I selected the Exclusion blend mode (which I do not use that much but worked in this case) set to 53% opacity. Still not sure it was quite what I wanted so I decided to add one of his new Assorted Mask Overlay (08) and set it to Soft Light blend mode at 100% opacity. Basically just the beautiful edges were used on both layers, and the image center was mainly painted out using black in the layer masks to keep the basic image intact. I often use the free Russell Brown Paper Texture Panel to try out and stack the various textures (the green square at the top of the icons to the left of the panels opens it up).

  • I must be done???? But then I thought, I wonder what happens if I take this image into the new Topaz photoFXlab (see sidebar for website in my Tidibits Blog). Well that proved to be a problem because I started finding all kinds of new effects I liked on this cleaned up image. The settings below were applied as a first step to the bottom layer for all the different Topaz effects tried on this image.

  • I duplicated the bottom layer in the plug-in and applied from the Effects tab a preset called Lithography by H. Hurst (Topaz used the preset from Topaz Detail) and set the layer to 65% opacity. In the Adjustment tab, the Saturation slider was set to 20. The Dodge Brush was used from the Brush tab to whiten around the pupil of the eyes of the girl on the plate using a brush strength of .10. Next the lips were slightly reddened using the Saturation brush. It was saved in the new Topaz extension .pfxl so the settings could be readjusted at a later date if needed. Clicked OK and applied to it to the image in Photoshop. At this point I did create a note to remind myself exactly what I did in the plug-in since I am still learning about the new extension. The image that resulted is shown below.

  • To be honest, I just didn’t love the final result so I decided to delete the layer where I applied the photoFXlab plug-in and start over in this plug-in. This time I decided to try out the results using the Plug-in tab and selected Topaz Adjust 5. Here I tried out one of my favorite presets I created from the French Countryside preset in the Vibrant Collection. It looked nice and more like what I wanted. I use this preset a lot when I want a nice artistic feel.

  • I decided to try one more preset just to see if I liked it and sure enough, it is the one I selected. It is in the Stylized Collection and is called Painting-Venice. I added several settings in the Finishing Touches section: Transparency – Overall Transparency slider to .7, Color – Warmth 0.03, and Tone – Quad Settings as shown on the image – the correct colors should be set already. Once out of the Adjust plug-in, in the Adjustment tab Exposure was set to 0.38, Contrast to -3 and Dynamics 24.

Well this is a good example of my workflow for a photo art image. I could have used OnOne Software’s wonderful Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website at my Tidbits Blog), or any of the other plug-ins offered by Topaz, but it just depends on what I think will work. Overall the main components are 1) process as discussed above in Lightroom, 2) take into Photoshop and do any clean up, 3) add plug-in effects, 4) add any textures if you want, 5) I always go to Viveza 2 now, 6) do any extra sharpening or noise reduction that might be required,  7) add a Curves Adjustment layer for final tone and contrast, and 8) add any framing. I hope you can see that even though a change is very small, it can be very significant to the photo, and that you can always change your mind. An image can take on such a different feel with different plug-ins and textures applied. I thought originally I wanted a very sharp almost HDR look for this image, but I ended up with a very bright painterly result. I am happy with it but it is not exactly what I had in mind when I started! …..Digital Lady Syd

Using Topaz Simplify for That Artistic Feel!

I realized I had not written specifically about the nice Simplify plug-in that Topaz (see Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) has had out for a while and gives a very pleasant result. The flowers above are of my front yard after a late afternoon storm – I wanted to give it a bit of a “fairy tale” look and Simplify really created that bright colored magical feel. I rarely use this plug-in alone, but in this case I did and was surprised at how nice it looks without applying anything but a final Curves Adjustment Layer for contrast. For settings, see end of blog.

Here is another beautiful example of how this plug-in looks – used the same preset settings as the first image although it does not quite have that magical look (settings are listed at the end of blog). The swimming pool is at the Hilton Hawaiian Resort in Oahu on Waikiki Beach.

This image was taken at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. I used my tips from my Smoothing Those Waterfalls blog for the waterfall. This plug-in works very well with images that were shot just a little soft. The Topaz Simplify BuzSim preset was used with these settings: reduced the Simplify Size to 0.10 and increased the Saturation Boost to 1.56. By reducing the Simplify Size, you can avoid the webbing effect often associated with simplify plug-ins. You can get a very similar result to the above by using Topaz Adjust 5’s Painting Venice using no adjustments. (See my Tidbits Blog Topaz Adjust Using Painting Venice Preset-Beautiful Effect!)

A while back I did a blog on how this image was created (see my Tidbits Blog Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image! where both Simplify and Lens Effects were used to create a very painterly effect. This is one of my favorite images from Hawaii but I would overlooked it if the Simplify plug-in was not available. My blog link above will tell you the settings and show you the before image.

Using Simplify with other plug-ins can give a really nice color effect to your images. In my blog Making An Ordinary Image Your Own, the first image was done using both Adjust and then Simplify to get a very subtle soft artsy effect. The Simplify settings for that image is one of my favorites since it is very easy get a more vivid soft look to an image without adjusting a lot of sliders. Simplify and Detail were used together in my Tidbits Blog Using Simplify and Topaz Detail Together where these same Simplify settings were used.

There are lots of references on how to use this plug-in. An excellent resource is from Dan Moughamian at Tips (one of the best Photoshop sites) called Creating Painterly Effects with Topaz Simpify 3. All the sliders are explained clearly in this short post. There are also two very interesting Topaz Labs videos: the first is called Memorable Travel & Stock Photography by Scott Stulberg where he incorporates using Topaz Adjust, Detail and Simplify for some easy and amazing results; and one called Eliminating Web Effects and Other Artistic Tips in Topaz Simplify by Greg Rostami that discusses the major problem with using this plug-in – the webbing or stained glass effect. He has a pretty sophisticated work-around and some very good examples of how to get the most from Simplify. I still need to work through his suggestions. I have used the above resources for improving my results with this plug-in, and am finding the more I am work with it, the more I am liking the results.

Conclusion: Once again, just like using Photoshop CS6’s Oil Paint filter (see my Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter blog), you have to be careful not to get a really “canned” look. I believe there is a lot more versatility built into this plug-in compared to the Oil Paint filter. This blog only addressed some of the creative aspects of it. Because there are many sliders, several that affect the edges of the objects, there are many ways to make your images look totally different. Once again, since Topaz makes such reasonably priced plug-ins and if you like a little artistic flair in your photos, this is definitely the plug-in for you. They have not updated this version for a long time, so I am hoping there will be a newer version being released soon (and remember the updates are free once you buy it!). Even if you are not sure you want it, give the trial a try – it really is fun to play around with…..Digital Lady Syd

Preset settings for the flowers and view images called Hawaii Landscape with these settings: Simplify Panel – RGB Colorspace, Simplify Size 0.29, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.66, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size 0.27, Remove Small 0.06, and Remove Weak 0.10; Adjust Panel – Brightness 0, Contrast 1.00, Saturation 1.04, and Saturation Boost 1.32; and Edges Panel – Color Edge Normal, Edge Strength 1.89, Simplify Edge 0.58, Reduce Weak 33, Reduce Small 0.20, and Flatten Edge 0.

Trying Out Topaz Star Effects

The above was actually the first image I tried using the new Star Effect plug-in from Topaz – I thought is makes the tree look like it is flowering. The plug-in is a little different than any other ones they offer since it is sold separately from the bundle and it does a very specific effect. (See my Tidbits Blog‘s sidebar for website link.) I beta tested this plug-in before its release so here so are a few tips I learned from using the filter and Topaz’s great Webinars. Topaz suggests this plug-in looks really nice applied to water, candles, city lights at night, dewdrops on flowers, jewelry, Christmas lights, and sunsets to mention a few ideas. This image was first taken into Topaz Simplify and a Paint Colorful preset applied with some adjustments. Next it was taken into Dynamic Auto-Painter program and an Aquarell effect was run. Finally Star Effects was applied back in Photoshop where a Traditional Star was applied using one of their presets.

Star Effects Things To Know:

  • Most important thing to understand is that you cannot add stars using the Add brush where you want on an image – if there is not enough light to support the spot where you want the light to appear, it will not let you paint one in that place. However you can remove stars using the Remove brush where the program placed them in areas you do not want them to appear. This is important to know or else nothing makes sense in this plug-in.
  • The program places up to 300 stars in the brightest parts of an image.  Anything above that amount over this will not be enhanced. This is important if you have a sky image with a lot of points of light but only a few are being picked up by the program. The work-around is to segment you image in Photoshop and select different parts to apply the effect to individually. They say the effect is layer dependent so this works.
  • In Main Adjustments settings, must have a setting below 1 in the Threshold slider, above 0 on the Luminance slider, and in Additional Effects section a 0 Glow or you will see no changes. (Threshold near 1 is just one point of light, a setting of 0 is the maximum points of light your can have in that image.) Spread is how thick your star gets – works with Luminance.)
  • For a smooth glow to use on water, set Threshold to 0 and Luminance to 0 and paint in a star; then set Glow fairly strong in the Additional Effects section. Be sure to set your Saturation (Saturation set to 0 is white light but as you move it right, it picks up the color from that part of the image so it could be magenta instead of yellow) and Temperature (move to left is cooler colors and right warmer colors) in the Color Adjustments to get a stronger effect. Also try adjusting the Size and Spread to get the final effect.
  • Be sure to create presets (identify them as yours with your initials or some other way) so that you can repeat the effect again once you find one you like. Rarely is a preset set up exactly as you need for your image. Topaz says you will probably have to set Threshold and Size with every preset.
  • To find out where some of the stars effects are hiding in your image, go to the Star Settings and select Stars Only. I find it very handy to delete the obvious misplaced effects from here with the Remove brush. Sometimes you have to click the Remove brush several times as the stars get stacked easily if the spot is a really hot spot in your image. You can also save image with the just the stars showing on a black background as shown in the Stars Only mode.
  • You can remove all the spots in a bright area and then use the Add brush to place the star exactly where you want it – this is particularly handy with a sunset or sunrise image where you want to enhance the sun effect or on candle flames. Even if the Threshold is set to 1, any stars you have set will appear. Also, if the area you are adding stars is not real bright, it will only set a small star, but if area is really bright, then you will get a larger brighter star.
  • You do not have to start out with a preset, just select a type of star you like and use the Add brush to place them – note it must be a bright spot for it to stick. It was noted that the Hollywood Star type is good for sun bursts look in sunsets or between trees.

I did not really want to do a Christmas image but I had trouble finding anything with little lights to use, so here it is. I wanted to try two different types of stars applications, so in this image, first a Jewel Sparkle I preset using a Burst Star Type was applied and then adjustments were made. I removed all star effects from the top star area. Next the Sun Flare III preset was applied to just some of the lights to make them stand out more. The Star Type was Traditional and it had more Saturation and Spread than the first stars applied. Once again the star effect was removed from the top star. The last step in the plug-in involved just adding the star effect to the top star. This time I used a Dew Drops I preset as a starting point and added just enough stars to get the top one filled. Then went in the Stars Settings -> Stars Only and removed any points of light that are not in the the top star only. Finally the other sliders were adjusted to get a nice star light feel. Three textures were then added to this image afterwards to get this effect: ShadowHouse Creations Oil Painting-4, Florabella’s Snow 3 (the link is to her Facebook page with the free download on the left side), and OnOne PhotoFrame toner scratch 20 (see my Tidbits Blog‘s sidebar for website link.) . The Sharpen Tool was used to oversharpened to exaggerate the detail and color in the star.

This reminds me of Disney World during the fireworks! Actually it is just a little fountain in our neighborhood. I just wanted to show how fun this effect can be and how pretty the water glow effect is. (See in list above how to do this.) There is not much to say except how did I get the points of light in the sky? Easy, I set up a star scatter brush using the soft brush set to 30 pixels and spacing 1000%. In the Scatter dialog, set the Jitter to 1000% both axis and the Jitter Count to 100. I saved the settings to use the brush again. Just clicked on the sky a couple times and then took it into Star Effects. From there you can use the Remove brush to take them away from areas you don’t want it in. Pretty easy.

An oldie but goodie image from the London Eye is like one Topaz uses to show the City Lights preset effect. It does not look like much but when compared to the original, it is a lot more luminous. Even the sky looks better with a little luminosity in it. Topaz says that the City Light presets can be adjusted to remove the actual stars by setting the Threshold and Luminance to 0, set Glow to a level you like to get a nice glow in the city. For my image the Glow was set to 0.19, Saturation to 0.56, Temperature 0.40, Size of 0.37 and Spread of 0.21. I felt like this gave a very natural look. This image could also have had two different sets of lights applied, one for the city lights and one for the sky.


Topaz has a good User Manual when you download the trial and are offering several more Webinars which is a great way to learn the program. I am not sure this plug-in will be of great use to all Photoshop users, but definitely it makes a great addition if you enjoy the creative aspect of Photoshop. There are so many different looks, and as you can see some are quite realistic looking while others are just for fun. I had a bit of difficulty finding images I have taken that look good with this filter. Several just did not work out. I believe for me to make this plug-in really useful, I need to play more with the controls and see what results I can get. By adding textures after using the effect and creating skies before going into the plug-in will expand the use for me personally. The more I am using it, the more applications I am finding for it.

I have to give Topaz credit for trying a totally different concept from what they usually do. If it does not work on all your images, you won’t feel bad since the price is very reasonable and all upgrades will be free once purchased. That said, it is going to take me some more time before I will really know if it is a plug-in I will use a lot. I will write after I learn more about the effects. Until then, give it a try – it might just be the inspiration you need to get that really great look!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Combining Plug-ins for More Image Interest

Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz Adjust 5!

A no brainer here – another winner! Topaz Adjust has been probably the best plug-in value since the first version came out (and the first plug-in I bought). The price is always reasonable and the results are always great! Therefore there was no reason not to believe that this plug-in would not be up to the same standard and it is. The train engine image above was created using the classic Spicify preset which has been their signature look since they created this plug-in. Still looks great and there are many adjustments that can made to the preset to get the overall feel you want. (To access the Topaz website, click on my Tidbits Blog and click on the Topaz Adjust 4 sidebar.)

Below I created several different looks using the same HDR (done in NIK HDR Efex Pro – Realistic Strong preset) storefront image to show the vast variety of looks with a minimal amount of adjusting. So here they are:

This storefront image is from Jackson, Mississippi. The same tone colors used in my Tidbits Blog “Topaz Adjust 5 is Here! First Look!” image which were the same colors I have used in the Black and White Effects plug-in – see “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for exact colors. I really like the Tone section in Adjust – very similar to the Quad Tones in Black and White Effects plus the added benefit of a Tone Strength slider to change the amount applied. Another benefit over the Black and White Effects is that a preset with just the Tone section can be saved so the colors can be changed to your favorites easily.

The above uses two presets applied separately – first the Lomo III preset as is and then the Vintage III preset, both from the Film Collection. In the last preset, on the right side I adjusted in the Color Section the Hue slider to 0.1o to change the storefront color from orange to yellow and then the Color Saturation slider to 2.39. The Tone slider was set to 0.94. In the Local Adjustments section, with the Brush Out tool set at 100% opacity, the whole image was brushed out except for the yellow storefront. Therefore you are getting the Lomo III preset effect on everything except the middle storefront. I thought it turned out really nice and was very easy to do.

The unusual look of the image above was created by applying the Spicify preset in Topaz Adjust 5 with a Tone Strength set to 1.00, Warmth set to 0.57, and Transparency set to 0.44. Then the photo was taken into Topaz Black and White Effects and a sunset effect preset I had created a while back with Transparency set to 1.00 (which is really 50% of the color in the image). Overall a very nice combination of the two plug-ins.

1.  They have changed to the interface to look like their new great plug-in “Topaz Black and White Effects” and what a great improvement!
2.  You can apply more than one effect to get some really great new looks like in their “Topaz Lens Effects” plug-in. This allows you to save your favorite Tone colors or Vignette settings as presets to apply individually. Much increased versatility here.
3.  There is a new Local Adjustment Brush (like in Lightroom or ACR) that can used to brush out effects (at varying depths) that is totally fabulous. You can apply a new effect and brush out everything except what you want to show through. It is a great addition!
4.  Price is still the best in the plug-in world and once you buy the plug-in, all the newer versions are free! Now that is unheard of in the plug-in world!
5. It loads in Photoshop very quickly – very refreshing!


1. Does not save the settings you applied with the first effect if using Smart Objects unless you saved that portion as a preset first.
2.  Smart Object does not save your Local Adjustments that you did with the various brushes.
3.  Topaz said that the plug-in can be set to save as a new layer with the changes instead of having to duplicate the background layer and then apply the plug-in. So far I have not been able to find how to enable this.
4.  When you brush out the effect, I am not having much luck brushing out the vignette I applied within Adjust. It has to be turned off completely, not painted away from certain areas.
Here is a final image done with the new Topaz Adjust 5. It is of a closed cafe’s sign in Jackson, Mississippi.

The Extreme Color Blast preset in the Stylized Collection was applied and the letters and white part of the little pictures were painted with the Dodge brush to make them whiter. That was it and I love the beautiful texture in the wall and sign.

Well, once again I do believe that Topaz has created a very strong plug-in to compete with its more expensive competitors. I would say if you cannot afford much but would like a great plug-in to start with, this is the one hands down. Lots of versatility in a small bundle. The pros definitely outweigh the cons and the cons may be fixed without much difficulty. Have fun experimenting and see what you think – I will be…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Little Nighttime Fun from Topaz

Digital Landscape Effects with Nik Software

I have always loved Nik products. This week I decided to follow a digital workflow by a wonderful landscape artist who posted on Nik’s website a video called “Incorporating Nik Software into your Daily Workflow with Don Smith.” His blog is called Nature’s Best by Don Smith Photography if you would like more information on this great photographer.

The image of Oahu in Hawaii is an example of how Mr. Smith uses Nik software in his workflow. His basic premise is that you have to have a plan how you want to fix a landscape. The following steps indicate how the images in this blog were created using Photoshop and Nik plug-ins.

  1. Crop and do a basic exposure adjustment in Lightroom or ACR – the image will appear a little flat in Photoshop.
  2. Look critically at image and decide what needs to be fixed. Check out the sky for noise, the foreground, middle ground and background for areas that need to be color corrected. Look at the shadows and highlights in image.
  3. Open up the Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 plug-in and select the Tonal Contrast Effect. Just the default setting can make an image look much better. Move the Midtones slider – if it looks too harsh, move slider to the left a little. To keep other areas like the sky from being affected by this change, put a minus U-point in a couple places in the sky to protect the area and set the opacity to 0. (Click Alt on U-point to duplicate the one set down and drag to move.) When finished, click the OK button to go back into Photoshop.
  4. If part of the image needs some additional contrast, open the Nik Viveza plug-in (a powerful plug-in to selectively control color and light in your photographs) and set a U-point in that area. (This can be done in Photoshop using a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer, but it is harder since layer masks need to be utilized.) Whatever is under that point will be affected by the adjustment sliders in the circle created. Just the Brightness slider may be all that is needed to darken the area a bit. This can be done a global basis if the whole image needs some change. Click OK and go back to Photoshop.
  5. Next go back and apply Nik Color Efex Pro Brilliance and Warmth. I created a Good Basic Setting preset that I use on almost all my images and is very similar to what Mr. Smith uses. I set Brilliance at 62% and Warmth at 57%.
  6. Now sharpen image. I usually just duplicate the image and apply a High Pass filter set to Soft Blend or Hard Blend mode. If it is overly sharpened, use a layer mask and paint out where it is too sharp or if the whole image is too sharp, just lower the layer opacity. Nik Sharpener Pro is a good plug-in that I do not own.
  7. If there is noise in the image, Nik Dfine 2.0 Noise can be used. Since I do not own this plug-in, I go back into ACR using Dr. Brown’s ACR script and clean up the noise in the Detail-Noise Reduction panel – adjust the Luminance and Detail sliders. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog “Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script on how to do this.”) This does a great job of getting rid of the noise.

This image is of Iolani Palace State Monument in the middle of Honolulu, Hawaii on Oahu. It is another example of following the steps above pretty closely, except I did used Nik Viveza twice – once to tone down the green foreground color but leaving the palm trees the bright green; then back in to give the sky a little more blue tone. This was done before sharpening and noise reduction.

Cloud Brushes, some pretty fluffy clouds were also painted in. A composite layer was made above (ALT+SHIFT+CTRL+E) and then the workflow was followed. I did use Viveza to increase the contrast on the bat and the roof areas only.

For another example of this workflow, see my Tidbits blog, “Straightening with Puppet Warp,” where these steps were followed after the puppet warp effect was applied.

Nik has come out with a new version of Color Efex Pro (NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!). I am looking forward to trying out their new effects since they have done such a wonderful job with all their plug-ins. I can honestly say they are the fastest plug-ins to apply and my computer never has a problem processing them when added to an image. That in itself is a great feature since most plug-ins are so RAM hungry. If you have not tried out the Nik products, definitely download their trial versions, especial Color Efex Pro. There are so many things you can do with just this one plug-in that it is amazing. Try them out – you will not be disappointed!…..Digital Lady Syd