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Posts tagged “Topaz Black and White Effects

Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1

I first reviewed this plug-in with its initial release back in my Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner! blog where I cover lots of things I still like about this plug-in. Behind Topaz Detail 3 and DeNoise 3, plug-ins I consider essential for any image, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects is my next most used Topaz plug-in – even more than Adjust. And black and white treatments are not the first thing I think about when using this plug-in – I think creative expression (as you can see by this and my related blog posts). It is a very easy way to adjust the tones and color effects without having to do more manipulation later in Photoshop, which is usually required with other black and white plug-ins. When I am stuck on what to do with an image and nothing seems to look right, I can almost always find the answer in Black & White Effects – it never ceases to amaze me what it can do with an image! The actual black and white effect creates very good results also. I loved the original version so to me the newer release is just a better and updated version of the original. It now supports very clear large thumbnail views of the large number of presets (over 200) that come with the program. It has a cleaner interface that is more in line with Lightroom (which I think has the best interface of any program) and its competitors.

The image above shows an example of how I like to use this plug-in. The Traditional Collection’s Warm Tool II preset was used as a starting point. In the Basic Exposure section only the Contrast and Brightness was changed slightly. The Adaptive Exposure slider was increased to 0.16 and the Regions was changed to 15.10 – these two sliders are usually where all the Topaz magic occurs when adjusting image exposure. In Local Adjustments, several different brushes can be applied to the image at different overall strengths. A Detail brush was used to paint over the cups, a Smooth brush was applied to the reddish hanging jacket and white sack, a Burn brush was added over the white sack to tone it down a bit, and a Dodge brush was used on the top cup to make it show up a little more. Only the Color brush was not used above, which can really give an image a very special effect. The final step in the program was to set the Overall Transparency slider to 0.35. For more info on the image processing, see Image 1 at end of blog.

WHAT I LIKE!

1. Price! Price! Price! This program has all the features of the other programs and is a great value if you are not specializing in black and white photography. All the bells and whistles are there. And the guarantee that you are will receive free upgrades – this is a no-brainer in my opinion. I got the upgrade for free and this guarantee is true with all their plug-ins. I do not know of any other software developers that offer this type of program. In fact recently, Topaz released a version 2.1 to add more depth to the program.

2. The Quad Tone section is, in my humble opinion, the major reason this program is better than the others. No one offers these Quad Tone sliders for changing the color combinations (except in Photoshop itself using an 8-bit flattened Grayscale, then to Indexed mode) – this is just plain unique! It also is one of the major reasons the unusual soft effects can be created quickly.

3. There is now a full screen window that shows all the presets on large thumbnails of your image. It makes it really easy to compare the various effects from the different presets. And it will also do this on your own My Collection presets and your Favorites. Very handy! If you do not want to do this, a larger thumbnail will appear with the effect applied to your image as you slide over the list of presets.

4. One little feature it now has, and that I love, is the ability to leave each panel open so you can go back and forth without opening up each section every time you want to adjust a slider. Lightroom has always had this capability and it can be very handy to have various panels open. This can be turned on and off in Preferences if you do not like it, but I think it is great feature.

5. The Overall Transparency slider (which maxes out at only 50% of the color in the image) – use this with the Localized Adjustments Color Brush and you can get some wonderful soft color effects on your images. This combination cannot be done near as easily in other programs.

Version 2.1 Update

6. My biggest complaint was answered – Topaz put in an Apply button so you can stack your effects. This allows you to create special Quad Tone presets and Diffusion setting presets that can be applied to an image after you have created your basic black and white image. What a great feature to have – now you do not have to go out of the plug-in and re-enter – it can all be done at once!

7. Another great addition –  I particularly love the Silver and Paper Tone presets shown as drops of color at the top of the right panel in their new Quick Tools section. These can create some beautiful subtle changes to your image. And once again you can set up special preset effects just for this section to use after the original effect has been created. The Color Filter presets are very nice to have handy also.

8. They added many more variations in a drop-down list for black and white borders that makes this section much more functional. It still has a size slider to adjust how large to make it on the image. I will probably use it much more now.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE!

Topaz has been really great about adding new features to this plug-in, so it does not have too many things I do not like, but there are a few.

1. I have a problem with the Adjustment Brushes totally disappearing. This happens when using a brush tool(s) on your image, and you switch to another section to and change a slider in a any of the other section, like Diffusion Effect for example, leaving your brush panel open. When your return to the Localized Adjustments section the brushes will not appear even. This was a problem in some of the Beta versions and that was fixed but reappeared again in this latest version. Why let you keep the panels open if they do not work when you return to them? I have put in a comment on this in the forum so hopefully this will get fixed soon. This should be an easy fix for Topaz. The work-around is to totally close up the brush panel by clicking the little down arrow next to the number 3 Local Adjustments section (do not worry, your original brush strokes will remain), and re-open it up again. Your brushes will now start working again.

2. Wish they would put an Tone Effect slider for the Quad Tones section so just that area could be adjusted. This is available in Adjust5 and Simpify4. It would also be nice to have a Strength Slider active for the Color Brush, as it is for all the other brushes.

3. Watch out after applying an effect that used a Localized Brush – the brushstrokes are not reset after an Apply. This can really mess your next effect you are adding. Just be sure to reset the section if you do not want the same brushstrokes applied again. (This also happens in Topaz Adjust 5 and Simplify 4, but does not happen in Topaz Detail 3 with the Effect Mask.)

4. Still having trouble getting the correct basic settings back when using the image as a Smart Object – I cannot get them to stick. The Last Used preset usually appears from when the program was last opened. I feel this is the weakest point with all the recent Topaz plug-ins. If there are settings I really need to remember, I create a preset or create in Notepad a list of my setting to copy into a Note in Photoshop (sits with the Eyedropper Tool).

5. Little personal complaints here: I miss the old preset image that was on the top left. Sometimes the large thumbnails are just too much and stick a bit more than I like and it would be nice to have that choice back. That is just my personal opinion. Please make a larger Apply button at bottom like in the other programs. Another little request of mine. Please move the size icons back to the right – I do not like going up to the top of the middle of the image to increase to 1:1.

I guess I am sounding a little critical in this blog, but this is such a good plug-in that I would really like it to be perfect. I know Adjust is Topaz’s  best known plug-in, but this B&W Effects has the ability of being one of the best ever created with just a few tweaks. There are some other really nice features too. There is now a Curves Tool section and a nice selection of curves to choose from in a drop-down list which other programs do not offer – this is very handy if you are not liking the way the image looks and need to add some quick contrast. It still has the Diffusion section where the Softness, Diffusion and Diffusion transition can be adjusted gives a slight softness to the whole image – add the detail back in a specific area by using opening the Localized Adjustments and selecting the Detail Brush. This is a wonderful addition to your images and also appears to be unique to B&W Effects. Usually this is found in a color effect plug-in. Another add-on that has been included is a Zone Mode (click the Z at the top right which changes the navigation window into a histogram). By clicking on a number underneath, you can see by different colors which areas are part of that zone on your image. Since I am not into black and white and the Ansel Adams effect to that extent, it is probably not a feature I will use a lot, but many people will find this extremely useful.

If you have other Topaz plug-ins, you will find they all have very similar interfaces and the learning curve is pretty quick for this plug-in. As you can see from my selection of images and previous blogs, I really like the artistic flair this plug-in can add to an image for a needed pop. It is especially strong with the vintage feel. Since I own the other plug-ins and I have been comparing results, I cannot find any areas that Topaz has missed for those interested in doing straight black and white conversions.
……These begonias were just ending up too bright for my taste. To tone it down subtly, as a last step this image was opened up in Topaz Black & White Effects II using a preset I created in the first version that I call SJ Vintage Feel (all my old presets were moved upon updating). This preset contains these settings for Basic Exposure: Contrast 0.06, Brightness 0.06, Boost Blacks 0.26, and Boost Whites 0; and Finishing Touches: Silver and Paper Tone – Tonal Strength was set to 0.64, Balance 0, Silver Hue 12.29, Silver Tone Strength 0.85, Paper Hue 43.90, and Paper Tone Strength 0.38. The Overall Transparency slider was set to 0.55. It gave the soft feel that I needed with just a few clicks. This is something that I cannot do as easily if at all in the other black and white plug-ins. See Image 2 below for more details.
…..Another image from the Native American Festival. These beautiful leather purses being sold by a vendor looked a little overcome by color in the original RAW image. But by using the Black & White Effects plug-in, it becomes much more interesting to view. For the post processing in this image, all I did was click the reset button down at the bottom of the right-hand panels. Then I just went into each section and adjusted each slider until I liked what I saw. One section to look very closely at is the Adaptive Exposure and Regions sliders in the Adaptive Exposure section – these two sliders will give some very good results (this is true with any Topaz filter that has these sliders – always check them out). See Image 3 below for more info.
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These beautiful pink dahlias were so easy to process. It was hard to decide which version to present but this was basically created by combining a very rich texture with Black & White Effects. I used a preset I had created called Hawaiian Morning uses my favorite Quad Tone section to get the results that are always spectacular. See Image 4 below for preset settings if you would like to them. The Black & White Layer was set to a Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity so the original image is still preset.
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To create my rather dark sepia toned image, Black & White Effects was applied to the image layer and also to one of the texture layers. The Platinum preset was applied with a Diffusion effect added, and then used a Detail Brush to bring back the fairies face. Another preset was applied to add a Quad Tone effect to the image for the nice sepia feel. See Image 5 information for more details, including my preset settings. A colorful texture was added in Photoshop on top of the fairy layer, and another of my old presets was applied to it to give it a similar color tone.
…..I took some artistic liberty on this image of the Towers at Westminster Abbey in London. I wanted to make the picture look different from what everyone else has. My first step once in Photoshop was to go to Topaz B&W Effects 2 and just added Traditional Collection High Pass I with the Creative Effects Diffusion – Softness slider at .16 and Diffusion slider at .14. Then three textures were added to get the final effect. See Image 6 info for more.

Bottom line – if you want a black and white plug-in, this is a fabulous way to go without spending so much and you get all the added color options. This program is one of the most powerful in the Topaz line-up in what it provides and the new upgrade just gives it a fresher look. It is still a solid contender as a black and white plug-in. It is definitely worth a second look if you want to add some creative aspects to your images. Check out my related blogs below – there are many different Quad Tones settings you may like. Definitely try out the trial and see what you think!

Sorry for the long post, but this is really that good a plug-in so I felt it needed to be reviewed thoroughly……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs – check them out to see how I used this plug-in in different ways:
Beautiful Feathers!
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 7: Check Out Your Local History
Clowning Around with Topaz!
Where Am I?
Hibiscus Flowers – I Love to Photograph Them!
Black and White Effects on Outside Art
Cleaning Up a Messed Up Photo
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
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IMAGE INFORMATION
Image 1: Topaz Detail 3 using the Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied – a layer mask filled with black was added and the mugs were painted back. Next Topaz Black & White Effects 2 was applied using setting discussed above. Kim Klassen’s Return texture (sign up for Kim’s newsletter and get several of her beautiful textures including the Return texture used in this image) was added with a 78% layer opacity – a white layer mask was added and the center of the image softly painted back into view. Next French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was set to Overlay and 53% opacity. 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was used as a border in white that was placed around the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was the last step to add some contrast back into the image.
Image 2: This image actually used Topaz Detail 3 twice and localizing the effect on the flowers. Also some leaves had to be added to cover some rather ugly tissue paper that was sticking up. Three textures were stacked: 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Destine texture was set to Soft Light at 100% opacity, Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Texture Florence set to Soft Light blend mode at 47% layer opacity, and French Kiss Artiste Avril texture set to Overlay blend mode at 29% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied and the Auto button clicked to get the good colors. Then the Black & White Effects plug-in was applied as stated above.
Image 3: This image was very simply processed. Just used Topaz B&W Effects 2 to begin with using settings under image, then added a slight S Curves Adjustment Layer and painted out the two purses in the middle to add focus. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added with the middle tab set to 0.65 and the Output Levels set to 41 to soften the image just a little.
Image 4: I bought these dahlias to plant in my yard, but before I did, I took their picture using a kid’s bent white poster board for a background. It was then easy to add a painterly texture to the image without any distractions in the background. Mellisa Gallo’s Painted Textures 2 for 5 Friday Spring Sky texture was added. The Dahlia layer was duplicated, moved on top, and set to Soft Light blend Mode at 100% opacity – this removes all the white areas so the texture shows through. A Levels Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between layers) and the Output Levels were set to 0 and 229 to lighten the image a little. Next I used created darken and lighten layers to dodge and burn on the flowers (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top where Black & White Effects was applied. (Here are the settings I used: Adaptive Exposure:  Adaptive Exposure  0.41, Regions  26, Protect Highlights 0, Protect Shadows  0, Detail 1.11, Detail Boost  1.09, and Process Details Independently; Quad Tone: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08, Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9, Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5, and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0;  Vignette:  Vignette Strength  -.039, Vignette Size  0.83, Vignette Transition  0.58, and Vignette Curvature  0.70.; and Transparency:  Overall Transparency 1.00.). Once back in Photoshop, in the Layer Style Advanced Blending section, the B Channel was unchecked which gives a bluish tint to the whole image. The layer was set to Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity.
Image 5: Once out of Lightroom, Black & White Effects 2 was applied using the Platinum preset and changing Adaptive Exposure slider to 0.42. Next the Diffusion section was opened and the Diffusion slider was set to 0.79. In the Located Adjustments, the Details Brush at 0.50 opacity was used to paint detail back into the fairy’s face and hair. These settings were applied. Next a Quad Tone preset was applied and set to an Overall Transparency of 1.00. (Here are my SJ_Quad_DkB_Gr_Yel_Wh preset settings: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08 ; Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9; Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5; and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0.) Back in Photoshop Kim Klassen’s Framed texture was added on top and set to Soft Light at 100% to get the slight edge around image. Next Kim Klassen’s Abstract Texture was added and taken into Black & White Effects 2 where my SJ Partial Color Look preset (one of my favorites) was applied. (Here are the settings for this preset if you would like them: Basic Exposure:  Contrast  0.10, Brightness  -0.02, Boost Blacks  -0.10, and Boost Whites  0.50; Adaptive Exposure:  Adaptive Exposure  0.64, Regions  50, Protect Highlights  0.02, Protect Shadows  0.02, Detail  2.28, Detail Boost  1.00, and check Process Details Independently; Quad Tone:  Color 1 Region  (R16/G15/B11) 7.46, Color 2 Region  (R79/G78/B68)  83.33, Color 3 Region  (R159/G156/B143)  164.2, and Color 4 Region  (R255/G254/B242)  255.0; Film Grain:  Grain Kodak TMaxPro 100, Grain Contrast  1.25, and Grain Size  32.50; Vignette:  Vignette Strength  -.058, Vignette Size  0.92, Vignette Transition  0.28, and Vignette Curvature 0.11; and Transparency:  Overall Transparency  0.67). This layer was set to Soft Light blend mode at 43% opacity.) Now just a Levels Adjustment Layer and a couple text layer using free Radium J and Batik Regular fonts.
Image 6: The three textures used in the image were: Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Winter Storm set to Linear Burn blend mode at 42%, Taupe Canvas set to Linear Dodge at 48% opacity, and Confetti set to Color Burn at 60%. These textures were all obtained from her specials such as Black Friday or 2 for Friday specials.

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Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Detail 3


The above was my first attempt at trying out Topaz Detail 3 and I am not disappointed. (For Topaz website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar.) To sharpen an image I usually use the High Pass filter, Unsharp Filter or convert to LAB and do localized sharpening on the L channel. Detail 3 makes sharpening so much easier and gives several ways to adjust your sharpening to get the detail effect you want. This upgrade was definitely needed – and what I like most is that you can now localize the detail. All I can say is Love It! Love It! Love It!

Since I am such a big fan of Topaz anyway, I decided to use several of their plug-ins on this image from the 39th Annual Daytona Turkey Run Car Show, the largest in the US. If you look close at this guys face, you can see a slight smile – Detail really brought that out. I first started processing this image in Lightroom (see the RAW image below) with just the Basic sliders. In Photoshop I went immediately into Topaz photoFXlab, their new plug-in interface that I love. (See my Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1 blog.) Next the Black and White Effects plug-in (this plug-in does things like no other filter I have seen) and from the Opalotype Collection the Hand-Tinted Chiffon preset was applied. The only change was to the Vignette which I centered on the car and adjusted the vignette sliders. Back in photoFXlab, Adjustment tab settings using the Dynamics slider (my favorite), Sharpness, Highlights and Shadows were applied. On a +From Stack layer (composite), the new Detail 3 plugin setting using just the Large Detail set to 0.53 was selected. Then in the Effect Mask tab, I lightly painted out the grill so as not to overdo the sharpening effect on it. The Overall Effect slider was set to .78 and that was it. In Photoshop the last step was to add French Kiss’s free Glorious Grunge Edging Overlay with grunge removed from center. It turned out beautifully!

What I Like about Topaz Detail 3!

1.  Totally love the localized detailing that can now be done – the Effect Mask can be used to either paint in or paint out areas of the image so just what you want sharpened is affected.

2. The effect is usually pretty subtle but makes an incredible difference when viewing the image! There is an Overall Opacity slider in the Effect Mask tab that can be reduced to lower the detail globally if it appears to be overdone.

3. The Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green, and Yellow-Blue Tone sliders where you can enhance a single color have always been a favorite, even in Detail 2. Also Color Temperature and Tint sliders are now available. These sliders all use the IntelliColor feature that keeps unwanted color shifts under control.

4. What I just learned is that the Detail plug-in can also be used as a final sharpening for printing your images.  Topaz did a You-Tube video called Output Sharpening for Print with Topaz, presented by Hal Schmidt using this process with Detail 2. I am planning on checking this out when I get a chance.

5.  Details can actually just be added to the Shadows or the Highlights of your image or both with different settings. Really handy when you have a difficult image to work on.

6. New Deblur technology from Detail 2 that brings out micro details – great for macro photos. I have not had a chance to really use it yet but it sounds like a very promising feature.

What I Do Not Like!

1.  I have a bit of a problem with the Effect Mask – I have a hard time making sure I am covering everything I need covered and at the correct amount. It would be nice if they had a colored overlay, as with Lightroom’s Adjustment Brush, that would give you a feel as to where you were going out of the edges.

2. I wish the Undo/Redo buttons would work on the Effect Mask. The only way you can erase an area you accidentally painted over is to move the brush to a different amount and hope it covers. This works okay if using Brush Strengths of either 0 or 1.00, but when in between, it gets hard to fix. Sometimes it is easier to just start over by resetting the mask. The other plug-ins, like Adjust and photoFXlab, have these buttons working. (A request on Technical Problems has been posted in their Forum on this matter.)

3. This is a small nag, but when you apply an effect, you need to make sure you press Reset button in the Effect Mask to clear the mask window or it stays on even after pressing the Apply button. When you start to make other effect changes, the mask is still there. This is also true if you have painted out an area, for a certain preset and then change your mind about that preset, press Reset All in the Adjustments tab, the mask is still in the window. Sometimes this is good if you still want the mask, but sometimes it is frustrating until you realize what happened. Most of the other plug-ins will retain the mask before you apply an effect, but clear it after applying.

4. Another small nag, but often the program gets confused and opens up on my second monitor instead of over Photoshop or photoFXlab – not sure why it happens but just some of the time.

Overall the negatives are not that big a deal although I hope they do fix No.2. The revamping of this plug-in has made it so much more useful – I am looking forward to having it in my workflow!
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These beautiful little miniature mums are once again my subject. This time a little processing in Lightroom, but not much. (See image below as it was brought into Photoshop.) DeNoise 3 was applied with just an overall Strength of .11 – now you do not need to adjust the Recover Detail slider if you are going to use Detail 3. Next Detail 3 was opened and applied 3 times! Yep – First in the Creative Detail Collection, the Overall Detail Strong II preset was applied and it really sharpened the flower petals and center. Next from the Stylized Detail Collection the Desaturated Blush II was applied and that beautiful texturized background appeared. Finally from the same collection the HDR Enhancement I was applied – in the Effect Mask the mask was inverted to black and with a brush set to 1.00, the center of the flower was painted back. Now to get just the right effect for the center, back in the Adjustments tab the Saturation Boost was set to .44. That is all that was done to this image to get this beautiful effect other than adding my B&W Border Frame Layer Style. I was totally surprised by how much detail was in the image that you could not see originally and by how beautiful a texture could be created by playing around with the presets and applying different ones.

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This image of one of the Haunted Houses at for the Halloween Horror Night at Universal Studios Orlando was created very quickly – below is what the image looked like after just basic Camera Raw corrections were done in Lightroom. It is not bad but Topaz added those subtle changes that really improve the image. First Topaz photoLabFX was opened and the layer duplicated. Since the image had quite bit of noise in it as it was taken at night and without a tripod, I felt it needed to have Topaz DeNoise 3 applied first – just a little Strength set to .11 and Detail Recovery set to .26 (did this before I realized that it could be done in Detail 3) – the noise was cleared. (I love DeNoise!) Then I went into the new Topaz Detail 3 plug-in and applied the Architectural Detail II preset.  Exit and a Stamped layer was created where Adjustment tab settings for the Temperature to -8 (for a more blue tone), Saturation to -23 (it was really bright  and the light was coming from everywhere), Dynamics to 27 (my favorite slider in all of Topaz – just works!), Highlights to -89 and Shadows to -23 were applied. French Kiss Glorious Grunge Edging free overlay (see link above) was applied and that was it. I was amazed how much the Detail 3 and the Dynamics slider together made this image pop. I have to say this picture reminds me of one of my kids favorite childhood books, the Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old Tree!

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This is another example of the creative aspect of this plug-in – this image turned out very different than what I thought it would look like. This beautiful Monarch butterfly was not very happy with me taking her picture and it took off about two seconds after I captured this image. I got exactly two pictures! (See RAW image below.) After doing my Camera Raw work in Lightroom, the image was brought into Photoshop and Topaz Detail 3 opened. I applied this plug-in twice to get this effect on the butterfly and background. First application used the Stylized Detail Collection Abstraction I preset – then in the Color Section changed the Temperature and Saturation sliders. In the Effect Mask, at Strength 0.64 on a black inverted mask, the butterfly was painted in so the changes were made to just the background, but a little to the butterfly. This created the very soft background. Then Topaz Detail 3 was opened again and this time Creative Detail Collection Feature Enhancement I preset was used. This time it was applied just to the butterfly and not the background. Changes were made to the Tone sliders,including the Cyan-Red (0.82), Magenta-Green (0.68), and Yellow-Blue (-0.30) sliders – these are unique to this plug-in for Topaz and they can make an incredible difference in an image. These are not new to Detail 3 but are still one of my favorite parts of the plug-in. In Photoshop French Kiss Artiste Collection Charmante texture was added and the butterfly painted out, some text typed in and warped, and that wonderful grunge overlay applied again – I must be on a grunge kick?


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I decided to try a little different effect for this image from the top of the Sky Tower of the Kraken Roller Coaster (check out the link for crazy roller coaster video) at SeaWorld Orlando. This image was pretty complicated as I used 4 different Topaz plug-ins to get the final effect. First my normal workflow in Lightroom. Next Topaz photoFXlab was opened and the Adjustment tab was used to adjust almost all the sliders including Dynamics that was set to 50. On a stacked layer Black and White Effect was opened and from the Albumen Collection, Chocolate preset was applied with Film Grain turned off and the Transparency set to .49. Topaz Detail 3 was applied – there were areas on the image that had been slightly lightened and blurred due to reflections from a window in the Sky Tower.  To get rid of these reflection marks and make them blend into the rest of the image, I selected the Creative Detail Collection – Texture Enhancement II preset. This really over detailed the image as it was pretty sharp due to the wonderful Dynamics slider. In the Effect Mask, it was inverted and with a brush set to Strength .55, I painted over the light areas in the black mask. Then went into Adjustments tab and changed the Exposure to -.08 and Contrast to 0.45 to make the changes blend in. This is a terrific use for this filter and makes its value so much better than Detail 2. Topaz Detail 3 was applied again using just a change to the Cyan-Red slider – it was set to -1.00 to bring out the cyan roller coaster track. Finally Topaz Len Effects Vignette – Selective was set to draw the eye to the highest point of the coaster – very subtle. My Thin Double Edge Frame Layer Style was applied sampling frame colors from the image.

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I love Topaz products and Detail 3 is no exception. I actually purchased Detail 2 as my first Topaz product – I did not use it to the extent I could have but I did use it at times for the detail and color toning I needed. Detail 3 is definitely a big step up and it does create that extra bit of sharpening and detail that is usually needed at some point in your post-processing workflow. And don’t forget that once you buy a plug-in from Topaz, the upgrades are free! I got this version for just owning Detail 2! You should definitely check it out!…..Digital Lady Syd


Selective Color on a B&W Image for Impact


Sometimes I like to just have one or two colors in an image for more impact and artistic appeal. There are many ways to do this in just Photoshop itself – some as simple as using a Black and White Adjustment Layer, a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer (with the Monochrome box checked) or the Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer (with the Saturation slider set to 100), and in the attached layer mask painting back in the areas you want colored. I decided to use some of the wonderful Photoshop plug-ins that are available and all images in my post today are using them. The above uses probably the most powerful black and white plug-in made – Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). This image is of the steps up the side of the Keck Telescope on the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii. I loved the way the stairs made such a striking line against the white of the building and how the deep blue color matched the sky. I could actually imagine climbing up there and looking around and down at the telescope lens! Now that would be a cool shot! Since there were a lot of distracting colors in the image, the decision was made to convert it to a black and white to remove it, but wanted to retain the beautiful blue color. In SEP2 adjustments were made globally to the image using the Neutral preset and then control points were placed strategically on all the blue areas with the SC (Selective Coloration) sliders opened up to 100% to let the color show through. Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to even out the sky and that was about all. Very simple processing for a very simple image.
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Here is another image (from the Hawaiian Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii) using Nik plug-ins: First Viveza to add contrast and sharpness to several elements in the image; next SEP2 where control points were placed on the lounger and the water where the color was to appear – adjust the SC slider to 100% to get the full color showing up (or set it lower for just a little color as shown in the water area); and finally Color Efex Pro 4 using the Detail Extractor and the Glamour Glow filters (set to an overall effect of 73%). Back in Photoshop a Gaussian Blur layer was added to slightly soften the background – a gradient was applied to a layer mask to do this and the close up tree trunks were painted back in. The original image was way to busy with the full color applied, but with the blue and cool tones applied, it makes for a relaxing image of Hawaii.
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The image above was taken while walking to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner in San Francisco in the winter. I had a really difficult time getting the look I wanted. This image originally had a very  tungsten yellow look that was corrected in Lightroom. I knew it needed a lot of work but I did not want to get rid of it since it represents to me what San Francisco is all about. After trying many different plug-ins and Photoshop tools, this dark foggy image was the winner. It was really cold, windy and damp outside and this is exactly how I remember it. There were two things I had trouble working with – the bright street light and the soft shot from taking the image at night without a tripod. My camera (a Nikon D300) is not the best at night. One other thing that really improved this image was the crop – it took several attempts to get the balance I was looking for.  There was little color in this image to being with, so I already knew it needed to be processed as a black and white image. Therefore, I went back to another of my favorites, Topaz Black and White Effects (see sidebar for website  link at my Tidbits Blog) using the Classic Traditional preset with adjustments. This plug-in is somewhat like SEP2, but does so many different things that it is hard to compare the two. Both are excellent products and I would be lost without either one of them. The windows were painted back in to bring out the soft warm glow feel. The last step added the Fog 1 preset in Topaz Lens Effects to enhance the fog that was already present to some extent, but this could have been painted in using a fog brush on a separate layer and adjusting the layer opacity. Also, I did use Imagenomics Noiseware on this image at the beginning as it had a lot of noise – they just came out with a new version and I am trying out the trial. So far I love it!
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My last example is perhaps my favorite since it came out so sharp and clean. Believe it or not, this wonderful little mill sits outside the Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster (here’s a pretty lame U-Tube of the ride but it does bring back memories!) at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Once again, several attempts were made at processing this image with the red mill being the focal point I wanted in color. I ended up using OnOne’s Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website  link at my Tidbits Blog) to get this terrific look. I keep forgetting how powerful this program can be and yet it created such a low distortion to the image even though there were four filters stacked to get this result: Black & White Grainy Film preset with the mill and center area of the image painted back in to show the color, Photo Filters Tobacco, Glow Black Soft, and Vignette Big Softy. The masking feature in this program is fabulous and it took just a few minutes to mask in the colors I wanted.

Conclusion: As I said, there are many ways this can be done – you do not have to have the plug-ins. I do believe Photoshop’s Black and White Adjustment Layer is quite a powerful tool to turn you images into really beautiful black and whites. Most of the plug-in effects can then be accomplished using Hue Saturation Adjustment Layers or Selective Color Adjustment Layers. Even Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers can add some real interesting colors and contrast to an image. The plug-ins I used here do add a lot more dimension to an image in a very short time to get effects that take longer to do in just Photoshop, so I do recommend you try out any of the ones I mentioned. Experiment around and see what you can get. As you can see, it took me several attempts and I even walked away from an image for a day, to get the results I wanted. The really nice thing is that if an image is just too busy and there is too much color in it, try adding a quick B&W Adjustment Layer to see if converting it to a black and white can calm it down. If so, then try different Photoshop tools or plug-ins to bring back color on where you want the viewer to focus – it can make what appeared to be at first glance a bad picture into a great one!……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Where Am I?
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Loving Both Filters!


Topaz Plug-Ins – Same Image Trying Each!

Since I am such a big fan of Topaz, I thought it might be interesting to use the same image and see what effects I could come up with using each of the five major plug-ins in the Topaz Plug-in Bundle (to go to website, click on the sidebar in my Tidbits Blog). The photo is of an old Sears Victorian house built in St. Augustine about 100 years ago. There are still a few that can be seen when driving around the city. Very beautiful houses! I could picture myself living in one! All these images were finished by painting in a flare in the top right corner using my Lens Flare Brushes since the image was blown out by the sun in that corner, and a Curves Adjustment Layer. I have written about almost all of these plug-ins previously, so check out my related blogs at bottom if you find you want more information on one of them.

Topaz Adjust


This is the mainstay of the whole Topaz Plug-in Bundle, in my opinion, so this is the first plug-in used on the image. I used a preset I had created a long time ago to get this effect. Basically it involved using a warm feel to achieve an early morning look. Many different filters could easily have been used – this plug-in is fun to try on new looks to your images.

Topaz Simplify


This is a creative plug-in – definitely gives a more painterly look as opposed to the more realistic look some of the other plug-ins give. The canned Buzz Sim preset was used to create this look, an effect I have always enjoyed – see my blog “Simplifier and Simplify Filters” about the original filter that was picked up by Topaz many years ago.

Topaz Lens Effect


Topaz recently updated this plug-in and added three more filters and several presets to make this plug-in even more versatile. I am not the best at setting up a great depth map, it does take some practice. In the image above, you can see that the center ground is more in focus than the foreground and background. This is where this plug-in really excels and once you get the hang of it, it is quit effective. I do not know of any other plug-in that does this type of effect. In this image, a Bokeh Selective effect was applied and several adjustments made after the depth map was created. This plug-in allows you to stack filters, so next a Filter Dual Tone was created where a Blue/Cyan color was added to the top and a slight yellow cast added to the bottom of the image. Finally a new filter from the latest upgrade was used called Warmth and the Warm I preset was applied. Overall, a bit of a different look with softer lines of the house with the focal point being centered on the palm tree and the color beams in the image.

Topaz Detail


Topaz Detail is an overlooked plug-in but actually gives some wonderful results. This image uses the Desaturation Blush preset with the Saturation slider set to -0.62. It gives a very nice effect on this house and perhaps the most natural of them all. I was surprised how similar it looks to the Topaz Adjust filter result.

Topaz Black and White Effects


This is my favorite plug-in in the bundle and a relative newcomer. Every time I use it, the image comes out really nice – not necessarily like I shot it, but with a bit of artistic flair added, and yet it retains the true nature of the image. It looks like how I envision an old Victorian house should look on a hot summer morning. Totally unique feel. In this image a preset I created for a sunny water landscape was used. (This preset contains the default Basic Exposure settings; Adaptive Exposure Settings: Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26.10, Protect Highlights and Shadows – 0, Detail 1.11 and Detail Boost 1.09; Quad Tone settings: Color 1 Region (color R1/G1/B12) set to 0.60, Color 2 Region (color R63/G78/B85) set to 95.97, Color 3 Region (color R216/G211/B129) set to 141.2, and Color 4 Region (color R255/G254/B237) set to 255.0; Edge Exposure set; and Transparency set 1.00. The key to this look is the Quad Tone section in Finishing Touches. See my Tidbits Blog “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for more information on this.

Topaz Adjust, Detail and Black and White Effects


Topaz has done a wonderful job of providing great videos to learn how to use all their plug-ins provided in the bundle. A video, “Creative Essentials with Topaz Plug-Ins presented by Joel Wolfson,” was presented where he went over his Topaz workflow to create some beautiful works of digital art. I followed some of his suggestions and created this final image. I was very pleased with the results – looks similar to the one above but is more of a black and white effect and, again, not unlike what I visualize an old Victorian house might look like.

I hope this is giving everyone a chance to see the flexibility that this bundle of plug-ins can produce. With just a few of these plug-ins, a great variety of effects can be achieved and they can be used together to get even more interesting results. I am very happy that I have this set of filters at my fingertips – they do produce beautiful results. …..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Using Topaz Adjust 5 and Color Efex Pro 4 with Photoshop Elements
Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!
Topaz Lens Effect’s Artistic Flair!
Combining Plug-ins – Double the Effect! (Several Topaz Plug-ins)
Little Nighttime Fun from Topaz! (Topaz Adjust and Len Effects Plug-ins)
Loving Both Filters (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Trying Out the Minimalist Look? (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Same Image – Different Plug-In (Topaz B&W Effects and Lens Effects Plug-ins)
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
Get Rid of Those Power Lines Fast – with Paths and Spot Healing Tool! (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Just Another Topaz Black & White Effect Example
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Topaz InFocus Plug-in – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
More Filmstrip Fun – How Can This Be? (Topaz Detail Plug-in)
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)
How to Add Images to Text (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)


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.
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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.
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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.
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Pros:

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!

Cons:

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.
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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


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


Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz InFocus Plug-in

I bought this plug-in last December when it first came out. To be honest, I did not have a lot of luck with it so I never used it much. This week I decided to look at it again since Photoshop seems to be coming out with a similar effect in their next version. (See “Adobe MAX 2011 – Photoshop Image Deblurring Sneak” video or “Behind All the Buzz: Deblur Sneak Preview” article.)  This sculpture was slightly out-of-focus when I downloaded it after going to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I decided to try the Topaz InFocus plug-in to see if I could improve the results.  Afterwards the image was processed in Topaz Black and White Effects to get rid of that ugly yellow color cast.

Below is a close up of the original bottom area and the one with the plug-in applied. There has been a very nice improvement.



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The image below is the final result of a photo I took in the Scottish Highlands from a moving bus so it has many issues.


This image is not one you would print out, but since I only got one shot, it was rescued as much as possible by Topaz InFocus. Below is the Original out-of-focus image and the Topaz InFocus image.

It is a very subtle change but can be seen clearly in the plug-in interface. It is important to note that the program works best on images with edges that are straight and have a lot of contrast as in the bridge area. The trees and greenery have bad motion blur issues which the plug-in did not help in this case, so I used a heavy vignette effect in Topaz Black and White Effects along with Quad Tones that creates the warm and cool effect (Color 1 Region R1/G1/B12 set to 9.60; Color 2 Region R63/G78/B85 set to 143.9; Color 3 Region R216/G211/B129 set to 227.5; and Color 4 Region White set to 255.0 which gives a bit of a Vintage Feel). After applying Topaz Black and White Effects, the clouds now become a major focal point along with the bridge and this somewhat saves the image.

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Below is another image that InFocus was used on first and then NIK Color Efex Pro to further enhance the image. The major area where the focus was improved is on the house windows and roof. The original is shown underneath.



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My final thoughts are that there is a place for this plug-in but it does not work on every image, and as noted above it works best on sharp edges and clear features.  Sometimes I could not even find a difference when applied. Yet I thought it worked great on the first image in this blog. I do not like the fact that it constantly is updating as you move around the image trying to see what improved (since you have to run the plug-in at 100% view). It really slows down the computer and it is hard to tell what is working. After looking at the Adobe Photoshop links above, it seems like they are doing the same thing and have the same issues as InFocus. Another problem is that InFocus creates haloing very easily and even though there is an Edge Softness slider, it is hard to completely eliminate. The plug-in can also create a lot of artifacts on some images, which Topaz recognizes is a problem and do have a slider to help get rid of them. I feel like Topaz set the standard for Adobe to try and copy and is a good first attempt at fixing a blurred image. If you are interested in trying it out, go over to my Tidbits Blog and look at the right sidebar for a link to Topaz products. Definitely look at the Topaz videos , especially the second video on Blur Estimation , on using the plug-in before trying it out or you probably will not get good results at all. These videos need to be updated as they are using an older version, but you can get the basic feel of what to do.

I am really looking forward to what Photoshop is coming up with and finding out if it gets better results. Until then, I believe this plug-in is the best you can get for that slightly out-of-focus (blurred) look. Have fun trying this out!…..Digital Lady Syd