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Posts tagged ““Topaz B&W Effects”

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


Same Image – Different Plug-In

I decided to do this blog because I was experimenting in Photoshop trying to see if different plug-ins can get the same look even though they are very different. I started with this basic image from Camachee Cove in St. Augustine, Florida. This is a really pretty place to take images and my beloved sailboat lives there. Only the Basic sliders in Lightroom were adjusted and all the following images used this one as a starting place. Also, whenever possible I used a Smart Layer to save the settings so I could easily go back to tweak the sliders. I am becoming a big fan of doing this with all plug-in adjustments!
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Overall, the above is not a bad picture. That said, I still love the new Topaz Black and White Effect plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site) and decided to give it a whirl and see if the image feeling could be improved. Below is what was achieved using this plug-in.


Personally I loved the results (this is how I remember it) and the cool thing is that it took only two minutes to get this look and it was done! If you are interested in the settings for the Sunny Preset, my Tidbits Blog “Sunny Preset – Topaz Black and White Effects” list how to do it. There was just one further adjustment made in Photoshop which, unfortunately when adding most of these plug-ins, there is some noise created. I took the image back into Adobe Camera Raw (see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script“) but any Noise Reduction plug-in would work fine also.

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Next I tackled the updated NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 (CEP4) plug-in to see what I would get. This plug-in is another fabulous NIK product and I totally love using it. I could not get it to do what Topaz B&W Effects did  as quickly and as well. I spent a long time fooling around in CEP4 trying to get this effect, especially the color effect.

The sky has a really ugly edge in the upper clouds that I could not adjust easily. This image also has Hue/Sat and Selective Color adjustment layers and still is not quite right. The stacked CEP4 filters used for this image were: High Key, Brilliance/Warmth, Graduated User Defined, and Vignette. Normally this image could be adjusted nicely but when trying to copy the Topaz B&W image, it does not do this so easily.

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Now to be fair, since Topaz B&W was used, I next tried the NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). The results are pretty nice, but they still had to be adjusted in Photoshop. Below is the final image that started as a black and white using NIK .

The results are pretty close. The image was processed in SEP2 using the High Structure preset and a Red Color Filter. The layer was set to Luminosity blend mode in Photoshop, a Color Fill adjustment layer using a a yellow-beige Fill Color (9f9f84) set to Vivid Light blend mode and 55% opacity, and a low opacity light beige edge added to the top and bottom of the image. The sky and water color is very close to the Topaz B&W results, but it took a lot longer and required Photoshop work to achieve the results, and you had to know what you were trying to do.

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Now this next image uses OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site). They have a new version coming out shortly which may make this much easier to do but overall, it gave a reasonable approximation to the Topaz B&W result.

I do not use this plug-in as much since I seem to have trouble getting the look I want and it is very computer RAM intensive. It also does not support Smart Objects at this point. In all fairness, I do believe it is a really good plug-in and it already has stacking abilities for effects. Unfortunately, at this point it does not have different sliders for the effects, but they do offer several setting choices for each filter, and several filter effects can be brushed on using a brush and mask in the plug-in. I plan on reviewing the upgrade after it becomes available. In this case, the clouds just do not have the detail and water and sky color is not quite right. There were 6 effects stacked to get the effect and I saved it down as a preset to preserve. If I was more familiar with the program, I might have been able to get a better result since there is no shortage of filters in this plug-in.

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Alright, let’s change things up a bit and go back to Topaz using their fairly new Lens Effects plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site).

It also gives a nice result even though it is a different type of plug-in. The Dual Tone Filter Effect was used as a starting point using the Green to Yellow preset. Both Regions A and B were adjusted – this is very similar to the Quad Tones in Topaz B&W Effects. That is one reason there is some similarity, especially in the sky horizon area. A Vignette was also added in the program. It is nice that you can get similar results without buying every plug-in module in the set.

Conclusion

Personally I still like the Topaz Black and White Effects result the best. I hope this gives you some idea about how similar but how different these plug-ins are when applied to the same image. I did not mean to make it look like one plug-in is better than the other, just that it really depends on what your picture is will determine how it looks finished. If you do not like the way it turns out with one of the plug-ins, try a different one – it can be totally different! Have fun experimenting…..Digital Lady Syd


Trying Out the Minimalist Look?

I did not even realize there was a Minimalist Art Movement in the 1960’s – the actual art technique involves stripping away composition, detail and form. I came across this simple technique from Practical Photoshop Magazine (No. 3) and there is a 3 minute video, “Make Minimalist Art,” that goes over the simple steps to create this interesting look. Since I am not into just the plain lines, I tried to think of a few creative things to do with this technique.

To create the above image, I first opened up an image I had created using some really bright colors. This made for really interesting background colors – it reminded me of the beach so that is how I came up with the sailing theme. I found a catamaran picture I took on St. Augustine Bay with its beautiful spinnaker sail. Using the Quick Selection Tool, I cut out the boat and placed it twice in the image. On the front boat I used Topaz B&W Effects (for link to site on my Tidbits Blog) Stylized Collection Effect, Diffusion with Color preset, and adjusted the Brightness in Basic Exposure and Transparency (save this as a preset to keep track of your settings) to soften the sails edges and colors. That was basically it.

For this next image I was just fooling around to see if I could get a different pattern other than straight lines. The same background pattern was used as above, but the colors were changed in the the image to more brown and pink tones. I had a hard time finding a look I liked – I used the Warp Tool to make the lines wavy. The beautiful flower brushes are by Spring Flowers by Pink On Head. What really popped this image is that the blend mode for the wavy lines layer was set to Divide which resulted in this almost crayon like drawing effect. Very unexpected!

In this final image, a blue sky and puffy white cloud image was used for the horizontal line background, and then it was placed behind the water tank and flowers to give the appearance of water. The same sailboat selection, as created above, was filled with black to make a silhouette to place in the  background. Some fog was added and the colors muted a little to give a more end-of-day feel. It is really hard to tell that the watery background was created from a bunch of lines from a sky scene.

That is about as minimalist as I get. It was a lot of fun experimenting with the different effects – a great chance to get creative. If you want to try a little different technique, but with similar results, see my Tidbits Blog “I Didn’t Know That! Randomizing Gradients.”

Have Fun Experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd


Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!

I will start off and say I am a major fan of Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 so I was not expecting anything as good. Still I have always felt Topaz does a great job for us budget-minded Photoshoppers and they have not let us down with this plug-in! These guys just keep making better and better plug-ins and still keep their prices reasonable. (Click on my Tidbits Blog for a link to Topaz and this new black and white plug-in – they have a 30-day free trial to download, and my short blog called “Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.”)

The above image was just a basic black-and-white conversion using the Traditional Collection and the Classic preset. Go to the Conversion section on the right and adjust exposure and color to enhance your picture and finally go to the Local Adjustments sections where the best part of the program lies (in my view). You can locally correct the image using a Dodge, Burn, Color (brings color back into the image slightly if you want), Detail (I love this one – like Structure in Nik) and Smooth brush; and you have an Overall Strength slider to increase the effect and a layer mask to see how it is being applied. If you mess up, just switch to the Erase Brush and remove while viewing the mask. This gives similar results to the localized points that Nik has (and which is why everyone loves Nik). It is interesting to see how Topaz has come at this same result from a totally different direction and it seems to work beautifully!


For this image, the Opalotype Collection Effect-Yellowing Lilac preset was the starting point, but major adjustments were made in the right hand sections and this is the final result. I love the partially tinted feel – it really felt like Arizona did that day (it was 110 degrees outside). This is why this program has a lot more to offer than Nik’s plug-in which is essentially a black and white plug-in. In Nik’s defense, their Color Efex Pro plug-in probably does cover what the rest of the this filter is doing.

If you find some settings you really like, be sure to save them as a preset so they appear in the list for the collection you were using. I always put an SJ in front of the ones I create so I know which ones they are. There are a couple of things I do not love. For one, in the Finishing Touches section the Vignette is a little hard to apply, and it cannot be applied in different colors. I do like the Edge Exposure option which frames the image really nicely (like in the image above), but I do not care for the Border option. I do not usually use a plain white or black border around an image, so I will be going back to my old stand-by OnOne’s PhotoFrame for this.  One of the best parts is the Transparency option with the Overall Transparency slider to bring back some of the image color without having to go back into Photoshop and change blend modes.

Here are a couple more examples of what I did rather quickly in Topaz and got some really different results.

Below is an example of an image with the overall Transparency adjusted so you can see some of the color come back in. I believe it is a very pretty effect and has a bit of vintage look to it.

As you can see, there are a lot of variations to this plug-in and I have not even begun to explore all the options. I do believe Topaz has hit a winner  here and will keep most Photoshop lovers busy with all kinds of creative results. I am happy to see this company take on the big guys once again and create what I think is a great new plug-in for a reasonable price! Thank you Topaz! ……Digital Lady Syd