Anything Photoshop or Photography

Posts tagged “Topaz Studio

PLUGINS, CAMERA RAW CONVERTERS, NEW FILTERS – IT IS GETTING CRAZY OUT THERE!

Image of view from Edinburgh Castle, ScotlandI don’t know where everyone else is, but I am getting so totally confused about all the new software-plugin releases that have come out in recent days/weeks. I was hooked on plugins since I bought Nik Viveza at Christmas of 2009. I remember being nervous about paying so much for it, but loved it right from the beginning (and now it is free!!!). Over the years I have become totally immersed in what can be done with all the plugins available – and wish I could afford to get them all (sigh). So in this wordy blog I will try to sort this out.

As a quick example, let’s talk about Viveza 2 again. I downloaded the first beta version of Lightroom and never looked back. Lots of people said Nik Viveza was just a copy of what Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw)  could do for an image. Yes, it did similar things, but still was a lot different in my mind. Flash forward and I still use Viveza on nearly every post-processed photo even though we now have the somewhat similar Camera Raw Filter available in Photoshop. The point here is that yes, there is a lot of overlap between most of these programs, and yes, they do things just different enough that they all present some benefits to your post-processing workflow. It is really just personal taste in how you want to adjust your images.

So here we are now with not one, not two, but three really good updated software programs (not to mention several other newer ones on the scene) that can process Camera Raw images and do pretty much everything Lightroom/ACR does. They are now all stand-alone programs or plugins for Photoshop layers. For website links to all three programs, check out my Tidbits Blog sidebar. Using the same image of Edinburgh Castle, the top one used Luminar 2018 for Windows, and below used On1 Raw 2018 and Topaz Studio. I tried to use a fairly similar workflow doing the basic Raw editing first and then adding in filter effects. So here is my take on where we are now.

All three of the above programs are really good – I am not going to bash any of them as they all do things I totally love. Do they overlap in what they do? Somewhat, but each has a few things I wish they all could do. Of course that is what sets them apart and why it is so hard to decide which one(s) to get.

To figure out which one would fit your workflow, you need to answer a pretty simple question: What do you want to do with your image or several of your future images? Where is your interest going – do you want to go more into an artistic feel or are you just trying to get the most realistic images for your profession or travel experiences? Since I do not have a professional studio or take wedding or senior photos often, I am more inclined to really stretch what the plugins will do to give an artistic feel to an image. Now I do understand that having a few quick tricks up your sleeve for clients to give them a choice of a few really artistic images is nice to have so using special effect plugins is just fine for that.

  • Topaz Studio

First, the Topaz Studio is a free download and contains several adjustments to get your started. Your older Topaz Labs filters can be accessed in this interface so you will always have access to them. You can’t go wrong with Topaz Studio’s Impression or one of their other creative Labs programs like Topaz ReStyle or Topaz Texture Effects for the really artistic effects. Impression has given Topaz the one-up on the other programs for the artistic effects and I am sure you have read lots about it – it is one of my favorite plugins. And I have to mention this little slider that lets you stop the painting action wherever you want – great addition to the updated filter. Topaz has done a terrific job with their masking effects tools and the different masking tools work really smoothly. The biggest down side is that even though Topaz Studio platform is free, to get it to work well you need to buy their Pro Pack. Therefore it brings it in line with the other two programs as far as cost goes. The Impression filter (or Clarity, Detail, or Simplify) needs to be bought individually to add into the Studio interface. If you already own Topaz Impression (or the other filters) as a Topaz Labs filter, you are entitled to a free upgrade for Studio (forever is their policy – once a filter is bought it is upgraded for free). And please do update to the newer Topaz Studio Impression filter – it is much better than the older Impression 2. If you own many Topaz filters, they will all eventually be added into the Studio interface. I am not going to say the program does not have its problems, but I do know enough by working with them that their final product will be very good. They have a Basic Adjustment that is not as complete as the others, but with the addition of the Clarity and Detail plug-ins, and several color adjustments choices, it is fine. In the image below, just a little more work on the clouds and some color reduction would really help and can be easily fixed in the program.

Image of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland - using Topaz Studio

  • On1 Photo Raw 2018

Photo Raw is now a really good challenger to Lightroom and is definitely worth checking out if you do lots of photo shoots. I have always liked On1 but it was very computer processor intensive. Their Browse Module is now lightening fast – it makes LR look really slow. I was stunned at how fast it all happens and it appears to be picking up my keywords from LR – that was even more amazing! And my computer hardly even cared. Once an image is chosen, go into their Develop Module which sets you up with the needed filters and is very similar to LR. Besides Shadow and Highlight sliders, there is a Midtone slider which I really like. There are other similar sliders to LR and includes a Detail section and Lens Correction section. Then it is time to go into the Effects Module where they provide lots of presets and individual filter choices. A very popular filter is called Dynamic Contrast – very similar to Detail in Topaz. Also the Glow filter is to be very popular. When masking, they do have a lot of choices (including a new Chisel Brush and Blur Brush) but I found it a little harder to use than in Topaz or LR. The filter settings can be somewhat hidden which includes the  blending options, and Highlight, Midtone, and Shadow sliders so the filter is only applied to certain areas if wanted. My biggest problem with On1 is the high learning curve. I believe it is a fantastic program and technically is going to keep Adobe on their toes. But it does take time to watch the videos to understand where everything is in the interface and what all the different filters will do. I can honestly say that On1 is totally improved from previous versions and I plan on using it a lot more. In the image below, the cloud color is just not quite right to me but the foreground sharpness is incredible! The clouds can be fixed easily in the program.

Image of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland using ON1 Photo Raw 2018

  • Luminar 2018

And now to Luminar 2018 – new entry for me into the field since I am a Windows person and this was for Mac previously. The image at the top of the blog is the Luminar example – loved the cloud effect especially and the Golden Hour filter on the front of the buildings. There are other parts I love and parts I hate it! Okay – if they would have updated it to match their Mac counterpart for us Windows users, I would love it. After watching several  videos just to find out all the sliders are not there, it is a bit frustrating. I also find that the Masking Tools are harder to use than with the other programs. The Mac version has several grouped filters for different types of effects – for Raw images an Essentials group was created which contains Tone, Accent AI, Color Temp, and Polarizing Filters. In Windows there are Filters Catalog but the Essentials is not the same group. This is definitely confusing. (Thank you Serge Ramelli for the video showing this filter set up – see Luminar 2018 vs Lightroom Classic?) But I love their filters and they seem to give a slightly different feel to an image – the Sun Ray filter, the Golden House filter, an Accent AI filter – and many others. Of the 3 image results shown, I liked the results from Luminar the best. I am under the assumption Luminar will be catching up the Windows version soon so it will work just like the Mac users interface. When that occurs, I will blog on this so everyone knows.

  • Bottom Line

I do love all these programs – have used Topaz and On1 for years – in fact my second favorite plugin from years ago was On1’s Photo Frame 4.6 – the best framing plug-in ever and I was totally upset when they discontinued it. BTW they do still have some framing options, but it is not quite the same – will blog on this soon. All three of my images are not that different – just some personal preferences there. And this was basically just using the Raw processors – each program has decidedly different strengths which are not showcased in these examples. A recent post by Photoshop Guru Matt Kloskowski called Is There a Lightroom Replacement explains in more detail about the browser and Raw converter issues – a good read. And check out my Related Blogs below for some other examples of what these programs can do.

As you can see things are changing as we come into a faster and more efficient software era. We have to say good-bye to some of the ways we used to post-process and attempt to figure out what to do with all the “Raw Converters!” – and what do we need from a filter program. I think so much of what you choose has to be based on just trying out the software now and seeing what works. Like I said, I am pleased, I am frustrated, and I am amazed at some of the filters I am now seeing. All three of these plug-ins are seasoned software companies and know what they are doing. Apparently Nik has been bought from Google recently by DxO and will be coming out this Spring with some updates. So there will be a new-old kid in town to really spice things up. Will I use their Raw converters for my work? Probably not so much – still a LR person at this point. Will I use their Special Effects filters? Totally!!! Hope this helped a little if you are as confused as me. I will continue updating you on all the new things coming out with these plug-ins but in the meantime, just try them out. It is amazing what some of the new filters are doing and it may fit just what you need for creating a new type of post-processing effect. In the meantime, Happy Black Friday if you are in the US and good luck finding some great PS finds!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Macphun Luminar 2018 Sun Rays at a Glance
Now Available – Free Beta Version of Macphun’s Luminar for Windows
Introducing the Free Topaz Studio
Updated Impression Now in Topaz Studio
Updated Clarity Now in Topaz Studio
How to Add a Simple Glow Effect to Your Image
A Beautiful View
My Favorite Photo Frame Plug-In – OnOne PhotoFrames (hum!) – just a little nostalgia here

Advertisements

NO BLOG THIS WEEK DUE TO HURRICANE IRMA

Image of a bird walking in waterNo post for a while as unfortunately I live in Florida with Hurricane Irma on the way. This bird was taken after Hurricane Matthew last October. Figure the birds will be the only ones not concerned about what is coming. Will be back as soon as possible on the other side!…..Digital Lady Syd


UPDATED CLARITY NOW IN TOPAZ STUDIO

Image of a Tri-colored Heron at the St. Augustine Alligator FarmThis week Topaz released an update to their very popular Clarity plug-in and it is a really nice upgrade. It is now much improved over an already excellent filter that is one of the best Photoshop plug-ins around. The Heron above was not processed very  much in Lightroom, all in Clarity Topaz Studio and a little in Nik Viveza to adjust the light on the birds head and wing tip. Before going any further, please be aware that Topaz is not going to update the actual Topaz Labs version if you own it. Instead it will be updated in Studio (to download go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar and for more info check out my see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog) before adding the Clarity update. If you have Studio already running, just go to the website to find the Clarity update by clicking this link. Topaz does a great job of walking you through this new process on the Topaz Studio website. So what is so different?

It is all in the Clarity Interface. In Photoshop, the new Clarity update will now be linked as Clarity in Topaz Studio (Filters -> Topaz Studio -> Clarity) instead of in the regular Topaz Labs individual plug-ins. By selecting Clarity, an interface very similar to Topaz Studio will appear that contains two adjustments, Precision Control and HSL Color Tuning. See image below for an example of the bird as it looked in Clarity for Studio (click to see large view Flickr). Screenshot of Precision Contrast section in Clarity for Topaz Studio

Precision Contrast Adjustment

As you can see the Clarity Dynamics section from the Topaz Labs Clarity plug-in is now called the Precision Control Adjustment. The Contrast section contains the original Micro, Low, Medium and High Contrast sliders but the website says they are now much improved – I believe they are after using the update on the bird image. Some of the feathers on the bird are crazy sharp! The Lighting section sliders are better at detecting the Shadows, Midtones and Highlights – these appear to be derived from the original Toning Section Black Level, Midtones, and White Levels sliders. Also there are Equalization buttons (low, medium, or high) which are supposed to emulate the Region technology in Topaz Adjust. I have not fully explored this. The Preset drop-down has several choices for setting up these sliders (Balance, Brighter, Brightness, Color Detail, Color Boost, Details, HDR, Little Things, Reduce Shadows, Saturation Boost, and Sharp). This image shows settings for the Color Detail preset. There are also presets on the left side which I did not use for this image. All your original Clarity presets are migrated over. Unfortunately at this time there are no subcategories so one long list of presets occurs – I cannot seem to figure out a logical order to them and my personal presets are all over the place. The good news is that there is a field for searching for your presets if you can remember what you named them. Hopefully Topaz will address this situation in a future update.

HSL Color Tuning Adjustment

The second part of the original Clarity was called Hue/Sat/Lum and now is called HSL Color Tuning. Not a lot different other than each color has individual sliders where the color is shown in the image, and a Gray Color is available. Also some presets are in a drop-down (Extreme Hue I and II, Increase Cool, Increase Warm, Red Cool, Red Warm, Subtle Hue I and II). Three new sliders have been added: Details (to help recover detail lost from increasing the brightness of the different color or whole image), Suppress Artifacts (to remove rough and unnatural edges and helps reduce artifacts to reduce detail), and Color Sensitivity (set higher to add saturation in the whites and grays in surrounding image). Not sure I understand how these setting work exactly yet, but the website does a good job of telling what they do.

By using the Studio interface, each adjustment can be masked, different blend modes applied, and opacity adjusted. So there really is  a major benefit to using the upgraded version in Clarity for Studio. In the screenshot below, you can see the Precision Control mask created for this image. I did not want the background to appear crisp, so by clicking on the plus sign on the upper right of the adjustment, a layer mask is opened. I inverted it and used the Brush tool to just paint back the bird. The brush tool has really been improved – it does not crash my system if too many strokes are made too quickly.
Screenshot of Layer Mask in Precision Contrast Adjustment in Clarity for StudioTwo HSL Color Tuning Adjustments were used: One to change the green color in the upper right corner (a layer mask was used to localize the color change), and one to emphasize the Red, Green and Blue colors, and adjust the Details, Suppress Artifacts and Color Sensitivity sliders. See screen shot below.
HSL Color Tuning Adjustments in updated Clarity in Topaz StudioIf you bought the Pro Adjustments pack from Topaz Studio, the Clarity updated sliders will also be in the Precision Contrast and HSL Color Tuning adjustments in Topaz Studio. If using the stand alone version of Topaz Studio, I do not see at this time a specific link to the Clarity for Studio update in the menu for those who previously owned Topaz Labs Clarity. I believe the two Adjustments will just be added to the regular Topaz Studio interface. Note that you can still reach the original Topaz Labs Clarity plug-in (and all your other plug-ins) in both the stand-alone version and the Photoshop Filter version by going to the Plug-ins in the top options menu of either Clarity for Studio or the Topaz Studio interfaces. Image of Holyrood Castle carvingsThe image above is from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Clarity in Studio did a great job on the detail of the stone carvings. A Dodge and Burn 50% gray layer was added to finish up, but Clarity did most of the detail work in this image. It also does a great job on landscapes so give that a try too. Below is a house located in the Scottish Highland and is probably a little over the top with processing, but I like the almost illustrative artsy effect. Instead of using the HSL Color Tuning Adjustment, the Dehaze Adjustment from the Pro pack was used to make the tree colors sharper – a preset was made in the Community called SJ Clarity PC with Dehaze that you can download to try out the settings. Then I also added one of my favorite Topaz plug-ins, Detail 3, and set the Med Detail to 0.38, Large Detail to 0.15 and Tone Contrast to 0.30 set to 59% layer opacity. That was about it. The combination of Clarity and Detail is one I actually use quite a bit when I want this type of look.
Image of a Scottish Highland mansionIt appears that Topaz will now be using the Topaz Studio as the location for all upgrades to their plug-ins that are currently linked in Photoshop as Filter -> Topaz Labs -> Topaz (plug-in name).  I know Topaz is one of the best software groups around and they will answer any questions you have if there is a problem with the upgrade. It took me a while to figure out how to add the upgrade. And I did have to update my video card after loading it as all the sliders disappeared. Topaz suggested on their website to try this if there are problems and gave you a step-by-step guide to follow. I hope you will all enjoy this update. I am finding it to have wonderful results. Hope you get a chance to give it a whirl this week!…..Digital Lady Syd


HAVING SOME SUMMER FUN!

Creative Text imageThis week I am just taking it easy and playing around with some text and images. Sometimes you just have to let the creative side play and see what happens! Anyway, this is how Digital Lady Syd takes a break! I just can’t get away from Photoshop! I do not usually use other individuals’ images, but for practice it is great – I do not see me getting to these beautiful mountains soon! There are many resources today if you would like to try a few new things.

In the image above a text layer was placed in a new document – the font used was from a CD bought years ago by Cosmi called 04, a fabulously fat font. The Create Warped Text icon on the Options Bar was double-clicked and in the Warp Text dialog, a Style called Arc Upper was selected with a Bend of +50%. A Stroke Layer Style was set to a Size 7 px, inside set to Color white. The Default Drop Shadow was added. Some splatter brushes from French Kiss (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) were used above and underneath the text to add the crazy effect. A Pattern Adjustment Layer using a lace pattern was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to add a lacy effect in some of the strokes. (The Pattern used was a black and white lace texture from a set redheadstock at DeviantArt called Lace Photoshop Patterns.) The SS-Groping 1 Flying birds are also from redheadstock and set to 73% layer opacity. One of my painted textures was placed on the bottom and a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to desaturate it. On a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle was applied using the Snow Cover II preset with a few adjustments to the Color and Tone sections. The lower text font was called Berlin Sans FB Demi. On a layer above the text, Grut’s FX IL Bottle Topple brush from his terrific Inky Leaks Splatter brushes was applied to slightly cover the text – set to 64% layer opacity (and do not forget to look for his free brush of the week – it is a great way to get introduced to his big selection of brushes).

Digital art image a pretty modelThe original of the woman shows her standing in the middle of some orange colored leaves – I think she looks like a princess! (See Kuoma Stock Haunted 13 for original image at DeviantArt.) The woman was extracted from the background using the Select and Mask Command. Another one of my painted backgrounds was added and a couple layers of splatters were added behind the girl. Color was added to her face and nails and hair added into the image. On a New Blank Layer heart brush was created from the Custom Shape Tool (in Options Bar select the Heart Shape and set the 2nd button to Shape; go to the Paths Panel and click the Create a Selection icon at bottom; go back to Layers Panel and fill selection with black by ALT+Backspace to fill; with Marquee Tool, select the black Heart and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name Heart). Settings for the brush are: Brush Panel’s Brush Tip Shape Spacing 25%; Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 93%, Control Pen Pressure, Angle Jitter 12; Scattering Both Axes, Scatter 1000%, Count 1, Count Jitter 0; Color Dynamics Apply Per Tip, Foreground to Background 8%, Hue 7%, Sat Jitter 2%, Brightness Jitter 7%, and Purity -36%; Transfer Opacity Jitter 20% and Flow Jitter 32% and Smoothing on. Two New Blank Layers were used to add in different colors (white and light pink) hearts – one layer’s Layer Style ws opened and set to Bevel and Emboss to add a little texture to some of the hearts. Topaz Texture Effects 2 was opened and the Breaking Down preset was applied with the Spot Mask used to remove effect from her face. Duplicated the layer and opened up the Corel Painter plug-in (I am still using the old version) – the Flame brush was selected and pink and light color flames were painted just for fun. The old frame is from the Scrapbooker itKuPilli and is in a set called Amazing Grapes (could not locate). The font with the hearts is called Fiolex Girls. On top 2 Lil’ Owls Color Bokeh Grunge Set texture 4 (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar – this is one of my favorite sets) was applied and set to 38% layer opacity.

Wintry image of Fur TreesThis is also a wonderful Unsplash photo by Johannes Plenio called Winter. I got a little carried away post-processing this image until it was brought to my attention that it looked like a raging forest fire – I thought it was an incredible sunset! (See below.) Just an example of good intentions that turned into not so good post processing. Anyway, just a little tweak from Topaz ReStyle and now it is a beautiful wintry image. So most of the dramatic changes were done in the new Topaz Studio using Sharpen, Radiance, Color Theme, Texture and HSL Color Tuning sections (I created a preset called SJ Forest Landscape in the Community if you have downloaded the plugin and would like to try it out). For more info, see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog. This created the sunset look, but also created the nice sharp tree trunks and edges. Back in PS, two Curves Adjustment Layers were used to adjust the RGB curve for contrast, and then the Color using the individual Channel Curves. Next a Levels Adjustment was applied as it just looked good. Then a Black and White Adjustment Layer adjusting the color contrast sliders just a little and then set to Luminosity blend mode. And finally a Selective Color Adjustment Layer adjusted the Yellow color so the little tree on the left showed up better – set the layer mask to black (CTRL+I inside the mask) and painted back just the tree. 5 New Blank Layers were added and set to Overlay blend mode and with a soft round brush, various areas were highlighted with white, yellow, and sky colors. The layer opacities were reduced to taste. It was now a raging fire image! Oh my gosh! Okay, here is a small image so you get the idea and see how powerful ReStyle can be.

Fiery Image of Fur TreesQuickly Topaz ReStyle was opened and the Snow Cover II preset (once again) was applied with very few changes – just a few Tone and Detail changes. It was amazing how this preset was able to transform the image. In PS a New Blank Layer was added and Grut’s FX IL Dry Grit brush was used from his set above and snow was painted lightly on the trees. My free SJ Snow2 Overlay slight Blur was added at 75% layer opacity to give some nice snow effect. The Shadowhouse Creations Snow Overlay 11 (his resources are the best!) was added to give a little more snow dimension – it was set to Screen blend mode at 70% layer opacity. The last step added Matt Kloskowski’s vignette (see my Fun Photoshop How to Create a Subtle Vignette Blog.)

Hope you got a few ideas with this sort of lazy Summer Day Blog – have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


INTRODUCING THE FREE TOPAZ STUDIO

Image of The Eye in LondonAs you all know, I am a huge Topaz Labs fan so I have been busily figuring out what can be done with the new Topaz Studio. To link to the download, go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar which goes directly to the free download and other info on the different adjustments. I will keep this link going since Studio has it owns Topaz site. I am not ready to do a full review so I will just go over what I have learned and pass on a few thoughts. It appears to be a wonderful upgrade to their original Topaz photoFXlab from several years ago (and which I have always thought was one of their best releases). Studio acts as a hub for all the programs from Topaz you already own. It can be accessed as both a stand-alone program or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. Studio is a basic RAW editor that contains several features similar to Lightroom or PS Camera Raw. JPG, TIFF, and PNG files may also be opened in the program. The heart of the editing lies in the various “adjustments” that are applied individually to create an overall original image effect. The London Eye image is an example of combining several of their adjustments to get the final image effect. (The Adjustments applied and saved in a preset are: Basic Adjustment, Precision Contrast, Radiance, Dehaze, Bloom and Posterize, then Reduce Noise and Vignette were applied on a separate layer.) There are also a myriad of presets on the left side that can be selected that contain several adjustments to apply in one click. This is very similar to the original photoFXlab. But now if a feature is not one you like, it can be deleted from the preset.

For starters, the program offers free adjustments to apply to your images. These 10 effects are:  Basic Adjustments (similar to photoFXlab Adjustments section), Blurs, Brightness/Contrast, Color Overlay, Dual Tone, Film Grain, Image Layer, Posterize, Tone Curves, and Vignette. Sounds a bit like Lightroom or Camera Raw doesn’t it? If you do not own Photoshop or Lightroom or know someone who does not, this is a great way to process RAW files and it is free download. The program adjustments work from the top down as opposed to bottom up like Photoshop layers. The adjustments actually look like layers, but you are unable to apply them as a group of layers as in PS, but you can create your own presets to use the same settings over again.
Image of Hillsboro Lighthouse in Pompano BeachThe Adjustment Pro Pack contains another 14 adjustments to apply more unique effects to the image. Each adjustment can be downloaded individually and  tried out for 30 days before buying. Definitely take advantage of this trial period to see how you like what Topaz is doing with this program. The Pro Pack has some really handy effects such as: Abstraction, Black and White, Bloom, Color Theme, Dehaze, Edge Exposure, Focal Blue, HSL Color Tuning, Precision Control, Radiance, Reduce Noise, Sharpen, Smudge, and Texture. I like the Precision Control Adjustment which is a contrast adder and is a lot like Clarity with the miracle Micro slider and also a pretty nifty Color slider. It is too bad it is not in the original set as it is a really nice effect. Reduce Noise takes some really good info from the Topaz DeNoise program that is so fabulous. And in Sharpen, the Lens Deblurring section is very similar to their Infocus plug-in and works wonderfully. Each of these adjustments can be duplicated and applied more than once. I believe Topaz tried to take some of the best from each of their plug-ins to make editing an image must faster. The image above is of the Hillsboro Lighthouse in Broward County, Florida, and used the Recital 001 preset in Topaz Studio. The image below was used in the stand-alone version of Studio – used Topaz ReStyle plugin’s Rusted Gray and Light Blue preset and then the Basic Adjustment. Quite a different feel to this image that was taken on a very overcast day.

Image of South Lake Worth Inlet in Southern FloridaOne of the best parts of the program is their Masking features. If you own Topaz Texture Effects 2 or Topaz Impression, the brushes and masking is very similar – but with a difference. Now the mask can have more than one way to localize the effect. Therefore the Gradient and Spot masks can both be used on the same mask or also add in the Brush or Luminance Mask – very nice! This way the adjustment can be localized to just one small area of the image. And they are using their Edge Aware technology that I have loved for years. I am missing the Burning/Dodging, Saturation/Desaturation/ and Smoothing/Detail brushes from the photoFXlab and a few of their other plug-ins like Black and White effects, but hopefully they will be added soon.

If you want to just jump right in and start using the program, check out a short video called Topaz Studio Welcome and Walkthrough by Heath Robinson of Topaz. He goes over the program interface very thoroughly. But to learn a little more about how to use the actual adjustments, check the video Intro to Topaz Studio by Greg Rastami – he gives some great ideas on how to actually use the adjustments on all types of images – very helpful! I know Topaz Labs will be coming out with many more videos as they are pros at getting their fans up to speed on their products. There are also short videos on each adjustment in case you need more info on how to use it.

As stated above, you can  still get into your regular Topaz plugins by going to the Menu Bar and selecting Plug-ins to further enhance the image. If you do apply a plug-in, it will duplicate the image in the Workspace at the bottom and now you have to finish adding effects onto the new one – there is not way to know what plug-in was applied by looking at the list in the left panel. I have had a few problems with this if I get too fancy and apply too many plug-ins. Just be aware of this. I know the Topaz group well enough to know that they are definitely working on this issue. The program is automatically updated when new versions are ready so no more downloading and executing new versions – that alone is a great new feature! Another drawback at the moment is that they do not have any tools for removing distractions like a Healing Brush Tool or Clone Stamp Tool – apparently this is going to be included in one of the next updates so watch for this. Below is a succulent plant that uses one of my presets called SJ Colorful Plant Effect that was uploaded to the community and can be found  from the preset search section of the program.

Image of a succulent plant leavesConsidering that this is a free program and it is hugely complicated, Topaz has really done a fantastic job! It is lots of fun to fiddle around with all the different adjustments and try out other presets – I can see that they will be fine-tuning this program as it continues to grow and will be a real contender in the RAW field down the road. Lots to check out and some incredible effects can be created! I will be using the plug-in more in the future and try to keep everyone updated on all the new software additions. In the meantime I would suggest you download it and enjoy! ….Digital Lady Syd