Post Processing » An Introduction to Topaz Filters
One of the things that I have the most fun with in Adobe Photoshop is applying different filters to my images. I enjoy experimenting and seeing what will happen. Sometimes I am trying to make the picture more realistic by applying filters like Sharpening or DeNoise. Many times I do exactly the opposite; I try to alter the picture completely in an attempt to produce a more artistic effect. I use many of the Photoshop filters found under Filter>Artistic, such as Poster Edges and Cutout. I find that the filters I like to use the most are not Photoshop filters at all, but those made by Topaz Labs.
Topaz Labs makes a great suite of plug-ins for Photoshop, which can be purchased individually or as a bundle. According to their website, the filters are described as follows:
Many of the things that you can do with Topaz filters can also be done--for better or worse--with Photoshop; but a few of them I find quite unique, such as Adjust and Simplify.
|The Simplify filter preset options can be viewed in the left menu.|
First of all, don’t forget to apply any filter on its own layer. Then you can determine which parts of the image are to be affected by the filter, by using either a selection or a layer mask. And, if you apply the effect to the whole image, you will be able to modify it with the opacity slider.
Once you have downloaded and installed your Topaz software, open your image in Photoshop and click Filter>Topaz Labs>Simplify to get started. The Simplify window is very easy to use. On the left is a list of presets, and on the right are sliders for fine-tuning. I start by cycling through the presets. As you hover over a preset, the preview in the upper left will show you what the image will look like. Click on a preset to choose it and the effect will be applied to the larger image in the center. Then adjust the sliders on the right to modify the effect. The image can be resized so that you can work on smaller parts of it, by using the controls in the upper right. If the image is too large to fit the screen, you can move it around by clicking and dragging it. To toggle back and forth between the original image and the altered image, just click on the image. There are also buttons on the upper left to do the same thing. If none of the presets suit your image, there is a button on the lower right called I Feel Lucky that will randomly alter the sliders. You can really waste some time here. When you are satisfied with the result, click OK and you will apply the effect and return to Photoshop. Here are examples of the same image altered using two different presets:
|The Simplify filter preset options can be viewed in the left
|Topaz Simplify Wood Carving preset applied to the image.|
My favorite filter by far is Topaz Adjust. It is set up much like Simplify, with presets on the left and sliders on the right. There are so many presets that they have been grouped into categories. The sliders are also hidden in drop-down menus. Here is a picture of Venice, Italy on a gray day. It is kind of washed out and lacks punch.
|An overcast day in Venice.|
But just applying Topaz Adjust with the Spicify preset and a little more brightness and saturation, located under the Adaptive Exposure drop-down menu, and it comes to life.
|Topaz Adjust with the Spicify preset applied to the image.|
If you would like to apply more than one adjustment at the same time, there is a button on the lower right side labeled Apply. That way you will not have to leave this window and reenter it to apply the second effect. After I applied the Spicify preset, I applied the Details filter. With a little dodging, burning and cropping in Photoshop, I am ready to print.
|Two effects applied and ready to print.|
Topaz Adjust can make some really dramatic differences. I use it on most of my images.
I can spend hours just playing with the various filters and presets. You can even make your own presets. You can change your images a lot with these filters, or at least have some fun trying.