My Review Of The TOPAZ LABS Plug-ins For Photoshop

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Topaz Labs are the makers of a series of Photoshop plug-ins photographers and digital artists use to help them edit their photos. Some are better than others, some are great, others not so much. In this blog post, I will give you my opinion on each of them and present you with some examples of the effects you can achieve using the Topaz plug-ins.

They now offer a 30-day FREE trial for their entire collection, click HERE to get it and test each of them for yourself.

 
 

Topaz Adjust 5

The Topaz Adjust plug-in is a series of powerful presets, around 100 in total, that will “adjust” the contrast, details and colors of your image. It also includes cool effects like the ‘Blueprint’ effect you see below.

Topaz Adjust is for both professionals and amateurs. I find this plug-in especially great for tone mapping and fake HDR effects while I’m sure beginners will like how fast they can edit and add some “pop” to their photos without spending too much time in Photoshop.

Interesting also is for each preset, you can easily adjust the settings so you get an effect that is just right for your photo.

I tested out a few presets for you below, starting with the ‘Blueprint’ effect.

topaz adjust blueprint

Topaz lab

Topaz Adjust Presets

 
 

Topaz BW Effects 2

The black & white collection has also about 100 effects. Frankly, I wasn’t too impressed with this plug-in, I think you can get much better B&W in Photoshop with just a bit more effort. If for whatever reason you want to give your photos the “vintage” look and aren’t too confident in Photoshop, then this plugin might be for you.

Here’s below the best effect I could find, it is called “Aged Effect” and it was within the Stylized Collection.

Topaz BW

 
 

Topaz Clarity

The Topaz Clarity plug-in enhances contrasts. With close to 100 effects to choose from, I find that it is most effective when you apply a subtle boost to the contrasts like in the images of the old man below.

There are 9 collections to choose your effects from for specific types of photos: Architecture, Documentary, Fashion, General, Landscape, Macro, Nature, Portrait and Wedding.

This plug-in is especially useful when you want to add contrast to your image but don’t want to increase the highlights.

Topaz Clarity

 
 

Topaz Clean 3

Topaz Clean is probably my favorite plug-in. It basically turn your photos into cartoons but you can also use those presets to quickly smooth out any skin which can be a real time saver. There are 7 presets to choose from and for each ones, you can adjust the different settings to get the desired effect.

Here are below a few examples of what you can do with this plug-in.

Topaz Clean

And this is a zombie (from my zombie tutorial) that I transformed very easily into a cartoon with Topaz Clean.

zombie cartoon

 
 

Topaz DeNoise

DeNoise is a great and powerful plug-in that, as the name says, will denoise your photos. This is especially useful for darker skies and night or low light photos. The presets are separated into 2 categories, JPEG and RAW depending on the photos you are working on and effects go from subtle to stronger.

Below is an example of what the plug-in can do. Note that after denoising your image, you can then sharpen it for better results.

Topaz DeNoise

 
 

Topaz Detail 3

Detail is a great plug-in to be used to add sharpness and contrast to your photos. If you feel limited by Photoshop’s options for sharpening than this plug-in might be for you. As the same says, you want to use this plug-in when you need to enhance the details in your photos. I particularly like the presets under the Creative Detail Collection and here are below a few of them.

Topaz Detail

 
 

Topaz InFocus

This plug-in is not so much to sharpen your photos that are already in focus but it was developed to sharpen photos that are either out of focus or photos with a slight motion blur to them. The Detail plug-in will restore your blurry photos to something respectable.

And it works pretty well, here you see below a photo that was really out of focus with probably some motion blur to it since it was taken with a slow shutter speed at night and people were walking. The camera was also handheld.

Now note here, what was mostly out of focus was the foreground as people walking closer to the camera will cover more distance in the frame of the camera, during the opening of the shutter, than the people far away. So when I sharpened my image, the foreground was right but the background was too sharp. And easy solution to this is duplicate your base layer and apply the sharpening to the second layer. Then either erase the background on the second layer and anything that is too sharp with the eraser brush or create a layer mask and use a black brush to do the erasing. Lower your brush Opacity to 50% in the middle parts for a better transition between the sharp foreground and soft background.

Topaz InFocus

 
 

Topaz Lens Effects

This plug-in offers many lens effects such as SLR bokeh, tilt shift, polarization, gradual neutral density, diffusion, fog, fish eye and some others of less importance. Of all those filters, I’m mostly interested in SLR bokeh as I think that this is a much better option than Photoshop’s Lens Blur filter. This filter offers much more options and just gives a better more realistic bokeh.

Other than this filter, maybe the diffusion filter could be valuable, what that does is it gives your photos a hazy dream-like appearance.

Below I show you examples of what the bokeh, diffusion and fog filter will give you. Note that for the bokeh filter, I duplicated my base layer and applied the blur to the second layer. Then I lowered that layer Opacity to 50%, to see what I’m doing but also the reduce the strength of the bokeh. After that I added a Layer mask to the “bokeh” layer and using a black paint brush, I painted over anything I didn’t want blurred. I used a black paint brush with 50% opacity for the contour of the girl for a more natural look as the edges should be a tad blurry.

Note that with this filter, you have the option are creating your own mask within the plug-in and I’m sure with a lot of patience you can make it work for you but I didn’t have that patience and initial results weren’t that great. Creating the mask manually in Photoshop was the best option for me.

Below are examples of what the Diffusion filter and the “SLR LENS NIKKOR 105mm f2” filter can do.

Topaz Lens Effect

Below is the fog effect, not the greatest thing in the world but if you are lazy and not looking for perfection, why not? lol

Topaz fog

For the rest of the filters in this plug-in, I find them a little underwhelming.

 
 

Topaz ReStyle

Topaz ReStyle is color grading central. It is not what I would normally use to color grade because I like to start things from scratch but if you are not that confidant with color grading or you simply want something quick, than this pug-in might be for you. I would compare this plug-in to the Instagram presets where you can select a “look” for your photos. Also for each presets, you can adjust the settings for a more personalized look. The settings are very similar to what you would find in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw which is pretty good. ReStyle is advertised as having over 1,000+ effects.

Here are below some of the look you can get.

Topaz ReStyles

 
 

Topaz Simplify

Topaz Simplify turns your photos into art pieces like oil paintings and sketches.
Here are below a few example of what this plug-in can do.

Topaz Simplify

This can be useful for certain purposes especially if you blend the effect with the original image or you stack up a few effects together.

Here’s below an example of that where my base layer is the “Oil Painting Black White 2” image, the layer above it is the “Cartoon By Pacheco” image with the Blending Mode set to HARD LIGHT and finally, right above it, I have the “Wood Carving” image with the Blending Mode set to SOFT LIGHT which gives a fairly good cartoon look without too much effort.

simplify2

 
 

Topaz Star Effects

This plug-in creates various lighting effects for candle lights, city lights, sparkling jewelery, distant glow, sun flares, lamp posts and water highlights. Not necessarily a plug-in I would use often but if you like to add some glow to your lights and don’t feel like doing the manual work, maybe that plug-in is for you.

Here are below a few example of the light effects.

Topaz Star Effects

 
 

In Conclusion

If you are not a Photoshop expert, just about all those plug-ins can be useful for you but for someone like me, there are a few that stands out. I like the unique cartoon/smooth skin effects I can get with Topaz Clean. I also like a few unique presets I get with Topaz Adjust like the one shown above called “Blueprint” but also a few “tone mapping” ones that fake the HDR look. Topaz Detail and Clarity also offer something unique and very useful that I will use every now and then. I also like Topaz Lens Effects but only because of the Bokeh filter which I think is much better than the Photoshop one. And finally, DeNoise and InFocus are great plug-ins for very specific jobs even tho I don’t use them very often.

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  • Jeremy

    So glad you introduced me to topaz plug ins.
    Im starting to see how much “more” is hidden within an image that you can bring to life with the right tools and know how.

    • http://learnphotoediting.net/ Pat

      I’m glad you like them! My suggestion would be after you have played with the different presets for a while, try playing with the settings on the right panel to get a truly custom look. A little more work but better results. 😉

  • https://www.facebook.com/Egypt.in.Our.Hearts.Freedom Joe

    Oh Shit Nice Work

  • waqar

    who’s software we use for best finishng of any photo?? plz tell me

    • Ashish

      Use photoshop….

  • Paul Abruzzo

    This is what’s driving me nuts and I can’t be the only one – I’m demoing Topaz Simplify at the moment and the problem is that the actual result is NOTHING like the preview! Fooling around with the image itself, I’ve come to find that depending on the size / dpi you get completely different results than the preview window. It’s really frustrating because some of the previews are excellent and then I get a result that, at certain picture sizes / resolutions resembles NOTHING like the preview! It’s nuts. I’m tearing my hair out over this.

    Whatever Topaz is doing to make their plugs work, sadly it causes them a lot of consistency across different picture sizes / resolutions .

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