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  #1  
Old May 24th, 2013, 03:20 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Default Topaz Labs releases a new Clarity plugin

Hi Folks,

Just to let you know, Topaz Labs released a new plugin yesterday; Topaz Clarity. They also offer an introductory discount until the end of the month, so be quick if you want to test it first and decide if it will help you to achieve better results, quicker. The plug-in design allows to interface with a number of popular programs.

Some of you already use a Clarity function as it is implemented in e.g. Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop ACR, or Capture One Pro, to add a little more 'punch' to the images. However, this new plugin from Topaz Labs adds a lot more control over the process, and does so without creating halos that can occur with the other implementations, if pushed a bit too much.

It took me a bit of time and testing on existing images to get a somewhat intuitive feeling for this new Clarity tool, and to see if it added something useful to what the other available plugins can achieve. Topaz just posted a blog entry to that effect as well. It's hard to describe what 'Clarity' exactly does in a few words because it interacts with local contrast, but it basically allows to adjust the local contrast transitions and thus add (or remove) some definition to luminosity gradients.

'Clarity' allows to tweak that definition in gradients with different levels of contrast. For example, if one only wants to add a bit of definition in low contrast puffy white clouds, that's possible. Or, if one wants to tame the harsh shadows of a cloudless sunny day, that's also possible, but both can also be done at the same time. One can also address the medium-tone contrast, or focus on micro-contrast.

Of course, it is also possible to go completely overboard, and create IMHO horribly over-processed images, but it can also be a really powerful tool in the hands of a master when used with restraint. The tool also has a built in opacity slider for those who don't use an application with blending layer capability, and it offers smart (edge-aware) masking capability to apply the effect to only selected parts of an image.

Here is a demo video which will quickly show some of the capabilities. There are also some other examples available in other blog entries, but the best way to judge is to use the 30-day trial on your own images.

Cheers,
Bart


P.S. As for those who may think that the recent change in Adobe's licensing schemes for Photoshop and other products makes these plug-ins less attractive, rest assured that these plug-ins work nicely together with other applications (compatibility overview) that recognize PS plug-ins. In addition, Topaz Labs offers a standalone utility, with layers functionality, that allows to use their plug-ins without the need for another photo editing application.
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  #2  
Old May 25th, 2013, 11:58 AM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Good catch Bart!
I read your post when you wrote it and gave a try today… Wow!
Impressive, but as you've already warned, one must be very careful not to over act…

Thanks for posting this info, I'll spend 30$ before the end of the month (soon!)
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  #3  
Old May 25th, 2013, 05:14 PM
Robert Watcher Robert Watcher is offline
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Thanks for the heads-up on both the product and the savings.

I use the Clarity feature in Lightroom on most of my travel and street images. I love the effect it gives. 2 things that I noticed in the video link that you provided - - - both which are significant to my usage - - - are the great masking options built in to Topaz Clarity, as well as the refined Clarity controls.

I use masks frequently in Photoshop, but some of the selections are really wonderful from my early play with the program. Lightroom has one slider for Clarity. Photoshop has none (unless I use Adobe RAW - which I don't). To be able to selectively affect finer details or broader areas only - and everything in between - is going to be a wonderful option. The presets really help out as well.

I've only had it purchased for 15 minutes for my PC work station (will have to get one for my Macbook later), and after the effortless installation - have pumped several images through the plugin and am fully comfortable with it's functionality.



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Old May 26th, 2013, 01:16 AM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Watcher View Post
I use masks frequently in Photoshop, but some of the selections are really wonderful from my early play with the program. Lightroom has one slider for Clarity. Photoshop has none (unless I use Adobe RAW - which I don't). To be able to selectively affect finer details or broader areas only - and everything in between - is going to be a wonderful option.
--------
Hi Robert
you can do selective clarity in LR4…
Still the Topaz clarity is much more powerful and precise…
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  #5  
Old May 26th, 2013, 01:46 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is online now
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Hmm, I'll have to catch up. but then does local sharpening with say percent of 12 and pixel width of 60 have any place now?

Asher
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  #6  
Old May 26th, 2013, 02:28 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicolas Claris View Post
Good catch Bart!
I read your post when you wrote it and gave a try today… Wow!
Impressive, but as you've already warned, one must be very careful not to over act…

Thanks for posting this info, I'll spend 30$ before the end of the month (soon!)
Hi Nicolas,

I was indeed thinking of your type of subjects, and how Topaz Clarity could be of help. Smoothing out an unwanted crease in a sail, enhancing the wood grain, adding sparkle to the bow waves, and natural light interiors.

When adding contrast, it is important to also increase the Black Level slider and reduce the White Level slider, in order to avoid shadow/highlight clipping. They do not have the same effect as the Shadows/Blacks and Highlight/Whites sliders in Lightroom. The Topaz Clarity BL and WL sliders are almost completely linear in their effect on the total luminosity range, and the Black Level slider keeps the deepest shadows black.

That's why it is important to use Topaz Clarity after(!) first doing the global tonemapping, including shadow fill lighting. It's a tool for the finishing touch.

Have fun with this real timesaver. It can do certain adjustments much faster then manual dodging and burning, and it adapts intelligently to the image content, which is almost impossible to do by hand.

Cheers,
Bart
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  #7  
Old May 26th, 2013, 02:40 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Watcher View Post
Thanks for the heads-up on both the product and the savings.

I use the Clarity feature in Lightroom on most of my travel and street images. I love the effect it gives. 2 things that I noticed in the video link that you provided - - - both which are significant to my usage - - - are the great masking options built in to Topaz Clarity, as well as the refined Clarity controls.
Hi Robert,

Yes, even if working with Photoshop in adjustment layers with masks offers infinite possibility to revisit the masks, it is often not necessary to keep the masked layers. In this case 95% of the selection/masking task can be done while in Topaz Clarity, and see the real time effect in isolation.

Quote:
I use masks frequently in Photoshop, but some of the selections are really wonderful from my early play with the program.
The masking functionality is pretty strong, although I'd have liked a larger mask preview to see is small spots are masked correctly. Maybe something for a new version release, which so far have always been free with Topaz Labs for existing customers.

Quote:
Lightroom has one slider for Clarity. Photoshop has none (unless I use Adobe RAW - which I don't). To be able to selectively affect finer details or broader areas only - and everything in between - is going to be a wonderful option. The presets really help out as well.
Yes, the themed presets often get you started in the right direction, and the opacity slider allows to tone down some of the effects, blending them naturally with the original image.

Quote:
I've only had it purchased for 15 minutes for my PC work station (will have to get one for my Macbook later), and after the effortless installation - have pumped several images through the plugin and am fully comfortable with it's functionality.
It's a real time saver. As Nicolas uses to say, "the customer doesn't pay for your time spent on retouching", so efficient tools do help a lot.

Cheers,
Bart
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  #8  
Old May 26th, 2013, 04:02 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Asher Kelman View Post
Hmm, I'll have to catch up. but then does local sharpening with say percent of 12 and pixel width of 60 have any place now?
Hi Asher,

This tool is much more powerful than the almost standard HiRaLoAm trick of USM sharpening the image with a High Radius (50+), Low Amount (<10%) setting. It behaves completely different than the effect a HiRaLoAm has on edge transitions.

Topaz Clarity treats sharp edges by enhancing the psychological/physiological Mach band effect, and the psychological effect of simultaneous contrast.

Here is how the Topaz Clarity Low Contrast slider set to 50 adjusts a normal step wedge:

Compare that to a HiRaLoAm below, which has a fixed effect depending on feature size together with the Radius setting and introduces a small halo overshoot immediately at the edge of the transition which then becomes linear, where Topaz Clarity allows to address several sizes and gradient ranges, and produces a more curved Mach Band transition or a straight transition that varies depending on the brightness level without halo overshoots. The halo overshoots will be easy to see on large format output, but Topaz Clarity avoids that.

The effect may be subtle for untrained observers, but is a well known phenomenon e.g. with many Radiologists who were trained to read Radiographs (X-rays) on film. In regular photochemical film processing it is often referred to as acutance caused by local depletion or lateral inhibition.

Here is how a USM with High Radius (50 pixels) and low amount (10%) changes the stepwedge.

Cheers,
Bart
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  #9  
Old May 27th, 2013, 12:02 PM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Hi folks,

And because we are in a photography forum, here is a Clarity filtered example (one of a gazillion possible renderings), based on the first image here:

Original rendering


Original rendering + Topaz Clarity

Cheers,
Bart
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  #10  
Old May 27th, 2013, 12:59 PM
Nicolas Claris Nicolas Claris is offline
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Perfect Bart!
I had maybe pushed a bit the saturation of the green in the sea… ; )
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  #11  
Old May 27th, 2013, 01:23 PM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nicolas Claris View Post
Perfect Bart!
I had maybe pushed a bit the saturation of the green in the sea… ; )
Hi Nicolas,

I agree, I was indeed considering a slight boost in green, but I just wanted to show the Clarity effect.

Cheers,
Bart
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  #12  
Old May 27th, 2013, 02:13 PM
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Hi, Bart,

An extremely nice result.

Best regards,

Doug
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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:16 PM
Doug Kerr Doug Kerr is offline
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Hi, Bart,
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart_van_der_Wolf View Post
Hi Asher,

This tool is much more powerful than the almost standard HiRaLoAm trick of USM sharpening the image with a High Radius (50+), Low Amount (<10%) setting. It behaves completely different than the effect a HiRaLoAm has on edge transitions.

Topaz Clarity treats sharp edges by enhancing the psychological/physiological Mach band effect, and the psychological effect of simultaneous contrast.

Here is how the Topaz Clarity Low Contrast slider set to 50 adjusts a normal step wedge:

Compare that to a HiRaLoAm below, which has a fixed effect depending on feature size together with the Radius setting and introduces a small halo overshoot immediately at the edge of the transition which then becomes linear, where Topaz Clarity allows to address several sizes and gradient ranges, and produces a more curved Mach Band transition or a straight transition that varies depending on the brightness level without halo overshoots. The halo overshoots will be easy to see on large format output, but Topaz Clarity avoids that.

The effect may be subtle for untrained observers, but is a well known phenomenon e.g. with many Radiologists who were trained to read Radiographs (X-rays) on film. In regular photochemical film processing it is often referred to as acutance caused by local depletion or lateral inhibition.

Here is how a USM with High Radius (50 pixels) and low amount (10%) changes the stepwedge.
Very nice presentation.

Topaz Clarity aside, many people may benefit from that very clear illustration of what USM does (even in this "unusual" application).

Thanks so much.

Best regards,

Doug
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Old May 27th, 2013, 02:24 PM
Maggie Terlecki Maggie Terlecki is offline
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Thank you Bart for this. I just watched the video and since it includes those great masking options, it is very interesting to me and I'll download it to test it. Thanks for the share!
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  #15  
Old May 27th, 2013, 03:40 PM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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Thank you for the link !
I saw the video and I found it to be very practical to work with. I must give a try.
I usually use Nik Color Effex but this one look easier and more versatile as masks can be done in a brease.
Soon, I hope to be able to have a bunch of nice landscapes where I will be able to apply these software with great advantage
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Old May 27th, 2013, 04:33 PM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Kerr View Post
Hi, Bart,

An extremely nice result.
Hi Doug,

Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Kerr View Post
Very nice presentation.

Topaz Clarity aside, many people may benefit from that very clear illustration of what USM does (even in this "unusual" application).

Thanks so much.
I'm all in favor of practical applied science/technology to achieve our creative goals, ever since my photochemical darkroom days. That's one of the perks of being a photographer, you get to use clever inventions to spread a message, and the result hopefully looks nice as well.

Cheers,
Bart
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Old May 27th, 2013, 04:39 PM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maggie Terlecki View Post
Thank you Bart for this. I just watched the video and since it includes those great masking options, it is very interesting to me and I'll download it to test it. Thanks for the share!
Hi Maggie,

You're welcome. If you need some pointers to achieve pleasant results, just let me know. It took me a day to really get a feeling how to achieve my creative intent, the do's and don'ts to avoid unrealistic abstractions, which can also be achieved should one desire so.

Cheers,
Bart
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Old May 27th, 2013, 04:52 PM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antonio Correia View Post
Thank you for the link !
I saw the video and I found it to be very practical to work with. I must give a try.
I usually use Nik Color Effex but this one look easier and more versatile as masks can be done in a brease.
Soon, I hope to be able to have a bunch of nice landscapes where I will be able to apply these software with great advantage
Hi Antonio,

The Nik Color Efex plug-ins are also very popular, but the Topaz Labs plugins were cheaper when I had to make a choice for productivity enhancing tools that made sense, and offered a lot of control.

The folks at Topaz Labs seem like a nice and technologically advanced bunch. That also means that the user interface could be improved a bit, but I like to be able and control the processing details, and their plugins allow to do that. In the end it allows me to achieve better results, faster.

Cheers,
Bart
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Old May 27th, 2013, 05:07 PM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bart_van_der_Wolf View Post
Hi Antonio, The Nik Color Efex plug-ins are also very popular, but the Topaz Labs plugins were cheaper when I had to make a choice for productivity enhancing tools that made sense, and offered a lot of control. The folks at Topaz Labs seem like a nice and technologically advanced bunch. That also means that the user interface could be improved a bit, but I like to be able and control the processing details, and their plugins allow to do that. In the end it allows me to achieve better results, faster. Cheers, Bart
Thank you Bart
A few minutes past mid night now. I will download and get the plug-in by tomorrow morning.
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Old May 28th, 2013, 03:37 PM
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OK - everyone that knows me, knows I'm not a techie. I just want results.

I pulled out a 2008 grass hut shot in Costa Rica that my wife rented for us. It had lots of contrasty edges and so I wondered what Topaz Clarity would do on it. Well, let me tell you - the possibilities are endless. But here are a couple of quick settings applied. The effect can be subtle and can be significant.

Top - Original Image : Middle - Landscape Preset : Bottom - played with sliders and masked out areas so they wouldn't be affected (2 minutes at the most was spent). Just fun - not to prove anything.








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Old May 28th, 2013, 05:35 PM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Watcher View Post
Top - Original Image : Middle - Landscape Preset : Bottom - played with sliders and masked out areas so they wouldn't be affected (2 minutes at the most was spent). Just fun - not to prove anything.
Hi Robert,

I would appreciate the opinion of others as well, but for me in a side by side comparison the image has gained some more punch, clarity. The original was already better than some of the drab images that I sometimes see on OPF and other fora, but there apparently was still some room for improvement.

You are also correct in that it takes very little time to do, and I can tell you that it gets even faster once you create a couple of presets for your specific types of subject.

Cheers,
Bart
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Old May 29th, 2013, 07:17 AM
Robert Watcher Robert Watcher is offline
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The masking features are pretty powerful from first looks. I got wondering this morning how Topaz Clarity would work by using the Color Aware option in masking. I clicked on the flowers of this shot and dragged a large brush over top of the area. As can be seen with the mask in the upper right corner of the screen capture, none of the building was touched. It literally took me 10 seconds to run my brush over and then start dragging the sliders back and forth to make changes to that area. I also played with the Edge detection masking and smart Feathering.







Before (left) and After (right) - subtle difference (only to the flowers on the wall)







I know there are other tools and other methods for doing the same thing. I already have been using them up until this point. For the $30 though, this makes light work of similar adjustments that I took more time to do in the latest Lightroom 4.3 or Photoshop CS6. even. BTW - I'm not trying to sell this product or convince that it is the best - just enlighten on some of the options available for those looking for such things.
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Old May 29th, 2013, 07:25 AM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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I fully agree with you Robert. I too have bought it today even though I already own Nik Efex filters, SNS-HDR Pro, LR4.3 and DxO. Yes, I can achieve similar results using those tools. But this tool offers more control and is very easy to use. At $30, it is a great deal.
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Old May 29th, 2013, 07:34 AM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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Thank you Robert. Nice and quick explanation.
Even at this price I think I am not going to buy it. Why ?

Because as you said, there are other ways of doing the same work and Color Efex 4 does much the same or returns similar results.

I must admit however, that the easiness of the masks is very tempting and makes the work faster. Well, do we really need to make the work faster ?

No we don't, not necessarily. We need the selection - in this case - to be accurate and precise as much as possible. This aspect is of great importance IMO. Selections are one of the most important parameters to master, I think.

As I write these lines, I am still hesitating ... It is not expensive, it makes selection easier and it does the same thing Color Efex does.

Cheers
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Old May 29th, 2013, 07:36 AM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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As I was writing so was Cem

Good points Cem, good points

"...more control and is very easy to use. At $30, it is a great deal"
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Old May 29th, 2013, 07:43 AM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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Hi Antonio,

I have the Color Efex 4 and it certainly does the job. If you have the version with the Tonal Contrast, Pro Contrast and Detais filters, you don't need the Topaz Clarity. Masking in Nik is done by setting u-points.This works OK but one needs to set many points across the picture and it is never a precise selection. It is a matter of whether one is comfortable with it or not. In my case, I prefer the more precise edge aware masking of the Clarity. YMMV.
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Old May 29th, 2013, 07:49 AM
Antonio Correia Antonio Correia is offline
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Agree Cem. I am aware of all the advantages of Nik's.

Sometimes - my 27" Mac is not that bad with 16 RAM - too many u-points makes Nik's to shut down what is not a great deal. I just have to start over...

But you are sure right when you say that the making is more precise with Clarity !

Like you perhaps, I am bit maniac about precision.

Thank you Cem
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Old May 29th, 2013, 08:30 AM
Bart_van_der_Wolf Bart_van_der_Wolf is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Antonio Correia View Post
But you are sure right when you say that the masking is more precise with Clarity !

Like you perhaps, I am bit maniac about precision.
Hi Antonio, join the club of precision 'maniacs' ...

There is perhaps another argument for considering the Topaz Clarity plugin, safeguarding continuity. Call it a contingency plan by not betting on a single horse.

The Topaz plugins can also be used when Photoshop stops being affordable under Adobe's new Creative Cloud licensing policies, activation fails on a new installation, or when the last perpetual license version of Photoshop one owns no longer works on future Operating Systems (more likely on Macs).

The Topaz plugins can also be used with their "photoFXlab" standalone application, which also works as a plugin, and offers layers and masks for combining several filter operations into one. So when Photoshop for some reason fails to activate, photoFXlab still allows to get much of the work done.

If Topaz Labs continues to offer free updates for existing customers, and even upgrades to new versions, like they have so far (which requires new customers to expand the user base), then that makes the introduction price even more interesting.

Cheers,
Bart
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Old May 29th, 2013, 08:53 AM
Robert Watcher Robert Watcher is offline
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One thing I got thinking that I would love from this program Bart - - - is an option for the mask to be transfered over to Photoshop for further refinement if needed - or to be able to duplicate, adjust and use the mask on different photoshop layers. But it doesn't appear that is the case. Or is it?


Here is one final image where I was playing with the Edge Detect masking to isolate the child walking in front - - - and then used all of the tools including the HSL settings to filter colors (yes all available on Photoshop as well). Luminance was quite useful in changing tonality based on colour - for the grungier less saturated look I was after.








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Old May 29th, 2013, 09:06 AM
Cem_Usakligil Cem_Usakligil is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Watcher View Post
One thing I got thinking that I would love from this program Bart - - - is an option for the mask to be transfered over to Photoshop for further refinement if needed - or to be able to duplicate, adjust and use the mask on different photoshop layers. But it doesn't appear that is the case. Or is it?...
Yep, that would be a great addition. But I don't think that they will introduce it since it would then compete with their other product Re-Mask, which is for creating masks and extractions. But who knows?

One work around could be to first create a mask in Clarity and then push the exposure of the unmasked area to white (or pull to black). You can do this on a layer in PS. You can then use the eye-dropper selection tool to create a mask based on the white/black selection. It is a bit cumbersome but would work. Just an idea anyway....
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Kind Regards, Cem

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