During the last month I took a trip back to Topaz Lab’s webpage and downloaded another of their interesting programs. (Topazlabs.com) If you remember, they make imaging enhancement software for both still and video photography. This time I thought I’d try their Simplify 2; it’s a $39.95 program that can be downloaded in minutes—there’s a fully functional 30 day trial version also. All you have to do is request the 30 day key and you can play with any of their software for 30 days. Replacing the trial key with the purchased key clears your trial for permanent usage.
What does Simplify 2 do? It is an application that allows you to turn a photography into a painting or a drawing on any one of a number of variations; Topaz’ advertising says it this way "Simple and elegant photo interpretations." Download the program and douple-click your unstuffed file—you’ll get a dmg file for Mac and an Exe file for PC, and the application will install itself into your Photoshop Filter folder under a "Topaz Labs" heading. See the ilustration below for a quick visual example.
When Simplify 2.0 opens you will see the following window. Along the left side are twelve presets. Clicking on any one of them will directly move you to a still adjustable image because each preset will open with SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES as slider-bar adjustments.
Here are the twelve general presets that you have to choose from. They are (1) BuzSim, (2) Cartoon, (3) Image CrispEdge, (4) Painting colorful, (5) Painting Harshcolor, (6) Painting oil, (7) Painting watercolor, (8) Sketch Color, (9) Sketch hardpencil, (10) Sketch softpencil, (11) Underpainting, and (12) Wood Carving. Remember, each of these presets has slider bars under the categories of SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES.
Looking under SIMPLIFY we can choose our Colorspace from RGB and YCbCr; now experiment by moving the sliders back and fourth to examine the subtle variations of the presets. Work your way through each of the menus under SIMPLIFY, ADJUST, and EDGES. At any time you feel like you would like to undo an adjustment, a RESET TAB, will allow the resetting of one adjustment, or RESET ALL will reset all of the adjustments in that particular third of the image adjustments.
Here’s an image of one of the windows in a New Mexico church.
Applying Sketch color to the image produces this result. All that is necessary to select the preset is to click on the appropriate selection to the left of the preview window. Click and observe as you move down the options available.
Here’s a larger view of the results of choosing Sketch color.
Here’s the results of choosing Wood carving.
A little more complex is making two identical original layers one above the other, and applying Sketch color to one layer and Wood carving to the second. Then these two layers are blended together by using the opacity slider in the upper layer and causing the Wood carving to blend into the Sketch color layer.
Here we have the original image on the left, and BuzSim on the right.
Here we have the original image on the top and the Watercolor effect on the bottom. I find BuzSim, Watercolor, Sketch color, and Wood Carving to be the most interesting effects to me personally. Your mileage will probably vary; play with all of the effects with a varied selection of of images. It will become obvious that certain effects/presets work best on certain general types of images. In general, I have had the best luck with scenics.
A simple sand dune in the original is simplified with the Wood Carving preset again.
A ray of sunlight outlines a set of leaves in an otherwise darkened arbor area followed by the same scene run through the Painting colorful preset
One last example is a photograph of the gondolas in Venice, Italy, followed by the Painting oil preset followed by adding (via a merged layer) the Wood Carving preset.
This is the third of the Topazlabs Applications that I have added to my toolkit and I’m actually looking at a couple more. I have found the approach that Topazlabs uses to be very innovative and a very good value for the money. Having put in a lot of time developing certain looks and effects in Photoshop I find that many of my multi-step processes can be duplicated by choosing a Topazlab application and making a few personalized adjustments. In the long run that saves time—a lot of time—and in this business time equals money. I’m very pleased with the value received for the reasonable cost of each application. Bundles of some of the most used applications can produce significant savings. Check out Topazlabs.com and take a look at the selection; I think you will be pleased.