Just released, B&W Effects is a new black and white conversion plugin from Topaz. One thing I have to say about the Topaz products are that they’re really a great value. While so many plugins available can run as much or more than the software programs running them, Topaz has created a variety of affordable plugins with compelling skill sets.
As with all Topaz software, you can download the full version as a 30 day trial before purchasing. Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I have to mention that B&W Effects is on sale through September 18th, input “bwandbeyond” to get the software for $29.95 (50% off!). How’s that for reasonable?
B&W Effects has a simple and intuitive interface. Presets live on the left and are grouped into preset collections. Within each preset, you have the ability to adjust anything from exposure to toning, grain structure to curves adjustments. With a large preview window in the center, you’re shown a refreshed version of your image after each adjustment or preset change.
Duplicating your image onto a new layer before opening the plugin is a good idea as the plugin will apply any adjustments to whichever layer is active in Photoshop when you run it. To open your image layer in B&W Effects, simply select the layer you want to convert to black and white while in Photoshop, then go to Filters>Topaz>B&W Effects. Once opened in B&W Effects, picking a preset that suits your image is the first step.
- You can then move over to the right of the screen and via the Conversion drop down, you can modify exposure, apply a color filter or curves adjustment.
- Next is the Creative Effects dropdown where you can apply four different effects. Simplify will give the image a painted feel to it, Diffusion is like having a soft focus optic built into the software, Posterize will group like tones into between 2-8 solid tones, and finally you can add Camera shake which will blur the image and if used selectively can effectively throw any distracting, in focus elements out of focus achieving a bokeh like look.
- From there you can utilize the Local Adjustment brushes to selectively apply a Dodge, Burn, Color, Detail or Smooth adjustment. Your selective adjustments show up on a mask of the image below your brush sliders. I love that so many plugins now are including selective adjustments via brushes. It gives you so much more control when wanting to adjust singular attributes!
- Finally you have your Finishing Touches which gives you the ability to modify both silver and paper tones, adjust the grain and add a border or vignette. The final slider in the dropdown is a transparency slider which will decrease the B&W Effect on the image overall effectively pulling your color image back into the mix. For me, I’d rather control this via a separate layer in Photoshop, but it is handy to have.