Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro is an easy-to-use plug-in with 55 unique filters that you can apply to your photos, from practical enhancements like Classical Soft Focus or Graduated ND to wilder effects like the new Dark Contrasts, which creates a hard-edged look similar to extreme HDR. Eight new effects are available in version 4.
Also new in this version is the ability to apply multiple effects in a single editing session (previous versions would return you to your host application after applying an effect). Not only is this more convenient if you have a few favorites you typically apply to your photos, but it gives you more creative control by letting you stack filters to create "Recipes" that you can save. The order in which you stack filters changes how they interact, making a huge variety of combinations possible. Ten sample Recipes are included, plus you can export and share Recipes you create, or download Recipes created by others, on the Nik website.
Another great new feature is Visual Presets for each of the 55 filters. Hover over a filter in the list, and a small icon appears—clicking this icon reveals several preset variations of the selected filter, so you can quickly try different filter settings to further fine-tune the effect.
As with all Nik plug-ins, you can easily make localized adjustments—without masking—using control points. Drop a control point anywhere on the image and use a simple slider to set its radius. The software uses the radius and placement of your control point to automatically determine which area you’re trying to adjust. Another slider then allows you to control the opacity of the filter.
Color Efex Pro 4 is available as a plug-in for recent versions of Apple Aperture, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom, and is both 32-bit and 64-bit compatible. It’s also available in two editions: Select, which includes 26 filters, or Complete, with all 55 filters. List Price: $199 (Complete Edition); $99 (Select Edition). If you’re upgrading from an earlier version, you get the Complete Edition for $99. A demo also is available for download. Contact: Nik Software, www.niksoftware.com
FILTER, RECIPE & HISTORY PANEL
Here’s where you’ll find all of the Filters and Recipes you can apply to your image. For this image, we selected the Sepia Glow Recipe. This panel also contains the History browser.
Use these buttons to view side-by-side or split-image previews of the effects. Or, view the entire image with the effects applied, then click and hold "Compare" to see the original image.
Check the details of your effects by zooming in up to 400%.
FILTER ADJUSTMENTS & CONTROL POINTS
This panel shows a list of all of the Filters you’ve applied and their individual settings. You can simply drag a Filter above or below another to reorder them and alter their interaction. This panel also contains a list of the control points you’ve added, with the ability to preview the area each control point is affecting.
Here, we’re using a control point to open up the shadows around our model’s eyes. Click and drag the top slider to set the diameter and the bottom slider to adjust the opacity of the control point.
LOUPE AND HISTOGRAM
A handy "pin" feature lets you fix the loupe to a particular spot in the image. This window also lets you turn on visual warnings for shadow and highlight clipping.
Don’t want to apply the effect to the entire image? Click Brush to return to your host application, select a desired brush, and you can paint on the effect exactly where you want it.