20 September 2012


One of my essential plugins for photoshop is NIK software's HDR EFEX PRO and like all of NIK software, it's top notch but not without limitations. Recently, there was a new update and I was quite exited to see what had changed

There is a new and, I think, much improved interface. It falls in line with the adobe dark interface ideas and most of the controls are set up in new ways. There is also more control of how you import the images with a couple new windows that include previews and magnified views. You also have the option to open the HDR as a smart object which makes it editable and allows you to go back and change parameters in HDR EFEX pro if you change your mind later on.

Speed seems slowed down in some respects, but the opening of the image is somewhat faster but adjustments are no longer smooth and the time lag is noticeable. There are all new algorithms for the HDR effects and they really make a difference, especially in tough areas like grain and when you have large areas of one color, as in blue skies or clouds. Previously you could get awful looking dark areas in those situations, but it was no problem in my tests.

Getting rid of ghosts caused by moving areas over your bracketed photos was the major weak point in HDR EFEX pro 1, so much so I gave up on using that feature. Happy to say that has been addressed and it uses a similar solution as photoshop does (which I found to the be the only strong point of photoshop's HDR functions). Just this improvement alone was worth the upgrade price for me.

one more thing I've noticed as I play with the software. The drop down menu for changing the HDR method has disappeared. I suspect the variety of methods is now handled by the additional slider controls but "halo reduction" which is a big problem in HDR images is now gone. I did learn that higher anti-ghosting levels are a big source of halos in this version but it would be nice to have a way to reduce halos using the pin selections or at least globally.

04 September 2012

Sketchbook pro - computer & tablet

I have 3 versions of Sketchbook pro, version 5 and 6 for the computer and the iPad version. Overall, I can recommend them all but the iPad version is particularly good as compared to other drawing apps I've tried on tablets.

All versions seem to suffer from a slight lag between the pen and the screen for some reason (I use a Wacom tablet to draw on the computer and a pen on the iPad). It's not unusable but it is a little strange since I imagine it's how most artists would be using the software so it should have been a priority to get it as responsive as possible.

The interface is a challenge coming from a Photoshop background, but it's not super complicated. As it's a drawing only program, it much easier to find what you need. I've read a few reviews criticizing ti it for lacking some functions; mostly used in retouching. I find it bizarre to be disappointed a software doesn't have functions not related to it's primary task. There's a trend that every software (Photoshop, I'm talking to you) must cover every possible use from drawing to video to 3d instead of just being the best software in it's category.

For the most part, I've been starting drawings in Sketchbook and then moving to photoshop to finish, but I'm looking forward to doing something entirely in the program. The brush and pen tools are much more natural looking than I've been able to do in Photoshop. I have to say the recent updated version was a paid update but the improvements were not any different from some of the non-paid updates. If you are just getting the software it was a good deal but already having version 5 it was disappointing. If you are going to make people re-buy something, it should have a few things that really improve and change the program, not just fairly minor tweaks.