Do you ever want to “jazz up” a photograph with natural effects? Would you like to add a sunburst, clouds, lightning, rain or fog? Maybe you need a seascape background or a starry night sky? If so, this may be just what you’re looking for.
AKVIS NatureArt can run either by itself (standalone mode) or as a plug-in to image-editing programs such as Photoshop Elements, Photo-Paint, Painter, Paint Shop, etc. In either mode, the operation is the same. You open an image, create an area to be filled with the desired effect, select the effect and apply it. Simple in theory; in actual operation it was a little different.
The program is extremely simple, with very few controls. The top menu is all icons, no text, no drop-down menus or options. Hovering over one “pops up” a Tool Tip, and an explanation appears in the lower right-hand corner. The control sliders vary depending on the effect being applied.
My first attempt was a photo of a Harris Hawk in a pose I thought appropriate for a rainstorm.
First irritation: although NatureArt recognizes and opens RAW photos (a .CR2 extension, in my case) there’s no preview. So unless you’ve checked the photos ahead of time and either renamed the file or remembered the filename you can spend a lot of time opening and closing.
Second irritation: You can’t open a *.PSD file in stand-alone mode; only if running it as a plug-in from inside Photoshop).
Back to the hawk photo. Effects are only applied to selected areas. You can also select a smaller area to limit the NatureArt effect to that spot. You can also outline an area to be affected with the Selection Brush, then click with the Selection Bucket to fill up the interior. It also means if you want rain over the entire image you must first select the entire image using the “Selection Bucket.”
Third irritation: If I change my mind and want to begin an entirely new selection I couldn’t discover any way to completely “de-select.”. I had to either use the Erase Selection tool to drag over everything selected to clear it, or hit the “UnDo” icon enough times. Nor is there any way to “invert” a selection.
Using the Selection Bucket I selected the entire image, then chose Effect > Rain, and used the included AKVIS Preset. I wasn’t that impressed with the first results, so I changed the controls and ran it again. The new effect was added to the first, increasing the downpour considerably. So to change the effect I had to undo it first.
So I hit UnDo twice, and then ran Rain with my second settings. I liked that effect better, but decided I wanted it thicker around the bird’s body, but not over the bird. So I returned to the “Before,” erased the bird from the selection and reran the effect. This time there was rain everywhere except around the bird. He looked as if he were protected by a force field. So this time the effect was not applied a second time.
Fourth irritation. I wanted to restart the bird image. Other than holding down the UnDo key indefinitely there’s no way to “reset” the image back to its original condition. It was quicker to shut down and relaunch NatureArt to start over.
One thing the program advertises is the creation of backgrounds, like an ocean or sky. In practice, again, not quite. You can certainly create a water- or sky-scape. But if you then try to add a second, different effect, that last effect is all you get.
My solution is to work in layers. In the example shown, I first ran the Rain effect on the hawk image. Looking again at his pose, I decided to give him something to look at, so I placed a rock wall in front of the hawk. I created a blank image in NatureArt, ran the Water effect and brought that as a layer on top of the wall layer. I then combined the wall and water into one layer. I opened that layer in NatureArt, ran the Rain effect again on it and returned it to the image, bringing them all together.
Fifth irritation: Once the Run icon is clicked, there’s no way to stop it. Hitting the Esc key or UnDo icon does nothing.
Sixth irritation: There’s no real way to control a selection’s edge, to make it crisper or more feathered.
Seventh irritation: It takes quite a while to see the preview of an effect. If you decide you like it and click the OK button, it takes that long again to actually apply it.
Eighth irritation: The filter is run on the image. No new layer is created, no mask, no separation, so if you didn’t duplicate that layer you may have to undo, duplicate and re-run the filter to get the flexibility you want.
If you want clouds and lightning you first have to run the clouds effect, exit the application and then go back to run the lightning effect. I never could get clouds I liked from NatureArt, so I added one from my own collection and used that layer to generate lightning strokes behind rocks on Windy Point. I thought this worked quite well.
Should you buy this? Since it runs $72-189, my deciding factor would be, “How often would I use this product?” Not all the effects are first-rate (to my eyes) and the irritations (particularly not being able to run one effect after another without leaving and reopening the application) definitely weigh against it. Your experience may differ.
AKVIS NatureArt 4.0 http://akvis.com/en/natureart/index.php