When it came to receiving a review copy of this software, OnOne Software offered me the option of downloading a ZIP file or receiving a CD. Being the impatient type, I elected for the download. The 2Gb file took about 12 minutes and installation was straight-forward. It found both Photoshop CS5 and Photoshop Elements 9 installed and asked in which to install the plug-in. I couldn’t install it in both at the same time so I chose Photoshop CS5. I launched the installer again later and successfully installed the Suite to Photoshop Elements 9.
On first using the desktop icon to launch the program, it checked for updates and found one, so I downloaded and installed that as well. Following installation, my browser launched and took me to the OnOne University.
Learning how to use the products is as simple as watching a video. Not only here, but a new video has been posted daily at http://www.ononesoftware.com/suite6/ since October 1st. (OK, maybe they skipped a day or two around Christmas.) Each is short (under four minutes) and well worth the time.
The Suite has seven products. Six can run as either standalone applications or plug-ins to Lightroom, Photoshop or Aperture. Perfect Layers 2, which creates layered files without Photoshop, is the exception.
When any product except Focal Point 2 is launched a “Module Selector” displays at top right listing other products. This allows you to move from one to the other, adding effects as you go.
After working with the Suite and its components, I found it a valuable addition to my image-editing tools, but (even with Perfect Layers 2) it doesn’t replace Photoshop. My feeling is that is because it’s a global image editor. It does great work on an image overall, but there are (for me, at least) often small areas that need more attention which I then address in Photoshop.
Quoting OnOne: “Perfect Layers 2 (Layers for photographers) The fast, easy and affordable way to create layered files outside of Photoshop. Use Perfect Layers to change skies, combine multiple exposures or composite multiple images together to swap heads using the built-in blend modes.”
The only way to get into Perfect Layers is to launch the Perfect Photo Suite. First there’s a slideshow (nine slides) telling me what to do. Clicking “Close” brings up the Photo Suite interface.
My first attempt to open an image (File > Open) taught me it needs single layer images. Opening a layered PSD file could only be done by allowing it to be flattened. Going to File > Browser allows you to select a folder, the contents of which (subfolders or images) scroll across the bottom of the interface. You can then browse to find the image you want to work on (or add to the current open image).
Perfect Layers acts as a conduit to all the other components of the Suite. Even if they’re installed as plug-ins, you don’t have to open Photoshop to get to them. Almost all your work can be done here.
“Perfect Portrait 1 (Smart retouching for portraits) Automatically locates faces and features in your images. Can integrate into Lightroom, Aperture or Photoshop or use as a standalone application.”
I selected an image taken by a professional studio and opened it in Photoshop. I chose File > Automate > OnOne > Perfect Photo. Following the five-slide introduction Perfect Portrait used facial recognition to locate and bracket the first face.
Perfect Portrait did a wonderful job isolating the area around both faces. It softened and evened out skin tones and smoothed (without erasing) wrinkles. Unfortunately at the same time it softened too much around the eyes and (in this case) the glasses both subjects wore. I masked those areas inside Photoshop to return more of the original detail.
There’s a floating Faces palette (see below) and down the window’s right side are the enhancement sliders. You can redefine the face size in the floating palette but you can’t redefine the area by moving the brackets. You then adjust the strength of four enhancements or move directly to the right side for more choices.
There’s a Retouch Brush to help remove blemishes and dust spots, but it gave me interesting patterned results instead of cleaning up spots. It occasionally picked up hair along with the skin to rework, particularly when working with blondes. Trying to warm up a face to match the body (too much makeup and the wrong color) the entire image changed no matter how I defined the face. Be aware: once saved back to Photoshop, there is no mask to work with. The image/layer itself is changed at the pixel level.
“Perfect Effects 3 (Create images with impact) Builds on the popularity of PhotoTools to give photographers an even faster and more powerful way to create images with impact. A library of over 300 photographic and creative effects that can be combined and customized.”
Two things I really like about working with this program:
(1) The ability to place each effect on a separate layer. Its placement in the layer stack can be changed and its opacity and blending options applied separately. This allows you to change how the effects affect each other. Layer visibility can be turned off and on again, to preview the effects.
(2) Once an effect is applied, all the other previews reflect the image in its current state. In other words, previewing; not how new effects will look on the original image, but on it as it is now.
The drawback? Once you’re happy with the result and choose Apply all those effect layers are applied en masse and brought into Photoshop as a new single layer. You’d better be happy with what you created, because there’s no going back.
“Perfect Mask 5 (Replace backgrounds with ease) Perfect Mask takes the core strengths of Mask Pro to another level by automating many common masking tasks with incredible accuracy.”Sometimes, anyway. I had mixed success here, which I lay at the feet of “automating.” One image was an exercise in pure frustration. I wanting to layer two images, masking out the background of the upper layer to let the lower show through. No matter how many times I went over a given area to define it as “keep” the program kept and dropped what it wished. I finally went to Photoshop where I can define a mask pixel by pixel, if necessary. Working in Perfect Mask my “specs” seemed to be capriciously overridden. “Perfect Resize 7 (Enlarge images to any size) The newest version of Genuine Fractals, the industry standard for image resizing. It is renowned across the photographic and printing industries for its ability to increase image size well over 1000% without the typical loss of sharpness or detail.” This works. It works great. There’s nothing more to be said. Detail is beautifully kept and edge halos are at a minimum. “FocalPoint 2 (Instant Bokeh for Your Images) Create realistic selective focus, blur, depth-of-field and vignette effects that tell your viewers right where to look.Easily and quickly get a tilt-shift effect with the intuitive Focus Bug (shown at right) and use the Focus Brush to apply the blur right where you want it.” This was actually much easier than I thought it would be. Hovering over the “Focus Bug” brings up tips on how to use which appendage. Clicking on any one shows the mesh that defines the area of clear focus. The actual bokeh effect in the background seems to depend on the background itself. “PhotoFrame 4 (Layouts, Edges & Adornments) Add the perfect finishing touch to your images with hundreds of design elements like film edges, borders, textures, backgrounds, adornments and even complete layouts. Customize elements to get a unique look.” If you can’t find what you want here, you’re seriously out of luck. There are over a thousand design elements like film edges, borders, textures, backgrounds and ornamentals (see below). There are even complete layouts to just drop on your image. The library of design elements displays along the left side when launched. You can choose from edges, frames, backgrounds, textures, adornments and even complete page layouts. Just double-click to apply it to your image. Start with a blank canvas, add a background, bring in, size and position your image(s). Add frames and extras to create your layout. You can resize and move images and elements around with the help of rulers and guides. Create a layout you love and save it to use again. Once multiple elements are added, the best part is that when you return to
Photoshop each element has been applied to the image as an editable new
layer. Current owners who upgrade receive all the new goodies, by the way. User Guides for each program are available from the OnOne site. They’re fairly long (42 pages for Perfect Effects 3) and seem complete. There are pages with incomplete text on the right side, as if the page wasn’t on the scanner properly. Occasionally a screenshot is missing. Their site offers other free downloads, such as some really cool presets for Adobe Camera RAW. Worth your while to download and experiment You can even import presets other Perfect Effects users have created and
shared to use on your images. I do have to mention the OnOne University again. There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of videos available on the different programs and what can be done with them. Once Getting Started is under your belt, look for something you’re interested in doing. You won’t be disappointed. OnOne Software www.ononesoftware.com/products/suite/