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Software Review – Color Efex Pro 4 – From Nik Software

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Color Efex Pro 4 is the newest version of Nik’s digital photographic filters for creating, retouching, and creative enhancement of images within Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and Apple Aperture. Color Efex Pro 4 contains a large set of enhancements filters for color correction, retouching, enhancements, and to extend creativity to your photographs.

Color Efex Pro 4 also contains Nik’s premier U Point technology that gives you pinpoint control over what you want to do to your image and where exactly you want to do it. No longer are you limited to working with global changes and masking to accomplish your goals. Rather, now you can precisely control specific areas of your image with a couple of clicks of your mouse.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4

Basically, the Color Efex Pro workflow works like this. From inside your photo editing software, say Photoshop, open an image, and open Color Efex Pro from the filter menu which will open the Color Efex interface. The Filterlist with a listing of filters is on the left hand side of the interface; on the right side are the enhancement controls; and in the middle is your image.

When you click on one of the filters your image will take on that look. Click on another to change it to a different look. Once you find a filter from the left that most closely represents what you want to accomplish, you can select it and either just use it or use it as a starting point.

If you use it as a starting point you can then use the enhancement control options on the right to make global adjustments to the image. This really gives you a lot of control over how you produce your image. These include controls to adjust the highlights, midtones, shadows, saturation, and contrast type.

Next, to take ultimate control, you can use the U Point Control Points to selectively control where each adjustment is applied to the images. This allows you to control the effect without having to use selections and/or masking. By placing Control Points on an image, you can control your adjustments to fine tune certain areas of your images independent of the rest of the photo.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4

So what is new with Color Efex Pro 4?

• Filter Combinations – now give you the ability to stack filters into new combinations so you can get just the look that you want. All you have to do is choose a filter, make whatever adjustments you want and then add another filter right over the top, and another, and another, until the look works for you.

• New filters – include Dark Contrast – which utilizes a new and unique technique to exaggerate details and textures throughout your photo while creating a dark, moody end result; Detail Extractor – balances light and tonality and extract details from every corner of your photo; Film Efex: Faded Filter – provides a unique stylistic effect, simulating old, poorly handled prints; Film Efex: Nostalgic filter – creates special and interesting renditions of your photo, with vibrant colors, and the feeling of its having been captured by a toy camera; Film Efex: Vintage filter – creates photos that appear to be made from the first types of color films; Natural Borders – add a unique, natural, and random image borders to your photos; Levels & Curves – to adjust brightness and tonality in an image; and Vignette: Lens – simulates vignettes created by different types of lenses.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4

• Visual Presets – are starting points that come with each of the 55 filters included with Color Efex Pro. These presets are designed to give you a wide range of options to explore. Visual presets enable you to quickly enhance your images with just one click. These are located on the right edge of the filter bar and designated with a stacked-looking image icon.

• Filter recipes – allow you to mix and match multiple filters together in a single editing session. You can save them as Filter Recipes which will allow you to increase efficiency by re-using your favorite looks on different images or by using the recipe as a new starting point for future work. Color Efex Pro 4 has preloaded recipes that will help get you started.

• History Browser – records everything you do in the software, which makes it easy to step backward and review any of the adjustments you’ve made. You can also view the comparison in full-screen, side-by-side, or split views. This gives you a lot of flexibility to experiment on your images.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4

• GPU processing and multi-core optimization – means that Color Efex Pro 4 is fully multi-threaded and utilizes every core found in your computer system. If your system is based on the Sandybridge chipset, Color Efex Pro 4 will also utilize the AVX instruction set for even faster rendering. Also, many of the filters are now rendered on the GPU, freeing up the CPU for other tasks, as well as being able to operate even faster than off of the CPU alone.

• Interface workflow – contains improvements that include one-click Visual Presets and Filter Recipes on the left side of the interface, important filter and selective controls placed conveniently on right side, a new zoom navigator, many shortcut keys, additions to the Histogram to show highlight and shadow clipping, and more.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4

One of the big changes that I love is the filter stacking and the ability to save filters as a stack preset. I also really love the addition of the History Browser and the ability to go back in time to prior states. This gives you the ability to compare versions so you can see what changes look better and allows you to process much more quickly.

I also like the update to the user interface. It is much more consistent with their other recent product lines. Then you have the new filters as well as the GPU processing, which really make this a must-have upgrade. The natural borders are just the cherry on top!

I think that Color Efex Pro 4 is another great upgrade to your photographer’s tool box. I love the ease of use and the flexibility that this Plug-in gives me. What would take a lot of work traditionally in Photoshop, is accomplished in a fraction of the time. Want to see more? Check out the series of lesson videos that Nik has put together. Better yet get the 15-day free trial and play with it yourself.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4

At $199.95, Color Efex Pro 4 will pay for itself many times over. There is also a Select Edition that contains 26 of the 55 filters found in the Complete Edition that is available for only $99.95. If you own version 2, 3 or 4 Select, the upgrade is only $99.95. If you purchased Color Efex Pro 3.0 or the Complete Collection after 08/07/2011, then the upgrade is free. If you want to color your photographic world and make it pop then I very highly recommend Color Efex Pro 4 from Nik Software.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.