Color Efex Pro 3.0 is the latest update to Nik's collection of digital photographic filters and effects for Adobe Photoshop. Version 3 has been updated for speed, a new interface, and something called U Point technology.
Color Efex Pro 3.0 contains four different types of enhancements; traditional filters, color correction, retouching and creative enhancements. It contains 52 filters that contain over 250 unique effects, and with the fact that you can combine them, it makes the possibilities limitless.
System requirements are Windows 2000 or better, Mac OS 10.4 or better, 256 MB RAM (512 MB Recommended), and Photoshop CS2, CS3, Photoshop Elements 4.0, or any image editing software program that accepts Adobe Photoshop Plug-ins.
Basically, the Color Efex Pro 3.0 workflow goes like this. Launch Photoshop, open an image, and open Color Efex Pro from the filter menu which will open the interface. By default, the filter list will appear on the left hand side of the interface. This is an alphabetical list of the available filters. They are categorized by topics such as portrait, landscapes, etc. Since there are three versions of Color Efex Pro the number of filters may vary. The standard edition contains 15 Filters, the Select Edition contains 35 filters, and the Complete Edition contains 52 filters. You can check out which filters are available from the Nik Website
Once you select your filter, you are given options to make adjustments to the filter. Then you can use the U Point Control Points to selectively control where each filter 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 color, tone, and light on your image. These might be sky, skin, clothing etc.
Essentially you take this Control Point and drop it on the image. You can then adjust the area and the opacity of the image. You have a 0% control point that begins at no opacity and has not filter effect, and you have full opacity which fully enables the filter. You can then see what the effects of the Control Points from the modes pull down menu.
After setting your values and Control Points, you can then preview the image either side by side or in a split view mode. Once you are happy with the effects, you can then press the OK button and the effects will be applied to your image.
Another new feature is the interface which now features a much larger preview than before. To many people, this alone would be worth the price of upgrade over version 2. Color Efex Pro 3.0 now can use the full screen of your monitor.
The new Selective tool automates the creation of layers and layer masks within Adobe Photoshop. You can pinpoint your filter by simply brushing on the filter effects to your image. Color Efex Pro 3.0 handles the layer masks behind the scenes. It is also great for Wacom Pen Tablet use as well. This effect is only available in Photoshop and Photoshop Elements.
I think that Color Efex Pro 3.0 is a great addition to the photographer's tool box. The new filters, which include Bleach Bypass, Cross Balance, Film Effects, Film Grain, Glamour Glow, Low Key, High Key, Polaroid Transfer and Tonal Contrast, along with the enlarged preview, and the Selective tool are well worth the upgrade.
As advertised Color Efex Pro is very fast and very easy to use. Because of the U Control Point and Selective tools, you don't have to be an expert at using layers and layer masks; granted you won't have as much control as you would if you did, but this is so much faster. The biggest downside to Color Efex Pro is that it will take time to learn what works and what doesn’t. Color Efex Pro is highly recommended.