This isn’t actually new since On1 announced this offer in February 2016, but I’ve been meaning to post it for a while and the offer is still current – On1 Software is offering a free, cut-down version of On1 Effects, a core component of its latest On1 Photo suite.

On1 Effects Free comes with 10 different filters out of the total of 25 included with the full package. They include Adjustable Gradient, Black & White, Dynamic Contrast, HDR Look, Vignette, Adjustment Brush, Borders, Glow, Texturize and Vintage.

You can use On1 Effects 10 Free as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Photoshop, Elements or Lightroom. The effects can be used indvidually or ‘stacked’ to offer much more complex image looks. You can also apply masks to individual stacked filters for precise local adjustments. If you come up with an effect you particularly like and you want to be able to use it again in the future, you can save it as a preset, alongside a bunch of effects presets that come as standard with the software.

When you open images for editing, you can opt to save them in On1’s proprietary re-editable ‘Smart Photos’. They can still be viewed in Lightroom or Photoshop, but they can be re-opened in Effects 10 with their effect stacks and masks intact – if you think you can do a better job the second time around, you can just pick up where you left off.

Probably the quickest way to work is to pick and existing preset from the list on the left. You can then check the filter stack in to toolbar on the right to see how the effect has been achieved and make your own modifications, either by changing the filter settings or adding or removing others from the filter stack.

It’s actually quite a powerful and interesting little tool, especially when you factor in the stackable effects, masking tools and re-editable file format. The only thing going against it is its speed, or lack of it. It’s decidedly clunky on my Macbook Pro, especially when working with 16-bit images and more complex effect combinations. The other annoyance is that when you edit one of the filters in the stack, the software disables those above it, so you don’t get to see the final, cumulative effect until you re-enable them.

By the way, you need to register your email address to get this free download, but this does mean you straight away get an email offering 5 free presets for landscape photography. I’ve posted a tutorial on how to install ON1 Effects presets if you want to try this out. You get five presets and, if I’m honest, they’re not great, but then they are working within the limitations of the free version and it’s an interesting introduction to how the preset installation process works.