I admit that Silver Efex Pro, part of the Google Nik Collection, is my favourite black and white conversion plug-in, but I like to keep an open mind, and I thought it was about time I took a look at some others.
I have reviewed Topaz B&W Effects in the past, but it’s been a while since I used it properly, so I’ve downloaded the latest version to give it a quick test. This isn’t a full, in-depth review, more a quick guide to what it does and what it’s like to use.
I’m going to try it out on this interior shot (below) of Castel Coch in Wales.
You can download a trial version from www.topazlabs.com/bweffects if you want to try it out for yourself. You simply need to supply an email address so that Topaz can send you a trial licence code.
The installation process isn’t quite as straightforward as those of other plug-ins, though. You need to install a free utility to use it from within Lightroom or Aperture (the instructions are straightforward), and you also need to carry out some manual installation steps for Photoshop Elements, as follows:
01 Photoshop Elements plug-in folder
Topaz B&W won’t automatically appear on the Elements Filter menu. First, you have to open the Preferences > Plug-ins panel, check the ‘Additional Plug-ins Folder’ box and then navigate to the folder quoted in the installation instructions (it depends on whether you’re using a Mac or Windows machine).
You’ll need to restart Elements once you’ve done this before it will recognised the new plug-ins.
02 Finding your filter
Now you’ll find the Topaz B&W filter on the Elements Filter menu. (There’s an entry for Topaz Labs, and it’s under that – you can get Topaz B&W on its own, but it’s also part of a much larger all-in-one filter collection.)
03 Topaz B&W interface
The Topaz B&W interface follows the usual pattern for plug-ins. In the left sidebar is a list of preset filter effects, arranged into categories, in the centre is the image you’re working on, and in the right sidebar is a collection of manual adjustment tools.
So far so good, though it’s not as quite as quick as other plug-ins I’ve used. Here, it’s taking a few moments to render previews for the preset effects in the category I’ve chosen.