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.

Topaz B&W Effects basics

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 Effects basics

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

Topaz B&W Effects basics

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

Topaz B&W Effects basics

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.