I’m a huge fan of Silver Efex Pro, the black and white plug-in in the Google Nik Collection. But in a spirit of fair play I want to take a proper look at a rival product, Topaz B&W Effects 2. This comes from plug-in maker Topaz Labs, which sells a suite of plug-in tools that rivals the scope of the Google Nik Collection. B&W Effects is available both on its own and as a part of the Topaz Complete Collection.

Topaz B&W Effects

I want to see if Topaz B&W has its own particular strengths, and I have found a couple of features which I think are especially interesting – Details and Transparency – and I’m going to use them on this still life photo (above).

01 ‘Classic’ default

Topaz B&W Effects

I want to use the manual adjustment tools rather than any of the Topaz B&W preset effects, so I’ve chosen this ‘Classic’ preset from the ‘Traditional Collection’ as the closest thing to a default starting point.

02 Customise the interface

Topaz B&W Effects

I don’t need to see the presets sidebar on the left, only the manual tools on the right – and if you click the ‘Change viewing options’ button (circled) on the top toolbar you can show or hide these different interface elements.

The tools sidebar on the right has a navigator window and a set of quick adjustment buttons underneath. I don’t want these either, and I can hide them by clicking the ‘Show/hide quick tools’ and ‘Show/hide navigator’ buttons, also circled.

03 Detail slider

Topaz B&W Effects

This gives me more room to open up and explore the four tools panels: Conversion, Creative Effects, Local Adjustments and Finishing Touches. The tools I want are in the Conversion panel, which has a series of sub-headings. Under the ‘Adaptive Exposure’ heading is the ‘Detail’ slider. If I push this to the right, the outlines of the objects in the picture become much stronger. It’s a kind of localised contrast effect, not unlike the Structure slider in the Google Nik Collection, though coarser.

04 Detail Boost

Topaz B&W Effects

The Detail Boost slider below affects finer details and works in a slightly different way. I can get the detail enhancing effect I’m after by using both in combination. For this kind of work it’s useful to zoom in a little – you’ll find the zoom tools on the  top toolbar (circled).