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COREL PAINTER 2015 /64-bit Mac / New Brushes

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BBEDIT 11 / Major Upgrade for Professionals

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WACOM INTUOS CREATIVE STYLUS 2 /Creating on the go with iPad

 

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ON1 PERFECT PHOTO 9 / A Photographer's Digital Toolkit

 

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by Eden Maxwell

 

Summer, 2015

 

"No is not forever. A plan for rejection is this:
retreat, reevaluate, and re-approach."


—Sam Horn

 

welcome book

COREL PAINTER 2015

Faster / Great New Brushes / Mobile App / Android

One of the most basic features that I like most about Painter is that I can keep working with no need to reload media—no downtime for cleaning brushes, either.

FINALLY, 64-BIT FOR THE MAC

Painter 2015 now offers a native 64-bit application for Mac users, which may well be worth the upgrade price. The native 64-bit CPU optimization means faster performance during RAM-intensive operations such as opening files and working with multiple layers. Users will also notice faster zooming, panning, and rotating. On average, brushes perform 40% faster.

NEW! PARTICLE BRUSHES

Painter 2015’s new brush set is the new Particle Brush category. These mathematically-inspired brushes offer many unique uses. You can, for example, paint elemental dancing effects such as fire and smoke; these brushes also help speed up creating fur, hair, grass, and other materials—organic and synthetic.

There are three main Particle Brush types: Gravity, Flow, and Springs. These brushes worked well with my Wacom Intuos tablet and art pen stylus options (pressure, tilt, bearing, etc.) for a more natural feel while painting.

Users already know that Painter has many brushes, and each brush has what can seem an overwhelming number of control settings to affect the appearance of the stroke. Particle brushes are no different. Gravity, Flow, and Springs have their own set of behaviors. You can control a Particle Brush variant by linking its behavior to a variety of stylus supported real-time input factors, such as pressure, bearing, tilt or velocity.

With numerous Particle Brush behavioral controls at hand, Corel has provided users with handy informational palettes on the basics of working with the various settings. To display the palettes and controls of the Particle Brushes for quick and easy access, choose Window > Arrange Palettes > New Brushes.

ORGANIZING CHAOS

Painter’s new Particle Brushes produce unexpected and unique results (including industrial or even ethereal looks) that will be especially appreciated by artists who like to experiment, and conceptual artists. These novel brushes produce chaotic strokes by emitting particles from a central point (in some cases similar to magnet filings coming to life), which in turn creates lines and various patterns, as they move across the canvas.

Note: Particle brushstrokes especially with the glow option selected in the tick box often appear best against a contrasting darker background. Users can check out the Particle Brush playlist on the Painter channel on YouTube.

BRUSH RESPONSIVENESS

Brush responsiveness with both traditional and digital tools contributes to the uninterrupted smooth flow of expression. Without responsive brushes, Painter’s usefulness would be severely limited. Fortunately, Corel Painter 2015 further improves brush response for the pressure and velocity of your stylus.

ENHANCED! BRUSH CALIBRATION / BRUSH TRACKING

The Brush Calibration controls are for adjusting individual brush variants, while the Brush Tracking palette settings by default apply to all brush variants. If you like, you can (in the Brush Tracking palette) check the box to limit your settings to only the current brush variant. Painter 2015 conveniently saves your Brush Tracking settings between sessions.

Note: In the Brush Calibration palette make sure to tick on Enable Brush Calibration in the checkbox.

The Brush Calibration palette also features a handy toggle button to launch the Brush tracking utility where you control the brush calibration settings.

Overall, you can modify the pressure of your stroke on the Brush Tracking scratch pad to achieve different results to mimic real world media. For example, a light touch with a pencil brush variant, but then add more pressure when using an oil paint brush to spread the paint from thinner to thicker.

Note: Since Painter saves Brush Calibration control settings with the individual brush variant when selected, whatever sensitivity you set will be the default the next time you choose that brush variant.

MORE ABOUT BRUSH TRACKING

Artists can in an intuitive manner apply new brush settings to the current variant on the fly with Brush Tracking without interrupting their creative flow—you know the feeling. As a starting point, you can experiment by choosing from several default pressure curves (default, legacy, linear).

The visual power curve in Brush Tracking aids you in controlling universal application pressure-sensitive memory. You can also tweak the curve and save it as a preset. To further reflect the intent of your actual strokes more accurately, from the open tracking scratchpad, you can simultaneously practice your stroke on the canvas (in this mode Command > Z won’t work) before applying any setting changes. Your brushstroke settings are instantly applied to the current brush variant—if that option is selected.

MANUALLY ADJUSTING PRESSURE AND VELOCITY

When using the scratch pad to set brush tracking and calibration, Corel Painter calculates the pressure and velocity settings for you. I find that this automatic method works very well.

But, you can also manually adjust these settings. For example, you can adjust the stroke pressure to achieve a full pressure range with a softer or harder touch with the Scale and Power sliders for pressure. You can also adjust the stroke velocity to achieve a full velocity range with a slower or faster stroke by using the Scale and Power sliders for velocity. Experimentation here is the key.

The Scale slider controls the point in your brushstroke where it achieves maximum pressure, and the Power slider sets how quickly pressure increases.

Note: Brush Tracking is particularly useful for artists with a light touch. If a light stroke leaves no color on the canvas, you can increase the pressure of your stroke. Better yet, you can use Brush Tracking to increase global sensitivity for all brushes. For example, the optimum tracking for oils and watercolors will no doubt be different on how you apply pressure and velocity.

NEW! JITTER SMOOTHING

Painter X3 introduced Universal Jitter, which allows you to add randomness to your brushstrokes by integrating the Jitter expression in a range of brush controls.

Corel Painter 2015 now enhances Jitter by featuring a way to get stroke-to-stroke variations without having to tinker with settings. Painter includes several preset Jitter brush variants. You can use the variants as they are or customize them by using the Jitter controls to build your own Jitter brushes.

Jitter Smoothing provides your brushstrokes with a more organic look. Jitter Smoothing, for example, delivers more natural looking spacing and flow in Airbrush brushstrokes, added depth when using Impasto, plus color transitions when using multi-colored strokes. Additionally, you can tweak brushstroke size and opacity, grain, angle, color variability, and color expression when using any of your favorite variants, including the new Particle Brushes.

NEW! PRE-DEFINED USER-INTERFACE ARRANGEMENTS

Painter 2015 now features a new selection of custom user-interface palette arrangements that were inspired by Painter artists. Each user-interface arrangement (Window > Arrange Palettes) displays only the relevant palettes and tools. Select a palette for illustrating, creating photo art, and getting started with the new Particle Brushes.

You can now access one interface using the Quick Switch feature; you can also choose the two workspace layouts that you use most often and quickly switch between them.

One addition to the interface palettes that I like is the new Command bar, as it displays only minimal UI. Access this palette by selecting the 'Simple' layout—but it can also be accessed directly from the Window menu.

The Command bar gives you quick access to basic commands, such as: New, Save, Undo/Redo, Cut/Copy/Paste, Layer Stack, and Brush Tracking. The Command bar is handy if you want to minimize any unnecessary clutter on your screen—especially when working on smaller displays: a laptop or a tablet PC.

EFFECTS & DIALOG BOX IMPROVEMENTS

Effects filters have been tweaked; you can now preview them across your whole artwork; this feature makes understanding what they do easier and quicker than with the thumbnail previews of previous versions. The design of dialog boxes has also been improved, making them larger and easier to manage.

Additionally, there’s a perspective guided strokes button on the properties bar, which allows you to quickly toggle the updated perspective grids to constrain your brush strokes to it, or you still have the option of doing it freehand over the guides for less constrained strokes.

SUPPORT FOR TABLETS AND OTHER DEVICES

Corel Painter supports Wacom-compatible tablets and devices, as well as devices that support the Real-Time Stylus (RTS) feature of the Windows operating system. Both groups have multi-touch capabilities. We know that Wacom-compatible devices are supported on both Mac OS and Windows. But, RTS-compatible devices that include tablet PCs and graphics tablets are supported only on Windows.

By default, Corel Painter uses tablet options that are suitable for Wacom-compatible devices. To take full advantage of your RTS-compatible graphics tablet or other device with Painter 2015, you must configure it first. Otherwise, you cannot use stylus information such as pressure and tilt to adjust and control brushstrokes.

To configure your RTS-compatible device (Windows):
1 Choose Edit > Preferences > Tablet.
2 In the Tablet Options area, enable the RTS-compatible devices (Real-Time Stylus) option.
3 Restart Corel Painter.

NEW! PAINTER MOBILE APP FOR ANDROID / WINDOWS ONLY

Unfortunately, iPad users will have to wait for this convenience. But, if you’re an Android user, you can take advantage of Painter's Mobile delivery system. This new app features a concise workspace with over 100 brushes. As noted in the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 review (below), painting on the go is both fun and surprising.

Additionally, you can with this new mobile app tweak brushes, mix paint, and use symmetry tools. Whey ready, you can import your work directly into Painter 2015 for finishing touches or export to widely used formats, such as JPEG, PNG, and PSD.

As there’s no stylus driver to install, you can immediately begin using the mobile feature of Painter 2015.

CONCLUSION

Is the new Corel Painter 2015 worth an upgrade? Is it vital to your work? While this is not a major upgrade, Painter 2015 does offer significant speed improvements across platforms with native 64-bit Mac compatibility, mobility (Windows only for now), enhanced Jitter Smoothing, plus a new set of dynamic Particle Brushes that will be of special interest to conceptual artists, architects, and medical illustrators.

Corel

PRICING

Download a 30-day trial; US$429; upgrade (Painter 7 - X3) US$229

Check the Corel website for promotions and discounts.

 

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BBEdit 11.0 / Mac / Bare Bones Software

BBEdit 11.0 (11.1.1) is a major upgrade that includes many new features, and behavior changes to its professional HTML and text editor for the Mac. Now with GIT support, too.

ZIPPING ALONG

I’ve been using BBEdit for some years now. It was my best buddy app some time ago when building my website, and then later when tweaking the print edition of my book, An Artist Empowered into an eBook (ePub) for the various booksellers: iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.

After unzipping the ePub into a folder containing the various files required for the ePub, I’d drag the file(s) needing an edit onto the BBEdit app icon on the Mac OS 10 Dock. I would then make my edits, save, then zip up the folder into the ePub (mobi format extension for Amazon).

Now, BBEdit is again indispensable for transforming my new novella ePub document, The Man with the Dog, into an ePub file that I then converted into the mobi format recognized by Kindle Direct Publishing (KDF). My novella is currently available on Amazon excluisvely.

THE INTERFACE

The upgrade team at Bare Bones Software has focused mostly on significant changes under the hood while leaving the main interface intact—and with a facelift on some dialog boxes. Superficial cosmetic changes to the UI that do not improve productivity is of little value to the user base that wants to get to work immediately.

REBUILDING THE FOUNDATION

BBEdit 11 constructs this update on a newly overhauled system that builds upon three core areas: Find Differences, Clippings, and Syntax Coloring. But, first a word about working with text.

IMPROVED TEXT MANIPULATION / EDITING ENHANCEMENTS / PROSE WRITERS

Another new and handy behavior is ‘highlighting selected text’. This feature is controlled by the “Highlight instances of selected text” option in the Editing preferences pane. You can toggle this feature on or off globally; there is also an adjustment for the delay before the highlighting is done.

After positioning the cursor in the first instance of a word, BBEdit then adds a subtle underline beneath all the other instances of that word in the document. Prose writers will especially appreciate seeing at-a-glance whether they’ve been overusing a word. In turn, you can then vary your word choices to make the text more lively. No, you can’t change the underlining color.

TEXT EXTRACTION

While you might not use this new feature every day, it’s good to know that you’ll find the Extract button in the Find and Multi-File Search windows. The Extract button is supported by a command on the Search menu, allowing you to assign a keyboard equivalent.

The Extract command functions to extract all search matches to a single file for further use. For example, let’s say you have a bunch of files that contain email addresses that you want to use. To accomplish this, you need only enter a suitable grep pattern (to match email addresses) into the Multi-File Search window, then select the file(s) you want to search, and apply the Extract command.

BBEdit will next perform a multi-file search through the designated file(s) and extract each match (corresponding to an email address), as a separate line within a new untitled text document separated by line breaks, which you can then save and use. The new Extract feature is also very handy when searching for strings within ePub files.

NEW UI FOR FIND DIFFERENCES

Find Differences allows you compare different versions of a document. The "Find Difference" dialog box itself has been modernized, and folder comparisons are faster due to a rewritten comparison engine.

In earlier versions, BBEdit used three windows to display the current file, the previous file, and a list of differences—and should you open a another window things could quickly get confusing. BBEdit 11 solves possible confusion by combining the three windows into a more coherent single window with three panes; note that both the current file and the previous file are fully editable.

FOLDER COMPARISONS, TOO

The revamped single window presentation as noted above is also easier to use and manage for folder comparisons. The new sidebar on the left displays the list of any differences between files and lets you copy files missing in one folder from the other.

IMPROVED SYNTAX COLORING

In earlier versions, although users could set colors, the choices were limited. Now with BBEdit 11 the internal syntax coloring mechanics have been extensively reworked, allowing for a greater selection of core color types, and also allowing language modules to add their own color option types. Support for color schemes has been expanded. A number of factory preset color schemes have been provided, and custom schemes can be saved and loaded—making them easy to share.

Improvements in syntax coloring will appeal mainly to coders—the feature displays different parts of code in specific colors to make the code easier to read. A new set of color schemes should please both the dark-text-on-light-background and the reverse crowds, and now you can also change syntax coloring options for individual languages. By default, BBEdit 11 doesn’t include syntax coloring for Apple’s Swift language (somewhat of a moving target), but a community member created a coloring module and made it available on Github.

Note: Users can customize colors in any scheme by clicking on them to reveal the color wheel for that color. Users can find more color schemes, or contribute their own to the BBEdit user community via the BBEditExtras wiki, which you can find here.

NEW CLIPPINGS SYSTEM MECHANICS

BBEdit’s Clippings feature (for creating, managing, and applying “snippets” of text) has been rewritten, making it more powerful and flexible. Clippings let you automate repetitive keystrokes by giving you a way to quickly locate and insert frequently used text, including HTML markup, program code blocks, or for prose writers like me, snippets of boilerplate text.

In previous versions of BBEdit, you were limited to a single set of clippings at a time. Now, with BBEdit 11, users can choose a clippings set to be universally available; users can also associate clippings with a particular language, as a means to prevent time-consuming errors. For example, the inherent flexibility with clippings and languages prevents loading your JavaScript clippings when you are coding in PHP. The Clippings floating window palette has been simplified with a single unified list of available clippings.

Note: You can assign keyboard shortcuts to often used individual clippings.

GIT: NO LONGER MIA

As many programmers know, Git, according to the developers, is a free and open source distributed version control system designed to handle everything from small to very large projects with speed and efficiency.

With the update of BBEdit 11.1 Bare Bones responded to their customers by integrating built-in support for Git and for EditorConfig. Also, the BBEdit 11.1 update also introduces a new CSS/SCSS language module, a new Arrange submenu and a new Save All in Window command, plus enhanced command-line tools and INI support, refined navigation, file management and preferences, and more.

Now, developers who use Git can access the core Git features directly from within BBEdit via the new Git menu instead of switching to the command line or to a dedicated GUI Git client. The new Git menu automatically presents available operations, the majority of which are enabled when the active document corresponds to a file in a local Git working copy.

Note: BBEdit’s Git integration is not intended to replace a full-featured Git client, but rather to enable you to easily perform common tasks on the file(s) you're working on without having to switch to the command line or a dedicated GUI client.

CONCLUSION

BBEdit has been around and embraced by many loyal users for a couple of decades, and for good reason: BBEdit is an excellent app at a good value with good customer support. Professionals are known by their tools, and if you are one, then BBEdit belongs in your toolkit.

UPGRADE DETAILS / WHERE TO BUY

BBEdit 11 retains its price of $49.99, but users of BBEdit 10 can upgrade for $29.99, and anyone still using BBEdit 9 or earlier can upgrade for $39.99. Those who bought BBEdit 10 on or after 1 May 2014 are eligible for free upgrades.

Note: If you bought BBEdit via the Mac App Store, you can no longer get an upgrade there. Bare Bones Software has pulling BBEdit from the Mac App Store entirely. All upgrades and new copies must be purchased directly from Bare Bones.

Bare Bones Software

 

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INTUOS CREATIVE STYLUS 2 FROM WACOM

Digital Artwork On-The-Go

CREATE ON THE ROAD, REFINE LATER ON YOUR COMPUTER

For years, I always brought my heavy paper drawing pad and color pencils with me whenever I visited my local Starbucks where over the years, I did hundreds of drawings. It would have been convenient if these drawings were on my computer where I could further develop a piece, but taking a photo was tedious and the size of the art on the go was too big for my scanner.

THAT WAS THEN, AND THIS IS NOW

As hinted above, having a digital art canvas for on the go is appealing to me, and many other artists. Stepping away from my studio offers a different energy, most especially when these days having a cappuccino with micro-foam at a cafe in Santa Fe.

I investigated my on the go art making options. For example, one portable alternative is the Wacom Cintiq Companion Hybrid 256 GB model, a dedicated digital art tablet that retails for over a thousand dollars. Instead, I opted to experiment with an iPad Air 1st generation that I could in addition to art use with many other apps and for a number of functions.

WOULD AN IPAD BE SUITABLE FOR THE TASK AT HAND?

To complete my toolkit, I would need art creation apps, plus a digital stylus, as I prefer the feel of a brush or pen, instead of using my finger to paint, especially annoying in a dry climate. We should note that the iPad was engineered as a finger maneuvering touch device, meaning that a sophisticated digital art stylus was a challenge for Wacom and the art app developers.

THE SETUP

To transform my iPad Air (1) into a portable art canvas, I tested the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 from Wacom over the past several months with the following art apps: ArtRage, SketchBook, Sketch Club, and Bamboo Paper from Wacom. There are other supported apps, plus more are in the pipeline (see the Wacom website for the latest information on compatibility).

Note: There are other companies offering styluses for the iPad, which you can explore if you like.

THE STYLUS 2 ITSELF

The Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is proudly and thoughtfully presented, which is no surprise, as Wacom is known for well-designed products. The black easy to transport compact carrying case contains and protects the Stylus, the Micro-USB cable for charging, extra nib, and nib extractor.

A fine-tipped stylus for the iPad, the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is supported by a growing number of leading creative apps. The ergonomic Stylus 2 designed with a thin pressure-sensitive tip with 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity lets you draw, sketch, and paint on your iPad with a more natural feel of brushes or pencils. The Stylus 2 recharges with an included standard Micro-USB cable. Each charge lasts for twenty hours plus, depending on use.

Note: A blinking red light on the Stylus 2 indicates Low battery; a steady red light indicates that it’s time for a charge.

CONNECTIVITY / COMPATIBLITY

Optimal Stylus 2 performance requires pairing (connecting) the Stylus with the art app. The Stylus 2 utilizes Bluetooth Smart technology for pairing; a blue light sequence on the Stylus indicates that the paring is successful; art apps also indicate onscreen when the paring is complete;

Note: Currently, the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is compatible with the iPad (3, 4), iPad Mini (1,2,3), and iPad Air (1).

DIGITAL ARTWORK ON-THE-GO / PALM REJECTION

Palm Rejection: The concept deals with resting your hand on the screen while drawing or sketching without leaving unintended marks thanks to palm rejection technology, which is supported by certain creative art apps. Only the Stylus 2 should leave a mark, but in practice, I found the palm rejection feature offered mixed results with different apps. If I needed leverage, I would simply keep my palm on the outer edges of the iPad.

MORE REFINED STYLUS 2

We should note that the previous Intuos Creative Stylus tip was bulbous and consequently less accurate. The Stylus 2 features a thinner, firmer longer lasting tip—allowing you to draw more naturally. The Stylus 2 is now also lighter and longer for a better balance, feel, and control. The improved Stylus 2 is also less expensive and doesn’t require the hassle of changing AAAA batteries.

SIDE SWITCH

Another improvement is the side rocker type programmable shortcut switches that have been redesigned to be flush with the body of the Stylus 2 rather than sticking out, reducing the likelihood of accidental presses, which could unpair (disconnect Bluetooth between Stylus and app), or turn off a feature.

Depending on the supported app, you can select from a range of functions and assign one to each side switch. In Bamboo Paper, for example, you can choose between eraser, undo, redo, and full screen. You change the shortcut commands via apps that support this feature.

Note: For best results hold the Stylus 2 with the switches pointing upward and away from your fingers.

STYLUS ACCURACY

The Stylus 2 lets you sketch, draw, and paint on your iPad with mostly good accuracy. In general, I’ve noticed that lines are a bit wavy with slower strokes, and straighter with quicker gestures. On balance, the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 comes very close to responding as a traditional brush or pen that gives you control over blending and shading.

Not all art apps work with the Stylus 2 in precisely the same manner. Success in responsiveness relies on how well the art app developers implemented Wacom’s SDK Stylus 2 specs.

Bamboo Paper (a Wacom app) and Sketchbook: Both work well with the Stylus 2, and there is very little offset from the pen to the actual mark.

ArtRage: There is noticeable offset from where you place the stylus and the actual mark. After some experimenting, I didn’t find this a hindrance to painting on the iPad. Palm rejection didn’t seem to work, either. But, I don’t see that as a deal breaker.

Sketch Club: Surprisingly, the pen-to-mark tolerance in this app is best of all.

A WORD ABOUT IMAGE RESOLUTION

With Sketch Club, for example, when you create a new sketch you'll see presets with different resolutions, including sizes A4 and A5 that offer 300 dpi resolution suitable for fine art printing. But, higher resolution in this case means a tradeoff with memory resulting in fewer layers to work with.

Note: Depending on the art app used your image options might be of low resolution. If needed, after emailing an art piece to myself, I then use Perfect Photo Suite 9's (review below) Perfect Resize module to increase the dimensions and resolution required for fine art printing.

All four art apps noted above have good customer support.

MODES OF STYLUS

As noted earlier, the modes of the Stylus 2 include: pressure sensitivity, palm rejection, and shortcut functionality. Some apps support them all, while others one or two. Sketchbook and Bamboo Paper support all three modes, while ArtRage supports pressure sensitivity and palm rejection, and Sketch Club supports button functions of undo and redo.

BONUSES: WACOM INTUOS PRO GIFT PACK

Included bonus items:

1. Free Bamboo Paper app plus Creative Pack to enhance your digital drawing experience
2. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro 90-day subscription (desktop and mobile) - 20% discount on annual subscription after 90-day promotion.
3. 30-day membership to Lynda.com online video training library.
4. Free Shutterfly 8 x 8-inch photobook.

DROPZONE / HAVE YOUR IMAGES EVERYWHERE

Drop zone is another free feature from Wacom that resides in the Cloud. You can copy & paste images between apps & devices.

Drag & drop your images into Dropzone, and have them on all your devices: iOS or desktop computer on Mac OS or Windows. Your Dropzone clipboard will be synced across platforms and devices automatically.

CREATIVE STYLUS 2 SPECS:

Pen Pressure 2048 levels

Battery Rechargeable long-lasting lithium-ion battery

Pen Carrying Case with USB cable, one extra nib, built-in nib removal tool

Nib Replaceable, thin nib, 2.9 mm (diameter)

Dimensions 141 mm in length, 10 mm in diameter (5.6 in x 4 in)

Pen Weight 19 g (0.7 oz)

CONCLUSION:

The Intuos Creative Stylus 2 is a handy digital tool that transforms (in conjunction with supported art apps) the iPad into an affordable mobile art canvas, which is an accomplishment. These days on my outings, my iPad Air 1 and Stylus 2 travel with me. I’ve done quite a bit of art already, which I export and then later refine on my computer.

PRICING

$79.99

Wacom

 

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PERFECT PHOTO SUITE 9 FROM on1 SOFTWARE

The new Perfect Photo Suite 9 adds faster Raw previews, re-editable files, improved selection tools, better masks, and more updated features.

ABOUT THE SUITE / PHOTOGRAPHERS ONLY / PAINTERS TOO

Perfect Photo Suite 9 from on1 (a recent company logo change from onOne) was developed specifically for photographers, and painters, too. More about this later. You won’t find 3D modeling or video editing tools here. You will find a suite of powerful and useful modules that feature convenient photo editing tools—something you’ll appreciate even if you already use Photoshop and Lightroom.

The Perfect Photo Suite has evolved into doing double duty as a full-featured photo editor that works either as a standalone application or a plug-in editor to Adobe Photoshop , Lightroom, and Apple’s recently retired Aperture. While it’s possible to produce similar effects using other image editing apps, Perfect Photo Suite 9 greatly simplifies the process, as it is dedicated solely to photography with well thought out and organized flexible modules and tools.

In any image post-processing workflow, Perfect Photo Suite 9 provides the necessary tools for editing your photos, improving portraits, adding popular looks in color or black and white, resizing for printing, including large-format, and simplifying complex selections, as in masking.

MAIN FOCUS

While Perfect Photo Suite 9 features many updates, the main aspect on1 Software worked on was to improve the Browse module. Instead of relying on other browsers for images, such as Lightroom or Bridge, Perfect Photo Suite 9 will now let you view all of your photographs at once, complete with Raw image previews, a rating system, keywords, and more.

The new Browse module also offers an open system capable of accessing your photos, no matter where they are stored on your hard drive. The Suite also supports all the key online storage services, including Dropbox, iCloud Photo Stream, Google Drive, and Microsoft’s OneDrive. The versatility of editing files in the cloud is an enticing option for many who rely on this convenience.

MODULES OF THE SUITE

As new versions have appeared over the years, Perfect Photo Suite 9 has evolved into a full featured photo image editor. If you’re new to the Suite here are the modules (plug-ins) with a brief description:

PERFECT LAYERS / MASKING

The recently added Layers module gives this standalone and Lightroom plug-in a significant increase in functionality, including a rich array of blending layers for experimentation. For example, use layered files for combining and blending your photos without Adobe Photoshop.

on1 has taken the best selection tools from Perfect Mask and put them into Perfect Layers, creating versatile and powerful tools for compositing and masking.

In the Perfect Photo Suite 9, the entire Perfect Mask module with many of its tools has been integrated into Perfect Layers and Perfect Effects. Here are some of the new features and tools you’ll be able to use to mask your images.

Perfect Layers lets you work with multiple images that can be merged as separate layers onto a single new file. You can then reorder and position each layer, as well as change blending modes and opacity. You can also selectively blend, or mask layers together using the Masking Brush and Masking Bug. Perfect Layers conveniently saves your work as native layered Photoshop (PSD) files—letting you open them directly with Photoshop for additional editing, should you find it necessary.

The Perfect Layers module is also a good choice for “mission control” when working on a photograph where you will be using more than one module to refine your photograph.

MASKING

When it comes to masking, Perfect Layers let’s you remove and replace backgrounds quickly and easily. You can mask through difficult areas, such as hair, tree branches, veils, and glass. After the main mask, there are handy touch up tools to further refine your professional mask. You can also blend images, and perform basic edits (such as cropping or removing those annoying dust spots).

Masking works best when there is sufficient resolution and color differences between the object and the background that you want to remove. Images that have been scanned may also hinder a clean professional mask.

Note: If you access Suite 9 via Adobe Photoshop, you won’t see Perfect Layers, which is available via its standalone module.

PERFECT ENHANCE

A photograph may only need minor edits. Often less is more, and a little tweaking can go a long way toward an exceptional image. In the Perfect Enhance module, you can add subtle corrections to tone, color, sharpening, noise correction, and other post-processing effects.

Perfect Enhance also features the Quick Fixes pane, which includes common adjustment controls in the form of simple buttons to tune your image. These basic adjustments can be controlled through these buttons, as an alternative to using the sliders.

PERFECT PORTRAIT

Portrait photographers will appreciate the Perfect Portrait module that features tools to easily isolate and smooth skin, brighten eyes, and whiten teeth.

When you launch Perfect Portrait, the module searches for faces in the image. Next, the selected faces are marked with a white rectangle box. Select a face to edit and a green highlight box will surround it.

The Perfect Brush tool in Perfect Portrait has been significantly improved to work better along soft edges and semi-transparent objects like smoke, clouds, or hair. In other words, no more hard edges or pixelation along the line of the subject when painting in a new background. Note also that the Perfect Brush is available wherever you find the Masking Brush tool.

PERFECT EFFECTS

For many, Perfect Effects is a personal favorite among the Perfect Photo Suite 9 product lineup. This module works with any type of photograph, allowing significant control in stylizing, and refining each photo to match your vision.

Perfect Effects works by allowing you to add and adjust multiple effects stacked on top of one another. This is a digital approach for adding filters over your camera lens. First, in traditional photography, you would add a polarizer to increase the contrast. Next, you would add a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky, and perhaps add a vignette lens hood to darken the edges. This same concept drives Perfect Effects, except that it's less costly and cumbersome, and you have many more filters, more flexibility, and control. 

If, for example, the sky is too bright, and the forest is too dark, you can fix them with Perfect Effects by using the handy tool for adjusting gradients.

PERFECT B&W

For those who enjoy experimenting with black and white processing, the Perfect B&W module allows you to enhance and preview your photos based on their colors and tones, and also apply a realistic film look.

Located in the left panel of the Perfect B&W module is a built-in browser. Use it to browse the factory supplied presets, presets you have created or downloaded from the on1 Marketplace, or for marking and finding your favorites.

PERFECT RESIZE

Perfect Resize is a module I rely on often to enlarge my artworks for printing. I typically work on my art at a lower resolution of 200 PPI for better performance from my processor intensive art apps (Corel Painter, ArtRage); I then resize the work to 300 PPI with no deterioration of pixels for printing. Also, as noted in the Intuos Creative Stylus 2 review above, when needed, I rely on Perfect Resize to increase low resolution images supported by the various art apps for the iPad.

The Premium Edition of Perfect Resize lets you access the module as a plug-in through Adobe Photoshop® or Elements. This includes the on1 panel for Photoshop for fast access to plug-ins and their presets. You can use the Suite's Photoshop plug-in modules (except Perfect Layers available with the Premium Edition or as the standalone version) in the Photoshop workflow. From Perfect Resize, you can also work selections and masks as well as Smart Objects and Smart Filters. You can also record actions for automating and batch processing.

To create a Smart Photo (more details below) that allows you to re-edit an image after saving it, select the Smart Photo checkbox in the Edit What dialog when you open an image. If you access Perfect Resize as a plug-in from Lightroom, you have the option to invoke Smart Photo each time you send off your image as a Photoshop file. If you have Perfect Layers, you can also convert a layer to a Smart Layer, which converts the image to a Smart Photo.

Note: Keep in mind that Perfect Resize is best used as the logical last step in your workflow before printing.

KEY ENHANCEMENTS

Let me recap. The key enhancements in Perfect Photo Suite 9 include:

An overhauled Browse module, which adds fast previews of RAW files; new rating, ranking, and keyword tools; and advanced filtering capabilities. These features help you cull and sort through photos quickly after a shoot, without having to wait for time-consuming previews to be generated. You can then edit your photos using the Suite or send them to Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Apple Aperture (decommissioned by Apple)—with metadata and keywords intact.

Note: Here’s a helpful video by Matt Kloskowski with tips on using Suite 9 with Adobe Lightroom. Click [here].

The Perfect Browse interface is similar to a file-browsing folder on your desktop. Here, you can quickly browse through your images to find photos you would like to work on in one or more of the modules. Perfect Browse makes it easy to preview your files and plan your strategy for processing your images.

Perfect Browse offers many new features. Along with a faster browsing engine (as noted), it also supports according to on1 the following additions:

• Faster image processing
• The ability to rate, label, and “like” your images
• Rotate support
• Filtering and searching through your images based
on labels, ratings, likes, and keywords
• Editing metadata from within the Browse panel on
the right
• Printing directly from the Browse module
• Updates to Favorites and Folders panels on the left
• The ability to batch rename files
• A Send To feature that allows you to send photos
to other applications, such as Photoshop

SMART PHOTO

In the past, applying an effect and closing out a module (such as Perfect Effects, for example) meant that those filters and presets were permanently “etched” to the photo. Now, with the Smart Photo option, if you make and apply changes inside of one of the modules, you can exit the module, then return to re-edit the photo with all of your settings intact. This is a welcome feature: you can make subtle alterations to an effect while preserving the Photoshop file format for compatibility—without having to start from scratch.

Note: The What to Edit pane (to select your options) opens each time you select a module from the new Browse module.

To use an image as a Smart Photo, open your photo (the What to Edit pane opens) and ensure that the Smart Photo Re-Editable PSD option is checked at the bottom and that Edit a Copy is also selected. Then, you’re all set to go.

SMART HISTORY PANE

The Smart Photo History pane displays all of the Smart Layers inside of a Smart Photo. For each Smart Layer it conveniently lists what modules have been applied to it. The Smart Photo History Pane is only available in the Perfect Photo Suite 9.

Similar to Smart Objects in Photoshop, Smart Photos also has a few technical limitations to note. You cannot, for example, use any tool that will change the original pixels, such as crop or transform. This includes the retouching tools in Perfect Layers; you can, however, use them in the Portrait and Enhance modules. Additionally, you cannot Crop or Resize either, as that to would alter the image size or proportions.

MASKING

To help you create better selections, all the masking and selection tools have been improved and integrated throughout the Suite’s modules.

In Perfect Photo Suite 9, the entire Perfect Mask module has been removed with many of its tools as previously noted integrated into Perfect Layers and Perfect Effects, thereby streamlining the photo compositing process.

Here are some of the new features and tools you’ll be able to use to mask your images:

QUICK MASK BRUSH

In addition to the masking tools being integrated to the rest of the Suite, there is now a new and handy Quick Mask Brush that automatically creates a detailed mask. For example, you can with a single swipe quickly mask out an unwanted sky or background.

REFINE, CHISEL, BURN

You can then use the additional masking tools to Refine, Chisel, or Blur to perfect your mask area.

Refine Brush: Use the Refine Brush to remove the excess color pixels out of your existing mask. This is similar to the Magic Brush in previous modules.

The Chisel Mask tool: It “chisels away” at the edge of the mask only a few pixels at a time, which lets you further refine and perfect your masks.

The Blur Mask Tool: Softening the edges on blurred or semi-transparent subjects like hair can make them blend with a new background in a more realistic manner. Since the Blur Tool only works on the edges, you don't have to be as precise with it.

You can switch between different masking previews using the toggle on the bottom-left of the preview window.

COPY AND PASTE ACROSS MODULES

Copy and Paste Masks: In previous modules, you were able to copy and paste masks within a module. Now, with Perfect Photo Suite 9, you can copy and paste masks across the modules.

Responding to user requests, on1 has added noise reduction to reside as part of the Suite. You can reduce noise in your photos while maintaining important details. You can even selectively apply noise reduction to different parts of a photo. This feature is effective for reducing noise in shadow areas, while still retaining the detail in other parts of your photograph.

MORE NEW FEATURES

Perfect Photo Suite 9 offers many more subtle new features that deserve attention. Here are some of the miscellaneous new items in this version:

Printing: The ability to print from the modules is now supported in the Perfect Photo Suite. One thing to note is that the keyboard shortcut, Cmd/Ctrl+P, is now dedicated to this new printing feature. (The keyboard shortcut for toggling the before and after preview is now the \ key.)

Lens Flare Filter: This new filter lets you experiment with flares ranging from subtle to bold until you get that “shot into the sun” effect that works for you.

Retina Display Support: For Mac users with Retina displays the preview area and all artwork are now drawn at 2x quality. This will be coming soon (maybe a done deal by the time this article goes online) for Windows 8.1 users as well.

Modernized Crop Tool: The Crop tool has been updated. It now moves the image inside of the crop box instead of the other way around. It also includes a new and handy leveling tool, similar to what you’d find in Photoshop.

The Crop Tool allows you to crop freeform, to a specific ratio, or choose from popular document sizes. You can save your own crop presets. The Crop Tool is in Layers, Enhance, and Resize.

Auto-Tone: The algorithm for the auto-tone across modules has been updated. In the past you could set the the white and black points. Now you can set these, including adjustments for brightness, contrast, shadows and highlights.

Quick View Browser: You can now start up directly into your Favorites, Presets, or Filters view. It’s optional and can be toggled on and off in the left area of the footer of each module that supports it, such as Perfect Layers.

Faster image processing
: Filters and presets now load up to 30 percent faster than in previous versions. The Suite uses more OpenGL and OpenCL, as well as a more optimized use of multiple processor cores.

Fast Preview: This much appreciated mode allows you to view large previews from Raw files nearly instantly. Instead of first importing your images into Lightroom and wait some time for your photos to be catalogued, Fast Preview works by extracting embedded previews from the Raw files instead of processing the full-sized image.

Keep in mind that the Suite is best suited for stylizing your images, but offers limited RAW capabilities, which are better left to Adobe Lightroom, as it has a dedicated RAW processor.

You can, for example, begin your workflow with the Suite using Fast Preview to quickly mark and delete unwanted shots, and also star rate others before copying your images to Lightroom—including the metadata and ratings. From Lightroom, you can then save your RAW files as editable PSD Photoshop files to further refine your images in Perfect Photo Suite 9.

The size of the embedded preview is controlled by the camera manufacturer. Embedded previews are mostly the same size as the full image. Sometimes when the preview is smaller, a small alert icon appears in the footer of detail view. If you need to zoom into 100%, pressing this icon will generate a full-sized preview.

Note: You can disable Fast Preview mode by press the button in the footer of detail view. 

BONUS OFFERINGS

On a regular basis, on1 offers its user base free Presets for the Suite and Lightroom, plus many professional tutorial videos. I‘ve discovered many helpful insights and tips for working with images.

CONCLUSION

If you’re a painter, you work with various media in your artist’s studio. In the same way, even if you’re an Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom user, you will keep those photo-editing and catalog tools while integrating, enjoying, and benefiting from the ease and power of Perfect Photo Studio 9, as part of your post-processing image toolkit.

Another point to make is this: if you’re now beginning to get into photography as a hobby or a potential profession and do not yet have Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, Perfect Photo Suite 9 would be an affordable entry means to experiment with many tools to see the possibilities. Users can also rely on reliable technical support from on1.

on1 Software

Perfect Photo Suite 9 (US$149.95); a trial version is available: plug-ins are also available separately; plus on1 offers discounts from time to time.

 

 

 

 

 

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