Monthly Archives: August 2011

Exploring Nik Software – Part 1

Our next selection of blog entries investigates all things image editing with Nik Software plug-in, with a detailed look at each plug in, and how it could benefit you.

Why Nik Software, and who are they?

Adobe Photoshop, Aperture and Lightroom; arguably the cornerstones of image editing that enable you to apply sophisticated and highly complex techniques. To some extent, to fully benefit from professional control and results can take months, or even years of regular uses.  This can mean you develop the skills of a professional Photoshop user, rather than that of a professional photographer! However, without good knowledge of these systems, you may not be able to achieve what you want to.

This is where the Nik Software range of plug-ins becomes invaluable.

Nik provide a range of plug-ins that allow the user to apply filters and effects to images in a far more intuitive way than other applications. What could be a time-consuming and complex task in Photoshop becomes more straight-forward using a Nik plug-in.

These plug-ins also include techniques which can’t be done through Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture alone – extending the capability of your main photo-editing application.

The Nik collections is made up of 6 plug-ins – you can either get individually, or as a full collection – which together form a logical photographic workflow. They all share an interface with the same look and feel. They work by creating a separate layer in Photoshop or copy in Lightroom and Aperture, so the original image always remains.

How does it work?

Nik use a feature called ‘Upoint Technology’. Basically, this allows you to adjust and edit your images using control points which are selectively placed on your image. Multiple control points can be placed on the image to enable the range of effects or filters to be increased, or decreased based on your requirements.

So, that’s how they work, now let’s have a look at each Plug-in to see what they do… This week we look at Dfine 2.0 and Viveza 2.

Dfine 2.0


Dfine essentially removes noise from digital photographs. All digital cameras exhibit noise which can increase with higher ISO (sensitivity) settings. Noise usually displays itself as speckled colour and contrast effects, which in turn causes loss of clarity and detail.

Dfine smooths out this noise without harming the original image quality. It is particularly useful for photographers shooting in low light environments where you may need to increase camera sensitivity.

Viveza 2


Viveza 2  is all about complex colour adjustments. Placing a control point on an area (see UPoint Technology above) allows you to edit the underlying colour with a set of sliders. These sliders allow you to adjust the contrast, brightness, saturation and structure of that particular colour.

The coverage of this effect and how far it spreads can also be controlled, allowing you to be really precise. In Photoshop, this can only be done with a combination of masks, selections and dodge.burn techniques. Viveza 2 is much simpler, and more accurate.

Next week we look at Color Efex Pro 3 and HDR Efex Pro.

cmyk dots

Colour Reference Guides part 2 – media types

Last week we blogged about the types of colour referencing guides and formats available for you to use when referencing colour.

This week, part 2 sees us look at the types of media these reference guides use, and how that may affect your choice of reference guide.

You may see reference guides being described in the below ways:

Coated - This means the paper which the colours are printed on has a surface coating so that the inks sit nicely on the paper. This results in a vibrant, bold printed colour.

Uncoated - A more ‘natural’ feel than coated media. It is easier to write on, but colours appear flatter due to the ink being absorbed by the paper.

Newsprint & Recycled - This is a lower grade of paper which normally produces a ‘dirty’ or off-white colour. The paper itself has a high-level of ink absorbency producing dull, muted printed colour.

Which one should I go for?

As you can imagine, it depends on what the guide is required for. Generally, Coated guides are the most popular due to their vibrancy. However, Uncoated guides will probably give you a better reflection of what you can expect to be printed out. Newsprint/Recycled media will be best suited for newspaper adverts, which normally require CMYK 4-colour prints.

The sort of print processes – or paper – you are using may also determine which colour reference guide to go for. So what printing processes are there?

Types of Print Process

CMYK 4-Colour - A range of colours can be achieved through printing a combination of Cyan (C), Magenta (M), Yellow (Y) and Black (K) which combine and mix on the paper during the print process. The resulting colours aren’t high on vibrancy, but the CMYK 4-colour process is required for the reproduction of photographic type images, or multiple flat areas of colour. CMYK prints are made by printing a mixture of coloured dots which blur to produce the desired colour.

Spot Colour Printing - In this method, inks are mixed to achieve specific colours before they are applied to the printing press. Mixing ‘recipes’ are provided for the print companies alongside each colour reference, in this case, found in Pantone Formula Guides. Specially made Pantone mixing scales are also available to help the mixing process. Spot printing produces a cleaner, more consistent image than CMYK.

Textile, Plastic, Paint… - Unlike printing ink onto paper, colouring textiles, plastics and other materials have far more variables. For such processes, rather than colour recipes being created, manufacturers of the raw materials are certified for producing pre-colour specified materials.

 Is there anything else I need to consider?

The final piece of the colour reference and print jigsaw is the visual assessment of colour afterwards. It is worth considering how the light and environment in which you review colours may affect how it looks.

You can read about viewing conditions and how they affect what you see in our blog post, here.

Colour Referencing part 1 – guide types

Colour selection and reproduction.

Every process can vary, from the colour pigments  used to how they mix and reproduce on different types of media.

Whether a graphic or fashion designer, architect, interior designer or decorator, if the object is to accurately reproduce a chosen colour, a physical colour sample  will be needed from a controlled, reproducible colour system.

This is where the likes of Pantone, RAL and DCS come in.

The above brands produce a variety of reference guides and numerous forms, here we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each type:

Fan Guide – corner rivet, fan opens to display 7 or 8 different colours per page.
Compact and easy to select individual colours, but not practical to compare multiple colours within the guide side-by-side.

Chip Book – Ring binder with multiple (normally 6) chips of each colour.
You’re able to separate chips for comparison of different colour options. Chips can also be fixed to work to help communicate colour choices and avoid misrepresentation during the production process. Replacement chips are available and can be added for frequently used colours. However, it’s not as compact  or convenient as a fan guide to flick through when selecting colours.

Planner - Chart with all samples on a single surface.
Compact, with all colours available at a one glance. Good for an economic option.
Generally based on smaller colour samples than other guides. Near impossible to compare colours to each other as they’re all fixed to a single baseboard.

Swatch Folder - Ring binder folder with multiple pages of pockets holding indivudal, removable swatches.
Can accommodate a large range of swatches, which can be removed for compariosn against each other.
It’s a fairly bulky item and not that practical for flicking through – although perfect once you have selected the general colour you want to use.

Ring Binder - Comprises of a fixed set of colours on each page.
Can accommodate a large range of swatches and is a very practical item for when colours on each page relate to each other.
As with the swatch folder, it’s fairly bulky and not that great for browsing – but again, perfect when you have chosen your final colours.

Best format?

Fan Guide’s are the most popular and practical for indentifying individual colours, whereas a planner can be quite restricting. A chip book is a necessity in addition to a fan guide in order to select colour combinations, and have the means of communicating colour with a visual reference.

Swatch and Ring Binders are the most practical solutions for approaching large colour ranges, with the ring binder having the advantage  or removable swatches for easy comparions.

Photo editing? There’s an app for that

Introducing Snapseed.

Photo editing is a significant part of your photography workflow – as I’m sure you’re aware. There’s a whole host of products and software available that making editing that little bit easier, and enable you to bing your photography to life.

Well, now there’s another way which will be of particular interest to those of you with an iPad or iPhone.

Snapseed is an app developed by Nik Software (the guys that brought you HDR Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro 2 to name a few) that gives you complete editing control at your fingertips – literally!

Snapseed is a brilliant blend of Apple’s intuitive touch technology, and Nik Software’s industry leading editing software.

There’s plenty of content, from effect filters like ‘Vintage’ and ‘Grunge’ styles, to centre focus, auto correct and organic frames. You can also post your images straight to facebook or flickr once you’re done.

Essentially, it has aspects of what Nik do best in one powerful app.

As the amateurist of ameteur photographers – actually, thats doing a dis-service to all the amateur photographers out there, I’m more of a shoot stuff on the iPhone and have a play sort of person! – I found the app to be incredibly intuitive. You can achieve some fantastic results quickly and easily, but also have the power to do more complex tasks if you wish to.

It may not have the complexity or customisation of a Complete Collection for example, but it more than offers substanital editing fun to hand on your iPhone or iPad.

News from Eizo; ColorNavigator 6 is here.

ColorNavigator is Eizo’s in-house monitor calibration software, available on a range of ColorEdge Eizo monitors.

It gives you simple and easy calibration, offering the user predictible colour results using the Look-Up Table found on ColorEdge monitors.

You can calibrate to preset or your own user assigned values, as well as undertake paper white measurement and re-calibrate from previous calibraion results.

For more information on ColorNavigator 6, have a look at their website.

Keep checking our download section too, as we’ll be uploading ColorNavigator 6 for you to download very soon.