I first stumbled into my relationship with Topaz by way of their edge manipulation and texture smoothing plugin, Clean (on sale through May for 50% off HERE, use “mayclean” at checkout). Normally $30, you can get it for $15 currently. I had been trying to find a way to replicate the effects of Fractalius, which is a PC only plugin. Through my exploration, I found my way to Topaz Clean, and the rest is history. (you can read my Fractalius for Mac post HERE). While not a perfect substitute, there are ways to utilize the edge manipulation in Clean to get a similar effect and because of this initial review, it began my Topaz obsession which has grown to include DeNoise, ReMask, Clarity, ReStyle, B&W Effects, Star Effects, Detail and Simplify. Come on in for a couple examples and my thoughts.
Clean is an interesting plugin to me. I use it mostly to smooth skin, as it does an admirable job for most skin types and shots. As seen above, you can also use it to create a far more abstract result balancing between watercolor and airbrush. To get the best (see: most realistic and realistically flattering) results, I’d suggest trying to do a pass over the subject with the clone stamp or clone brush to take care of any visible blemishes, major wrinkles or whatever you may want to remove to begin with. It can also be advantageous to try and neutralize any variations in skin tone by way of a targeted saturation layer. Once done though, you can quickly and easily soften skin, and when applied to a duplicate layer, you can adjust the opacity to bring back some of the natural detail which I find is best to keep the overly “photoshopped” look at bay. Here are some before and after shots along with screen shots to show you what I mean.
Before: After: Before: After: You have a variety of presets which you can tweak and save. I have two skin presets which I’ve saved for a starting point on different types of skin as seen in the Topaz Clean interface below which you can click on to see larger: Before running Clean (or any plugin filter for that matter) I duplicate the layer I want to work on. Once I save my progress in Clean, I add an inverted layer mask (a layer mask filled with black) which hides the effect, then in the mask I paint with a white, 100% opacity brush onto the skin revealing the softened, smooth Clean layer. Once done, I then decrease the opacity of the “Clean” layer until I feel the image looks natural which will bring back some of the skin’s texture. To finish it off, I’ll drop the opacity of a black brush to around 25% and lightly blend any edges or areas that benefit from having the effect lessened. Quick, easy and in most cases takes no more than a couple minutes at most.
I found value in it years back and easily paid $30. Now, with it on sale for $15, I’d say that it could be an easy decision if you like the ability, or see the benefit to being able to soften skin in portraits, or implement the more abstract features via the more stylized edge manipulation tools.
Check out and download a free 15 day trial of Topaz Clean HERE and if you choose to buy it before May 31st, use code “mayclean” to get it for only $15!
Thanks as always for the read and happy shooting,