Review, Nik Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 3.0

Since my review of Silver Efex Pro by Nik Software, I’ve been working with some of the other software packages offered by Nik, specifically Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 3.0. Like Silver Efex Pro, these applications offer great flexibility and control during image editing. They are compatible with Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture. In this article, I’ll provide an overview of the features and benefits of both.

Viveza 2 offers sophisticated both  global and highly selective editing of image characteristics, including but not limited to color, saturation, contrast,  brightness, structure, saturation (RGB or by channel), etc. And as I’ll explain further on, the edits you perform can not only be placed on a Photoshop layer, but individual edits in the application itself are non-destructive, and can be changed at will.

Color Efex Pro offers over 50 pre-designed filters, with an incredible range of image enhancements, conversions, and special effects.

I’ll cover some of the fundamentals in Viveza 2, using Photoshop. Clearly it’s not possible to explain all the combinations and nuances in this space. If you really want to get a grip on what’s possible with the software, it’s advisable to take a live workshop, like the one I have coming up on Wednesday, June 9, 6:30-9:30PM at the SCV Center for Photography. Click on the link, and scroll down a bit – the listing is in the left hand column. You can also call 661-904-2092 for reservations. (Credit cards cheerfully accepted.) Fee is $69.

(FYI, the software works in CS5 in 32-bit mode, except for Viveza 2 for Windows, which can be used in 64-bit mode. Upgrades are planned some time around mid-year.)

I’ll be using one of my recent images, taken a month or two ago during the explosion of Spring wildflowers in California.

Before Launching Viveza 2

Now I’ll go to Filters, and launch the application. The first screen looks like this:

Opening Panel

The original image is shown in the center. One can change this view to twin before/after images, or to a single image split to show the same. Here’s a closeup of the control panel on the right:

Control Panel

Note the button for “Add Control Point” (more on this later), the global controls for brightness, contrast, saturation, and structure, and at the bottom, a drop-down for levels and curves (new in Viveza 2)

Levels and Curves drop-down

I’m accustomed to making these adjustments on individual adjustment layers in Photoshop; now you have that option here. These controls operate globally as one would expect.

Now I’ve made a levels and curves adjustment, and set the screen for a side by side comparison:


I’m conservative in these adjustments, but you can see the difference in overall contrast, and in some degree, a bit of increased saturation.

You can also add what Nik calls “Control Points”, which are highly versatile tools – a Control Point (CP) can be placed anywhere in the image. Click on the CP button in the Control Panel, mouse over and left click to place the CP.

A basic CP looks like this:

Note the yellow button at the top – that slider controls the size of the CP, and how much impact it has on the image. Underneath it are control sliders for Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, and Structure.

Control Point Size

You can click on the small triangle at the bottom of the Control Point to reveal more options:

Now we can see controls for shadow adjustment, warmth, R-G-B, and hue. These adjustments are also available in the Control Panel.

This is one of the core concepts to this software. You can apply CPs singly, or in groups. A CP can be duplicated through the command <alt> – left click.

Once you’ve made your adjustments, you have the option of clicking OK, which will apply your changes on a new layer, or Brush, which will create a new layer with a black layer mask. You can then paint on the mask with a white brush to reveal your edits.A small Viveza panel will be present in your Photoshop screen – when finished editing the layer, click “apply”, and voila!

Later on if you want to make changes in your edits, re-open Viveza and work away. When you click “Apply” the changes will take effect.

This review just scratches the surface. I could write a book, but not today. :)

Viveza provides impressively easy-to-use, highly flexible tools for editing images in Photoshop, Lightroom, or Aperture. Used appropriately, it can really improve and speed up your image editing.

I’ll be brief in my remarks about Color Efex Pro 3.0. Can you say, “indispensable”? It is one of my all-time favorites.

The application offers over 50 filters, presets, and such. One of my favorites is “Brilliance/Warmth” which can do wonders for landscape images. Here’s the menu in the opening panel (looks much the same as Viveza, but this menu appears on the left):

Filter and Pre-set Menu for Color Efex Pro

Also note the tabs, which organize the menu choices by task or image type: Portrait, Landscape, Stylizing, and Traditional. You can also organize your favorites under a separate tab.

One could develop many of these “looks” in Photoshop, but in the majority of cases this application makes things easier and faster – and frequently better. Here’s a side by side of Brilliance/Warmth:

Before and After - Brilliance/Warmth

I think that’s pretty cool!


6 thoughts on “Review, Nik Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro 3.0

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