The best software for beautiful large prints?

I print a lot of images both for myself and clients. Most of the time, these are large prints which require enlargement. For example, I frequently print 40×60″ prints from my Nikon D850. Without interpolation, those 46-megapixel RAW files would only be 137 dpi at that size. My goal is 300dpi, which would be a 218% enlargement of the linear dimensions or equivalent to shooting on a 172-megapixel camera. Safe to say I won’t own one of those anytime soon. And that’s not the largest size I might print. Unless you only make small or medium-sized prints, it’s important to know how to enlarge your images.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn the pros and cons of the most common options and how to get the best results from each. I use a variety of tools, including Photoshop’s “Preserve Details“, Topaz Gigapixel AI, and ON1 Resize. There are numerous alternatives, but I recommend Gigapixel. (Note that if you decide to purchase Gigapixel, use discount code gbenz15 for 15% off.*)

Note that I also generally recommend ON1 Resize for those printing on canvas, as it has an excellent tool for created reflected edges for gallery-wraps. However, in my experience with the latest 2021 version, there are some problematic bugs and so I skipped it for this video and recommend holding off purchasing or upgrading for now. ON1 is a great company and I’m sure they will address these bugs. I have reached out to them for support and will update this article when they have a release which addresses these issues.

I use all of these options because each has its own strengths. A direct comparison is difficult to do, for a few reasons. First, the controls are different and you really have to spend time to find optimal results to compare from Resize and Gigapixel. And second, all enlargement interacts with sharpening and noise. For example, some of these algorithms may add a lot of sharpening, others very little. The immediate result isn’t a fair comparison until you have finished the image. The best algorithm is really the one that gets you to the best final print, including consideration of how you process noise and sharpness in the image both before and after using one of these enlargement tools. With those caveats out of the way, I think there are some clear differences between the various options.
So before we get to the comparison further below, let’s take a look at how to get best results from each of them. Note that for each of them, make sure you start from a flattened copy of your work (just duplicate the image and flatten all layers). Resizing layers and layer masks is possible, but may easily lead to poor results. And the other tools may throw some cryptic error (especially with Smart Objects and Adjustment layers) about “command not available” or “GatherImageDataFilter”.

How to get great enlargements with Photoshop “Preserve Details”:

The options here are limited and pretty straight-forward.
  1. Go to Image / Image Size.
  2. Make sure “resample” is checked and the dropdown next to it is set to “Preserve Details (enlargement)“. While there is a “2.0” option, the original is generally best.
  3. Enter the desired output size.
  4. The “reduce noise” slider is helpful when working with noisy images, such as ISO 6400 images of the night sky. You should leave reduce noise to 0 for images shot at low ISO, but consider something like 25% for noisy images.

How to get great enlargements with Gigapixel AI:

  1. Go to File / Automate / Topaz Gigapixel AI to start the plugin from within Photoshop.
  2. Choose your preferred settings
    • You can choose size by scaling factor, but picking a height or width is typically simplest. Click the dimension units to switch between pixels, inches, or cm and choose the desired resolution (300 pixels per inch is a good choice if you don’t know what to use). The full output dimensions are shown below the image.
    • Choose Standard for most images or Architectural for cityscapes or other highly detailed images with sharp edges. The Compressed option is meant for when working with low quality source files and Art is for graphics, so you probably won’t use either of them.
    • Clicking “auto” is a very good option. While you can often do a little better in most cases, the difference is unlikely to be noticeable in most prints. But the greater the enlargement, the greater the benefit to spending time on the next few options.
    • “Suppress noise” helps improve detail significantly in high ISO images. For most (clean) images, just leave this at 0-20%. For high ISO images (such as ISO 6400), try up to 80 or even 100%.
    • “Remove blur” is a confusing way of basically saying: sharpen the image image. It can be used for handheld images or other scenarios where there is some subtle blurring of your subject, but it can also simply be used to add sharpness to any image. This slider is a significant part of the apparent sharpness of Gigapixel at default settings and the best choice here depends on your image, personal preference, and whether / how you plan to sharpen the image separately after enlarging it. 50% is a good general-purpose setting here, but this is the one setting where it really pays off to try different values and to fine the best preview.
    • “Reduce color bleed” isn’t quite what you would expect. I find that it adds a bit of detail, with a risk of some artifact. Toggle it on and off if you’d like to see if the extra detail is helpful in key areas. I generally leave it off.
    • Try “face refinement” if you are enlarging and image with people.
    • In my testing, none of the options other than size affect the processing time, so just pick what looks best in the preview.
  3. Click “Apply” when done.
The final output includes both the result from Gigapixel AI, as well as another version which is identical to Photoshop’s “bilinear” resampling method. In most cases, you can probably just delete the lower layer, but it is helpful if you wish to blend the results using lower opacity on the top layer or paint black on a layer mask.
Note that I have found the time to process the image is not affected by any of the options, so you should just choose the settings that look best in the preview. If you need to save time, you should use one of the other approaches for enlargement.

How to get great enlargements with ON1 Resize:

The interface is a bit complicated if you want to dive into all the options. I recommend just using a few to keep things simple. Here’s the workflow I recomend:
  1. Go to File / Automate / ON1 Resize to start the plugin from within Photoshop.
  2. Under Document Size: Set the final dimensions and resolution you need.
  3. Settings is the key set of controls for enlargement. Choose the best preset under “image type”. Leave the method on “Geniune Fractals” and the sliders as set by the preset. You can optimize texture, threshold, and smoothness; but I don’t think it’s worth it for most users. The controls are confusing and there isn’t really a live preview. The defaults are fine. If you want to tweak details for best results, I recommend using Gigapixel instead.
  4. Skip “Sharpening” and use options in Photoshop instead.
  5. Skip “Film grain” for most use, though it’s worth trying various options for portrait work.
  6. Use the “Gallery wrap” for mirrored edges if printing on canvas. Set the type to “reflect“, thickness for the depth of your canvas frame, and leave the opacity at 0 to avoid adding an overlay color to the edges.

Photoshop vs Gigapixel AI vs ON1 Resize

Here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons:

Photoshop (Preserve Details 1.0):

  • Lightning quick. In my baseline test with an images from a Nikon D850, Preserve Details 1.0 took 6-8 seconds. By comparison, ON1 Resize took 50-120 seconds (roughly 8-15x longer) and Gigapixel AI took 18 – 42 minutes (up to 400x longer).
  • Batch processing. If you want to use actions to process multiple images, Photoshop’s built-in method is the only one that can be fully automated. You can specify the outputs and use an interactive mode. While Resize and Gigapixel have plugins which can be launched via actions, you can’t request specific values to use and will have to manually interact with each image.
  • Good-enough quality. While it comes in third place here, it still provide very good and usable results. For less demanding scenarios such as modest enlargements or images that will be viewed from a distance, the quality benefit of the other options isn’t worth the time.
  • No additional cost. However, if you print more than very occasionally, I wouldn’t say cost savings is a benefit here, because I think it’s worth buying either or both of the other options for at least some printing.
  • Best for: Small enlargements, tight budgets, and saving time.

 

Gigapixel AI:

  • Excellent quality! Gigapixel AI flat out wins on quality for most, if not all, images I have tried.
  • However, that quality requires patience. Be prepared to wait a long time for each image. And the heavy CPU use will quickly crush a laptop battery, so you’ll probably want to do this work while you’re plugged into the wall.
  • Best for: Highest quality.

Note: Topaz offers a free trial, and you can save 15% off when purchasing Gigapixel by using discount code gbenz15. You can also save even more by purchasing it as part of the Topaz Suite with all their major products.

 

ON1 Resize:

  • Canvas: Where Resize really shines is for printing on canvas. It has a built-in option to create gallery-wrapped edges. And with the lower resolution of canvas media, the quality benefits of Gigapixel are much less pronounced and won’t be something you’d see in the finished canvas in many cases.
  • Great quality. I would say that Resize is definitely better than Photoshop’s Preserve Details, but Gigapixel is clearly the best for large enlargements on high-quality media.
  • Best for: Printing on canvas.

 

And while I don’t use it myself, I do want to at least mention one other very good free option…

RAW Therapee:

  • Great quality for free. RAW Therapee is designed as a RAW processing program, but is free and happens to include an enlargement algorithm which produces better results than Photoshop. I don’t personally think it is as good as Gigapixel, but it’s definitely worth a look if cost is a concern.
  • The major downside here is ease of use. There is no Photoshop plugin and the interface is much more complicated than Resize or Gigapixel. Just choosing new dimensions and saving is a confusing task.
  • To resize: open the image, go to the transform tab (looks like scissors and a triangular ruler), check resize and allow upscaling, enter the desired dimension (leave method on Lanczos), then click the save option towards the bottom-left of your image.
  • If you need to address noise, you can do that in RAW Therapee as well by looking under the Detail tab (icon just right of the +/- exposure icon) and then clicking the dot by Noise Reduction to turn it on and then adjusting the settings below. However, you will probably find it easier to do noise reduction with other software first, given the complexity of the options here.
  • Best for: Lots of control for free. This is probably best for those looking to use a completely open-source software workflow.

 

 

Enlargements are just one piece of the puzzle when making prints. If you’d like to see more tutorials on printing, please let me know in the comments below.

 

[* Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I rarely endorse other products and only do when I think you would thoroughly enjoy them. By purchasing through my on this post, you are helping to support the creation of my tutorials at no cost to you.]

Switching from Split Toning to Color Grading in LR / ACR

The latest updates to Lightroom and ACR include powerful new color grading controls. A lot of photographers have been asking for the sort of capabilities available in competing programs like Capture One, and Adobe’s offering seems spot on. Not only have they massively expanded the capabilities from the legacy “split toning”, but done so in a way that doesn’t break anything. You can still do all the old things, your RAW adjustments are migrated exactly as they were, and you can do so much more. Read on to make the most of these exciting updates.

How does the new Color Grading compare to the old Split Toning?

Most of you have likely used or heard of Adobe’s old split toning controls, so it makes to start with what’s familiar (you can just jump to the next section below if you only want to read about the new stuff). And I’ve used split toning extensively in many of my tutorials, so this should also serve as a handy reference as to how to apply settings I’ve shown in previous tutorials when working with the new Color Grading controls. The old split toning system was based on 5 inputs and all of them map directly to a control in the new color grading approach.

Before we get to the controls, it’s important to note that the new system lets you view the settings in a couple different ways. The default shows three colored circles for highlights, midtones, and shadows. All of the controls are in there, but it feels very different. You can view each of these circles in an enlarged view, where you will see numeric sliders that should start to feel much more familiar.

  • Highlight hue:
    • You can set this in a couple of ways, but they are the same.
    • The most familiar is to click on the enlarged highlights wheel and use the hue slider. This does exactly the same thing as the old split tonight hue slider. The only difference is that holding <alt/option> will no longer give you a preview with saturation temporarily at 100%, so you should boost the saturation slider yourself as needed to help pick the correct hue via slider.
    • Or you can use the other approach, which is to drag the point on the highlights wheel. The hue is based on the angle you select in the wheel. One advantage of this approach is that you can drag that point to the outer edge of the wheel (which is 100% saturation) to help quickly pick the hue, and then back off the saturation. Hold <ctrl/cmd> while clicking and dragging on the wheel to adjust hue only (while holding saturation constant)
  • Highlight saturation:
    • The situation here is very much like hue, but the saturation is represented on the wheel by the distance from the center (0% saturation in the middle, 100% at the edges).
    • Hold <shift> to adjust saturation only (while holding hue constant). This is a great way to back off from 100% saturation once you have picked a hue.
    • By default, when you click and drag an existing point on the wheel, the hue will be sticky for modest movements of the mouse. So you get the <shift> key behavior by default with careful movement of the mouse. On the flip side, this may frustrate you if you are trying to adjust the hue by a little – and you can work around that by using the <alt/option> or <ctrl/cmd> shortcuts to allow small changes in hue.
  • Balance:
    • The balance slider is shown in all views (other than the global adjustment view) and works just like it did with split toning.
  • Shadow hue works similar to highlight hue.
  • Shadow saturation works similar to highlight saturation.

I’ve always used split toning by previewing the saturation at 100% to pick the right hue quickly and easily. As you can no longer hold <alt/option> while dragging the hue slider to do this (hopefully this changes in the future), the following workflow is my recommendation for the quickest and easiest way to get results similar to split toning:

  1. Click and drag the points on the highlights wheel. Drag all the way to the outer edge (100% saturation) and move around to get the desired hue. Hold <alt/option> as you get close to make small changes with precision.
  2. Once you’ve picked the hue, hold <shift> to lock the hue and then drag towards the center to set the saturation.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the shadows.
  4. Set the balance slider by holding <alt/option> as you click and drag (thankfully, you still get 100% saturation previews with this keyboard shortcut).

If you don’t like working with the wheels, do this instead:

  1. View the enlarged highlights wheel to get highlights sliders.
  2. Set 100% saturation
  3. Adjust the hue as desired
  4. Bring down the saturation to the desired final value
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 for the shadows.
  6. Set the balance slider by holding <alt/option> as you click and drag

 

How to make the most of Color Grading

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of an update if there weren’t new capabilities. So let’s now dig into what’s here and how we can use it. First, what’s new?

  • Midtone adjustments: While this is probably more familiar for portrait photographers, there are some great ways to use this in landscape photography as well. For example, if you want to use color grading to affect sunset color, you’ll probably see much more targeted results by working with a combination of highlights and midtones. With the old approach, you’d be forced to use shadows and end up strongly affecting areas that are not part of the sky. This is just one example and there are many other ways you may find this additional control very helpful with any photography.
  • Luminance:
    • This new slider lets you make make tonal adjustments to shadows, midtones, highlights, or globally.
    • My experience so far is that adjusting the blacks slider in the Basic tab (vs the new shadow luminance in Color Grading) or adjusting the whites slider (vs highlights luminance in Color Grading) typically produce better contrast. So be sure to try those approaches first if your goal is really to bring out detail rather than add color. However, there are some very good reasons to consider using this control.
    • Using negative luminance on the highlights will allow you to add just more color to the brightest or blown highlights than adjusting the whites. So this may be the best way to add more color to a bright white sky.
    • You may prefer less contrast for stylized work, such as color grading portraits. If that’s the case, the loss of contrast is a good thing.
    • And the luminance slider is a convenient way to make quick small changes that would work well with either approach.
  • Blending:
    • This will surely be the most confusing control. Whereas “balance” determines where the transitions between shadows, midtones, and highlights occur; “blending” determines how much they transition or overlap. The best way to understand it is to experiment by creating a black to white gradient and play with this setting to see how it works (without the complication of an underlying image).
    • This affects not only how quickly you get from one color to the next, but the degree to which they mix. In fact, if you set blending to +100%, you may not see your midtone color at all. The midtone will tint the final result, but be a mix of all the colors that may be quite different from the midtone hue.
    • The midtones are most strongly impacted by high levels of blending, as they mix with both highlights and shadows.
    •  When you use it on your own images, you can hold <alt/option> to preview the blending at 100% saturation, which helps pick the best blending slider value.
  • Global adjustments: This lets you apply a hue, saturation, and luminance across the entire tonal range of the image. I prefer to use the white balance and exposure sliders in the Basic tab, but this is a straight-forward option to make some global color adjustments if needed.

 

What’s the best overall color grading workflow?

My preference for landscape work is:

  1. Do your basic tonal work and other image editing first. Color grading should ideally be one of the last steps in your RAW workflow.
  2. Use the adaptation of the old workflow above, but consider the midtones as well (either replacing shadows or in addition to them).
    • In other words: Set highlights hue while previewing at 100% saturation and then set saturation as needed. Then repeat for shadows and midtones as needed.
    • Leave the global settings alone
  3. If you cannot push enough color into the highlights, try reducing highlights luminance.
  4. Adjust balance (while holding <alt/option> to see it more clearly).
  5. Adjust the blending (holding <alt/option> can be helpful, but is less important). I like doing this after setting the balance, as I tend to think about it as placing my key colors and then feathering them.
  6. Blend the color-graded version of the image using a layer or luminosity mask to use the color grading in a more targeted way. This is often much better than applying the color across the entire image.

There’s no single right answer and I would encourage you to see what works best for you.

 

Shortcuts and other minor details to know about the color grading tab

  • To adjust hue only (while holding saturation constant): hold <cmd/ctrl> or just drag the little colored dot just outside the color wheel.
  • To adjust saturation only (while holding hue constant): hold <shift>
  • To temporarily hide shadow, midtone, highlight adjustments, click and hold the eyeball icon next to them. There is also a master visibility icon for all of color grading.
  • In Lightroom only, you can quickly save and load color swatches for any of the color wheels (right-click a swatch to save the current color). Personally, I prefer using white balance over this global adjustment in color grading. However, this is a great way to add predictable color offset if you are using gray cards to achieve accurate white balance, and will give you a more clear understanding of how far you have strayed from the true white balance.

Create gorgeous images with this free web sharpening panel for Photoshop

There are a large number of subtle but important considerations when outputting your post-processed image for the web. Does it look sharp after resizing? Is it properly color managed? Will it get cut off in some strange way because it isn’t cropped to a specific size? I released a free web sharpening script in March to help you obtain high-quality results easily. I am happy to announce that it has been updated to v2 as a UXP panel for Photoshop 2021+, with numerous improvements.

This free web sharpening panel offers:

  • New: A panel interface within Photoshop for easy access to sharpen at any time (also includes quick access to tutorials).
  • Extremely high-quality sharpening so that your images look their best.
  • New: Interactive cropping overlay templates to help you get the perfect crop.
  • New: Save custom preset sizes for Facebook, Instagram, etc (via the cropping overlays).
  • New: Output multiple sizes (or color conversions) of the image at once.
  • New: Add copyright metadata to images.
  • Remove sensitive metadata (GPS location, etc).
  • Automatic color space conversion to sRGB (or optionally to P3 on macOS).
  • Add film grain for a dreamy, nostalgic quality.
  • Multiple compression options to control the balance between file size and quality.

 

 

For full details and support videos, please click the “Tutorials” button in the panel.

What are “UXP” plugins in Photoshop?

Adobe just released a completely new technology, the Unified Extensibility Platform (UXP), for creating “plugins” (commonly known as panels previously) in Photoshop 2021 and beyond. You’re likely to have some questions about what this means for you. I’ve just released my first UXP project, a plugin version of my free Web Sharp utility (more to come on that soon), and wanted to share what I’ve learned with you.

 

What are the benefits of UXP?

UXP offers numerous advantages, including:

  • A more modern look and feel for plugin interfaces
  • Simpler plugin installation
  • The potential for better responsiveness/speed for many operations
  • Enhancements for software developers which should ultimately help significantly grow and enhance the already wide range of 3rd-party plugins for Photoshop.

This probably won’t impact you immediately, as it takes time for 3rd party developers like myself to write new code to make the most of new capabilities, but this should mean a lot of exciting improvements to come in time.

 

What does this mean for CS6 and previous versions of CC?

Nothing is going away right now. You can continue to use your existing “Flash” and “CEP” panels (see below for what these terms mean). However, you will not be able to use newer UXP versions of plugins without updating to PS 2021 (aka version 22.0.0) or later. And you’ll probably see developers increasingly focused on UXP, rather than updating multiple platforms.

Adobe Photoshop 2021 will continue to support CEP panels for the foreseeable future, and Adobe will give developers advance notice when it comes time to sunset CEP.  They want to ensure that your favorite panels continue to work and that developers have time to update if/when needed. When Adobe replaced Flash panels with CEP they gave developers notice a year in advance, and they have made  no such announcement about CEP other than to say they will continue to support the technology.

Of course, Microsoft and Apple can always throw us for a loop with their updates, but things look very good right now. CEP panels work on Windows 10, macOS Big Sur, and even on “Apple Silicon” (Apple is about to replace Intel chips with their own proprietary CPUs in new computers).

Update 11-23-20: The first Apple Silicon computers are now out. These initial computers are not yet what most photographers will want (lower end machines with limited RAM, only 2 ports, maximum 1 external monitor, small screen, etc) but the new CPU looks very promising for the rest of the lineup as it rolls out over the next 2 years. Adobe Photoshop is confirmed to run very quickly on the new machines under “Rosetta2” emulation with both CEP and UXP panels. To run that way for maximum compatibility: Right-click Photoshop in the finder and select Get Info, then Check Open in Rosetta. Then just run the application as normal (the first launch will be a little slower due to some optimizations and then future launches will start up quickly as normal).

I am unsure if Flash panels work on Apple Silicon or not, so CS6 may be affected, but Flash and CS6 are otherwise ok on current Apple hardware. The fact that CS6 will still be in use nearly a decade after it was released is pretty incredible, but I suspect its days are numbered. Seriously, CS6 launched when the first Hunger Games movie was still in theaters and before the iPhone 5 and Google Glass (remember those?). At some point, migrating to Photoshop CC may be part of the cost of adopting the latest computer hardware or operating system, and I strongly recommend CC over CS6 already. The ability to use Camera RAW Smart Objects alone is worth the upgrade for many photographers, and there are so many more benefits to CC.

Bottom line: for the majority who are already using CC, I anticipate your CEP panels are safe for the next few years and popular panels will likely be updated to support UXP.

 

Can I use both old and new panels in Photoshop 2021?

Yes, you can use both the old (CEP) and new (UXP) panels at the same time in Photoshop. Other than installation and the new look of the common “Spectrum” interface elements, the one thing that will stand out is that these panels are located in different places. CEP panels can be opened from the same location they have always been, under Window / Extensions (now marked as “legacy”). UXP panels are under a new top-level menu, Plugins. The top of the Plugins menu also includes a Plugins panel that gives you another way to launch any installed UXP panel. Other that being in two different locations, there really isn’t much difference at this point – but it is likely to cause some confusion if you aren’t aware that there are now two places to look when opening a panel.

 

What does this mean for Lumenzia?

Lumenzia is currently built using “Flash” for Photoshop CS6 and “CEP” for Photoshop (insert version numbers).  In fact, I have big updates coming soon for Lumenzia built using Flash/CEP. I have no specific timeline for building a UXP version of Lumenzia, but ultimately anticipate releasing one in the future. UXP seems both beneficial and well-supported by Adobe. The timing for a UXP version depends both on Photoshop updates (as some of Lumenzia’s advanced features aren’t yet supported with the initial release of UXP in Photoshop) and me (as I will have to completely rewrite the software from the ground up). So I can’t offer any specific timing, but it will be a while. I’m not going to rush anything before it’s ready, and current design continues to work perfectly fine. Note: the amount of work required to migrate an existing plugin to UXP depends upon the complexity of the original. Thus, Lumeniza’s advanced functionality makes it more challenging to port over to UXP.

What does this mean if you are using CS6 or an older version of CC and I release a Lumenzia UXP update a year from now? Not much, really. You would be able to keep using the current (and upcoming v9) versions of Lumenzia. And you’d have access to tons of upgrades if you choose to switch to the newest Photoshop CC at that point (as your purchase of Lumenzia gives you access to both the CS6 and CC versions).

Bottom line: Nothing to worry about, and this may pave the way for more great enhancements to Lumenzia down the road.

 

What’s the difference between actions, panels, and plugins?

There are numerous technologies for enhancing Photoshop. These include:

  • Actions (or Droplets). You’re likely very familiar with actions since they have been around since version 4.0 (we are on v22 now). These are macros that you can record to playback repetitive steps, and are a popular way of sharing very simple edits. They offer almost no decision-making logic, almost no interface, and no error handling. They are easy to make (no coding required), but they don’t do much either. They can be used by panels to get things done, but that is a very simple and limiting approach. JavaScript offers vastly improved capabilities over actions.
  • JSX (aka ExtendScript). This is Adobe’s original implementation of JavaScript (ECMAScript 3 standard), a programming language that allows for advanced control of Photoshop that goes well beyond actions. Ultimately, this is just a way of controlling Photoshop, so it cannot do things that you can’t do with Photoshop on your own. However, fully developed JSX often provides so much simplicity and speed that it is effectively like adding new capabilities to Photoshop. JSX can be executed on its own (via File / Browse Scripts in PS) or more commonly behind the scenes as part of a panel. Because it is based on such an old standard, JSX does not offer all the benefits of modern JavaScript and debugging environments for developers, which is one of the reasons Adobe is replacing it with modern JavaScript standards in UXP.
  • C++ plugins. These are actually fully-independent programs (they can technically run on their own without Photoshop). They may create their own users interface or be used in combination with panels in the background. This is the technology used by large applications such as Nik or Topaz plugins. Development is much more difficult, but the potential capabilities are wide open because these plugins can do things that Photoshop cannot.
  • Flash panels. These added the first 3rd-party panels for CS5 and CS6. This is the technology behind Lumenzia for CS6. They aren’t very dynamic or pretty, but they gave us a way to create our own panels of buttons. This technology was discontinued with Photoshop CC 2014, but is still relevant for those who are opting to use CS6 instead of CC. Flash panels are all about user interface (they use JSX or C++ plugins on the backend to control Photoshop). As Flash is a dead technology and the installer for CS6 uses a technology that does not work with the latest versions of MacOS, this technology is on borrowed time. Given that CS6 was released in April of 2012, it’s amazing that it’s still widely used and functional.
  • CEP panels (aka HTML5 panels). This is the technology behind Lumenzia for CC. These CEP (Common Extensibility Platform) panels are actually little Chromium web browsers running inside Photoshop. As such, they have enormous capability to create beautiful and dynamic interfaces. Like Flash panels, these are a form of user interface that runs JSX or C++ plugins in the background to control Photoshop. However, as Photoshop has improved over the years, you can also do a lot more with JSX in newer versions of Photoshop.
  • UXP (Unified eXtensibility Platform). This is Adobe’s new framework for building plugins in CC apps. UXP powers XD plugins and is now available in Photoshop CC 2021. This includes a completely new technology to replace CEP panels, as well as adopting the Chrome V8 engine to allow the use of modern JavaScript. The front-end is effectively a light web browser-like technology built by Adobe. It is capable of starting up much more quickly than the Chromium Embedded Framework used by CEP panels, and is not slowed down by a translation layer between the panel and Photoshop. The developer environment is more stable since Photoshop won’t need updates to keep up with new versions of the Chrome debugger (which affects CEP plugins). It also gains the capabilities of asynchronous JavaScript, which a non-programmer might think of as “multitasking” (that’s not what it really does, it is single-threaded, but the bottom line is that it helps minimize the effect of bottlenecks on performance).

 

Are there any drawbacks to UXP?

As a new standard, it will take time for the developer community to migrate CEP panels and create new ones. That may mean some changes in the look and feel of some panels, or possibly introduce some bugs or changes in functionality during transition. But I fully expect the net experience should be positive, especially as CEP isn’t going away and developers are not being forced to rush out UXP panels before they are ready.

There are also some functional limitations in UXP relative to CEP at this time. For example, my new Web Sharpening Script will ask you to specify the folder for saving output once per session, as UXP 4.0 plugins (which is the UXP version inside Photoshop 2021) are not capable of remembering that you granted permission. However, these sorts of limitations probably aren’t a huge issue in most cases and I anticipate important limitations will be addressed as Adobe continues to develop UXP.

There are some user interface limitations as well. Adobe is replacing an interface built on a Chromium web-browser with an internally-developed browser-like interface. That is a huge undertaking and Adobe can’t realistically support the full functionality of a web browser. That means there are some limitations in what developers can do with the new interface compared with the old. For example, the popular “Popper.JS” frame for creating advanced and beautiful tooltips is not currently supported. It also creates risks that the interface capabilities don’t support or quickly adopt new features frameworks that would otherwise be available in Chromium (ie, a risk that the gap grows as Chromium improves in the future).  It’s hard to say what this ultimately means, as this is just the first release of UXP and it will continue to evolve.

Developer opinions/predictions will vary on this topic, but I believe Adobe is showing that it is committed to offering a strong platform for extending Photoshop. The need to both encourage migration of CEP panels to UXP as well as ongoing support of 3rd party add-ons (which clearly help create increased demand for buying and using Photoshop) should help ensure enhancements. No new platform has ever been perfect (or perfectly understood) immediately at launch. So these questions and concerns are unsurprising to me. I’ve been very impressed by how quickly Adobe has built such a compelling option in the first release of UXP for Photoshop, and look forward to its continued growth in the future.

 

Where can I learn more about UXP?

Please see  https://adobe.ly/max2020uxpps

 

Thank you to the team at Adobe!

I’d like to say thank you to the numerous unsung heroes at Adobe. You know that splash screen that pops up when you open Photoshop? There’s a great story behind every name there. I know a handful of them personally, and they are incredible people. I also know a much longer list of names that aren’t on that list because it takes a massive team of developers to create Photoshop and the underlying technologies (like UXP). I’ve watched these teams work crazy hours this year preparing UXP: adding new capabilities, fixing bugs, working long with me and numerous other developers to help build an ecosystem of UXP-based plugins you’ll love, and time out of their weekends and vacation to help make it happen.

How to get amazing fall color out of Photoshop

The 2020 5DayDeal Bundle

I’ve got a great fall color tutorial for you below, but I also want to share something else I think you’ll love. Every year, the 5DayDeal bundle offers a special opportunity to invest in great photography courses for >95% off. This year’s bundle includes tutorials from Nick Page, Ryan Dyar, Nigel Danson, Gavin Hardcastle, Mads Peter Iversen, and dozens of other world-class instructors on a variety of shooting and processing topics. And 10% of the proceeds go to great charities.

And if you purchase the 5DayDeal bundle through the links on this page, I will also send you a FREE copy of my Bonus Blending Course. This course is never available for purchase, only through special opportunities like this. It includes the RAW source file, written summary, and takes you through the complete exposure blending workflow from the RAW to the finished image. ​(Purchases through other links will not qualify, so please be sure to use the links on this email. Everyone who qualifies will gain access on October 22nd, after the sale has ended).


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I rarely endorse other products and only when I think you would thoroughly enjoy them. When you purchase through my link, you will receive my bonus blending course and be supporting me with an affiliate commission, at no cost to you.

 

How to get amazing fall color out of Photoshop

Every season of the year has its own magic, but for me, nothing beats fall color. This year I drove five hours and stood in a river for three hours shooting this waterfall. I was so excited I hardly noticed the temperature was barely above freezing. The colors were incredible, the sky had great mood, and the water looked silky smooth. But I hit a huge snag when I got home.

I had no idea how to process the image. Seriously. All my usual tricks were failing me. At first I thought I was a bit rusty from a year of being largely stuck at home. But the bigger challenge was the flat light. Fall days are like that. Sometimes you get gorgeous light, but a lot of times you get what you get – and then the leaves are gone. So I had to build my own light. After some experimentation, I figured out the right balance of blending, dodging, and other techniques to make the image look as exciting as it was when I was standing knee deep in the rushing water. Here’s the tutorial showing how you can create great fall color even in challenging light:

 

The key takeaways from this edit are:

  • Exposure blending with luminosity masks can always help enhance your sky. It’s also a very effective way to help bring out dark foreground detail without getting the sort of flat/fake foreground you’d get by just boosting the shadows slider in RAW or by using HDR.
  • The Selective Color tool is a powerful way to enhance fall color. It’s also pretty intimidating, so check out this tutorial to learn how to use it. A key point to remember is that you very often need to adjust the “yellows” to adjust what appears to be green trees or moss. We may disagree with how Photoshop classifies this color, but that’s how it works.
  • When changing the color of green trees, remember that they are also very dark. So try using a brightness/contrast adjustment layer with a layer mask targeting them to help Selective Color work its magic.
  • Dodging and burning through luminosity selections is a great way to add depth and dimension to foreground elements like the rocks, water, and trees here.


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