Getting familiar with new software can sometimes be taxing, but being in the know can make the transition much easier. So, after talking to thousands and thousands of new and seasoned Topaz users, I came up with the top ten things that every Topaz newbie should know before getting started.

This information should answer some basic questions that you have and can also help you skip some of the most common troubleshooting issues that come up…that way you can jump right into working with the programs and creating beautiful images.

1. Topaz programs are plug-ins. They are Not stand alone programs. This means that you will need to have a compatible host program (like Photoshop) in order to use them. They will be accessible from your Filter menu.

If you don’t have Photoshop that’s OK…there are free programs like Irfanview (for Windows users) and iPhoto (for Mac users) that are also compatible with Topaz. See here for detailed compatibility information.

2. Each of the Topaz programs are easy-to-use and don’t have a steep learning curve. So, you don’t have to be a pro at all….Topaz is easy enough to use for beginners yet flexible enough for pros to also integrate into their workflow. Most of our users enjoy the 1-click preset workflow…you may find that works great for you as well. We do offer a free, fully-functional, 30-day trial (so don’t be pressured to buy). I would encourage you to sign up for that so that you can check out the software to see exactly how it works and how easy it is to use. Sign up online at: http://www.topazlabs.com/downloads

And there are plenty of resources to help you get acquainted with the programs…
Tutorials
Free Webinars
Topaz Blog
User Gallery

3. Workflow order. When it comes to using Topaz programs, there is no right or wrong order. It is entirely up to you how and when to incorporate Topaz into your workflow. The programs are designed to be flexible, so that you can ingrate them into any existing workflow and use them in the order that works best for you. Generally, it is best to use your noise reduction first to make sure you have a clean image and then make additional enhancements from there. Learn more…

4. When you go to install any of the Topaz programs be sure that Photoshop (or your other host program) is closed. If Topaz does not show up in Photoshop or if you get a message that says: “File not found” please restart Photoshop and then try accessing Topaz again. Still don’t see Topaz? Try my setup trick.

5. iPhoto, Aperture and Lightroom users can also use Topaz plug-ins in their workflows.
You Must install Topaz Fusion Express in Addition to the individual Topaz programs (or bundle) that you want to use. iPhoto and Lightroom users will need to configure Fusion Express as the external editor for their host program before using Topaz. Get the details here.

Important: Please carefully follow the setup instructions. Mac users Must First go to their Macintosh HD. Windows users Must go to the Common Files folder.

Also, you can use Topaz in more than one host program on the same computer. So if you have Photoshop and Lightroom (or any other combination) then feel free to enjoy the programs in any of your workflows!

6. Topaz plug-ins are grayed out in the Filter menu. If your Topaz plug-ins are grayed out in your Filter menu and you can not access them this is caused by one of three things:

a) There is not an image open. Please open an image and then you will be able to select the plug-in

b) The image must be in a supported color mode, i.e. 8-bit RGB or 16-bit RGB. It won’t work with, for example, grayscale or 32-bit images. So open up an RGB image and it’ll activate in the menu (along with most of the other filters).

c) Check your layers palette to be sure that the image layer and Not an adjustment layer is selected.

7. Your trial (or purchased license key) will be entered into the program After you install. To enter your key, open up the Topaz program in Photoshop and go to Menu -> Enter Key. Enter your name in the top field and your key in the field below. Your key should be 30 digit long and in this format: “xxxxxx-xxxxxx-xxxxxx-xxxxxx-xxxxxx”.

When you go to enter your key please click in the key field and press Ctrl-A (CMD-A if you are on Mac) at the same time and then hit delete to make sure that absolutely nothing is in that key field before you paste in the key.

Also, please verify that you are entering the key in the “Activation Code” field and not the “Name” field as this is sometimes confusing.

If you are typing it in please make sure that you are entering the dashes – but it is always easier to just copy & paste.

8. Saving your image. After making adjustments in the Topaz program you will need to click “OK” to process your changes and save your image back to Photoshop. Then from there you can make additional adjustments or save your image in another file format. Clicking the “Save” button while in the Topaz program does NOT save your image. The Save button in Topaz is used for Saving presets. It will save a .tpp file which records your settings and creates a new preset. Preset files (.tpp) can not be opened outside of the Topaz program.

You can use the import/export buttons to share presets. To export a preset then you click on the preset and then select Export. It will allow you to save it to you desktop or any other file that you select. The import works the same way but in reverse. If you click on it it will allow you to navigate your computer to import a preset (that you created on another computer or got from a friend or colleague).

9. Snap allows you to take a “snapshot” of a group of settings…like a temporary preset.
Then you can use the Prev/Next button to quickly scroll through the snapshots you’ve taken. You can take up to 99 snap shots. Remember: Snapshots are only available during your workflow and exiting the program will eliminate your snapshots.

10. This one is specific to ReMask users – does your ReMask result still look like the original with the background? After you save your masked image back to Photoshop it will have a transparent background. If you have a duplicate layer underneath the masked layer then you will still be able to see it. You will need to make the original layer invisible or put something in between the masked layer and the original layer so that you can see the cutout.

Have a question or issue not covered here? Let me know!

Ready to take a look at the new B&W Effects 1.1? This update (fast huh!?!?) includes several bug fixes and a handful of new features to help improve your workflow. Let’s take a look at the new program additions…

New Local Adjustment tools
The Local Adjustment tab now includes easy access buttons so you can quickly Undo, Redo and Reset applied adjustments. You can undo/redo up to 4 steps within a selected Adjustment Type.

Note: If you switch adjustment types then you will lose your undo/redo history.

“My Collection”
The Effects Collection now features a “My Collection ” category where you can save and easily find your presets. When saving presets you will notice an option in your save menu that will allow you to save the preset in the “My Collection” category. If the “Save in: My Collection” option is disabled (unchecked) then the preset will be automatically save to the effect category that you were working in.

Histogram
A histogram has been added into the Curve Tool to show the tonal range of your image.

Platinum Collection
This new preset collection is based of the Paltinum Palladium printing process. The platinum printing process is highly regarded for broad, delicate tonal ranges and the ability to hold important image detail. Platinum has long held a special place for Master Photographers and Collectors and continues to be practiced amongst fine art photographers. Platinum prints range from warm black to silvery white and can contain warm gray tones.

In addition to the new Platinum collection, additional presets have also been added to many of the other Effect Collections…for a total of over 200 presets!

Interactive Sliders
Take advantage of interactive slider/control response during your workflow. This feature works best for faster systems and can be enabled/disabled in your Menu -> Preferences.

Note: You will need to restart B&W Effects for the changes to take effect.

Ready to upgrade? Get the details here.

Ok, so I know all of my fellow Mac users want to know whether or not their Topaz plug-ins will be compatible with the new OSX Lion?
The answer…YES! All of your Topaz plug-ins will be compatible with Lion. Best of all: No updates are needed. 🙂

Once you download and install Lion (available from the Mac App Store) you will be able to still access and use your Topaz plug-ins from Photoshop. Should you find any issues with Topaz or Photoshop and need to reinstall just contact our customer support and we can help you.

OSX Lion comes with over 250 new features, which I’m really excited about! Lion hasn’t been released yet, but it is due out this month…hopefully you won’t have to wait too much longer. Once you’ve installed the new OS and played around with the new features be sure to let me know which ones are your favorites!

Hey everyone! I wanted to give you all a quick update on the Lens Effects 1.1 upgrade, and tell you more about the new things you will find in this version. Many of the new features and improvements in V 1.1 were user-suggested (THANK YOU!) and I hope you will find them both helpful and useful to your work. So, let’s take a closer look at the new additions…

In the Effects Menu, you will find new filters for diffusion, polarization, UV/Haze and streaks. The Diffusion and Polarization filters were the most requested and are a necessary part of every photographer’s camera bag.

Diffusion

The diffusion filter helps soften and spread out light. It’s most often used for portraits and can help improve the appearance of skin…definitely a plus when working on women! Diffusion filters can also create a hazy or dream-like effect, which can often come in handy for for wedding photography and romantic or couples shots.

Polarization

Polarization filters help to reduce surface reflections (like in water), reduce shine in foliage and darken skies. Another characteristic of a polarizing filter is that it can also increase the saturation of an image.

Streak
The Streak filter creates image motion that produces a streaked or creative blur type of effect. It can also produce a ghost-like effect.

UV/Haze
UV/Haze allows you to reduce UV and eliminate haze from your image by emulating the character- istics of a UV/Haze filter.

Other Program Goodies
Len Effects 1.1 also features improved depth-of-field simulation for better image quality, 30 new aperture shapes for enhancing your lens characteristics, and 13 new vignette masks. You can even upload your own aperture shapes and vignette masks as well.

Dual Focus – My Fav!
Last but not least, quite possibly one of my favs is the dual focus lens. This option allows you to select two focal points within your image and then quickly blur the background and around those points.


Plug-ins are a great way to increase your post processing abilities, while improving and speeding up your workflow. Topaz Photoshop plug-ins allow you to easily achieve many of the common post-processing tasks, and they integrate seamlessly into many types of workflows using many different image editors. So let’s explore the various editing options…

Integration



Topaz easily integrates into Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. Once installed, you can access Topaz by opening an image in Photoshop and go to Filter -> Topaz Labs to select the Topaz program you wish to edit with.


Aperture and Lightroom users can have direct access to their Topaz plug-ins using the FREE Topaz Fusion Express add-on. Once installed, you can access Topaz by selecting an image and go to edit in / edit with to bring up the Fusion Express menu and then select the Topaz program you wish to edit with.


If you don’t have a dedicated image editing (host) program, then you can still use Topaz without having to purchase one. Mac users can use Topaz in iPhoto, which comes pre-installed on all Macs – Topaz Fusion Express is required. Windows users can use Topaz in Irfanview, which is a free image editor.


Topaz plug-ins are also compatible with Serif Photo Plus, Corel PaintShop Pro and Photo Impact Learn more about Topaz compatibility and system requirements…

Application

The basic workflow for most Topaz plug-ins goes as follows:
1. Bring an image into Topaz from your image editor
2. Apply a preset
3. Tweak the settings
4. Click “OK” to process your changes and save your image back to your image editor

Let’s quickly explore a sample workflow. For this example we will be using Topaz Adjust (which represents the workflow for all Topaz programs except for ReMask) – See how ReMask works.

1. Open an 8-bit or 16-bit RGB image in Photoshop (or other host program)

2. Invoke Topaz Adjust

3. Go to the presets panel on the left side of the interface to select and apply a preset
4. Go to the tool panel on the right side of the interface to tweak the settings
5. Click “OK” to process the adjustments and save the image back to host program

(final image shown above)

Topaz plug-ins integrate easily into any workflow. With just a few clicks and a few minutes
you can easily apply a variety of creative and corrective adjustments to your images!

Sign up for a free 30-day trial and put Topaz to the test on your images.