There seems to be just a little confusion about the way the new Topaz Star Effects works, which is causing some hiccups in some user’s workflows.

So I wanted to take a moment to review how Star Effects works, answer some reoccurring questions and also to let you know about some enhancements in the works.

How It Works
The most important thing to remember about Star Effects is that it works in conjunction with your image’s light sources. Any stars, glow or other lighting enhancements that you create are added to your existing light source points. What does this mean to your workflow? It means that stars/lighting enhancements can only be added to existing light sources, bright points and reflective surfaces (this can also include areas of white) in your image. You can not create effects where light source points do not exist.

One of the common misconceptions about the program is regarding use of the Add/Remove Star brush. (If the original explanation during the introduction of this tool has helped cause some of this confusion then please accept my apology.) The purpose of the Star Brush is to give you additional flexibility and control over which light sources in your image are affected. Using the brush tool, you can individually select or deselect light sources. The Star Brush tool does not allow you to click on just any part of your image (without a light source) to create a star effect; you must already have an existing light source.


(The flames of the candles are the light sources in the image above and this is where any created effects would be added to. Because there is also a reflective area above and around the candles effects could also be added to these light source points as well.)

Creating Effects in Images Without a Light Source
Now for those that want to add a star where there is not an existing light source, all is not lost. There is actually a way that you can quickly accomplish this. Using your brush tool in Photoshop, you can add create a light source point and then enhance it in Star Effects. Click here to learn more.

Controlling Light Sources
The next important thing to understand is how light sources in your image are selected and controlled. When you open the Star Effects program and click on a preset, the predefined settings will be applied to select light sources in your image. Keep in mind that presets will affect each of your images differently and you’ll need to use the adjustment sliders to tweak the settings – mainly the Luminance and Size (located in the Main Adjustments tab).


(White arrows have been added to point out some of the key light sources, however these are not the only sources that can be affected. Bright points and reflective sources can also be considered light source points.)

Now which and how many light sources are affected will vary from image to image depending on the prominence of the light source. The value of the Threshold slider (located in the Main Adjustments tab) will also affect this. By adjusting the Threshold slider you can determine how many of your image light sources are affected. Increasing the Threshold will affect less light sources and decreasing it will affect more light sources.

Star Brush Selection
In addition to the Threshold slider, you also have access to a Star Brush (located in the Star Settings tab). The Star Brush gives you the ability to select additional light sources in your image to add or remove the effect from. So for example, if you used a preset (and have already adjusted the Threshold slider) but there is still a light source that did not get enhanced the go to the Star Settings tab to select the Add Star brush and then click on the light source you want to include. Likewise, you can use Remove Star Brush and click on a light source to exclude. Again, this tool’s purpose is to select light sources to add or remove the effect to, and Not to create a star in an unlit place in your image.

Note: So again, keep in mind that when you click on a preset it may not automatically go to go to a specific light source that you want. It is going to be applied to a variety of light sources in the image – depending on what your threshold slider is set to. Adjust your Threshold slider and use the brush tool for additional selectivity.

Repositioning Effects
If your added effects are not exactly where you want them (in conjunction with your light source) then you can use the Remove brush tool to eliminate that effect and then switch to the Add brush tool to re-add it. Currently there are not any additional controls that allow you to nudge or realign effects, however we have several users that have experienced some difficulty with the positioning of effects around their source light. So our developers are actually working on an enhancement to help with this so that we can offer more positioning control. I will keep you updated on the progress and availability of this.

Dealing With Double Stars
If your light sources are rendering double stars (where you only want a single effect) then try this…
Use the brush tool to remove added effects first (after selecting a preset) and then select a smaller brush size and click on the light source that you want to add the effect to and this should help resolve the double star issue.

The short answer is no, you can select more points of light to include/exclude however you cannot position effects just anywhere in your image. However, there’s a reason for this. Let’s take a quick look at how the Star Effects™ program works and then I’ll show you a handy trick that you can use to create new light sources in your image which will then allow you to add in effects anywhere you’d like.

How It Works
Star Effects™ program is designed to consider your existing light sources and then create and enhance effects based off of those source points. Unlike a basic brush tool, where you can go in and just click on any part of your image to add an effect, Star Effects™ actually takes your image’s light sources into consideration and applies the effects directly to those light source points.

This type of integration gives you the ability to create more natural-looking effects, since you are positioning your effect around a light source – where it would be more likely to occur. Because the effects are dependent on the light source points, this does not allow you to reposition the created effect in your image (away from the light source).

Take a look at the example below…

Image Details

  • The stars in top (original) image are your light sources.
  • Which/how many of the stars (or light source points) are affected is controlled by the Threshold slider – which is located in your Main Adjustments tab.
  • The bottom image shows how the effect is created based off of those original light source points.

Handy Work Around
So, whats the neat workaround for creating effects anywhere you want? Creating your own light sources. This is actually really quick. All you need is your Photoshop brush tool! I suggest you start by creating a duplicate image layer. Then, here’s what you’ll do…

1. Select your Photoshop Brush Tool

2. Set the brush Size and Hardness – I prefer using a softer brush

3. Set the brush Color to white

4. Click on the area of your image that you want to add the effect to. This will create a new light source point.

5. Go to Filter -> Topaz Labs and select Star Effects.

When your light sources are detected, this new source point will also be detected. Please note that you may need to adjust your Threshold slider. From there you can go ahead and make your desired enhancements.

The ability to remove/undo an adjustment can often be just as important as applying adjustments. The new Topaz Adjust 5 features some useful “un-enhancement” tools that can be very helpful during your workflow. Let’s take a quick look at these tools.

The Undo and Redo buttons are probably the most general and commonly used tools for removing (or adding back) effects. The Undo/Redo buttons, located below the preview navigator, are global controls and will allow you to step forward or back through your global adjustments. So if you click on a preset or make a slider adjustment in the Global Adjustment or Finishing Touches tabs then the Undo/Redo buttons will give you the ability to eliminate those adjustments.


You will also notice that the Local Adjustments tab includes its own Undo/Redo buttons. When you need to move backward/forward through adjustments made in the Local Adjustments tab then be sure to use the local undo/redo tools located in the tab. The Local Adjustments tab also includes a local Reset button. This button allows you to reset (or clear out) adjustments made here. It will return your image the the original state before any of your applied local adjustments.

Now on to one of my favorite tools! The Brush Out Adjustment type might be one of the most useful features added to Adjust 5. The Brush Out tool allows you to remove or “brush out” your applied adjustments (added from presets or manual slider adjustments). By setting the Opacity slider, you can determine how much of the effect is brushed out of your image. The Brush Out option makes it easy to rescue skin and skies from the harsh effects that can occurs from your applied adjustments.

You’ll also notice that the Eraser option next to the Brush Out button. (This eraser tool is also available for the other Adjustment Types: Dodge, Burn, Brush Out and Smooth). Now, what seems to cause some confusion is the Eraser option in comparison with the Brush Out option. You may be asking yourself: Are they different? Don’t they do the same thing? Which should I use when? The eraser button is basically a secondary “undo” feature within the Local Adjustments tab. When working with the Brush Out Adjustment Type, the Erase button will remove your applied effect, or in this case it will bring back the adjustments/details that you brushed out.

Using the eraser tool will allow you to erase any of the adjustments made under the specified Adjustment Type (Dodge, Burn, Brush Out and Smooth). This is great for selectively removing the effect, versus using the undo/redo buttons which will affect the entire brush stroke.

I have a neat little trick for cleaning up an image in Topaz Adjust that I’d like to share with you. Often you have images that don’t need high-impact adjustments and will actually benefit more from subtle enhancements. For example, the image below is a little dull, washed out and the main building actually has a bit of a blue-green color cast going on… probably from the water and grass.

(Original)

In just a few clicks I was able to go in and quickly clean up the cast, enhance the color and make the image pop – as you can see in the image below. Wish I was there now!

(Final)

So let’s take a look at the workflow…

1. Open your image in Adjust. Once the interface loads click on the “Reset All” button.

Typically, I work start with Exposure and work my way down the tabs in order, but we’re actually going to start our work in the Color tab.

2. So go ahead and click on the Color tab to open it.

3. Turn off all the effects of each slider to disable any enhancements. You should have the same starting values as seen below.

So now you should have a totally desaturated image. (If you are interested in creating high-impact B&W images then check out Topaz B&W Effects)

From here we can start to bring back the image color gradually.

4. Starting with the Saturation slider, slowly increase it to bring back the stronger sources of color in your image. You should have a mix of black & white and color. My final value for the Saturation slider is at 1.89.
The Saturation slider is used to increase or decrease the overall saturation (richness and brightness) of the image.

5. Next, go to the Saturation Boost slider and slowly increase it. The Saturation Boost slider is going to increase or decrease the saturation of less saturated colors in an image. My final value for the Saturation Boost slider is at 0.50.

(Final)

And that’s it. You may want to play around a bit with the Saturation and Saturation Boost sliders to create the optimal balance for your image. Then from there you can go ahead and make any additional adjustments to your image using the Exposure, Detail and Noise tabs.

One of the convenient things about Topaz Adjust is the included noise reduction tool, which is great for quickly removing the minor instances of noise that can often arise during your editing.

However, it also seems to cause a little confusion among users when it comes to the Topaz DeNoise program, and frequently I receive questions from users wanting to know if Adjust’s denoise tool is the same as the Topaz DeNoise program.

While it definitely comes in handy at times, the noise reduction tool in Adjust is not a substitute for Topaz DeNoise. Let’s take a quick look at both…

Topaz DeNoise
Generally when it comes to post processing it is best to make sure your image is as “clean” as possible before making any color, detail or special effects adjustments. So in my own workflow I have made it habit to always run my image through DeNoise before moving on to any other adjustments. This is going to help make sure that your other adjustments are clean, crisp and clear.

If your original image is seriously noisy (like the image above) then you will want to use Topaz DeNoise to remove that noise. Since Topaz DeNoise is a full noise reduction program it offers tools for removing noise, color noise and 2-way banding noise. In addition to noise removal, you will also be able to clean color in your noisy image, correct black levels, restore detail, reduce blur and add grain – to help you achieve optimal results. DeNoise is also great if you have to shoot in low light, fast speeds, or other noisy conditions

Topaz Adjust
While still powerful, the noise reduction tab in Topaz Adjust offers only basic noise reduction capabilities. This tool often comes in handy because Adjust can enhances the noise that is already there and sometimes it creates noise as a side effect of the adjustments made. It is best used as a mid-workflow tool specifically for eliminating the noisy affects while working in Adjust.

Adjust allows you to control the noise suppression and amount. The suppression slider controls the amount of noise that is removed. The Amount slider controls the degree of noise suppression applied to the image. You will also notice a small checkbox in the denoise tab which allows you to determine the type of noise reduction that is used. Enabling the checkbox will allow you to process your noise reduction options using Topaz DeNoise. It uses an advanced algorithm, similar to the one in the DeNoise 5 program, to remove image noise. This feature is slower but it will preserve more detail in your image. Disabling this feature will make your noise reduction process fast but simple, and will suppress more detail.