Presets and Collections
The menus on the left side of the interface contain over 200 presets that you can apply to your photo with just a couple of clicks. You can probably imitate these effects in Photoshop or Lightroom, but that would take some time. The convenience of the plug-in is that the presets are instantly accessible.
Traditional, Toned, and Stylized Collections
The presets are organized into eight collections. The first two collections, Traditional and Toned (see Figures 2, 3, and 4), give you a set of black-and-white conversions that you can apply instantly to the image. You can treat any preset as a starting point and use the conversion menus on the right side of the screen to refine the conversion further. (I'll come back to those menus later in the article.) As a rapid, no-fuss way of creating an instant black-and-white conversion that simulates the results from traditional darkroom printing and toning processes, these options are great, but they only scratch the surface of what the plug-in has to offer.
Figure 2 A color image before it was processed with the Topaz B&W Effects plug-in.
Figure 3 Traditional collection, Warm Tone Black Border preset.
Figure 4 Toned collection, Sepia and Selenium II preset.
The use of the third collection, Stylized (see Figure 5), is a little lost on me. I'm sure that someone will find a use for these presets, but for me they're a little garish. Interestingly, not all the presets convert the image to monochrome; a couple retain the image's color.
Figure 5 Stylized collection, Quadtone Redscale IV preset.
The last five collections—Cyanotype, Albumen, Van Dyke Brown, Opalotype, and Platinum—are intriguing. Each collection contains a number of presets that imitate the appearance of black-and-white photos processed with these historical print-processing techniques.
The cyanotype process has been around since 1842 and is still in use today. Cyanotypes are typically blue-and-white monochrome images. You can print photos onto paper or card stock, using chemical solutions that you mix yourself. The print is developed by exposure to ultraviolet light. You can even create cyanotypes from images originating on a digital camera, by printing a negative on transparent acetate from an inkjet printer. It's a lot of work, and the toxic chemicals required will put most people off the idea of trying it. But with the Topaz B&W Effects plug-in, you can imitate the cyanotype process instantly (see Figure 6).
Figure 6 Cyanotype collection, Cerulean Cambridge preset.
Albumen and Van Dyke Brown Collections
Two more historical processes that some photographers still use today, albumen and Van Dyke brown, are provided as presets. Like creating cyanotypes, both techniques demand a lot of work and some noxious chemicals. Or you can re-create the effect by using the Topaz B&W Effects plug-in. It's much easier!
Albumen and Van Dyke brown prints (see Figures 7 and 8) are made by hand-coating paper with a light-sensitive mixture and then placing the negative in contact with the paper during the exposure. For this reason, the prints are the same size as the negative used. In London's National Portrait Gallery, I've seen albumen prints that were created over a hundred years ago, and the quality is quite amazing.
Figure 7 Albumen collection, Dark Hazelnut preset.
Figure 8 Van Dyke Brown collection, Umber preset.
Opalotype prints are made by coating a piece of translucent white glass with light-sensitive emulsion and placing the negative in contact with the glass during the exposure. They are sometimes hand-colored, and the opalotype presets in the Topaz B&W Effects plug-in imitate this technique (see Figure 9).
Figure 9 Opalotype collection, Hand Printed Chiffon preset.
Figure 10 Platinum collection, Platinum IV preset.