Examining Topazlabs Detail Filter

MarkRMarkR Registered Users Posts: 2,099 Major grins
edited October 19, 2009 in Grad School
EDIT: very cool, Topazlabs linked to this from their twitter feed. And no one has emailed me to correct me, so I assume I got most of the facts right ...

I wanted to examine an interesting new Photoshop plugin filter from TopazLabs called Detail. You can read more about it here.

Detail is a powerful and interesting plugin that does an amazing job of bringing out details in an image. However, it can be somewhat finicky to use, and the manual that comes with it can sometimes be a litte on the sparse side.

Topaz Detail claims not to introduce any halos in an image. However, I have found that it will enhance any halos that are already present, however small and unobjectionable in the original image. For that reason, I always turn off all sharpening before sending an image to the Detail filter.

In addition, Topaz Detail adjustments can be fairly strong. Working on a duplicate layer will allow us to fade or mask portions of the image as appropriate once we've finished.

Detail is a very slow filter to launch, often taking a few minutes to "pre-process" an image. It uses algorithms to break an image into five layers: a Color layer, a "base" layer, small, medium, and large detail layers. Once this pre-processing is done, however, image adjustment can be done rapidly.

I thought it would be useful to see what Detail actually does to an image, based on what I've gleaned from TopazLabs blogs and some other sites.


Behold, my sample image.

After opening this in Detail and allowing the pre-processing to occur, I go to the Colors tab and set Saturation to -1, essentially desaturating the image and removing the Color layer.

Next to remove the Base layer, go to the Tone tab and move the Contrast slider all the way to the left to -1. This "turns off" the Base layer, leaving only the three "detail" layers (Small, Medium, Large) visible.


Now, to view each layer separately. To view the small details only, drag the Medium and Large detail sliders to -1, and push the Small details slider to +1.

You should now be looking at all the areas that are affected by the small details slider. (Ignore the boost sliders for now, we'll get to those.)


Here's the Medium Detail layer (Small and Large set to -1, Medium set to +1):


Here's the Large:


Now let's talk about "Boost."

In all the Topaz plugins, boost works the same way: increasing (or decreasing) the weakest values disproportionately. So a positive increase to Boost Saturation, for example, will saturate the least saturated colors in the image disproportionately, and incidently acting very similar to the Vibrance slder in ACR/Lightroom.

So a positive increase to the Boost Small Details slider will give emphasis to the weakest of the small details, while negative value will decrease the weakest values without greatly affecting the rest of the small details.

This is a great way to deal with skin!

Think about it: we are now working with a tool that will allow us to reduce the weakest details in skin, while still retaining the stronger of the small details (eyelashes, etc.)

I should at this point mention that there is a preset already in Detail for skin/portraiture. I find it to be overly strong, your mileage may vary.

Working in the small details layer, I like to move the small boost slider to the left just until the smallest skin detail starts to disappear. This will often soften up eyelashes, eyebrows, etc, so I will add some positive small detail (not boost!) to bring back those details. I might then refine my small details boost slider until I'm satisfied.

Here's an example at the forehead, set to 100% zoom:


And after applying the above technique:


As you can see in this example, I was able to reduce the skin detail while still retaining fine hair, eyebrow, and eyelash detail.

One more silly example.

Here's a silly goose!


And he looks a little soft. So I open the image in CS4, duplicate the layer, then open Detail, and go have a cup of java. When I come back the pre-processing is done, and I go to town, deliberately overdoing all my sliders in the small medium and large details.


It's a little too strong, but that's ok. Apply the filter. From here I can use the Edit -> Fade command if I want. Instead, though, I reduce the opacity of the layer, while also masking out the water.


And that's it!


  • pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,662 moderator
    edited October 18, 2009
    I haven;t had a chance to play with this yet, Mark, but it is on my list.

    I have Topaz Adjust, Simplify and DeNoise and find each useful in different ways.
    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
  • MarkRMarkR Registered Users Posts: 2,099 Major grins
    edited October 19, 2009
    pathfinder wrote:
    I haven;t had a chance to play with this yet, Mark, but it is on my list.

    I have Topaz Adjust, Simplify and DeNoise and find each useful is different ways.


    I originally wrote this to try to clear up some ideas in my mind about Detail, as well as give some attention to what I think is a pretty nifty plugin. Plus Grad School looked like it needed a new article mwink.gif. I was gratified that the TopazLabs twitter account linked to the article recently. I assume I didn't have any egregious errors in my writing. :D Seriously, Topaz Labs has been great at answering questions and helping me fix minor issues that I've had.

    I am toying with a technique in Denoise to "de-blur" and bring back detail to low-ISO shots. Will post as time (and interest) permit.
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