Within the Nik Collection Suite, the Color Efex plugin is by far the one I use more. There was a time I would put so much time in render tests, adjusting materials, lights and test again. For who has a good piece of hardware, testing wont be a problem. On the other hand, for who does not have a computer up to date, it may become a time consuming step.
Color Efex Plugin
I am going to use a base render without any post editing for the showcasing. Scroll down or expand the Nik Collection menu to find the Color Efex plugin. If you do not have the menu, you will be able to find it on the Menu Bar > Filters.
Interface & Tools
With the plugin opened, we can spot at the left side the list of all the 55 filters you will be able to work with, each one with its unique effects and adjustments. If you do not want to see it as a full list, you can choose by the categories they fit best.
The recipe library is something that in the long run will save you alot of time. You will be able to save all filter layers in one recipe, allowing you to use it for future images. It does not mean they will fit in every other image, but in some way, what would take 8 minutes, will take 2. There will be times the only thing you have to do is, select the filter and press OK.
Note: If you wish to keep the original image after you apply the filter, go to settings on the bottom left corner. On the “After Clicking Ok” tab, select to apply the filter to a separate layer. The new image will be placed in a new layer in photoshop.
Filter Layer Stacking
The following image sequence will show the visual change of the base render through the filters applied.
Let´s start by the base render. The Polarization filter is already there, but it is not active. Once active, it will darken the sky and slightly reduce the image brilliance.
Through the Vignette Lens, I applied a small amount of darkness to the edges of the image.
The Skylight Filter gave the sunlight a more yellow tone. It may seem that the Polarization filter became worthless because the image brightness increased. In fact, the yellow tone we added to the sunlight only, is what makes the whole image look brighter, when it is not.
Indian Summer Filter
The Indian Summer Filter is one of my favourite filters. It will affect most of the yellow and green colors, but does not just apply to foliage. If you have a green wall, it will be affected also.
Brightness / Warmth Filter
The change that the Brightness/Warmth Filter added, by dropping the warmth percentage is not so notorious. But you can still see it around the shadow spots and the sky color.
Glamour Glow Filter
The Glamour Glow Filter gave a real boost to the image brillance, especially the volumetric sunlight and rays. The vegetation does look as orange as before due to the reduced saturation. It also removed plenty of the blue tones we had on the roof, but left some traces in darker areas.
White Neutralizer Filter
The White Neutralizer Filter allows me to choose one color and remove it, either from the whole image or from the areas where that same color is brighter. I have the Neutralize Whites slider up to 100% and that is why, compared to the last image, the only thing that changed was the vegetation vibrancy.
Monday Morning Filter
At this point, in order to give more depth to the image, contrast was the only thing missing. I could have added a specific contrast filter, but decided to go with something more in touch with the image. Applied the Monday Morning Filter and just played with the color range, Shadow and Highlights.
Even though the image was already good enough, I added the Ink Filter to reinforce in a general way all the colors of the image and the brightness of the volumetric light.
After being finished with the Color Efex, there was something that was bothering me. The blue color of the sky was too vivid in my opinion. With Camera Raw this was an easy fix, allowing me to desaturate of the blue color without changing anything else.
In the beginning it may seem confusing due to the number of filters Color Efex has, and the countless combinations you can do. In the end it will be a matter of practice and saving all the recipes you build along the way. It will be helpful since most of the times you just have to do a few adjustments.