Plugins for Photoshop, Elements, Lightroom, PSP & others


Nik Color Efex Pro 3 Complete

by Rick Siegert


Review Date: May 28, 2009
Recommend? yes |  Rating: 9 

Pros: Easy Control of the filters, Wide Range of effects, Can control the effects of the filters quickly and easily
Cons: High price, Favorites tab to customize instead of new tabs option


nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 is a major redesign of a previously very good set of filters and tools. There are three versions of the Pro 3.0 filter set, just as there have been previously. The Standard Edition, the Select Edition and the Complete Edition. Each version has more or less filters included. This is a review of the Complete edition, which contains all of the filters. I really wish that they would come up with an easier to follow naming system. It makes price match searches that much harder.

Quick user friendly upgrades are the new ability to increase the filter page to full screen size for larger monitors, and several preview modes, from a sliding red line (either horizontal or vertical) to two images in the screen, one before and one after. 3.0 includes their new Point Control technology and has integrated the different filters into a new tabbed system of filters that is more functional, such a Portrait tab and a Nature tab. There is also a favorites tab for putting together your own most used filter set, and an All tab that shows all filters in the set. There are several hot new filters as well.

All filters now have a new, cleaner interface that incorporates the Control Point technology for each filter. Clicking on a filter selection opens the a filter page that overlays the Photoshop page. It closes once each filter session is finished and is OK or Cancelled.

While it is Open, all filters are available so that several different filters can be applied at the same time. There is a navigator / preview box in the lower right hand corner. The red line shows the before and after view and it is movable. There are also the options to use more than one picture for before and after, as well as darkening the matte around the picture being processed.

As discussed above, each filter opened will look the same, excepting for the slider options available on the top right side of the Nix control panel.

The biggest news is the new Control Points mentioned above. They are a totally new concept in digital processing and so may take a bit of explaining.

The Control Points have a spot location and a radius for creating a circle. The spot location chooses the pixel color and brightness values to be processed, and the radius circle is the area of coverage. The area of coverage is not an outline of what to fill or change, but a maximum area to look at when processing. For example, if a model is wearing a white dress and is outside with a cloudy sky, or against a white wall, the area of coverage can be adjusted to ignore the clouds or wall. Not by outlining the dress, but expanding and contracting the radius of the coverage circle to cover most or all of the dress within it. Several points can be created if needed. It is so easy and fast that even I can do it! A little touch up may be needed at the end, but that is much faster and easier than any of the traditional masking techniques and tools. Once the circle is finalized, then the filter is applied. There are two important additional settings for creating the Control Points; 0% opacity and 100% opacity. 0% opacity fills everything within the circle. 100% opacity protects everything within the circle and makes the filter changes outside of the circle. Yes, it is possible to use both on a photograph and even create points within points.

In addition, there are several new filters that are quite noteworthy. Some that stand out for me are "Bleach Bypass" emulates the movie industry?s processing bypass of bleach for high contrast and low saturation. "Dynamic Skin Softener" has new and more complete controls. It softens the skin and makes it more lustrous for portraits, but leaves the rest of the image sharp. There are small, medium and large detail sliders to handle different needs. Medium works well on pores, for example. "White Neutralizer" will whiten specific items chosen with the point Control while leaving the rest of the image as is. This is very helpful for too warm or too cool images, and other uses as well. There are also New film emulation and grain emulation filters. They are not as detailed as the "Film Efex 2" package, but still very useful.

In conclusion, I believe that Nik?s Color Efex Pro 3 is a very worthwhile purchase and upgrade. They have definitely made their case for the price increase, as far as I am concerned. It has speeded up my workflow, and made the changes and adjustments easier. Check some of the online video lessons at for more information. If need be, one can start out with a Standard or Select version and then upgrade to Complete, or if your needs are taken care of in the Standard or Select versions, use them and don?t worry about what you don?t have available. It is available for both windows and Mac. The Standard Edition is $99.95 retail, The Select Edition is $159.95 retail and the Complete Edition is $299.95. Upgrade prices depend upon which versions of Color Effex Pro you have (1 or 2) and which Edition. I would recommend skipping the Standard Edition and starting with the Select or Complete editions if you can. The best filter effects are in them.

Nik offers a 15 day trial on their products. I highly recommend trying Color Efex Pro out. I think that you will be as impressed with it as I am.


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