Normally, if you want to create any kind of black and white effect with the DxO Nik Collection, you’d go straight to Silver Efex Pro. However, Color Efex Pro has some black and white effects of its own. The effects are different to Silver Efex Pro’s, so although the tools aren’t quite as sophisticated, you might still be able to achieve some unique ‘looks’.
There are actually three ‘black and white’ filters in Color Efex Pro. There’s the B/W Conversion, near the top of the list, and Paper Toner further down, which applies a black and white conversion and a toning effect at the same time. The one I’m going to look at this time, though, is the Old Photo filter.
This isn’t just for black and white. In fact it comes with six black and white effects and six colour, and both sets are interesting. To show what they look like, I’m using this shot of a fabulous old Antonov An-2 at an air show.
Here’s the same shot (below) with all twelve effects applied – black and white effects on the top row, colour on the bottom.
You don’t have to use these effects just as they are. The Old Photo filter offers a small selection of tools for modifying the effect, and Color Efex Pro now lets you ‘stack’ effects to create your own custom ‘Recipes’.
01 Choose your Style
When you click on the Old Photo effect (circled on the left here), you’ll see its tool panel over in the right sidebar. At the top is a drop-down Style menu where you choose the effect you want to apply. These are split into two groups, with a set of six black and white effects at the top and six colour effects below. You choose the effect you want and then set about adjusting it to suit your image.
02 Change the Grain
If you want to adjust the amount of grain in the picture, it’s best to zoom in using the Zoom button on the top toolbar before you start adjusting the Grain slider. You can drag the smaller marquee in the Navigator panel to pan around and check different areas of the picture.
03 Brightness, Shadows and Highlights
The only tonal control you have is with the Brightness, Shadows and Highlights sliders. The Brightness slider makes the picture darker or lighter (obviously), while you use the Shadows and Highlights sliders to pull back any shadow or highlight detail that’s been lost by applying the filter.
04 Adding a vignette
I want to take this effect a little further by adding more filters, and to do this you click the Add Filter button under the tools panel in the right sidebar, then choose another filter from the list on the left. I’ve added the Vignette: Lens filter to darken the corners of the picture.
05 Adding a border
Now I’ve added a third filter, Image Borders, to create a frame around the picture. Again, make sure you click the Add Filter button first – if you don’t, you’ll simply replace the existing filter.
06 Changing effects
The great thing about Color Efex Pro’s filter stacking system is that you can go back and change any of the existing filter properties. In this instance, I can re-open the Old Photo tools and choose a different Style from the menu – the Vignette and Image Border filters stay in place.
07 Save a Recipe
It’s easy to save custom effects you create in this way – just click the Save Recipe button underneath the filter tools panel in the right sidebar. You’ll be prompted to choose a name for your Recipe – I’m calling mine ‘Old Photo Cool’.
08 Using saved Recipes
Recipes are saved in the left sidebar – look for the ‘Recipes’ tab near the bottom. When you click this, it opens to display a set of Recipe categories. You can click ‘All’ to see all the Recipes that come as standard and your own at the same time, or click ‘Custom’ to see just the ones you’ve created.
When you click a Recipe to apply it, Color Efex Pro will display all the Filters you used for the Recipe as a stack in the right sidebar – you can change any of the filters and settings and even save a new Recipe if you want to.
09 Retro sepia effect
This is my start shot with Old Photo ‘Style 1’ applied (together with my vignette and border). I like this sepia look because of the way the outlines are emphasised with localised contrast – it reminds me of how some old black and white prints actually do look. I’m sure I could achieve something similar in Silver Efex Pro, but it might take me a little while to work out how.
10 Cool faded colour effect
I like this effect too, which is somewhere between a faded colour print and a cyanotype. The control you get with these Old Photo effects is somewhat limited, but they are very different to each other and quick to apply. Besides, you can modify the effect by adding more filters.