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Auto FX Photoshop Plugins Review - Mystical Suite - Mystical Focus, Mystical Lighting, Mystical Tint
Here is a review of AutoFX’s Mystical Suite, reviewed by Robert Coppa from the latest edition of PSD Magazine.
AutoFX’s Mystical Suite is a collection of three applications/plugins that share a common interface and allow interoperability between Mystical Focus, Mystical Lighting and Ambiance 2.0 and Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0. The applications can run standalone or within Photoshop as a plugin. As a photographer well versed with Photoshop, I opted to explore the plugin instance first. The plugin is invoked from the filter’s menu in Photoshop and can be applied to any non-empty layer.
As stated previously, the plugin instantiation of the application displays a consistent interface that can also be used in the standalone version. It is, thankfully, compact, clean and concise. There is a left sidebar where users can define parameters for the selected effect. The effects are selected from the dropdown box using flyout menus. One feature I would have appreciated is the ability to set my own color for the sidebar, palettes and picture viewing area, and the ability to change the font style to a non bold value would definitely get two thumbs up from me. The Layers and Brush palettes are easy to use and understand, they are non- dockable but can easily be moved out of the way; the application remembers the last position so there is no need to move them from session to session.
A helpful feature is the memory dots dial. It lets users take snapshots of work in progress. These serve as save points that they can return to without losing the work previously done. If a user is uncertain of what a particular control will do, the application offers two level of help on all controls ( brush on/off, lasso etc ) and effects. When the mouse hovers over the control for 2 secs a short description is displayed, holding it still for another 2 sec will display an extended explanation of the tool.
The Mystical Focus application/plugin provides a total of 9 Focal Effects, 6 Atmospheric Effects and a masking layer capability. That is a lot of blurring options that users can select from. In addition to these start-from-scratch effects, users can select from 45 Focal Effects Presets and 22 Atmospheric Effects Presets. The Preset dialog provide a large size sample of each preset and when the user hovers the mouse over a specific preset it shows the original picture, providing an effective Before-After facility.
It is worth mentioning that the Preset dialog is shared by the other applications, again providing a consistent look and feel to the product. The Focal effects provide good overall blurring and realist simulations of bokeh and DOF ( Depth of Field ). The application provides for an easy means to quickly create blurring effects and by using the default brush, planer and lasso tools novice users can quickly produce dramatic results.
The addition of Atmospheric effects within this application/ plugin can further improve the final look of the image. It adds stylized flair quickly and easily. My personal favourites are the Highlight Smear and Specular Highlights effects.
Mystical Lighting and Ambience 2
This new version of Mystical Lighting and Ambiance looks and feel very solid and is, in my opinion, a marked improvement from version 1. It offers 14 Lighting effects, 5 Shading effects and 8 Ambience modifiers for a total of 27 effects that may be combined and blended to provide some spectacular results. Add to these over 120 presets and you have a recipe for hours of play time.
Two of my favourite effects are Light Beams and Light in the Dark. They provide a high degree of control over light projections and if offers over 40 different Beam styles within Light Beams alone. Most of the Lighting effects provide a control to define the colour of the light either in solid form or as a gradient. Users can define and save their own colour palettes and load them for use on similar images. Each light beam parameter includes spread, fade out and softness. These sliders provide accurate tuning of the beam and the T-Path control allows the user to define not only beam directionality but also position, width and intensity. Each T-Path has its own set of parameters and atmospheric controls.
A useful control employed by the directional light effects is the Light Blocker control. It is defined by dragging a line across the screen. It is 1 dimensional but can provide a very effective means of light obscuration. Combined with its opacity slider users can simulate light blocking on a flat image. To round off the parameter controls there are 22 atmospheric effects to choose from. Users can select a preset and then modify to suit the particular application for the image.
Another favourite of mine is the Ethereal Effects in the Ambience group. The effect can be applied either as a Soft Cast or a Light Cast. I prefer the Light Cast. Using this option I am able to define direction and therefore have more control over the look and feel of the image. Using the Brush on/off controls I can simulate rudimentary masks.
Although the two Flares Effects provide over 50 presets combined I was expecting the ability to create effective obscuration masks, this would enable me to simulate a Flare behind a building scene, where only part of the flare is visible. I was unable to do this effectively with the Brush on/off controls. This point aside Mystical Lighting and Ambience provide a wealth of effects and presets that will allow users, both novice and savvy, to quickly create fabulous images.
Mystical Tint Tone and Color
If users were impressed with the abundance of effects and presets offered by the previous two applications/plugins, they will be to be totally blown away by what Mystical Tint Tone and Color offers - 60 effects with 300 presets – incredible value! Mystical Tint Tone and Color 2.0 includes a variety of valuable Portrait Filters that can improve skin color, minimize skin blemishes and wrinkles, enhance eyes, lips and hair and the ability to reshape facial features. As with the Liquify control in Photoshop, a user needs to exercise control and only make believable changes, as there are no real constraining parameters. On the flip side however, it can generate interesting caricatures. Try it yourself...
The application features easy to use Color, Tinting and Tonal effects which require minimal tweaking to provide dramatic and beautiful results very quickly. The new lens effects can effectively simulate graduated filters and polarizers. I found these to be particularly useful in some of the photographs that I used in my evaluation. They are quick to apply and provide the desired effect with minimal tweaking. The Sharpening filters provide good image detail and clarity; on par with more traditional filters available in Photoshop.
Documentation is available from AutoFX website either online via html or as a downloadable PDF file. This documentation is sparse at only 26 pages for all three applications. The documentation relates more to workflow and high level concepts. Effects and presets are not discussed in detail. However, AutoFX has done an excellent job of proving embedded help within the application. Every effect and every parameter tweakable under that effect has associated help. This help can be reached by hovering the mouse over the control, as explained earlier.
As with all software there are limitations. The new Mystical Suite of applications currently only operates in the RGB color space. This may be an issue for those photographers/graphic artists that prefer working solely in other professional color spaces ( eg. CMYK, Lab Color, etc ).
AutoFX has delivered a comprehensive and feature rich suite of applications/plugin in Mystical Suite. It boasts over 100 effects with in excess of 400 presets. If the effects are used judiciously and users take advantage of its blending and masking facilities, Mystical Suite can yield magnificent images. Mystical Suite will provide the novice and more savvy users hours of exploration time and a complete arsenal of tools that can dramatically enhance images. A final word of caution however, to achieve great results one must start with the best possible image. Don’t except to feed AutoFX’s Mystical Suite a terribly focused photograph and expect it to sharpen it perfectly. And remember, as always is the case in photo- retouching, less is more and a light hand will go a long way.
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Color Efex Pro
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SiteGrinder Photoshop Plugin - Create Websites Instantly
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