Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels, Belgium.

I was recently given a reviewers copy of B&W Effects 2 by Topaz Labs, but having been busy for the past 6 weekends, and mostly travelling, I haven’t been able to actually put my thoughts on this software down on paper – until now. I’ve also recorded a video of myself working on the above image, so feel free to check that our also; it’s 18 minutes long.

I’ve tried a couple of black and white plugins previously…but have never really got on with any of them. However, I find that I’m consistently returning to B&W Effects 2 when processing my daily images, and it’s now become a part of my workflow. I had only really used Topaz Denoise previously (on 90% of my images, to be honest), so this is a welcome addition to the collection.

First up, the interface is nice and simple and easy to use – it was pretty intuitive to just dive right in there and start using it. It was natural to start at the top left of the screen where I could select a ‘collection’ to work from; follow that down by selecting a preset which is part of the collection, and then when I’ve settled on one of those simply head over to the right hand navigation panel to tweak the image how I require. Simple.

B&W Effects 2 Control Panel
Simple and intuitive interface
B&W Effects 2 - preview
Preview the presets before applying them

However; there were a few too many options for me when it came to the final tweaking. I’m used to doing many things in Lightroom and CS6, so features such as dodging and burning or curve adjustments just didn’t seem necessary in a plugin as far as I was concerned.
I’m rather short sighted, however, as I have no idea what other image hosts may have as features, and it may be that you require these additional features from directly within the plugin.

Adjust curves and many other settings
Refine your images until you’re happy with the results

My biggest issues with the software are that it needs to generate previews of the image each time you select a collection, and sometimes it can appear to be a little unresponsive – mostly because it’s catching up on a previous action before moving on to the next. If that’s all I have to complain about though, then that’s not a bad thing. The former can be overcome over time simply by adding your most used presets to your ‘favourites’ collection as these will all load at once and so it’s likely you’ll only need to load the presets once.

Preview rendering
Preset previews load with each collection; an unwelcome break to the workflow.

I didn’t use the original B&W Effects so can’t say how this one differs from the previous version, but I’m happy enough with the features this one does have, and the control it allows you over the final adjustments.

Convert your image to black and white in under 30 seconds
Intuitive design
Large selection of presets available
Ability to finely adjust selected presets
Apply finishing effects from within the plugin
Reasonable price point ($60)

Preview load times are noticeable when they should be instantaneous
Cannot be used as a standalone application

A versatile package with a vast array of presets which will suit many images. Topaz B&W Effects 2 has become a part of daily workflow, allowing me to create a new look to my images within seconds.

  • Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Focal length: 14mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Shutter speed: 1/1600s

One thought on “Wrath”

  1. Thanks for that over-view of this plug-in – I haven’t yet checked out the Video but will do so soon. The slow re-draw of a slight adjustment to any feature of any of the Topaz plug-ins is something I find rather annoying. I’m used to nudging a slider in Photoshop to see the gradual effect of an incremental change and getting an instant adjustment. Every small nudge of a slider in Topaz leads to the irritating blue progress bar and a pregnant pause. Pity they can’t get rid of that. Other than that I enjoy using Topz plug-ins.

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