Detailed Anatomy of a Post Processing Filter

Color Efex Pro 4 has 55 Filters

Each has a common anatomy – sliders, etc.

Read on about the common elements & how to use them

(and where some are hidden ;-)) –

(and where one is REALLY hidden)

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Knowing when & how to use each of the 55 filters is NOT what this post is about.

That info is being developed in this post.

No, this post is to explain the different elements that make up a CEP4 filter – any and every one of the 55.

Understanding these filter components, regardless of which specific filter they’re used in, is critical to effective use of CEP4. Most are obvious, a few may not be. Reading this from top to bottom may save you time & frustration later. I’ve tried to leave nothing out – if I have let me know.

And – away we go….

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Click images in this post to enlarge it to readable size.

This is where our filter anatomy journey begins. This screen capture is an orientation map.

  1. Filter selection is made in the left sidebar’s FilterList column. The current selection’s label is colored; the rest are white.
  2. The selection appears in the right sidebar.

Here’s an optional selection view showing the use of filter Presets (a new CEP4 feature – details to follow in another post).

Note – the selected preset’s border is colored; rest are white.

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This filter, Colorize, was chosen because

  1. It illustrates all of the most common filter elements and controls
  2. At the same time, it’s among the simplest.

Note that the filter, as I’ve shown it, is made up of two parts –

  1. Components unique to a specific filter
  2. Components that are common (identical in name, layout & effect) to every filter.

The UNIQUE area illustrates examples of the three main control types used in CEP4 filters.

  1. Drop down menus; make a choice from a list (Method)
  2. Color Picker; pick a specific HSL color (Color); Hue (no saturation or luminosity) is chosen with sliders
  3. Slider; chose a value; value range varies depending on the filter (Strength)
  4. Of these three, the slider is the most common followed by the drop down

The COMMON area illustrates controls that are present in every filter. In each filter their purpose is the same & they work in identical fashion. Note the small yellow common area in the upper right of the red box.

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The COMMON area can be expanded to display additional details by clicking on the little down arrow next to “Control Points” –

1. Control Point info – if you’ve used any CP’s (I added 2 here)

2. Look at the 2nd line in the red box – Opacity

a) Buried away in this unlikely spot is another CEP4 new feature

b) This slider controls the filter’s opacity.

c) Default =100 & 0 means the filter is OFF

Control Points have already been explained in gory detail in these earlier posts –

  1. Control Points & Selective Adjustment
  2. HDR Efex Pro Tutorial
  3. Silver Efex Pro 2 Tutorial

#2 is recommended reading – even if you think you understand control points & selective adjustments. I’d be willing to bet that over 50% of Nik product users don’t. Not even all of the beta testers do. Just sayin’.

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How about the little yellow “common” box at the upper right of the unique area?

Click the little down arrow to reveal several options common to all filters.

The first two pertain to copying/pasting control points (more in another post)

The last two can be very useful.

  • Both allow you to reset the filter to its original settings without changing one control at a time
  • Note that one keeps your CP’s (Control Points) & the other removes them
  • NOTE – you can return any individual slider to its default setting by just double clicking the slider
  • The new CEP4 History Browser (identical to SEP2’s) is the ultimate undo/redo/reset machine and is your best choice for changing settings (see this History Browser post)

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In the same little yellow “common” box there is an “X” at the far right. Click to close the filter with the result as shown here.

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Almost done – a few more common elements as shown here.

#1 are the conventional sliders, common in many Nik products, to recover shadows & highlights.

These are typically used together with the histogram

A change from CEP3 to 4, which I don’t like, is that the histogram location was changed.

It used to be right under these two sliders

Now you have to search for it at the bottom right of the screen where it’s been combined with the Loupe. WHY??

#2 is instrumental in one of CEP4’s best new features – working with combinations (stacks) of filters.

If you want to add a filter to the current stack you must click here first. See next screen capture.

Otherwise your stack will disappear & be replaced by the new selected filter. (Ctrl-Z = undo ;-))

#3 is the key to yet another new feature – Recipes

If you want to save your stack for future reuse, click here. See screen capture 2-down.

If you do save it, think real hard about whether to

save it with the settings for your current image (which probably won’t be useful for a different image) or

change all control settings to nominal default values

TOP SECRET – If you want to save any control points with the recipe (even a worse idea in most cases than saving specific control settings) –

Hold down the Shift key during the final save step

The fact that this is hidden & unadvertised should be a clue as to what a bad idea it is. Caveat Emptor.

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Here I clicked on Add Filter & selected this one to illustrate one last control – Place Center – which appears in several filters where a location within an image is important.

You can see here what the image looked like after finishing with the Colorize Filter (top)

and what it looks like with this Vignette: Lens filter (adjusted to an extreme for illustration) with the filter center applied off-center (default is dead-center)

Note the little yellow box at upper right of this screen capture – around the small arrows in front of each filter’s name.

You’d think that clicking the one whose filter controls are hidden (Colorize here) would reveal the hidden controls.

You’d only be partially right –

The hidden controls would, in fact, be revealed

BUT, at the same time the current revealed controls get hidden

Bottom Line – It is not possible to see the controls of more than one filter at a time

Many testers didn’t like this

AND – the final common element. See the check marks to the right of that last yellow box? The ones to the left of the filters’ names.

That is the filter’s on/off switch. Those two filters are both on – checked.

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Click on Save Recipe and here’s what you see. If you enter a name already used it will save this new one with a suffix to make it unique – no warning.

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[Update 11/25/11 – Read this post for two new (Hidden Secrets) CEP4 filter tricks.]

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Subsequent posts will cover other material related to using filters. When all of the posts are completed, links to them will be gathered in a single Color Efex Pro 4 tutorial as was done for –

HDR Efex Pro

Silver Efex Pro 2

Stay tuned.

Here is a quick overview of CEP4’s new features.

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2 thoughts on “Detailed Anatomy of a Post Processing Filter

  1. Just want to let you know this is great info on Color Efex Pro. I was digging around the Internet trying to see if specific settings can be saved along with the recipes. Your post just answered my question. Not to mention it is a great intro tutorial on the product!

  2. Thanks. Unfortunately the Nik Software site doesn’t seem to share your (and others) opinions regarding my many posts & tutorials related to their products. The silence over there is deafening. 😦

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