Feature: Fo2Pix Artmaster plugin allows users to finish their photos in smart ways
I have been reviewing a series of what I have variously called the Artful Dodgers and the Painterly Plugins. Now I would like to return to one of those Artful plugins - and rename it as a Smart Finishing program. The reason for the name change is quite simple, Fo2Pix ArtMasterPro is a standalone program - Buzz Pro 3 is the plugin counterpart, also from Fo2Pix (it will be reviewed separately). The second reason for the name change is that although ArtMaster Pro has paint brush capabilities, that brush is one way of displaying or revealing ArtMaster Pro's smartness and capabilities. There are fill and blend tools that also allow you to render part or some blend of all of ArtMaster Pro's different source visions onto your evolving picture or canvas.
ArtMaster Pro is smart because it can see the borders and edges within your photo - detect both the color and gray tonal content within those borders and then do smart things with that info:
So ArtMaster pro is a paint program. The difference is that you are painting and blending together elements of your original image in new and novel ways. Fortunately, the Fo2Pix people have had a chance to work on the UI-User Interface to deliver this type capability for the past decade or so (I have seen and/or worked with the earlier versions and this is the best go so far. The UI is fairly simple yet sophisticated enough to allow for some magnificent results. So lets take a look see at the ArtMaster pro UI.
These buttons appear in all the main ArtMaster pro screens - Main, Adjust, Studio, and Layout. So users can be confident that they can quickly undo (reverse just the immediate command) or reset (go back to to the original state of the image as it entered the specific screen ->Adjust, Studio, Layout). Finally at the top right is the Help pulldown. It might be called the Active Help rollup.
Just as the Art Wizards guide users through each step in achieving a predefined ArtMaster pro styling, the Help Pulldown is automatically displayed and guides users through the details of each Art Wizard step. It is very hard to go awry with this kind of active help. I found that I learned Artmaster Pro very quickly to the point that having the Help pulldown always appearing after each step became a nuisance(and I still cannot find a global setting that allows me to turn off Active Help). Just hit the F6 key on the Mac to clear the Help screen temporarily.
Now before I do any work in the Studio (which the screenshot above is showing), I shall first take a look at the Adjust screen which allows users to make overall adjustments to their image.
By the way this dropdown will constantly be reappearing, even after you close it by clicking anywhere on it with the mouse or hitting the F6 key. After awhile the dropdown help gets to a nuisance - and I can't find a setting to stop it from automatically dropping down every time you press the Manual button or choose a new Source from the Palette tab. By the way we have chosen the Source 4. So lets see what happens:
Right now I want to you use the canvas painting tools to add/blend the new finishing layer to the existing canvas. Remember our canvas started blank. But we use the paint brush tool (button 3 or the Paintbrush icon in the screenshot of the canvas painting buttons) to paint the blend layer onto the white canvas. We can do a blanket fill - that is button 1. Or we can erase all the paint strokes or fills done so far with the Clear button - 2. Finally there is the Selective Fill button - 4.
What this button does is blend in the Source view in an area with the same colors where the cursor is clicked on the canvas. One can set the threshold value for finding similar colors. The Selective Fill tool is very useful in sky versus foreground or very contrasty shots where you want to apply the Artmaster Pro finishing effects selectively. Remember - Artmaster Pro does not have a masking tool; but the Selective Fill and Paintbrush allow users to approximate masking.
Finally, the most important step is to finalize your finishing when you are satisfied with the blend. You do this by clicking on the Finish button in the left panel. This allows users to stop and save the output and then go onto another image or to add another step in the processing of the image. I will want to continue with another step to add back some edge detail
But look what this first step has done. It has found the edges of the image and simplified the coloring and smoothed out the tiny detail lines within those areas. By choosing a different source one can accentuate or diminish this smoothing effect. In the next step, I shall explain more of the blending controls while adding back selective lines and details.
There is a third way you can correct an image as you add Selective Fills and Paint strokes - use the Undo and Reset buttons. Undo will remove the last paint stroke or selective fill. Press Undo again and the next to last paint stroke or selective fill is removed, etc. But be careful with Reset - clicking it removes all of the steps taken and reverts back to the starting image.
But the most important controls in Studio are the 3 blend controls in the middle of the left panel. These controls determine how the source layer will be blended into the evolving image. Try each by clicking with the mouse and just dragging bulls eye cursor in each control around. Notice what happens. the Source changes and also the adjusted blend in concert. The Hue saturation control will increase or decrease the images saturation with vertical up or down movements of the cursor. Hue will change through the spectrum as the cursor is moved horizontal in the Hue/Saturation control. The Brightness/Contrast control works similarly. Up and down movement increase and decrease the contrast while horizontal movements to the right increases the brightness, to the left decreases brightness.
The bottom control governs how blending between the source and the current adjusted image will be done. To the left causes the new source to replace and blend over more of the adjusted image. Moving the crosshairs cursor to the left will reduce the blending to zero at the extreme left. Moving the cursor up lightens the tinting and down below the middle darkens the tinting. The Blend control is one of the most important in Artmaster Pro because:
So spend some extra trial and error time (its easy to do given the undo/redo buttons)trying out different Blend control settings. In the screen shot above I have moved the Contrast up to a a near max while keeping the brightness level the same. On Hue/Saturation I have moved the hue into the blue spectrum and increased saturation. The Blend is 38% of the source replaces the adjusted original, but that effect is darkened.
With just these two steps I have transformed my original image substantially, giving it a simplified and highlighted styling and coloration. This is the Artmaster Pro strength.
I remember at the Ontario College of Art where photography students were apalled with a group that were taking Polaroids of student events and creating mounted scenes. Many of those photo tableaus included images which had been manipulated with spoons, forks, pencils and erasers while the Polaroid image was processing and emerging. The results were highly stylized images that had the look of a Gustav Klimt or a latter-day Lawren Harris. They were not only striking but also expressed an overall style and hinted at the feelings behind the image taking of the artists.
Needless to say within a year, Polaroids disappeared from the Photography exhibits as interest turned to solarization and platinum wash prints. But about 3 years later, David Hockney started exhibiting Polaroid tableaus and then a whole wave of manipulated Polaroids appeared on the art scene. Needless to say, Polaroids and darkroom manipulated images returned to OCA Photography with a vengeance.
Moral of this philosophic photographic parable - don't wait for Commercial Confirmation, if post processing with ArtMaster Pro and its brethren plugins work for your expressive needs - and you can tell if the resulting images please you - then lay on MacDuff.
Users may want to adopt a particular style - and that is what the Art Wizards are for. They allow you to deliver an image with a particular style like the Sand Dune or Bronze Patina which are two of the Fo2Pix pre-configured Art Wizards available in ArtMaster Pro. These Art Wizards take users through a series of steps lead along by the detailed instructions in the dropdown menu for every step. Even better, users can create their own Art Wizards by recording(click on Record button to start the process)a series of manual steps and then saving the sequence upon clicking the Record button at the end of the session. Simple to do - and then Artmaster Pro will show your personal wizard in the the list of all Art Wizards available.
So Artmaster Pro allows one to change the look and feel of a picture in novel ways. The key is that users can simplify areas of the image and then add back highlights, details, lines and edges in novel fashion. I have had occasion to save several steps of an evolving image - with each step being its own work of art. Below is how our Oak leaves ended out.
I will confess that there are times that I have wanted to isolate areas of an image and then add a spatter look along the edges and maybe simplify the colors or add graded highlights or smoothed out the details across an image. And working with Photoshop plus detailed masks and Smart Smoother filters I have been able to attain some of these ends but at great time and effort. What Art Master Pro allows me to do is achieve these same ends in a much shorter work cycle and a broader functional/stylistic range.
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