Feature: One of the most "lively" of Flaming Pear's plugins is Lacquer
Motivation: It is like a blend of Aetherize and Boss Emboss ... well...
You should be able to tell by now that this reviewer is pretty enthusiastic about most of the plugins in the Flaming Pear product line. And it is not because they are such bargains - but rather because they have been designed for maximum utility. Except in the case of Super Blade Pro (and for good reason - see the review here), moving the sliders in Flaming Pear plugins not only brings results, but distinctive ones. The different controls in each plugin are distinctive and orthogonal. THat means there is little overlap of functionality. No 3 or 4 ways to get things done. Okay - wrong, Flaming Pear's glues or blend modes do overlap in results, but that is because there are over fifty variations on the traditional 10-12 blend modes. With this notable exception, Flaming Pear's control cause the image to change and in interesting and original ways.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the Lacquer plugin shown in the screenshot below:
Move any of Lacquer's sliders and the image will change in ways suggested by the slider. Lacquer, like many of Flaming Pear's plugins, centers its attention on changing the surface texture, tone and sometimes color of the image it is working on. Unlike say Swerve or Flexify which are changing primarily the form and shapes within an image.
Now in our motivation heading, the idea that Lacquer is like a combination of Aetherize (inspired color and tonal changes) and Boss Emboss (emphasis upon accentuating or modifying the edges and textures of an image) is true. For example the Bulge and Glass controls find edges, build them up and smooth them out like the Relief and Melt controls in Boss Emboss (see our review here). But after this, the two plugins take completely different tacks.
The screenshot below, a detail from the dialog thumbnail above
tells the basic story.
Just like Boss Emboss and many other Flaming Pear Plugins, Lacquer is aware of and designed to emphasize edges and lines. However, Lacquer uses colors and hues to "outline" curves and edges while most of the other Flaming Pear plugins use lighter or darker tones to do the same. Let me assure you the blue, green, and sienna tones seen above are not in the original image. So obviously Lacquer is going to give you a different image - especially in the hues used.
But the Flaming Pear Designers have taken this idea a couple of steps further along. First, Lacquer tends to fill regions with hues in a higher/lighter
key. And Lacquer uses no less than four controls to control the filled surface regions and the edges respectively. Sparkle and Glitter add that to the surface regions while Edges moves the contours in hue and brightness. Lucidity appears to move the tone of the overall image by adding shades of gray throughout.
Because of the way Lacquer works, there is a distinct trade-off to its use. First users get many hues that were not in the original - and for some that is the end of the story. But for others, Lacquer crosses the line by deliberately introducing sparkle and glitter artifacts.
As one photofinisher commented - "I just worked hard to get rid of all the JPG and low exposure artifacts in my image and now Lacquer has re-introduced them". True, but Lacquer delivers unique and different looks to an image - its is perfectly qualified to do the one of the pre-eminent artistic tasks - creating a different and novel point of view, making the common, ordinary or just plain familiar look new, intriguing even strangely enchanting.
Now you may argue you can do that with the new, tonally aware Replace Color tools in Adobe Photoshop and Corel PaintShop Pro. And I would agree fully. Or you can paint over your image directly with such tools as Corel's Painter or Right Hemisphere Deep Paint and then blend the painted elements using layering and the blend options. Fine - definitely more power to you.
But take a look at the screenshot above. Its from the same region as the the previous image detail, just after applying a smart smoothing technique like Photoshop's Smart Blur or PaintShop Pro's Edge Preserving Smooth. In short, with one step users can get rid of most annoying artifacts.
Finally, take a look at the screenshot below. It has all the settings of Lacquer set a close as
possible to normal - so the thumbnail shown is very close to the original image's appearance. This is a great learning tool. Slide the Sparkle control over to the right and see what happens. Ditto for the Glitter control. Then take a look at 100% magnification. Notice that Glitter introduces a lot of artifacts. Do the same for the rest of the controls. Users will see that the Lucidity, Details and Edges controls introduce the most artifacts.
So plan your use of Lacquer accordingly if you are worried about artifacts. But be careful - you might get distracted and even enchanted with some of the other things Lacquer can do - and not discover which controls can introduce unwanted artifacts . Pretty soon you will be using the Dice button to try out some randomly generated Lacquer settings. Tsk tsk .. my gosh.
Lacquer is one of the Flaming Pear plugins that some people love to hate - and others just stop at love. In general, the plugin is like any other - it is only as good as your knowledge of its capabilities and your plan to use it. Fortunately, Flaming Pear makes it simple to try out the tool though this reviewer would love to have a preview capability like that in Photoshop's Filter Gallery (just add a maximize-the-dialog button ?). But over time Lacquer has not become a favorite plugin; but rather an essential one - it can add a look and styling hard to duplicate anywhere else.
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