Test Strip 3.1

Adobe Photoshop’s Variations feature offers a visual way to correct colour, but it’s limited, and more-complete tools such as Curves and Levels can be intimidating. Vivid Details’ Test Strip 3.1, a Photoshop plug-in, takes a friendlier approach to colour correction. It can’t solve all colour woes on its own – for the most-accurate results, you must also calibrate your equipment – but it goes a long way. Test Strip divides an image into predefined sections that preview the results of adding or subtracting colours, contrast, density, and saturation. The new Gels feature lets you create independent, resizable strips. It’s easy to create a Gel, assign six per cent cyan to it (for example), and then drag it over the image to preview the effect. All change
Even novices can improve images with the new Metamorphosis tool. It works like an eye exam: you see two side-by-side slices of your image and click on the slice that most appeals. Choose the best of several more pairs, and Test Strip alters the original image’s dynamic range, brightness, colour, and saturation. Metamorphosis combines that series of changes into just a few corrections. It doesn’t work well with all images – particularly dark photos – but it’s a good starting point. Text labels would make Test Strip even easier to use – the functions of many components aren’t clear. Deciphering the program’s mysterious icons required many trips to the manual. Although version 3.1 is designed to run in Mac OS 7.6, 8, or 9, you can also run it in OS X’s Classic mode. I tested it in OS X 10.0.4 on a G4/450, and windows didn’t always fully redraw. And unless the Dock was hidden, it obscured key Test Strip buttons. Vivid Details says it will release a native OS X version when Adobe ships a Carbonized Photoshop.

OUR VERDICT

Pre-press operators and other pro image-editors should still do their colour correction in Photoshop. But for the rest of us, Test Strip 3.1 is well worth buying.

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