Simplify full review

Topaz Labs produces some excellent Photoshop plug-ins and one of the mainstays of the collection is called Simplify, here updated to version 4. If you’ve used any in the range you’ll already be familiar with the interface as it’s consistent across the board.

There’s categories of effects and presets for them on the left, the main image with preview in the middle and the navigator and parameter adjustment on the right. The clever part is that all the presets use different parts of the parameter set but there’s nothing to stop you from adding to the effect, adjusting it or removing an aspect you don’t like.

The categories themselves cover reducing tones and detail but preserving edges, removing dust spots and enhancing details, then a set of artistic effects. These cover line and ink, watercolour and oil painting and sketching. Some of the BuzSim effects are quite pleasing, and the cartoon styles can be made to work well. The real issue is that most of the effects don’t work well to start with and either have to be tweaked or an alternative used. As well as that, the sketching effects are good but the painting effects don’t look like paint.

They are well done, but consider them to be the starting point for a painterly expedition, not the destination itself. There are a number of new tools to help with the tweaking though – adjustment sliders and selective brushes.

Most of the presets require some tweaking to get usable results. This is heading towards a painterly conclusion but requires further work

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