As many of you die hard RAW fans would know not long after starting RAW I gave up using Photoshop as my main editor and went to Aperture 3. I did this simply because Photoshop to me felt so bloated however every know and then I have had to boot Photoshop up to handle certain situations. Those situations all had todo with masking and layers. Thankfully there is a solution created by the geniuses of OnOne Software in conjunction with Scott Kelby.
I’ve had perfect layers now for about 3 weeks, and it’s taken me awhile to understand the full power of it, due to it’s simplicity it can actually deciding.
First of all Perfect Layers is a layering tool which works either as a standalone or plugin for Aperture or Lightroom. It offers layers functionality, simple yes but it does it well very well actually. It’s this simplicity that through me off a little to begin with but after playing around with it in a few scenarios it’s what layers should be in Photoshop.
Since it’s a plugin you can simple open up some files through Lightroom or Aperture to work with, and then save back in to either one along with a .psd if you want, this worked well. I did have a couple of problems where for some reason it wouldn’t save into Aperture but all I did was save and re-import it so no big deal.
The above image is a panorama HDR shot with my 50mm (more on this a little later) anyway to bring out some of the detail I actually used Perfect Layers to run a blue Fill Layer which I masked out so it only effected the sky and a green layer to work effect the grass a little. I was then able to use the opacity so that the effect was very subtle. I then had two versions of this file which were processed differently which I then blended using the layer blending modes. Keep in mind that this file is somewhere around 340mb so Perfect Layers handled the size of the image very well.
The above is an example of 3 images I merged together from a recent light painting event I went to. As you can see I was able to easily align the three images and then clean it up a bit using the clone tool in Aperture. For those interested Light Play 2 is a workshop i’m running with Venture Photography Workshops in November, you can click the image for more details.
I think one of the best functions on Perfect Layers is the live preview of blending modes. If your not sure what that means it’s simple, you know when you set a layer blending mode to say “Hard Light” you need to apply that before you can see the effect and work out that “Overlay” was probably a better option. In Perfect Layers as your mouse moves over the layer blending modes that effect is displayed in real time. Remember I was testing this on a file that was somewhere around 340mb and I didn’t have any lag.
Gone is the black and white brush. No longer do you need to make sure you have your brush colour set properly. You have three options “Paint In”, “Paint Out” or “Erase” some huh?!?
Import new image files or textures, add fill colour layers, adjust size and blending modes, that is what Perfect Layers does and it does it well.
I just got on to the Perfect Layers website to check out the price. The Plugin used to be $99.95 but at the moment it’s showing up as $69.95. This is a plugin that everyone should have, it gives you an amazing amount of power for very little cost. Remember it’s also a standalone app so if you don’t use LightRoom or Aperture you can still use this and get the simplicity and power that Perfect Layers provides.