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Horse picture processed in Topaz CleanReview of Topaz Clean

The Topaz Labs range of plugins

Keith Cooper has been looking at 'Clean V3.1', one of the range of image processing plugins from Topaz Labs, and has written up these short notes on its use.

It's designed to offer a number of ways of 'cleaning' up images, such as emphasising edges or flattening detail, such as in the quite strong 'cartoon' look I've given to this horse. There is full control over the amounts and types of 'cleaning' available.

Whilst we use Photoshop for image editing at Northlight, the Topaz plugins work with a wide variety of image editing packages, including Paintshop pro and iPhoto.

The range of functionality for the plugins from Topaz is so broad that the reviews are split up over several articles.

What do you get with Topaz Clean

The plugin installs as an 'add-on' for other software and provides a range of preset adjustment options and ways of fine tuning settings.

Topaz Clean 3.1 has minor changes from earlier versions, mainly in a cleaned up interface and more consistent style of use between the full set of plugins.

There is considerable overlap in the functionality of many of the Topaz plugins, but they all have different ways of working and preset adjustments.

Do have a read of some of the other reviews I've written to get a feel for what you can do. Fortunately there is a 30 day demo version of the software available, so you can experiment.

Buying Topaz Labs plugins: Direct from Topaz [check link for deals]

Individual plugins are downloadable (30 day free trial) - we have reviews of all of the Topaz plugins.

If you buy any software via this link (bundle or individual plugin), then we get a small fee (it costs you no more). Neither Keith Cooper nor Northlight Images has any other connection with Topaz labs whatsoever. We believe strongly in making any affiliate links like this clear.

Latest plugin Topaz Texture Effects 2 [Texture Effects 2 review]

TFX2 is $59.99 (from $69.99) USE COUPON CODE: TFX2 - Free update to V2 for existing users

host software optionsThis review is based on my using Photoshop, but the software works perfectly well in conjunction with other packages.

The plugin

The plugin is applied via Photoshop's filter menu (see the summary at the end for details of all the other applications you can use it with).

There is a lot of help and support materials available from Topaz.

Try and resist the urge to just skip it - I test software a lot, and have learned that a few minutes spent at the start can make it far easier to discover the best ways such a plugin can work for you.

As with many Topaz plugins, there is an 'I feel lucky' button to give a random set of values to all the adjustment sliders. Try it out, but don't forget to make snapshots of any settings you like.

The software installs a 'Quick Start Guide' PDF

topaz clean - quick start guide

As with all Topaz plugins, just remember that you don't have to use them 'turned up to eleven'.

using layers for maskingAs regular readers might know, I have a hefty disdain for the 'popular' overuse of HDR style processing, so try and think how an effect might look when used with subtlety ;-)

If you see an example effect, it's always possible to mask it.

The screen shot at the right shows how I have duplicated my image as a new layer.

I'm applying the Topaz Clean filter to this duplicated layer, so that I can 'turn it down' with the Opacity setting, or even apply a layer mask and decide afterwards where I want it applying.

  • This layer masking technique is something I use a lot - it's also part of the reason I don't use packages such as Aperture or Lightroom. PS Elements supports it.

The horse image actually has a very good example of this, which I'll show later, after a quick run through of what you can do with the plugin.

Using the Plugin

Your image appears in a central pane in the plugin's window.

The two side panels show preset adjustment options (you can add your own) and on the right, navigation controls and all the adjustment sliders.

Both of these side panels can be hidden. In the bottom left hand corner is a general menu offering plugin information, help and update details.

In this first example I've shown the 'DeGrunge' preset, which can clean up messy detail, without looking too obvious. A good choice to use with masking for a subtle enhancement.

software interface layout

Navigation controls for zoom and snapshots.

navigation controls

In general, if altering presets to best suit your image, start at the top with the 'Clean' settings and then move through Edges and Texture.

These three definitions are from Topaz, about what each slider set does:

I don't do portrait work, but have a look at some of the Topaz Clean examples and you can see which you might want to apply to your photos. This particular set also emphasises some more subtle examples, which I feel are perhaps more realistic ways of how you might use the software.

Here are a few more of the presets, applied to my friend the horse (it wandered up to look at me one day when I was in Colorado).

The Cartoon look flattens detail (see how the strength slider for 'clean' is at full)

cartoon setting

The crisp style - see how 'edges' are set to maximum.

crisp style for plugin

'Curlysmooth' - an increased 'radius' setting in edge detection starts to really emphasise certain types of detail.

curlysmooth setting

'Flatstyle' give a cartoon style look, but stronger edges and more contrast.

flat stylised look

'Stylize Details' really pushes detail at a particular scale - note the patterns in the horse's hair, and the grass.

detail stylising

I mentioned earlier how you might not want to apply an effect to all of an image.

The view below has had a variety of the 'Cartoon' look applied - unfortunately, the smoothing has lost the detail in the horses eyes.

The filter however was applied to a duplicate layer - unmasking the original improves things (move your mouse over the image to see).

using masking to bring back lost detail

A full size images shows how even this tiny adjustment makes a difference.

the curious horse

Adjustments can be quite subtle, such as this view of Aspens in Colorado (mouse over to see).

detail in trees

Or quite stylised.

impressionistic look

Remember to check how images look at different sizes, since the same settings applied to an image that is 6000 pixels wide will look quite different to a version only 600 pixels wide.

Normally in my architectural work I want lots of detail, but sometimes a clearer more 'structural' version may suit. Roll your mouse over this view of the interior of the church at Blythburgh to see a fairly light application of the filter.

cleaning up interor detail and structure for a photo


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The plugin works quickly and doesn't swamp you with a multitude of settings and adjustments.

Just what levels of processing you are happy with depends on what the image is for and your own personal tastes.

If you're thinking that this is just another lazy way of doing something in Photoshop, that you could do anyway, then I take my hat off to you, since I use PS most days for work on images and would have trouble replicating such effects.

Sometimes a few pounds spent on a plugin really can save a lot of time, as long as you actually stop to think what it is you want to achieve.

There is a fully functional 30 day demo version of the software that is available.

Discuss this review with Keith in the comments section below or on Google+

  • Review first published May 2014


Software plugin for a wide variety of image processing functions. Comprehensive examples, tutorials and support cover usage.

Can work with a wide range of 'hosting' software.

System Requirements (from Topaz Labs)


***If Photoshop Elements was bought from the Mac app store, the plugin cannot be directly copied into the plugins folder or else you will receive this message: "Cannot proceed: IPC Memory in use or image is too big for the system". At this moment our plugins are not compatible with the Mac store's version of PSE due to a sandboxing issue, which we are currently investigating.


*ReMask is ONLY compatible with photoFXlab, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Paint Shop Pro. ReMask is NOT compatible with iPhoto, Aperture, Lightroom, Photo Impact or Irfanview.

Buying Topaz Labs plugins: Direct from Topaz [check link for deals]

Individual plugins are downloadable (30 day free trial) - we have reviews of all of the Topaz plugins.

If you buy any software via this link (bundle or individual plugin), then we get a small fee (it costs you no more). Neither Keith Cooper nor Northlight Images has any other connection with Topaz labs whatsoever. We believe strongly in making any affiliate links like this clear.

Latest plugin Topaz Texture Effects 2 [Texture Effects 2 review]

TFX2 is $59.99 (from $69.99) USE COUPON CODE: TFX2 - Free update to V2 for existing users

There is more information at Topaz Labs

Keith's Topaz reviews

Topaz reviews (and updates)

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