Let’s face it, there are countless numbers of plugins and actions out there in the Photoshop world, and it can be quite overwhelming to figure out what works best in your workflow. If you’re anything like me, you’ll often demo or buy pretty much anything new to see if it’ll shave off some retouching time or improve the quality of your images. Something I’ve been using for a while now are the NBP Plugins, a set of custom, proprietary-coded plugin panels at $30 each for Adobe Photoshop. The plugins were developed by Nino Batista and his team to take retouching to the next level of control, consistency, ease of use and overall better results.

Working with Nino to learn more about the panels

These panels are not simply Actions that call existing Photoshop tools, but all-new algorithms and functions via intuitive user interfaces that will revolutionize your retouching workflow, let you explore more creative options easily, and help you get the results you want.

[Related Reading: Skylum Announces Luminar Flex Plugin For Photoshop, Lightroom, And More]

The team at NBP Plugins have created four sets of very useful tools to cover most of what you’d need in an image-retouching environment. Each comes packaged with its own installer for mac & windows to make it easy to get up and running. The plugins are ColourmapXFreqsep ControlUltrasharp, and Lumizone.

NBP FreqSep Control

NBP Plugin - FreqSep
http://www.freqsepcontrolpanel.com

If you’re familiar with the process of utilizing frequency separation in your retouching workflow, then you’re probably aware of – and frustrated by – the lack of total control and somewhat average results you get while using it. While the method remains a skin retouching staple, the core approach to setting it up in Photoshop has been more or less the same for a while now, and accepted as such.

The idea behind frequency separation is to provide you with the ability in Photoshop to manipulate the base colors and textures of your image separately, giving you the control to perfect skin tone and texture without destroying one or the other. It’s a great concept, but often used or enacted very poorly or too heavily making things just feel…off.

While many other FS plugins and actions are automated, NBP Freqsep Control gives you complete control over your image and edits by letting you set the Radius, (Blurring/Smoothing) and Detail Threshold (Edge Preservation) to tailor it precisely for your look and style.

NBP FreqSep Control Panel Labels

I’ve actually been using this plugin for a while now pretty much exclusively for blending skin tones in trouble spots and the results pretty much speak for themselves.

Lexxi - before FreqSepLexxi - After FreqSep

Ultimate Control for High End Retouching

  • Set Radius (blurring/smoothing) and Detail Threshold (edge preservation) to tailor it to for your preferred look, image resolution, and workflow in an intuitive and efficient user interface right inside Photoshop as an Extensions panel
  • Proprietary 32-bit edge preserving and blur algorithms are high quality and process faster
  • More texture preservation than typical frequency separation methods in Photoshop, which allows you far for more freedom while perfecting transitions
  • Minimizes haloing problems common in frequency separation setups
  • Allows you to preview Base (low frequency) and Detail (high frequency) results in split view or individually before applying to ensure you get the results you want
  • Choose to have the panel duplicate or absorb your working layer
  • Faster than traditional frequency separation process setups
  • Save up to 4 presets for efficient multiple workflows

For more information please check out the FreqSep User Guide here.

NBP Lumizone

NBP Lumizone Plugin SLR Lounge
http://www.lumizonepanel.com

Luminosity masking is something most landscape photographers will be very familiar with, but the the system that NBP Lumizone brings to the table makes it far easier to understand and use for pretty much any style of work. Many of the Luminosity masking plugins out there will create a plethora of masks ranging from super dark to super lights saved in the channels palette increasing the size of your file (and slowing the performance) significantly.

Lumizone allows you to create luminosity masks per layer as needed, when needed, and it allows you to modify each one on the fly! What do you use these for? Typically you’d use a luminosity mask towards the end of your retouching to allow precise color correction, exposure correction, and color grades, along with any other localized finishing touches you may want to apply.

lumizone samples

Just like with editing Landscape images to fix up random shadows and hot spots, you can use Luminosity masks to apply non destructive “global” edits to very localized zones of your image giving you complete control.

This plugin is rather new to my kit, but it’s starting to grow on me especially when working on images created outdoors with natural light, which, well, is the majority of my work!

Creation and Active Control of Luminosity Masks

  • Generate luminosity mask for any layer or adjustment layer.
  • Actively change each luminosity mask on-the-fly during your workflow.
  • 3 options to generate luminosity masks from:
    • Create masks from the image’s overall luminosity.
    • Create masks from R, G, or B channels.
    • Create masks from the image’s overall saturation map.
  • Select any combination of 11 luminosity ranges for any mask.
  • Invert range selection instantly.
  • Toggle layer or mask view on-the-fly while adjusting luminosity ranges.
  • Adjust contrast of mask as needed.
  • No additional layers are created to generate or modify masks.
  • No need to store luminosity masks in Channels palette.

NBP Lumizone Panel Labels

For more information please visit the Lumizone User Guide here.

NBP ColormapX

NBP ColourMap Plugin SLR Lounge
http://www.colourmapx.com

According to Nino and the Dev team, NBP ColourmapX is the most popular Photoshop panel they have! It’s already spreading like wildfire through the industry, getting the attention of Pratik Naik, Fstoppers, and countless other top industry artists.  And for good reason:  ColourmapX gives you the power to explore color in a new, fun, and unique way.

“Why I am raving about ColourmapX? Because it allows me to prepare a palette of colours of whatever I like and get inspired by, and paint with it. Or use it in ye olde photoshoppe. To me, this is the most inspiring plugin I ever purchased.”
Erik Heyninck

One of the hallmarks of Nino’s color work approach in Photoshop stems from his use of Gradient Maps and Blending Modes. After the main skin work and retouching is done, that’s when you’ll want to start to explore the colors within your image, beginning with a “gradient map wash” of color. This sets the foundation for the palette you want to create or enhance in each shot or set.

One of the really cool things about this plugin that I like, not only can you sample your existing color palette to apply, but you can also analyze any image out there to sample its color palette and then bring that back to yours. Any time you see an image or photograph a landscape with a beautiful and diverse range of colors, you can create a preset from that image to apply any time to any image later on.

What if applying gradient map color washes was simplified, streamlined, and made to be fun again? What if you could extract the color palette from an existing image that you snapped on your phone, or from your own portfolio, or even found online as inspiration, and then automatically create gradient maps from them to use on your images that you can quickly apply, modify freely, and save? What if you could find palette swatches online and apply them instantly to your image as well?

©David J. Crewe - Alexandria Eissinger ColormapX Before & After
©David J. Crewe – Alexandria Eissinger ColormapX Before & After

ColourmapX will change your color workflow forever, and empower you to take a journey through color palette exploration in a streamlined, fun way.

NBP UltraSharp

Finally we have the latest Photoshop plugin from the NBP Collection; NBP Ultrasharp. This one i’ve only just gotten to play with, and I’m already really digging it. I have a much older computer, (2012 MacBook Pro), so this one is a little bit laggy for me when the live preview is on, but the results make it more than worth it. I’ll admit that when I wanted to sharpen up some areas of my image, i’d run the trusty old “High Pass” filter and apply globally or brush in a mask in selected zones….well…I don’t think i’ll need that anymore.

Imagine the equalizer on your car stereo system. You can boost the higher pitch frequencies (treble) if you wish, or the lower frequencies (bass), or any frequency in between (mid-range), to tailor the sound exactly how you prefer, right? This is the type of granular control that NBP Ultrasharp affords you over your image sharpness, allowing you full control of how you want the sharpening boost to look across five different scales, or frequencies.

Powerful NBP proprietary sharpening algorithms, independently controllable, to achieve sharpening results like you’ve never seen. Take your sharpening to more extreme levels if you want, and do it with confidence because of NBP’s state of the art edge preserving algorithms. You will encounter minimal to no haloing artifacts at any scale, no matter how sharp you want to go.

[Related Reading: Free Photoshop Collage Templates for Photographers!]

“I love my photos to be extra sharp (or should I now say ultra sharp) but never liked how the usual sharpening filters in Photoshop over-cooked everything. I hate halos! NBP did it again, and now my work is sharp enough to cut your finger on!”
– Doria Morgan Dennell

Take your sharpening to new levels of clarity:

  • Adjust the sharpening contrast effect across five different scales, and the intensity level of all of them, with an easy to understand user interface.
  • Ultrasharp works as a floating panel, so you don’t have to enter another interface to use it, for simplified and streamlined workflow.
  • Control your sharpening using the luminosity of the image, or by sharpening all three of the RGB channels for a different look, with a flip of a button.
  • Choose between sharpening your active layer or creating a new, stamped layer, by default.
  • Sharpen with confidence, with no unwanted haloing or other artifacts.
  • Exact control of your sharpening, no matter what the pixel dimensions of your image are, from a few hundred pixels wide to well over 100 megapixels.
  • Works on 8, 16 and 32 bit.

While it may not seem like much, take some time to look close at the small details like my model’s, (Alex), hair in the before and after. It’s kind of amazing the level of detail you can bring back into the image in a clean and non destructive way.  The one thing to keep in mind when using this panel is remember to create a duplicate or new layer, (stamp visible) to work on, otherwise it will apply the sharpening to your last layer/edits which could mess things up for you. Maybe in a future update we’ll see the application create a new layer to work on automatically…*cough cough* Feature request *cough cough*.

Conclusion

Well what can I say but these plugins are incredibly useful regardless of your level of talent in photoshop. For the amature, it takes the guesswork and stress out of the workflow, for the professional it gives you near pixel level control of every detail within your image. Plus, especially with the ColourmapX, it’s just been incredibly fun to mess with and apply new color grades to my work, opening up a whole new level of creativity. There’s really something for everyone with these tools. I’ve found myself using anywhere from one to all four plugins in combination in my images over the last few weeks to a variety of outcomes. The only downside I’ve found so far is I’ve spent WAY too much time making alternate versions of the same image, debating on which look is preferable, which also means I’m falling behind on my editing big time!

The NBP team has the plugins listed at $30 each ($120 for all 4 Plugins),  but you can use the code NINOB015 for 15% off any and all combos you purchase.

For more information and to get your own copy of these plugins for photoshop, be sure to visit http://www.ninobatista.com/plugins or the Facebook Group, (https://www.facebook.com/groups/nbprr/), to network and ask questions with other NBP plugin users & admins.

*All images and videos shared with permission from the NBP Plugin team. Do not. Do not share or reuse images without direct permission.