Oniric is the new Photoshop plug-in from Composite Nation that creates seamless, customizable lighting effects with the click of a button.
According to the creator:
Oniric generates its glows based on the luminosity of the input image constrained by a threshold setting. Oniric is so flexible that it lets you control the glow opacity, size, exposure, light dispersion, and color. It generates two kinds of glows: Diffuse glows and light streaks. When light streaks type is enabled, you are able to control the rotation and streaks details. Oniric uses a real inverse square law algorithm to simulate a realistic light falloff the same way light is perceived in real life."
Composite Nation reached out to me during the launch of Oniric to see if I was interested in reviewing it. As someone who creates a lot of fantasy and composite work, I was excited to give it a try, because light glow can be time-consuming to believably manufacture in Photoshop, and anything that speeds up my workflow sounds like a good idea.
Composite Nation has a couple of helpful tutorials on their website, and once I finished watching them, I felt comfortable getting to work. I had a few photos in my catalog that were good candidates for Oniric, but I also wanted to create a few new pieces specifically for running the plug-in through its paces. I wanted to know if it would be as good for delicate work as it is for larger effects.
The learning curve is pretty shallow, and after a couple of false starts, I found working with the plug-in easy. Before we get into the nuts and bolts of how Oniric works, though, let me show you what it does.
As you can see, Oniric generated light effects that improved the believability of the images and created a sense of atmosphere. I wasn’t happy stopping there, though. I wanted to see if Oniric could be used in other applications, so I ran it over a digital painting I was working on.
The light glow added something truly magical to the feel of the piece, and it took me less than two minutes. In the image below, the left dot has a colorized light bloom generated by Oniric, while the right is a hand-painted light bloom I created for comparison. It took significantly longer to create by hand, and it still doesn’t look quite as clean.
Now that you have a good idea of what Oniric does, let’s look at how it actually works with some samples that aren’t contaminated by other points of interest. This video was created before the recent updates that added a couple of features, but still shows the basics of how the plug-in works.
When you run Oniric by opening up the plug-in and pressing Generate, it picks out the brightest parts of the image and creates an initial lighting effect (called Bloom in version one, but called Diffuse in the updated version) that’s essentially a light glow. It can then be adjusted using the sliders in the Oniric panel.
Since Oniric starts with a simple preset, it’s up to you to decide how to manipulate the sliders to get things just right. If you don’t see any effect at all, that’s likely because the brightest part of your image wasn’t bright enough for Oniric to pick up. To see what Oniric sees, click the X-ray button. This brings up a simulated X-ray view that shows you what parts of the image Oniric is using to generate the effect. In order to let Oniric affect more of the image, just pull the Threshold slider to the right until it shows up on the X-ray. To see how the effect is behaving, simply turn off the X-ray filter.
This is a series of lines starting with pure white and ending in middle gray.
It's also important to note that Oniric mimics the color of whatever colors are brightest but that certain colors are inherently lower in luminosity, and Oniric will not find them as easily, as seen with the X-ray option selected.
Once Oniric is using the desired parts of the image, it’s time to get creative. Here, you can change the shape of the effect, expand the radius, change the color, the light dispersion, and other tweaks that will make the effect suit your image. If Oniric is affecting the wrong parts of the image, you can open up the masking option and mask in the areas in which you want the effect to appear.
You can also add light effects to any image by painting the desired shapes on a new layer and hitting generate, then making adjustments.
Now that we know how it works, let’s talk about the pros and cons.
What I Liked
The glows and glares created by Oniric are highly realistic and even affect the photo environment in realistic ways. To get the same level or realism by hand, it takes quite a bit of effort.
Speeds up Workflow
What used to take quite a while to paint with custom brushes, I’m now able to do in just a couple of minutes. For someone who creates a lot of subtle light effects, this is a big deal.
I can get the light effects I want for basically any image in any color, from window-light glows to headlamps and fire. Since the effect is rendered as a smart object, I can make even more adjustments to the effect after it’s been created.
I can try several different light looks in a short amount of time, and each of them appears as a smart object, so I don’t have to worry about damaging the file or any of the other layers.
From creating a romantic glow in a wedding photo to adding a glare to the headlights of a car in a commercial photograph, Oniric has the potential to be incredibly versatile across multiple genres of photography. I do think it’s particularly suited to composite artists and photographers who fall into the more creative genres, such as cosplay or fantasy, but could be valuable to photographers in several different fields.
What I Didn't Like
I hesitate to list this as a con, because if one does compositing or special effects often, $120 for hours saved isn’t that big of a deal. But for people who will use the plug-in sparingly, it probably isn’t worth the investment.
As of now, Oniric is only available for Photoshop users, so those photographers and artists who have left Adobe behind are out of luck.
I've had this plug-in for quite a while now, and I honestly tried to find more cons, but Oniric is really well made, robust, and versatile. Since I first got my hands on it, I’ve found myself wanting to find reasons to use it and looking back over old images to see if they could benefit from a pass through Oniric. I can tell I’m going to be using this plug-in for years to come, and if Oniric is any indication of quality, I’m going to be looking out for whatever else Composite Nation comes up with in the future.
If you've used Oniric, tell us in the comments what your experiences have been!