Infinite Tools released a range of great plugins for Photoshop. Being a fan of black and white, I decided to delve into it and see how well it works. Would it help Photoshop compete against the ever-growing and very good competition?
Historically, I mostly used Silver Efex Pro for black and white conversions. It’s a great program, but not perfect; large areas of negative space can quickly end up with unwanted artifacts if I push the adjustments too far. More recently, I’ve switched to using ON1.It has some impressive black and white conversion tools and tonal controls. However, although I consider myself relatively proficient in using them, I have steered away from using Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom for black and white because I find the results lacking.
Consequently, I’ve not spent too much time doing black and white conversions in Photoshop. So, Infinite Black and White intrigued me. Could I get as good results with Photoshop as possible with the other programs? I put the plugin through its paces.
The Installation Process
The installation is easy, and the process is pretty much the same for Windows and Mac. You download the plugin installation file; one can do that from the Fstoppers store. Just double-click on the downloaded CCX file, and it installs via the Creative Cloud. There may be a couple of dialog box confirmations to accept. You start it working in Photoshop by going to the Plugins menu and clicking Infinite Tools. There’s a license key to enter, and then, it’s plain sailing.
The Differences Between Infinite Color Suit and Other Plugins
Infinite Black and White applies adjustments inside Photoshop; it doesn’t export the image to an external program. A click of the "Create" button applies a series of modified adjustment layers. It’s not just one adjustment but a never-ending range of possible back and white conversions, hence the "Infinite" title. If you don’t like the results, you can either press the create button again or adjust the newly created layers.
Infinite Black and White analyses the photo and outputs a series of results that it thinks will make good black and white images based on the photo’s tones. It works by producing adjustment layers in a specific order and then automatically adjusting the settings of each of them. If you don’t like the result, hit the Create button repeatedly for different effects. When you find a result that you want, you can save it. This saved set of adjustments is unique to you. From then onwards, repeating your exclusive style across a series of photos is easy.
Infinite Black and White in Use
My workflow is as follows:
1. Open the image in Photoshop
2. Open the Infinite Black and White plugin.
3. In the Infinite Color tab, click Create. That will apply different colors to the shadows, mid-tones, and highlights. The picture will look weird, but worry not.
4. Click on the B&W tab
5. Click Create. If you like the conversion, then all is well.
6. If you are not pleased with the result, click Create again.
7. If minor tweaks are needed, I apply them now.
8. Apply toning using the Harmony tab, should you want that.
9. Open the Tools tab and add other adjustments using the buttons at the bottom of the plugin window.
10. Carry out other repairs and adjustments in Photoshop.
The additional adjustments in the Tools tab help tweak the image. Besides the tone curve adjustment layer created when you press the Create button, there is another button for adding one to the tools menu. However, I found more useful the button that produces a regions folder. Inside are three separate tone curve adjustment layers, one each for the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.
Mid-tone contrast can be added using the mid-tones adjustment layer. That works similarly to clarity in ACR/Lightroom or Structure in Silver Efex Pro, but with more control and accuracy. Only Dynamic Contrast in ON1 Photo Raw has a similar level of control.
Another button adds a contrast adjustment layer, and there is also one for adding grain to the image. The grain adjustment is interesting, as it decreases the amount of applied grain in lighter parts of the image and increases it in darker tones, thus mimicking the way film grain works.
The plugin includes Infinite Harmony, which is excellent for adding toning to the image. Again, a couple of clicks can add some super color toning and split toning.
How It Performed
I ran a series of photos through it, and the algorithms produced excellent results. Sometimes, the first click of the Create button wasn’t what I wanted, so I just clicked it again. I also applied the additional settings available.
The tool isn’t just intended to be used for one genre, but gives superb results in all types of photography I have tried. I shoot mainly seascapes, abstract, and wildlife. So, I ran a series of different photos through it and was pleased with the results.
I tried the same images through the other software I own to see whether I could get as good results, and I can say that Photoshop held its own using this plugin. I also pushed the software to its limit by going out on a dull day and shooting the following scene using a low-quality plastic red filter. The outcome was impressive.
What I Didn’t Like
At $129, it’s not cheap compared with other plugins. You can buy the entire Nik collection for $149, and the ON1 plugin bundle is currently priced at $129.99. On its own, ON1 Effects, which does excellent black and white conversions, is only $49.99. But, despite that, Infinite Black and White is worth the money if you are a dedicated Photoshop user and not on a tight budget. One thing I would like to see with the plugin is the inclusion of hover labels for the buttons.
What I Did Like
This is an excellent plugin for Photoshop users who want to delve into black and white conversions. It’s simple to use, and the finished results are pleasing.
Infinite Black and White not only produces finished conversions but can be used as a starting point for one’s image adjustments. Consequently, it’s not only suitable for beginners and advanced users alike but is also a great learning tool, as one can manually examine the adjustment layers, see how they are set, and then tweak them.
Most importantly, the results are terrific. Is it worth the investment? If you are a Photoshop user and enjoy black and white, then definitely. You can buy your copy here.