Last updated on June 12th, 2020
Topaz Studio 2 is a creative photo editor geared towards fine artists that want to expand the imaginative workflow. It uses filters, masking, and non-destructive layers to produce photos that can be considered abstract photography.
Topaz Labs launched the Topaz Studio 2 software in July 2019. My Topaz Studio 2 review will summarize the basics from a travel photographer’s perspective. I usually take landscape images while I travel but city and wildlife photography also come into play.
First of all, I find Topaz Studio 2 is geared towards fine artists because it promotes many images that are painterly or have glowing effects. In addition, imagine a sketch artist drawing a landscape with colored pencils – the software can produce images like these. That’s why it’s really a creative photo editor for people that want to go beyond the normal exposure and color adjustments.
Don’t get me wrong, you can still edit and produce realistically vivid photos without that is it Photoshopped comment. But Topaz Studio 2 is aimed at expanding the digital photography workflow.
Now let’s get more into the Topaz Studio 2 review.
What’s New in Topaz Studio 2?
The most noticeable difference is the price. The original version of Topaz Studio (Classic) was free with paid filters or adjustment add-ons.
Topaz Studio 2 costs $99.99 (currently on sale for $79.99 at the time of writing this) with all the filters included. I think the whole bundle idea is better without having photographers figure out which add-ons they need. You can follow this link and use coupon code aperlust for a 15% discount. Topaz Labs also has a 30-day, no-questions-asked refund policy.
Topaz Labs Creator Bundle
As of February 26, 2020, Topaz Studio 2 added a healing brush tool. It’s not the greatest but can get simple retouching done such as dust spot removal. Look at the before-and-after images below; you’ll notice the oil rig removed.
Topaz Studio 2 Review and Summary of How It Works
As soon as you open an image in Topaz Studio 2, you won’t see any sliders to edit your image. That’s because you need to add a filter, also known as an adjustment layer, to make changes similar to Photoshop. This gives photographers the ability to edit images with non-destructive layers.
Topaz Studio 2 comes with 25+ filter settings broken into 3 categories: Essential, Creative, and Stylistic. All the filters can be applied gradually because you can control their opacitiy. They also have blend modes like Photoshop for target adjustments.
Topaz Studio 2 Essential Filters
AI Clear is a one-click tool to remove noise in an image. There are different presets to remove noise: auto, low, medium, and high. If the image becomes too soft with AI Clear, then you can also use its Enhance Sharpness and Recover Details to recover lost detail.
Basic Adjustment includes common exposure settings: Exposure, Clarity, Shadow, Highlight, Black Level, and White Level. You’ll also find the Saturation, Temperature, and Tint sliders here.
Brightness Contrast, as the name suggests, allows you to control the Brightness and Contrast.
Black and White allows you to convert your image to monochrome. Like Capture One and Lightroom, this tool allows you to control the tonal values of different colors in the grayscale space.
Curves allows you to adjust specific points along tonal range. It’s the same type of curve found in other photography software. You can also edit the individual RGB channel curves.
Dehaze is an awesome tool to reduce haze which is caused by air pollution or excessive moisture in the air.
HSL Color Tuning will be familiar for those that are used to Lightroom or Capture One. You can target the hue, saturation and lightness of individual colors. When you work from the color tab, Topaz Studio 2 will show a mask of the affected color range when you move your mouse over the color.
Precision Contrast helps photographers to add contrast naturally to targeted areas without blowing out photos. It focuses on individually adding contrast to different levels: micro, low, medium and high.
Precision Detail adds sharp detail to an image without causing halos or artifacts. It does this by targeting different areas or details of an image: small, medium and large.
Reduce Noise allows you to reduce luminance and color noise manually. This is a bit different than AI Clear, which automatically reduces noise.
Sharpen helps recover detail for minimal sharpen enhancement. It’s better to stick with Precision Detail of you want to make your image standout.
Topaz Studio 2 Creative Filters
Bloom intensifies the lighting in the brightest parts of an image. It’s similar to adding a glowing effect to the highlights.
Blur reduces detail and smooths out an image. It’s like Photoshop’s Gaussian Blur. However, Topaz Studio 2’s Blur takes it a step further because it can preserve edges to give an artistic touch. It also has Diffusion Blur which softens highlights and is great for portraits with harsh spot lighting.
Channel Mixer is a color balance tool using the luminance or RGB values. It allows you to dynamically adjust the brightness values of the RGB colors without blowing out the overall brightness. You can also color grade using the RGB channels similar to the Curves tools.
Color Overlay adds a layered solid color over the image. You can use its blend modes, that are similar to Photoshop, to further apply the color in different ways.
Dual Tone is similar to Lightroom’s Split Toning, which adjusts the Hue and Saturation of the Highlights and Shadows.
Edge Exposure creates a selective vignette along the left, right, bottom or top edges of an image. This is beneficial if you want to quickly apply a vignette to the sky only in a landscape photo. You’re also able to adjust the hue and saturation along the edges.
Film Grain adds texture to an image to resemble that of film images printed on paper.
Focul Blur puts more focus on an image area by using the Circular Blur and Tilt & Shift Blur. This helps attract a viewer’s eye to where you want them to look in a photo.
Motion Blurs helps replicate several types of blurs naturally created in the field without the need of extra work. It comes with a few presets to accomplish this: Zoom, Motion, Swirl, Spin, Dither, and Cross.
Quad Tone is an advanced version of the Dual Tone because it can also target the Blacks and Whites. You can individually color grade the Blacks, Shadows, Highlights, and Whites.
Text helps write captions, titles, or phrases on images. This is a useful graphic design tool if you’re looking to add engaging social media posts along with your images.
Vignette is the traditional tool to darken or brighten all the edges at once. You can choose a different color than black or white. One bonus feature with this tool is that you can reposition the center of the vignette: move around the vignette to focus on a certain area or subject.
Topaz Studio 2 Stylistic Filters
Abstraction converts a photo into a painterly or cartoon image. It looks as if the image was painted by an artist or was created with graphic design software.
AI Remix quickly transforms your image to contemporary or abstract art. It comes with many presets that are totally different and won’t keep you bored. Some photographers may find this tool a little over-the-top because it moves away from traditional post-processing workflows.
Digital Frame helps you create a frame around your photo with a few clicks. If you sell your photos online, this is a great tool to have to assist you with mockups.
Edges makes the edges more prominent by adding more contrast through luminance or color sharpening.
Flare adds different shapes of stars to an image. You can further refine the shape and glow of the stars.
Glow adds a shining or electric effect to an image. If you want to take an image and make it look like it was made with neon lights, then you can do that, too.
Impression is similar to Abstraction in that it makes your image also look painterly. However, a noticeable difference is that it has paintbrush effects. You’ll be able to choose different brushes and notice the paintbrush strokes in the image.
Radiance adds ethereal light to the contours of an image to make it pop. It has features similar to the Glow tool.
Smudge makes the image look like as if someone pushed the paint on a printed photo. The colors get pushed over to the adjacent area.
Texture allows you to add several different types of built-in overlays to your original image such as light leaks or grunge paper.
Outside of the basic filters, my favourite filter is the glow effect. It really makes a creative image pop. But if you reduce the opacity of the glow effect, you can make the image look realistic.
Topaz Studio 2 also comes with a pretty good color grader. You’re able to use its quad tone filter, as oppose to dual tone, and use a color wheel to color grade the highlights, shadows, whites, and blacks.
Maybe the most important part of this Topaz Studio 2 review is that I found the software initially slow on my 13” MacBook Pro. It’s probably due to my MBP not meeting the system requirements. It don’t have a dedicated GPU. I like to be as mobile as possible and I’m not a fan of larger laptops that come with a dedicated GPU. On the contrary, Photoshop and Lightroom are fast on my laptop. But when I updated to version 2.0.6, Topaz Studio 2 started performing much faster where the slowness was no longer an issue.
As of version 2.3.0, I was able to test Topaz Studio 2 on my iMac which has a GPU. I found Topaz Studio 2 to still be CPU intensive, which isn’t a big deal for me because I don’t use it often. But I can see it being an issue for other photographers. There’s a 1 to 3 second processing time for some filters to take into effect. I also found the spot healing tool to be even slower.
Topaz Studio 2 vs Lightroom and Photoshop
Topaz Studio 2 has a few tools that are like Lightroom and Photoshop: cropping, basic edits, tone curve, etc. Lightroom and Photoshop are two different types of software for mutually inclusive purposes and they both trump Topaz Studio 2 when it comes to image editing and management.
Topaz Studio 2 is not an image manager like Lightroom. And it’s not suitable for making photography prints or albums. You’ll need to do color correction in Lightroom or Photoshop.
Keep in mind Topaz Studio 2 is not intended to replace Lightroom or Photoshop. The software is an addition to the creative workflow. It really complements Photoshop.
If you’re looking for a Lightroom replacement, I suggest checking out Capture One. You can also read my Capture One review. Furthermore, Luminar 4 is also a Lightroom alternative. See my Luminar 4 review for more information.
I’m impressed with Topaz Studio 2. The interface refresh since the classic version is more user friendly. But as I mentioned earlier, this software is primarily a creative photo editor aimed at fine artists, which is a good thing. I’ve been using Topaz Labs software for 5+ years when I want to give my images a touch of magic.
Depending on which image editing software you already have and the style of your photography, Topaz Studio 2 may or may not be for you. It’s better if you just test it out yourself for free.
Topaz Studio Classic is free. In contrast, the new version of Topaz Studio 2 costs $99.99.
Topaz Studio 2 is a standalone software that includes filters to make essential, creative, and stylistic adjustments. It has the power of layers and comes with Photoshop and Lightroom plugins.
No, Photoshop is an advanced image editor for making simple to complex adjustments. Topaz Studio 2 is more of a complement to Photoshop to make certain creative edits quick.
No, Topaz Studio 2 and Lightroom are quite different. Topaz Studio 2 is more of an add-on to Lightroom for creative image adjustments. Lightroom is a comprehensive image management system and photo editor.