Mystical Tint, Tone and Color

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, December 2004, send e-mail
Published by: Auto FX Software, go to the web site
Requires: Pentium III or faster, Windows 98/NT/2000/ME or XP, 128MB RAM, 30MB free hard drive space, Photoshop Plug-in Compliant Host application; OS 9 or higher, OSX native, Power Mac G3, G4 or G5, 256MB RAM, 30MB free hard drive space
MSRP: US$179.00

Mystical Tint, Tone and Color (MTTC) is the second in the Mystical Series of plug-ins and applications from AutoFX. MTTC is a set of predefined effects which can be used to enhance and apply character to your image. MTTC applies changes to your images in a non-destructive manner. This non-destructive process is called Smart Layers and it allows you to apply and delete effects in combination. You can turn the effects on and off at your whim and if you decide you don't like the effect you can delete it from the effects list.

MTTC is great for recreating many traditional effects just like the ones used in traditionally processed photography. As with all AutoFX products it runs as both a stand-alone program and a Photoshop compliant, plug-in based application. If you've used any other AutoFX plug-in applications you will be immediately familiar with this one and its graphical user interface (GUI) with all the familiar sliders, Memory Dots and tools.

The effects in MTTC can be applied to your image using a number of methods from the global application of the filter to application on a selected area and application of the filter via an effect brush. There are a total of 38 predefined filter effects basically all accessed through 2 buttons: Special Effects and Presets.

Special Effects allows you to apply the stock filters which when loaded can be modified and saved as presets. Every effect is modifiable and the speed at which each effect is applied is impressive. One minor issue I have is that the effects aren't really grouped in a logical fashion but simply thrown together in the Special Effects menu. The effects can be categorized into three basic camps as described by the product name. The Tinting effects include classic photographic effects such as emulating an antique photo and sepia toning. You can also use a gradient to deepen the blue in your skies and another to enrich the greens in foliage. Another allows you to paint tints onto your photos and images directly using the Hand Tint effect.

The Toning controls are quite powerful and are used to deepen or lighten the tonal values in your image. These effects can again be used either globally or selectively and are capable of some interesting subtleties. Filters include Dark Contrast and Multiply Darks (which deepens the tones in your photos). Over Exposed and Under Exposed are fairly self explanatory as are Restore Details, Soften Details and Tonal Soften. Effects like Tonal Smooth, Tonal Detail and Tonal Contrast are great for affecting or enriching the tonal ranges in your photos.

The Color effects allow you to control and manipulate the color values in your images. Many of these effects can be handled directly within Photoshop but the approach taken here allows you a little more ease of application. Effects like HSB (hue, saturation, brightness) Adjust, Levels, RGB Adjust and Color Mixer are prime examples. Effects like Warm and Cool are great for changing the color temperature of your photos. Other color effects include Washed Out which is great for softening the colors in your photos and can be used to recreate that soft postcard look. Soft Posterize reduces the palette to simplify and enrich your photos. Darken Colors deepens your colors and at the same time gives you richer tones. Saturate Colors allows you to increase vibrancy, creating a richer and brighter look. Soft Saturation softly increases saturation, creating a smoother but richer color look. Vitality is used to enhance the color saturation and creates richer and more distinctive images by booting the contrast as well. Color Bleach is used to boost highlights and increases contrast at the same time. The Black and White effect effectively removes color from your images while allowing you to control the actual conversion process through the use of color filters in the process.

The application is comparatively fast and ran trouble free with only a couple of exceptions. I had several crashes while trying to load a couple of Photoshop CS PSD files. I discovered that this is due to text layers in the PSD and that the problem only occurs when running in standalone mode. It also failed to correctly import layered Photoshop files with the filter. I had no problems whatsoever with flattened files.

AutoFX provides easy to follow, quick start manuals and free technical support via e-mail. The help manual is available as a PDF file and there are also help bubbles within the application which pop up when the mouse pointer hovers over a button or control. AutoFX also has video tutorials available on CD and online for this product, but you have to purchase access to them. However AutoFX have not provided online user forums for support info and user feedback. I've found that this method of support is an excellent route to take, when moderated, as many users will act as ambassadors for products. It is also an excellent addition to any knowledge base.

Cons: Would be nice to have a thumbnail preview in the load dialog. The Brush needs a little refinement. Photoshop PSD import needs a little work including the addition of an alert which interrupts the load process to indicate the presence of unrecognized elements.

Pros: Standalone capability. Fast and easy to use. Very powerful. Good user interface which is consistent with other AutoFX Products.

Mystical Tint, Tone and Color is a very cool application and as a plug-in it performs well. Although many of the effects can be duplicated by someone well-versed in Photoshop it becomes obvious that this tool speeds up the process for many of the effects. The point here is that you don't need to be a Photoshop guru to use Mystical Tint, Tone and Color. Even more to the point is that due to its standalone capability, you don't even need a Photoshop compliant application to host it. Anyone who takes photographs and wishes to enhance their photos through the application of filters will benefit from this product. Highly recommended.

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