Plugs ’n Pixels looks at Athentech Perfectly Clear and Lucid
Athentech's Perfectly Clear has been listed here at Plugs ’n Pixels for a long time as one of the discounted products. When I first tried this plug-in, I assumed it was a basic one-click photo fixer that applied seemingly subtle adjustments to bad images, and I didn't understand why it was necessary. After all, most image editors and many other plug-ins already offer this type of correction capability. It was only recently that I finally "got" what this plug-in actually does, and I have a newfound respect for it.
Version 3 was just released. I took a closer look at the under-the-hood patented technology makes it unique in the field of digital image correction and what was new in this version. In this review I will describe some of that tech and try to show that Perfectly Clear does indeed live up to its billing to "make your best work better".
Let’s begin with the new AppsManager, which is the new app that you’ll use to find, download, install and activate all Perfectly Clear products, including the core Plug-ins and preset packs. Once downloaded and opened, it presents you with the opportunity to install or purchase Athentech products. I chose the Perfectly Clear Complete option, and the download was quick and easy.
Once invoked in Photoshop, Perfectly Clear’s interface is very straightforward. At left are options to view your image either in full preview or split-screen (horizontal or vertical, side-by-side mirror or split down the middle without mirroring). There are also several expandable preset sets designed for and covering a wide range of typical image deficiencies and difficulties (I counted 56 options!). At the top are quick-access buttons mirroring the preset categories and subsets at left. At bottom left is the area where you can create, modify and delete your own custom presets.
Once a preset is chosen, your image should immediately look better. If needed, the area at right offers a full set of manual adjustments to fully fine-tune the corrections. You can apply pre-preprocessing, adjust tone, color and details. Perfectly Clear is geared toward a wide variety of image subjects, situations and corrections (landscapes, portraits, exposure adjustment and tint removal, etc.).
For the main example above I chose one of my hazy summertime long-distance New York City views which isn't entirely useful in its original state, but after a quick trip through Perfectly Clear it looks a whole lot better. It reminds me of the restoration of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which removed centuries of grime, wax and smoke from Michelangelo's famous artwork.
Let's take a look at another photo from the same trip (above) which suffered from the same haze and tint problem and was effectively cured by the Perfectly Clear solution. I made some small adjustments to the Vivid preset and the image is much more balanced. The result looks exactly like dirt and grime were removed from a dirty window.
To make the before-and-after comparison easier, the preview pane is split down the middle for (in this case) a non-mirroring view that demonstrates the degree of correction taking place. The amazing thing is, it's so easy to get to this point of correction – click a preset and (maybe, usually not) make a few custom adjustments.
One thing that especially impresses me about Perfectly Clear is its ability to maintain highlight integrity while performing its adjustments. A perfect case in point is this sunset image (below). This is the original. Note the blown-out sun and pale clouds.
Using Perfectly Clear's Landscape preset, I was able to get better sky tones as well as darken the sun just enough to reveal a wisp of a cloud in front of it (below). Other software solutions I tried turned the sun a garish, artificial, digital-looking white.
Now let's investigate Perfectly Clear's Beautify function. The original, unretouched image of the model (at left) reveals skin blemishes and a bit of dark circles under her eyes. The Beautify+ preset imediately took care of these problems, and I used the "Eye Enlarge" adjustment slider to bring up the eyes a bit. No selection was necessary; Perfectly Clear knew where the eyes were (as well as the teeth for whitening and blemishes for removal). Less obvious is the Face Slimming I performed, again with the appropriate slider (you can see the Portrait sliders section in the screenshot further above).
New in version 3 is a more efficient and easier to use interface, and (under the hood) a major update to the core processing technology.
New image correction tools are:
•Preprocessing section for Input Looks and "Image Ambulance" for manual exposure corrections
•”Face Aware" exposure for more accurate auto-exposure corrections in portraits and group photos
•Black Point tool to deepen blacks
•New Color Vibrancy tool to complement the previous "Vibrancy" control (now renamed to Color Restoration)
•Sky and Foliage enhancements
Existing tools have been improved:
•Added strength sliders to Light Diffusion and Vibrancy for better control
•Better 'color pickers' for Skin Tone and Blush adjustments
•Manually identify faces that are not detected automatically
•One-click to zoom to individual faces
•Modify facial regions to provide the best corrections
•Much improved preset management
ALSO AVAILABLE: As simple as PerfectlyClear is for pros, Athentech wanted to create something similar for everyday hobbyists. So using Perfectly Clear technology, they created Lucid for both desktop and mobile devices:
As you can see in the screenshot above, Lucid distills the power of Perfectly Clear into a very simple and clean interface, offering the same 1-click Presets for correcting your images. And of course, should you require more manual control, there is also the Adjust panel, as shown below.
Because it is aimed at home users, the Mac desktop version of Lucid supports convenient uploads directly to social media accounts.