photoediting

Auto Added by WPeMatico

XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 Review: Editing Photos on a 24-Inch Pen Display

There are two big leaps you can make in your photo editing workflow. The first is moving from a mouse-and-keyboard setup to a pen tablet like the Wacom Intuos Pro—almost everybody does that at some point. But if you really want to kick your experience up to another level, there’s one more step you can take: you can buy yourself a high-resolution pen display.

Today I’m looking at one of those displays, the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24: a 2K pen display that out-performs the $1,200 Wacom Cintiq 22 in just about every spec category, but costs only $675 (typically $900, on sale as of this writing).

This won’t be a highly technical side-by-side comparison with alternatives from Wacom or Huion. Instead, I want to share my hands-on experience with this full-featured-but-affordable graphics display and tell you why I think it’s worth upgrading to this kind of setup for photo editing.


Full disclosure: XP-Pen provided the unit used in this review. However, they had no input on the content of the review and are seeing it for the first time right now, just like everyone else.


What is a “Pen Display”

First, it’s important that you understand what I’m referring to when I say “graphics display” or “pen display.” In the most basic terms, a graphics display is a monitor you can draw on. You plug a graphics display into your existing computer just like you would any other monitor, but you get the added benefit of using the included pressure-sensitive pen as your mouse.

A large pen display like the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 (or the Wacom Cintiq 22, or the Huion Kamvas Pro 24) gives you all the benefits of a pen tablet and a high-end color-accurate monitor in a single package. The core functionality is no different from a pen tablet like the ones I wrote about here, except that you can edit directly on your photograph, making the entire experience much more engrossing and allowing for a higher level of precision.

And make no mistake: the main benefit of using a graphics display to edit your photos the experience, and how easy it is to get into an editing “flow.”

Hands On with the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24

Build and Ergonomics

Build quality is … plastic-y. Don’t get me wrong, the Artist Pro doesn’t seem at all fragile. I lugged the thing between the lab and my apartment a couple of times and I didn’t hold back when using it. There’s just no denying that it feels like a more “affordable” product than something very solid and premium feeling like the Wacom Cintiq Pro series.

The express keys are very clicky, both of the scroll wheels felt solid and gave a nice tactile response when using them, and the touch-sensitive buttons on top of the display, which are used to access things like the Menu and Power, never gave me any trouble. Overall build is good, just not “high-end.”

In terms of ergonomics, there is one big pro and one big con.

The pro is the fully adjustable stand that is included with the display and allows you to set the angle of your Artist Pro from almost fully flat to almost fully vertical without ever feeling unstable. You can really dial in your working angle for long editing sessions, which ends up being critical because of the one big con: ergonomics.

In most ways, using a graphics display is far more enjoyable than using a pen tablet: it’s faster, more intuitive, and there’s something really satisfying about drawing directly onto your image. However, putting in long sessions on a graphics display is either going to be a pain in the back or a pain in the shoulder because you’re either bent over the display (back pain) or you’re holding your arm up horizontally to maintain the best posture (shoulder pain).

This might seem like an odd thing to focus on, but it bears mentioning if you’re choosing between a pen tablet and a pen display. Something like the Wacom Intuos Pro or XP-Pen Deco Pro allows you to keep good ergonomic posture while editing for hours because you’re drawing on a flat surface on your desk while looking forward at your monitor. In contrast, even when it’s dialed in just right, there’s no way to keep perfect posture while using a drafting table-style graphics display like this.

Display

Right out of the box, the Artist Pro 24’s QHD/2K display looked great on my ASUS StudioBook 17 and needed only a small Gamma adjustment on my 13-inch MacBook Pro. It’s not the most color-accurate display in the world—the much more expensive Cintiq Pro series or a photo editing monitor will out-perform it—but at 90% Adobe RGB coverage, it’s no slouch either.

The main feature of the display for drawing purposes is that it’s “laminated,” meaning that the display and the touch surface have been more tightly bonded together to minimize the distance between the two and decrease parallax. This is critical if you want your pen input to land exactly where you expect it to, and is usually reserved for more expensive options.

For example, Wacom’s more affordable Cintiq 22 does not feature a laminated display. In this size category, the feature is reserved for the $2,000 Cintiq Pro 24.

The only downside to the display is the brightness, which maxes out at 250 nits. This is typical of graphics displays, and in an appropriate studio setting this shouldn’t be a big deal, but it’s definitely noticeable. Set it next to a high-end HDR monitor like the Dell I’m using right now or most premium laptop displays and it will be noticeably dimmer.

Pen Performance

In terms of pen feel and performance Wacom is the gold standard, so the best compliment I can pay the XP-Pen Artist Pro is to say that there is no noticeable difference between my experience with XP-Pen and my experience with Wacom’s Pro Pen 2.

The two are identical on the spec sheet, but that’s not what I’m referring to. In years past, XP-Pen used battery-powered pens that suffered from problems like input lag and glitchy lines with a noticeable “wave” to then, even when using a ruler to draw perfectly straight. This is no longer a problem as far as I can tell.

Tens of hours of use later—including 6 uninterrupted hours hand-painting an electron micrograph, and a side-by-side pen-tool test with the Wacom Cintiq Pro 16—and I couldn’t notice an ounce of difference in performance.

Customization

In my opinion, the best-designed feature of the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 is the customization.

Both sides of the Artist Pro 24 include 10 customizable “express keys” and a very satisfying mechanical click wheel that can be toggled between four different functions.

My express keys were set to the most common macros and Photoshop tools that I find myself using, like Undo, Brush/Eraser toggle, Pen Tool, New Layer, Hand Tool, and a Click Wheel toggle. The click wheel was set to Brush Size by default, but a quick press on the toggle key would switch the function to Zoom, then Rotate, and then Layer select.

Taken together and properly customized to your particular workflow, this level of tactile customization allows you to ditch your keyboard entirely. And this applies whether you’re right- or left-handed since there are a click wheel and 10 express keys on both the left and right of the display.

Additional Features Worth Mentioning

There are two additional features worth mentioning, although they’re pretty minor

Firstly, the display features a USB hub with two USB-A ports for hooking up a mouse or hard drive or charging your phone while you edit. It’s a nice-to-have, but I didn’t find myself using it very much. Still, in this day and age where your laptop might only have one or two (or zero… looking at you Apple) USB Type-A ports, it comes in handy.

Secondly, the pen supports up to 60 degrees of tilt. This is useful for painting and drawing (think shading when sketching digitally) but it’s not particularly relevant for photographers/photo editing unless you come from an art background.

Missing Features

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what I see as three obvious omissions: touch-sensitivity, robust USB charging, and an SD card slot.

Touch Sensitivity: One of my favorite parts of using Wacom’s Cintiq Pro series is the touch sensitivity of the screen. You can turn it off if it’s causing problems, but when it’s on you can use your fingers to zoom and rotate the image just like on a smartphone or tablet.

Touchscreens are so ubiquitous in 2020 that I found myself repeatedly trying (and failing) to zoom or rotate my image using my hands while editing on the Artist Pro, and leaving smudges on the screen as a result. Eventually, I got used to this limitation and defaulted to the click-wheel, but it’s a noticeable omission.

Robust USB Charging: The Artist Pro 24’s USB hub does feature power delivery, but it’s really only enough to charge something like a smartphone. Despite the fact that you can use a single USB cable to connect most (but not all) USB-C equipped laptops to the display with full functionality, the paltry power output of the hub wasn’t even enough to keep my 13-inch MacBook Pro at baseline, much less charge it.

This basically eliminates the “one cable” benefit, since I had to plug my MacBook Pro into the wall to keep it from dying while I worked.

SD Card Slot: One feature I did find myself missing from the Cintiq Pro line is the built-in SD card slot. The XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 doesn’t have one, and I missed it any time I was using my MacBook since importing photos required yet another cable.

Now, all of the Windows laptops I own or am borrowing for review currently do have an SD card slot, so I don’t know if I should blame XP-Pen or Apple for my troubles, but it’s an easy feature to add and I hope the next generation Artist Pro series doesn’t leave it out.

Overall Editing Experience

All of the above comes together to create an editing experience that’s practically addicting. The best editing tools get out of your way and allow you to connect directly with the images you’re working on, and this is exactly what a large graphics display like the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 allows you to do.

It might sound like I’m gushing, but it’s made photo editing much more enjoyable for me. Never before could I put in a 6-hour editing session without getting worn out, and I found myself taking on more advanced edits than I would typically try.

Could certain things be improved? Sure! See the “Missing Features” section above or my gripes about ergonomics. But none of the cons outweighed the pros for me, and the biggest pro (as far as I’m concerned) was the ability to get into a state of “flow” while photo editing.

Conclusion

After several months of using the XP-Pen Artist Pro 24 consistently, I find myself more and more inclined to recommend it to friends who are in the market for a new graphics tablet/display. At just $675 on sale, it’s really hard to recommend anything else.

If a secondary editing monitor is in your future, it’s definitely worth considering a full-blown graphics display: especially when companies like XP-Pen are undercutting Wacom so drastically on price, without skimping on core features.

In summary:

Pros

  • Laminated 2K display
  • USB Hub
  • Fully-adjustable stand
  • Highly customizable
  • Top-tier pen performance
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Plastic-y build
  • No touch functionality
  • Weak USB charging
  • 250 nits max brightness
  • Ergonomics (applies to all graphics displays)

Whether or not a large graphics display is a good fit for you has everything to do with your workflow, your home studio setup, and how much time/energy you dedicate to photo editing. But if it sounds like the kind of product that could take your editing, your at least your experience, to the next level, I hope I’ve included enough technical details to allay any fears you might have.


P.S. If you have any additional questions, feel free to drop them in the comments or reach out on Twitter.


About the author: DL Cade is an art, science and technology writer, and the former Editor in Chief of PetaPixel. When he’s not writing op-eds or reviewing the latest tech for creatives, you’ll find him working in Vision Sciences at the University of Washington, publishing the weekly Triple Point newsletter, or sharing personal essays on Medium.

Pixelmator Pro 2.0 is Redesigned From the Ground Up, Supports M1 Macs

After announcing the first Pro version back in 2017, Pixelmator has announced Pixelmator Pro 2.0, a massively revamped version of the popular MacOS-based photo editing software.

The new updated software supports the latest Mac computers running Apple’s new in-house M1 chip.

“The Pixelmator Pro editing engine is powered by high-performance Metal code, so we can take advantage of the unified memory architecture of the M1 chip to bring you much speedier and much more responsive image editing,” Pixelmator says. “Machine learning tasks like ML Super Resolution are now up to a staggering 15 times faster on the new Macs.

“And, as a Universal app, Pixelmator Pro 2.0 runs natively on both M1 and Intel-based devices, so we’re completely ready for the new era of Mac.”

The user interface of the app has been redesigned with a more modern look.

“Almost every tool, every menu, and every button has been updated to make the app more intuitive and more fun to use, making it easier for you to be creative,” Pixelmator says. “You can now customize the Pixelmator Pro interface, the list of tools, and the toolbar.”

“With a collection of pixel-accurate selection tools powered by state-of-the-art technology, Pixelmator Pro lets you pick out and edit precise parts of your images with ease. So you can apply color adjustments and effects to specific areas. Select and copy objects from one image to another. Or focus all edits on a precise area without affecting the rest of the image.”

There are new browsers for Effects and Presets to search for and apply them in just a few key presses, as well as 200 new presets for things like Color Adjustment, Effect, Style, Shape, and Gradient tools, and more.

A new Workspace feature will let users choose from various payout presets designed for whatever task you’re using the app for, from photo editing to design to illustration to painting.

Here’s a short 1-minute video introducing the new version of the app:

Pixelmator Pro 2.0 will be released on Thursday, November 19th, 2020. It’ll be a free update for existing customers, and it’ll cost $40 for new users. You can sign up to be notified of the launch on the app’s webpage.

How to Add Believable Snow to an Image in Photoshop

PiXimperfect is an excellent resource for learning Photoshop techniques and in this 10-minute video, host Unmesh Dinda shows you how to add believable-looking snow to any image using Adobe Photoshop.

The first step is to isolate the background that you want to add snow to. To do this, navigate to Select and then Color Range. You’ll want to change the Selection Preview from Grayscale to None to allow you to see the image correctly and isolate the colors you want to change.

Next, decrease the Fuzziness to somewhere below 10 – the exact value will vary depending on your image. Then, choose the first eyedropper on the left, make sure the Invert option is unchecked, and then click on the area of color you want to adjust. After that, select the middle eyedropper tool (it has a plus sign on it) to continue to add color areas to the selection.

In Dinda’s example image, he’s attempting to make the green areas into white snow, so he selects as much of the grass and tree colors as possible.

If you then change the Selection Preview back to Grayscale, you can adjust the Fuzziness gradually back up until you hit a good sweet spot. If the Fuzziness is too low, you’ll end up with sharp edges in your selection. If it’s too high, everything will be selected.

With the selection active, you’ll want to click on the Adjustment Layer icon, choose Solid Color, and then select white.

After that, double click on that layer to access the Layer Style panel and adjust the blending options. At the bottom of that pane is the “Blend If” section. Take the leftmost slider of the Underlying Layer from left to right, which takes the white coloration away from the darker areas of the image.

Next, holding either the Alt key on Windows or the Option key on Mac, click on that slider to separate it into two parts. You can then more naturally add a gradation to the way the color is distributed to the lights and darks.

The instructions that Dinda explains beyond this build on these initial steps and I encourage you to watch the entire video to learn how to achieve his final result for yourself, which looks incredible given that the snow is entirely artificial:

For more Photoshop tips like this one, make sure you subscribe to PiXimperpect on YouTube.

(via Fstoppers)

Kodak Professional Select Uses AI to Auto-Cull Your Images

Kodak has launched a new application – powered by artificial intelligence – that promises to quickly cull your images for you based on a set of rules. Called Kodak Professional Select, the company promises fast, easy, and accurate results.

Kodak says that the service accepts hundreds to even thousands of images at a time and applies its “proprietary Ai” to evaluate those images on a set of criteria. The algorithm looks at technical attributes like color, focus, brightness, exposure, contrast, and sharpness while also considering aesthetic qualities like whether eyes are open or closed, if a subject is smiling, and if faces are centered to the frame.

The process for using the application is simple. After installing the software, upload images from an event that you want to have culled. After dropping them into the app, it transmits “appropriately sized images” to the cloud to be processed. The system then analyzes each image and automatically ranks, organizes, and selects what it believes to be the best from the entire event. You can then review its results by adjusting the score criteria, adding or removing your own selections, and separate or combine duplicates among other culling options. Finally, add keywords, assign star ratings, and adjust orientation before exporting selections to then import for editing.

The platform is designed to only provide organizational help and is not an editing tool.

The developers of the software said that they wanted to build a technology that would help the modern photographer, and to do so they asked professionals what they found they needed help with the most. They found that overwhelmingly, the number one pain point was image culling where photographers would spend hours looking at each image, one by one, to determine the good from the bad.

Seeing that as a bad use of a photographer’s time, the developers created the Kodak Professional Select software to make a better way. The company says that it applied proprietary imaging science algorithms coupled with photographer feedback to create an artificial intelligence designed to be a “virtual assistant.”

This particular branch of the Kodak name appears unrelated to the larger Eastman Kodak Company that is still producing film. According to the Professional Select website, this particular business was spun off from the main company in 2013.

You can try Kodak Professional Select for free for 30 days, after which the service is billed at $29.95 per month or $299.95 per year. To learn more, visit the company’s website here.

How to Get Professional Results with Photoshop’s AI Sky Replacement Tool

One of the major updates to the latest version of Photoshop is the addition of Sky Replacement: a tool that has the potential to save you a ton of time when editing your landscape images. But as Aaron Nace explains in this video, this AI-powered tool requires a bit of thought if you want to get professional results.

AI-powered photo editing tools are always sold as “one click” or “a few clicks” solutions that can transform a photo with next-to-no input from you. But even with the most advanced machine learning available, no automated tool can generate fool-proof results without a little bit of thought from the creator on the other end of that mouse.

Photoshop’s new Sky Replacement tool is a great example of this principle in action, as PHLEARN‘s Aaron Nace explains in the video above.

In the course of testing out AI Sky Replacement and showing you how it actually works inside Photoshop, Nace takes plenty of time to explain how to analyze the lighting in your original photo and create the most realistic composite possible. In his example image, the sun is clearly coming from the top left, so dropping in a sky where the light is clearly coming from the right would just look wrong:

“If I chose a new sky and I composited this together beautifully with perfect seams, but the sun was [in the wrong spot], it would not look right no matter how technically perfect you made this photo,” explains Nace. “The sun would be in the wrong place with the directionality of the shadows.”

This sets up the rest of the video, in which Nace explains how to use the new tool, refine the automatically generated edges, and pick a sky that has a chance of looking realistic.

He shows you how to adjust the various settings available like brightness, color temperature, and scale of the sky you just dropped in; how to alter the character of the scene re-lighting by changing the Blend Mode (Screen or Multiply) and playing with the Lighting Adjustment slider; and, finally, how to output you results.

For that last setting, the new sky will either be placed in “New Layers” or “Duplicate Layers”—but either way, you’ll get a new Sky Replacement layer group that will contain all your adjustments separated out so you can keep fiddling with the masks, adjust your settings, or add more adjustment layers after the fact.

As Nace demonstrates, even an AI tool requires a little bit of work to get the final product looking just right. But if you put in that work, you can get the same results you would have gotten from a manual sky replacement in less than half the time. That’s the real benefit of an AI-powered tool like this—not a “one-click” edit, but a much faster way to get professional results.

Check out the full tutorial/test/demo up top to see Photoshop’s new Sky Replacement in action for yourself. And if you want to watch more Photoshop tutorials like this one, you can find lots more on the PHLEARN YouTube channel.

JPEGmini Pro 3 Announced With HEIC Conversion Support And New Design

JPEGmini has announced JPEGmini Pro 3, which adds some minor yet important features to the platform. Namely, you can now convert HEIC files to JPEG, the UX/UI has been redesigned, and you can now save your own presets.

JPEGmini has had a free online tool that converts HEIC files to JPEG that they developed in 2017 after Apple enabled HEIC support on its iPhones. JPEGmini says millions have used it to convert their files and as a result of that popularity, the company built the feature into JPEGmini Pro 3.

While HEIC was designed to produce higher quality images whose file size was smaller than JPEG, JPEGmini says it is able to convert HEIC files to JPEG that are between 10-15% smaller than the original file. The output JPEG files contain all metadata, similar to the HEIC files, and are “perceptually identical.”

The company has also added a way to save your own presets into the software to aid in batch resizing, and also included built-in presets for Facebook and Instagram that can “update dynamically for changes in the platform.”

JPEGmini says that the changes to the UX/UI to help make it easier to intuitively use the software. The most notable changes are the change of the preferences
window to the upper right corner, which we feel is a more natural place. Also, the preferences window now is given the entire app screen, enabling more options and text.

JPEGmini costs $69 for the base software and $89 if you want the plugins for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Capture One. Though the software is perpetual, in order to get annual updates JPEGmini is adjusting its policy and requiring an annual fee.

You can learn more about the software on the company’s website.

New Video Shows Off the Powerful Landscape Editing Tools in Luminar AI

In their latest demo of the upcoming Luminar AI photo editor, Skylum takes aim at landscape photographers and shows them just how powerful Luminar’s machine learning-based tools really are. From Enhance AI for relighting and color grading, to Atmosphere AI for adding fog and other effects, there are some impressive automatic editing tools coming to your laptop very soon…

The short demo covers a lot of ground in just 63 seconds. Not only does it re-highlight the latest updates coming to Sky Replacement AI, Skylum shows off several new landscape editing tool that will be built into the AI editing program. That includes:

  • Composition AI – Automatically crop and straighten images with one click.
  • Enhance AI – Automatically detects uneven color and lighting and balances them for you.
  • Sky AI – Swap out the sky in your image and tweak the horizon blending, position, and scene relighting to taste.
  • Atmosphere AI – Add realistic atmospheric effects like fog.
  • Golden Hour Image Relighting – Tucked alongside options for Dehaze and Foliage Enhancer, this feature allows you to intelligently relight the scene to give it a golden hue.

With Adobe making a not-so-subtle grab for Luminar AI’s prospective audience with the release of Neural Filters in Photoshop, Skylum obviously wants to make it clear that they’re not going anywhere. Adobe may have more money and man power to throw at the problem, but Luminar’s creators are trying to make the most of their head start in the AI photo editing space.

(via 43 Rumors)

This Demo Shows the Power of Photoshop’s New ‘Smart Portrait’ AI Filter

Arguably the most interesting feature added to Adobe Photoshop today was a set of AI-powered “Neural Filters” including Colorize, Style Transfer, and Smart Portrait. The last of these is particularly impressive, and NVIDIA is giving us a peek at what it can do when you really push it.

Smart Portrait—which is actually based on a deep neural network developed by NVIDIA Research—allows Photoshop users to alter facial characteristics like gaze and head direction, lighting angles, and even hair thickness by simply dragging around a few sliders.

Since they had a hand in creating it, the folks at NVIDIA wanted to show off what this AI tech can do, demonstrating both Skin Smoothing and Smart Portrait in the video above. The results, even when you go to almost cartoon-levels of adjustment using something like the “Facial Age” slider, are undeniably impressive:

One of the craziest things about this demo is watching the catchlight in the subject’s eye actually shift as the Light Direction slider is manipulated. It’s the kind of detail that would instantly ruin the effect if it wasn’t taken care of. The same goes for age and hair color: the “older” the Facial Age slider, the grayer the hair becomes.

Of course, when you push the tech really far, the results still end up looking fake, but any artifacts or imperfections can be cleaned up after the effect has been applied, since the filter works non-destructively on its own layer. And even with the imperfections, this kind of one-touch editing of so many facial characteristics with any level of realism would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago.

It’s both eye-opening and mildly terrifying to see how far AI-based photo editing has come in such a short time. And now that Adobe is jumping in with both feet, we expect the competition to heat up even faster than before.

Check out the full demo up top to see these edits in action for yourself, and then click here to read up on all the new AI-powered features that Adobe added to the latest version of Photoshop this morning.

Loupedeck and Adobe Team Up on Bespoke Photoshop Plugin

Part of Adobe’s big Photoshop update today was the announcement of a new “plugin experience,” including a bespoke Plugin Marketplace and special Plugin Launchpad. And one of the first photography companies to take advantage of the new experience is editing console maker Loupedeck.

In an announcement that went live exactly 5 minutes after the Photoshop news, Loupedeck unveiled a collaboration with Adobe on a new plugin for Photoshop. The plugin is one of the very first to be built on Adobe’s Unified Extensibility Platform (UXP), which the company integrated into Photoshop this morning. As such, it’s already available to download and install through the Plugin Marketplace in the Creative Cloud Desktop app.

As for what it actually does, the free plugin will add several features and improvements for Loupedeck CT and Loupedeck Live owners, including:

  • Improved overall performance in both Photoshop and Camera Raw
  • The ability to add adjustment layers and control their corresponding parameters with dials and/or wheel
  • The ability to reset functionality for individual adjustment parameters
  • Intuitive control over Font settings
  • The ability to quickly scroll through and view history panel with dial and/or wheel
  • Increased control over Curves, including the ability to adjust color channel curves separately and control curve points
  • Smoother control over Brush settings and Zoom In/Out functions
  • Streamline workflow by combining Photoshop actions into macros within the Loupedeck software
  • Full control over Layer Properties
  • Ability to control Quick Actions (e.g. select object, remove background) introduced in Photoshop in 2020

“We collaborated with Adobe to develop the new plugin and to ensure Loupedeck users could easily integrate and maximize their creative potential with the new features offered by Photoshop the moment they are available,” explains Mikko Kesti, Founder and CEO of Loupedeck.

“Our new plugin for Photoshop incorporates the software’s new features into both the Loupedeck CT and just-launched Loupedeck Live, giving creators the power to further customize their Photoshop experience.”

If your’e already a Loupedeck CT owner, you can download the new plugin from the Plugin Marketplace in the CC Desktop app by clicking here. If not, you can learn more about the editing console or pick one up for yourself at this link for $550.