Infinite Tools has released a range of excellent plugins for Photoshop. Being a fan of black and white, I decided to dive into it and see how well it worked. Would this help Photoshop compete with the ever-growing and very good competition?
Historically, I mainly 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 settings too far. More recently I switched to using ON1. It has impressive black and white conversion tools and tone controls. However, although I consider myself relatively proficient in their use, I have avoided using Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom for black and white as I find the results lacking.
Therefore, I didn’t spend 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 I can with other programs? I put the plugin to the test.
The installation process
Installation is easy and the process is pretty much the same for Windows and Mac. You download the plugin installation file; it can be done from the Fstoppers store. Simply double-click the downloaded CCX file and it installs via Creative Cloud. There may be a few dialog box confirmations to accept. You start working in Photoshop by going to the Plugins menu and clicking on Infinite Tools. There is a license key to enter, then it’s very simple.
Differences between Infinite Color Suit and other plugins
Infinite Black and White applies adjustments in Photoshop; it does not export the image to an external program. Clicking the “Create” button applies a series of modified adjustment layers. It’s not just one adjustment, but an infinite range of possible conversions back and forth, hence the title “Infinite”. If you don’t like the results, you can either hit the Create button again or adjust the newly created layers.
Infinite Black and White analyzes the photo and produces a series of results that it says will make good black and white images depending on the tones of the photo. It works by producing adjustment layers in a specific order and then automatically adjusting the settings for each of them. If you don’t like the result, tap the Create button multiple times to get different effects. When you find a result you want, you can save it. This set of saved adjustments is unique to you. From there, it’s easy to repeat your signature style across a series of photos.
Endless use of black and white
My workflow is as follows:
1. Open the image in Photoshop
2. Open the Infinite Black and White plugin.
3. On the Infinite Color tab, click Create. This will apply different colors to shadows, midtones, and highlights. The image will look weird, but don’t worry.
4. Click on the B&W tab
5. Click Create. If you like the conversion, then it’s fine.
6. If you are not satisfied with the result, click Create again.
7. If minor adjustments are needed, I apply them now.
8. Apply toning using the Harmony tab, if desired.
9. Open the Tools tab and add more tweaks using the buttons at the bottom of the plugin window.
10. Make other repairs and adjustments in Photoshop.
Additional adjustments in the Tools tab help fine-tune the image. Besides the Tone Curve adjustment layer created when you press the Create button, there is another button to add one to the Tools menu. However, I found the button that produces a regions folder more useful. Inside are three separate tone curve adjustment layers, one for highlights, midtones, and shadows.
Midtone contrast can be added using the Midtones adjustment layer. It works the same as Clarity in ACR/Lightroom or Structure in Silver Efex Pro, but with more control and precision. Only Dynamic Contrast in ON1 Photo Raw has a similar level of control.
Another button adds a contrast adjustment layer, and there’s also one for adding grain to the image. The grain adjustment is interesting because it decreases the amount of grain applied in the brighter parts of the image and increases it in the darker tones, mimicking how film grain works.
The plugin includes Infinite Harmony which is great for adding tone to the image. Again, a few clicks can add super color tone and split tone.
How did that happen
I ran a series of photos through it and the algorithms produced great results. Sometimes the first click on the Create button wasn’t what I wanted, so I clicked it again. I also applied the additional settings available.
The tool is not just meant to be used for one genre, but gives great results in all types of photography I’ve tried. I mainly photograph marine, abstract and animal landscapes. So I went through a series of different photos and was pleased with the results.
I tried the same images through the other software I own to see if I could get such good results, and I can say that Photoshop held up well using this plugin. I also pushed the software to its limits by going out on a boring day and shooting the next scene using a poor quality plastic red filter. The result was impressive.
What I did not like
At $129, it’s not cheap compared to 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, costs just $49.99. But, despite that, Infinite Black and White is worth it if you’re a dedicated Photoshop user and aren’t on a tight budget. One thing I would like to see with the plugin is the inclusion of hover labels for buttons.
What I liked
This is a great plugin for Photoshop users who want to dive into black and white conversions. It is simple to use and the end results are pleasing.
Infinite Black and White not only produces finished conversions, but can be used as a starting point for image adjustments. Therefore, it is not only suitable for both beginners and advanced users, but is also a great learning tool, as one can manually review adjustment layers, see how they are set, and then modify them.
More importantly, the results are terrific. Is it worth the investment? If you are a Photoshop user and like black and white, then definitely. You can purchase your copy here.