Comparing Nik’s Viveza Plug-In and Camera Raw’s Adjustment Brush

One of the new features in Lightroom 2 and Camera Raw 5 was the addition of the adjustment brush and adjustment pins, which allow spot adjustments of various Camera Raw settings such as exposure, contrast, saturation—seven in all. This new technology was released with Lightroom 2 late last summer, and added to Camera Raw with version 5 of that plug-in.

The interesting thing is that Nik Software produced a plug-in called Viveza early this year, and it did practically the same thing: add adjustment points to your Photoshop images (not necessarily Camera Raw). I’ve been looking at it again lately and there’s a case to be made that the Viveza plug-in is a superior tool for certain adjustments.

Perhaps photography versus artistry

Camera Raw adjustments available to the Adjustment Brush include:

  • Exposure
  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Clarity
  • Sharpness
  • Color

Many of these are geared for photography work, especially exposure and clarity which emulate the darkroom experience. Viveza, on the other hand, offers a larger, different set of image adjustments:

  • Brightness
  • Contrast
  • Saturation
  • Hue
  • Red
  • Green
  • Blue
  • Warmth
  • Color (found in the interface’s sidebar)

Some are the same but I find that Viveza allows greater color control while Camera Raw focuses on value and detail control. Neither one is better than the other, but they are different and users will want to use the right tool for their purposes. Viveza does very well with color, and I use it to pump up color the digital camera doesn’t quite capture. The Warmth slider is something of an oddball, adding brightness and color in a way that can be overused easily—I recommend sticking with the other sliders to achieve the same effects while retaining realism.

Viveza’s control point display

When you place a control point in Viveza, it shows up with a full set of sliders for easy, centralized control. You can also change the point’s position and feathering, which isn’t quite the control found in Camera Raw but the two Camera Raw brush sliders missing in Viveza (Flow and Density) are not as useful for me. Viveza seems to do a very good job of masking despite missing Flow and Density, and as an added bonus it allows masking with a brush—simply click the Brush button and Viveza will return the user to Photoshop, equip the Brush Tool and allow the user to build the proper mask before applying the Viveza adjustments.

Viveza interface

Viveza’s control point sliders are easy to use and responsive. Click the image for a larger view.

Where Viveza can’t compete with Camera Raw

Camera Raw is non-destructive and Viveza is not Camera Raw—therefore, Viveza will alter pixels. The Nik developers were kind enough to design Viveza so it will create a layer and apply the adjustments there, allowing users to mask or change layer opacity as needed. Still, Camera Raw files will retain their adjustment pins and allow for easy changes when they’re needed.

Why I like Viveza

I like Lightroom’s interface but I don’t like Camera Raw’s—maybe it’s because it looks like it came out of Photoshop 3.0 with its simple design. Camera Raw is an anomaly in an age where Photoshop and Lightroom use slick panels and sophisticated balance of light and dark. Some of Photoshop’s old filter dialog boxes also feel out of place nowadays. Viveza does show some sophisticated interface design, including the use of grays and good typography—I appreciate that. I enjoy using Viveza more than Camera Raw, and perhaps even more than Lightroom when it comes to the Adjustment Brush tool. Viveza is no replacement for either of them, but it’s not designed to be—it’s designed for spot adjustments, and it does that very well.