Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Workflow Technique #021

"Sharpening/Contrast Tuning made in Germany"

review by Uwe Steinmueller


6/1/2004 Color Washer 2.0 Released
A new version of Color Washer is available.
We get many new Photoshop filters every month. While most of them may be very useful they won't end up in our daily workflow. We found two filters by Harald Heim from Germany that need your full attention.
Color Washer (PC only)

If you learn to use Color Washer you will see that this tool really does what the name make you believe: Getting back good colors from slightly flat exposures.

Color Washer does a couple of things:

  • Correcting Color Casts (we won't discuss it here)
  • Correcting Contrast
  • Correcting Exposure
  • Correcting brightness in the Highlights, Midtones and Shadows

Our main use of the Color Washer is improving the contrast and the exposure.


You can create exposure stripes and then use shift-click to chose the exposure that is closest to what you want.

For all operations Color Washer pays attention to the highlight details and avoids to destroy them as much as possible.


Contrast improvement comes at different levels. We normally use "normal" or "mild".

For the above photo (Color Washer in split window mode) we made the effect slightly too strong to demonstrate our point. The contrast enhancement will shift the colors and show more saturation. But in most cases this is a wanted side effect. In case you don't like that you can check the "Chroma" checkbox.

Of course you can do the same effect using S-Curves but is is not easy to find curves that match the quality of contrast improvement you can get with Color Washer in not time.

As with many plug-ins we would like to have a much larger preview

We played with many images and found very few that could not be improved by this tool. We consider it easily one of our top 5 PS plug-ins

What can we say:

Wash your images! Highly Recommended

Focalblade (PC only)

1/4/2004 Important Update on FocalBlade V1.02

FocalBlade now supports now realizable windows for much larger previews. But the main reson to write this update that we use now FocalBlade in the DeBlur Pro mode.

DeBlur Pro Mode

Try FocalBlade with these settings (used for 1Ds images, a bit strong but we use it with an edge mask and also in layers where we can lower the opacity).


You can control the sharpening of edges (use the new Antialias feature) and the surface. The Fix tab allows you minimize halos.

With its new features and the larger preview FocalBlade is top class for fine detail image sharpening.

A good tool got even better!

Oder Information



We cannot count the many sharpening routines we have seen and again many do a good job. But Focalblade came as a surprise.

Focalblade is very flexible and still not difficult to use.

You can start using the novice mode which delivers already nice results. But then you will go on and use one of the more advanced modes:


The split view helps to analyze the sharpening effect at 100%:

Focalblade also supports a stripe mode to show different levels of sharpening:

Focalblade is aware of the fact that sometimes you need to oversharpen for printing. Here the "Screen" of "Print" mode can help:

Of course there are many different kind of printers and one setting might not fit all. But in some way even very aggressive sharpening does not really damage the photo that much in Focalblade that we don't see a real problem here.

We ended up using the more complex expert mode as you can control the white and black halos that come with strong sharpening.

The expert mode features three main sharpening areas:

  • Edges

  • Surface

  • Fix (for halos)



Unfortunately the demo versions create a pattern in the final image (as copyright protection) that make it hard to judge the quality of the output.

There is no doubt that Focalblade is one of our top sharpening filters (it might end up even in the #1 spot). Very impressive.

Highly Recommended

How to Order

After reviewing these two filters we decided to offer them here as part of Harald's affiliate program:

Order ColorWasher via Download $49.95

Order ColorWasher via CD $ 59.95

Order FocalBlade via Download $49.95

Order FocalBlade via CD $59.95


For Comments post in our News Group

2000-2007 Digital Outback Photo