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Using Neat Image with Selections
Posted by: Flora on 12-31-1969.

"An unusual way to de-noise a picture using Neat Image (any version) and Photoshop."

Unless added on purpose, noise or grain in pictures can be very 'distracting' !

That's why there is such a big choice in excellent Noise Reducing software ....

The first one I downloaded/tried is Neat Image (NI ) (here )... not only it was free, but, on top of it, once I got the hang of it, it did all I wanted and how I wanted it!!! (certainly couldn't ask for more....)

Since I sometimes use NI in an unusual way, I've been asked several times to explain "how" exactly .... it is!

Usually, when working on a noisy picture, the tendency is to de-noise the whole picture while aiming at the noisiest parts of it .... sometimes the results are just perfect .... but other times less so ... meaning the noisiest parts of the picture may be perfect, but the originally less noisy parts of the same picture may result so smooth and blurred as to give a 'plastic' look to the image ... That's why I started 'experimenting' with this procedure!

I started with the settings first: the program's default and presets settings are excellent starting points, but, since each picture is different, they can/must be adapted to always give the best result possible.

In Image 1 you can see the NI Default Settings (left) compared to my 'Softer' Settings (right) ....

Image 1

It's a very soft starting point (sometimes you won't even see any difference) but you can tweak and change all to suit your need ....

... Then I went on trying to selectively de-noise an image.

The ORIGINAL image was taken indoors and was very dark....


  • After adjusting tone and exposure in Photoshop it revealed a lot of noise. (Image 2 )

Image 2

**Usually, one of the first things I do is checking the Channels ... If I see that most of the noise is concentrated in one Channel only, then, I first run NI on that Channel only ! If the noise is evenly distributed, then I proceed with my normal de-noising procedure.

First, to show the difference, I adjusted the picture using the NI Default Settings. (Image 3 )

Image 3

For those using the NI plug-in for Photoshop:

  • Create a Shadow Mask:
  • Ctrl+Alt+~ (Luminosity Mask ). (Image 4 )
  • Ctrl+Shift+I invert (Shadow Mask ). (Image 5 )
  • Ctrl+J copy the Shadow Mask on its own Layer (Shadow Layer ).
                                    Image 4                       Image 5

  • Working on the Shadow Layer just created, run NI adjusting its settings until you are satisfied with the result. This will affect the dark parts of the image which, usually, are the noisiest...
  • Adjust the Layer Opacity if necessary, and create a Layer Mask (white = reveal all) for the Shadow Layer (read Vikki's excellent Tutorial on Layer Masks ) and, using a fuzzy black brush (adjusting its Opacity), paint over the "oversmoothed" parts you wish to hide or partially hide.

Needless to say, should the light parts of the image be the noisiest, just use the Luminosity mask instead.

Important: to create both Luminosity and Shadows Masks in the same working image do the following:

  • If you have created correction Layers while working on your picture, merge visible at this point.
  • Working on the Merged Layer, create one of the Mask first. (it's indifferent which one).
  • Go back to/re-activate the Merged Layer.
  • Create the second Mask.

For those using the stand alone version of NI the procedure is a bit longer, but surely worth it!!

  • After having basically adjusted tone and exposure of your picture in Photoshop, save it naming it, for example, 'Smooth '. (Image 2 )
  • Open 'Smooth ' in the stand alone version of NI .
  • Remove/Minimize the noise concentrating on the noisiest parts of the image first. When satisfied, save this version as 'Smooth 1 '.
  • Now, back to Photoshop, open 'Smooth 1 ' ...
  • Copy and paste/drag 'Smooth 1 ' on top of all the layers of your original picture, adjust the Layer Opacity if necessary, and create a Layer Mask (white = reveal all) for it.
  • Working on the Layer's Mask, using a fuzzy black brush (adjusting its Opacity), paint over the "oversmoothed" parts you wish to hide or partially hide.

In Image 6 you can see the difference between starting point, NI default settings and my settings ....

Image 6

As for everything, it's a matter of preference ... Some people may prefer the smoother version .... but, aiming at a 'natural' look, as close as possible to the original , I try to avoid the 'oversmoothed plastic' look which some pictures get when de-noised too strongly...

Ciao, ciao ... Flora. :)

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