RadLab Review + Tutorial = A Totally Rad Retorial!

If you are a Photoshop CSx user, or even a Photoshop Elements user for that matter, and you use actions as part of your post-production workflow, chances are you have used (or, at the very least heard of) Totally Rad Actions. They are one of the most, if not the most, popular sets of actions available for Photoshop, particularly among wedding and portrait shooters; and for good reason. They allow you to create a fantastic variety of effects and styles with a huge amount of control and flexibility. There’s also a very active community where users can post and share their “recipes”, much the way you would share a preset for Lightroom. The problem with using actions is that, no matter how great they may be, you never really know how they are going to look until you actually apply them to your photograph. If you are trying to create a multi-layered or complex type of style or effect, you may find yourself in a loop of “apply-undo-make tweaks-apply again” while you try to get the right look.

RADLAB REVOLUTION
With the recent release of RadLab, Doug Boutwell and the gang at Totally Rad have completely changed the way you will think about using actions. Doug was kind enough to send us over a copy of RadLab to review and share with you and, honestly, even though I’ve only been using it for a few days, aside from a couple of very minor issues (personal preferences, really), this is an amazing piece of software. As you will see in the “Retorial” below, the interface is fast, intuitive and really makes it fun to just play, trying out the various “Stylets” to see what you can come up with. RadLab is stocked with 50 awesome actions from the Totally Rad sets, as well as 28 brand new effects, found only in RadLab. The number of Stylets is impressive, and though they are all grouped by type such as Black & White or Camera Effects (you are also able to “favorite” Stylets), I’d like to see additional sorting options, such as alphabetically or by most used. With nearly 80 Stylets in the initial release, many with unique names like “Cool As A  Cucumber”, trying to keep track of what is a Basic Adjustment vs. a Modern Color can get a little iffy. That being said, RadLab is a joy to use. Moving your cursor over Stylet thumbnails yields virtually real time updates of your image preview, while applying a Stylet also updates all of the visible thumbnails with the results of the current stack. Stylets can be individually adjusted using a variety of sliders affecting parameters such as strength, size, intensity, etc. Once you have created your own recipe, you can save it to your local library or export it and share it with other users, who are able to import it directly into their copy of RadLab.

SAMPLES

RadLab - The Queen MaryRadLab - B

CONCLUSION & RATING

RadLab is a fantastic product, though it will be interesting to see how it is received by current owners of the Totally Rad Actions sets. Personally, I think the potential time saved by the visual interface alone is worth the purchase price. That being said, if you don’t already have the Totally Rad Actions, RadLab is a must have tool to add to your kit. The fact that you can use RadLab on 16-bit images (not in Elements) and use it on video clips makes it pretty much a no-brainer. A demo is available if you really need to try it first, but we think you’ll love it.

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17 comments

  • Cparroco February 1, 2012   Reply →

    Hello, I’m fairly new to photoshop as I’ve mostly used lightroom and updated to photoshop for a better control over local adjustments. This product sounds great, but I’m not too familiar with smart objects, all I see from the youtube review is that it ends up flattening the layers (if the actions are running within the plugin) leaving just one picture in the end. Therefore you can’t really tweak any opacity or use any brushes for local adjustments? Am I right?
    If so, I’m not understanding very well the difference between radlab and lightroom).(I’ve tried “TotalRad – Dirty Pictures”, and I like that you are left with a mask that you can paint in white to adjust/remove the effect locally, this is what made me curious about that aspect for RadLab)

    Thanks

    • Faded + Blurred February 2, 2012  

      Actually, in the video review, I did apply RadLab directly to the layer, not to a Smart Object, which is an option. You may set RadLab to create a Smart Object before running, leaving you with the ability tweak or re-apply the RadLab adjustments as well as mask out where they do or don’t affect your image.
      As for RadLab and Lightroom, they are similar in that both allow you to edit visually (Presets vs. Recipes). Lightroom gives you control over virtually all editable aspects of your photo (exposure, color, contrast, etc), whereas RadLab assumes that you have made those types of adjustments already and are now wanting to add “style” or “character”, if that makes sense.
      Hope that helps.

    • Faded + Blurred February 2, 2012  

      Actually, in the video review, I did apply RadLab directly to the layer, not to a Smart Object, which is an option. You may set RadLab to create a Smart Object before running, leaving you with the ability tweak or re-apply the RadLab adjustments as well as mask out where they do or don’t affect your image.As for RadLab and Lightroom, they are similar in that both allow you to edit visually (Presets vs. Recipes). Lightroom gives you control over virtually all editable aspects of your photo (exposure, color, contrast, etc), whereas RadLab assumes that you have made those types of adjustments already and are now wanting to add “style” or “character”, if that makes sense.Hope that helps.

  • Tonje H October 25, 2011   Reply →

    So how I understand it, this is something that is being downloaded to ones photoshop, to be used there? Do you know if it works in Photoshop elements 9 as well? Or just the CS5 version?

    • F&B October 25, 2011  

      That’s it exactly, Tonje. It’s a plugin for Photoshop that works in both CS and Elements. When you install it, you’ll see a floating Radlab launch panel in the interface. They have a demo available if you want to try it out before you buy.

    • Faded + Blurred February 2, 2012  

      That’s it exactly, Tonje. It’s a plugin for Photoshop that works in both CS and Elements. When you install it, you’ll see a floating Radlab launch panel in the interface. They have a demo available if you want to try it out before you buy.

  • Suzy Bundy August 29, 2011   Reply →

    Which RAD LAB has the stylet approach. The newest version for someone who likes to play with photos.???

    • F&B August 29, 2011  

      There’s only one version of RadLab. You might be confusing it with the Totally Rad Action sets, which are a different product.

    • Faded + Blurred February 2, 2012  

      There’s only one version of RadLab. You might be confusing it with the Totally Rad Action sets, which are a different product.

  • pamelapatch August 11, 2011   Reply →

    your before and after examples are reversed :-)

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