Gimp Plug-in Review: Urban Acid

September 19, 2009

This week we’re going to look at the Urban Acid plug-in that you can find here. If you don’t remember how to install the plug-ins, go back to this entry for a refresher.

I was curious about this plug-in because I’ve seen a lot of Photoshop users on flickr talk about using an Urban Acid action, and I often liked the results, so I wanted to check out the Gimp plug-in with the same name. Apparently, Urban Acid started from one guy who did a lot of urban/street photography and was editing his shots in a cross-processed way, so he created an action for it, and now it’s become pretty darn popular.

Anyway, let’s play with it! Since this was originally created for urban/street photography, I tried to pick one of my urban photos – this is a close-up of a loading dock at an abandoned Kids R Us store near me:

Loading Dock - Unedited

Once it’s installed, you’ll find it under the script under the Script-Fu menu, then Artistic –> Urban Acid.

There’s really not much to the dialog, the only thing you can select is the layer opacity, and since that’s easy to change after-the-fact, I suggest you just always keep the default of 80:

Urban Acid Dialog

Here’s the difference the Urban Acid made – the top of the photo is unedited, the bottom is with the default Urban Acid settings:

Using Urban Acid

Here’s the final image with the default settings:

Urban Acid Default

I actually like it, but I must also admit it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting/hoping for. I wanted something a bit more dark and maybe less pop of color. So, I decided to play a bit. I kept the opacity at 80%, but switched the blending mode of the layer to Multiply instead:

Layer Mode set to Multiply

The image now has a darker, dirtier feeling to it, and I like that:

Urban Acid, layer mode Multiply

Let’s look at another image from that same Kids R Us photowalk – a fire hydrant in the parking lot. Once again, here’s the original image:

Fire Hydrant - Unedited

I ran the Urban Acid script and then bumped up the opacity of the layer to 90% and here’s the resulting image:

Urban Acid - opacity 90%

I really liked what it did to the background, but the hydrant itself is a bit too bright and I’ve lost of some of the detail in there. Since this entry is about a review of the Urban Acid script and not a tutorial on layer masks, I’m not going to go into too much detail here, but what I did was use the Fuzzy Select tool to select just the bright yellow hydrant and then added a layer mask to the Effect Layer and painted in the selected area with a gray – so that it didn’t completely erase the effect, but just toned it done, which resulted in this:

Masked out the bright fire hydrant

Finally, just for fun, I decided to try the script on a self-portrait. Here’s the before and after:

Drinking wine - Unedited Drinking Wine - Urban Acid

Hee. I actually kinda like it! A little fun and different.

Overall Impression

I’m a big fan of simple scripts like this because they’re quick and easy to use. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from this script, but I don’t think these results were it. That being said, I was able to easily tweak the settings of either the layer mode or the opacity to get something pretty close to what I wanted.

I’m curious about how well it matches up with the Urban Acid action for Photoshop, but since I don’t have Photoshop, there’s really no way for me to tell.

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  • Superkru1969

    This is a cool effect. I like how it enhances colors. It makes things look more real, especially in your self portrait. The original seems a little flat; the urban acid one looks like a photo taken with almost perfect lighting. Much better!
    Thanks for showing us this!

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