NEXT. The Next Generation Local Contrast Enhancer


What’s about adding contrast to an image to make it pop whithout loosing any detail? NEXT is an easy-to-use and powerful Photoshop plugin to improve and finely tune the local contrast of an image, using a smart algorithm which avoids the clipping issues typical of methods like shadows/highlights. The user interface is straightforward and clean, with just one slider, allowing the user to customize the effect in a simple way.

NEXT Advanced Local Contrast Enhancer Interface

From ALCE To NEXT


ALCE has been our bestselling product for many years and, since the release of ALCE2, its core functionality has not changed significantly. Recently, thanks to the know-how achieved developing plugins such as Wow! and Mask Equalizer, we set out to make this outstanding product even better by improving some of ALCE’s weaknesses. Specifically, we focused on: creating a live preview, improving the embedded halos suppress tool, adding three masking sliders and finally switching to Quad-Core processing and 32bit computing capabilities, not available in Photoshop. The result was the Next Generation Local Contrast Enhancer, which we decided to rename NEXT.

Live Preview


ALCE missed the preview. Its routine was very complex, and it has been necessary to improve the speed consistently. NEXT is at least three times faster compared to ALCE at 8 bit and eight times faster at 16bit.
It means virtually live preview.

Halos Control


ALCE embedded a halos suppress tool. We have consistently improved it but, when needed you can deactivate it to get even further contrast. Despite this, we still were not satisfied and added a brand new masking option.

Masking


We added three new masking sliders. They are hidden when you open the panel in compact mode. You can now progressively mask highlights, mid-tones, and shadows. Works well in shadows and to remove halos in flat backgrounds.

32bit Core


ALCE was a script; NEXT is a plug-in. It means that it uses it works internally at 32bit without color quantization and stretching the local histogram much better. With NEXT gradations, highlights and shadows are smooth as never before.

Why NEXT


Whether used as a final touch-up tool or early in the workflow to set up the structure of an image, Local Contrast Enhancement is a processing technique which improves realism and tri-dimensionality in pictures: it’s like being in front of the subject rather than a mere bidimensional reproduction of it. 

Here below a sample of the plugin at work. NEXT has significantly improved contrast and sharpness. The detail of shadows and highlights not only has been preserved but even improved. Take a look in the area under the chairs or the candles lights. This possible because the contrast enhancement is not global, but works locally managing in a different way the different areas. 

Palazzo Reale di Cagliari, Italy. OriginalPalazzo Reale di Cagliari, Italy. Image tuned by NEXT

Palazzo Reale di Cagliari Photo By Francesco Piras

€32 – Multi-licenses available

Full functions version with watermark

Improvement of the local contrast


Humans don’t see things like cameras do: the software running in our brain and continuously processing the visual information passed on by the eyes is enormously more sophisticated than any camera chipset. When we look at things out in the world, we’re continuously calibrating and extracting detail depending on the subject we are looking at and also on its surroundings. We were gifted with a built-in local contrast enhancement routine which always runs, and that’s why the comparison of the pictures shown below, before and after the application of our tool, are remarkable examples of successful image processing.

But, what is the local contrast?


A global adjustment of contrast sets the balance of the entire picture: the standard method is that of establishing a highlight point, a shadow point, and then re-allocate contrast in the mid tones, possibly even tuning quarter tones, and three-quarter tones. Whatever tool we use for this, the fact is that a lot of contrast still lies, hidden and unexploited, in the image. We need to process every area of the picture separately to make the most out of it, so that all of the image’s features may be greatly intensified.

The Radius. The core feature of NEXT


The radius value defines how local the contrast will be. Easy to say, not so easy to explain! We offer you three ways to understand how radius works.

  1. Watch the Radius tutorial below. It’s about ALCE but the working the principle is the same.
  2. Take a couple of your standard files. Apply NEXT with different radius values and compare them. Then reduce the file at 25% and re-apply the same values. This will help you to understand what file size sensitive means in practice.
  3. Download an interesting test file.

Excellent local sharpening, 3D look


A standard way to apply a form of contrast enhancement which mimics a “pure” local contrast routine is known as HiRaLoAm sharpening, after Dan Margulis’ definition. It is, in practice, Photoshop’s Unsharp Masking filter with High Radius and Low Amount. If properly controlled, it yields remarkable results. Nevertheless, Local Contrast Enhancement is a different algorithm, conceptually and practically. Still, to an inexperienced eye, the processed image looks sharper as if some kind of filter to boost three-dimensionality were applied.

More detail and structure in the shadows without any detail loss in the highlights


A standard way to apply a form of contrast enhancement which mimics a “pure” local contrast routine is known as HiRaLoAm sharpening, after Dan Margulis’ definition. It is, in practice, Photoshop’s Unsharp Masking filter with High Radius and Low Amount. If properly controlled, it yields remarkable results. Nevertheless, Local Contrast Enhancement is a different algorithm, conceptually and practically. Still, to an inexperienced eye, the processed image looks sharper as if some kind of filter to boost three-dimensionality were applied.

Related topics


Contrast Enhancement Evolution. From Alce to Next, to Shape

Contrast Enhancement Evolution. From Alce to Next, to Shape

SHAPE allowed us to add key functions that were difficult, if not impossible, to implement in NEXT. We designed SHAPE using NEXT as a starting point, and improve it in five areas.
1. Introducing the multiple contrast mode. 2. Fixing the halos issue. 3. Adding a sharpening slider. 4. Adding Color boost control. 5. Allowing full customization.

The Front Page of NEXT's User Manual

Compatibility, version and manual


Photoshop CC and later
Mac: OSX Lion and later
WIN: Windows XP and later, 64bit only
Not compatible with CS6, sorry
Current Version: 1.0.6
Read or download the user manual

Toggle to access the version history

1.0.5
Fixed an issue with older AMD Processors.

1.0.4
Fixed an issue with file size including prime numbers.

1.0.3
Fixed an issue that crashed PS when Mask Equalizer and NEXT were used together.

€32 – Multi-licenses available

Full functions version with watermark

Upgrade from ALCE to NEXT at €19.2


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Still on CS6 or older Photoshop versions?


Get the same 3D look with ALCE Local Contrast Enhancer