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Review: Grain Surgery

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  • Review: Grain Surgery

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  • #2
    Great review Doug and a good product too. I wish it weren't so pricey but I guess you get what you pay for. Definately worth checking into.


    • #3
      Hi Doug,

      haven't been able to retouch for a long while, but am now able to get back to it. (I have been lurking, of course). I read your review with interest and tried the demo for Grain Surgery. I have obtained some postcards of my grandparents home town in western Oklahoma and, when trying to enlarge, found they had a strong moire pattern.

      These were postcards I wanted to enlarge so I had scanned them at a high resolution. I have also learned on the PS forum of a product called stair interpolation.

      Anyway, my old scans were awful - terrible pronounced diamond patterns. Scanning at a much lower resolution, using grain surgery and then stair interpolation to enlarge, I got great results. Thanks for the review. I never would have tried this product otherwise.

      Best regards,



      • #4
        Wondering . . .

        Hello Doug,

        Now that you've used "Grain Surgery" for a while, I was just curious how you felt about the software. I found a site that sells the software for $179.00, which is a bit better than the home site.

        I've worked with the demo and found the software impressive, in some instances I can "almost" duplicated the end result, but not quite. There are other times when Grain Surgery blows my mind with outstanding results. I guess like all plugins, they are not a cure-all, but merely a tool for certain types of problems. Seeing that I work on many textured photos and do a little astronomy photography as well, I'm just about to make the plunge to purchase it, I was just wondering about your opinion.


        • #5
          An industry friend recently circulated an email asking "what plugins do you actually use day to day?" The answer was pretty easy for me. I have a lot of plugins, and enjoy using them, but Grain Surgery is the only one that I use because I actually need what it offers.

          It makes compositing so much easier, since it eliminates one of the biggest variables. The time saved there alone would justify it for me. Cleaning up textured originals is more problematic. Sometimes it works, sometimes it softens them too much. I don't use the grain matching functions, but if you need that there's really no other option.
          Learn by teaching
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          • #6
            Seems like a good time to trot out my link to further links on grain and noise removal/addition:


            The free Photoshop 6 actions are _really_ worth the download!

            Stephen Marsh.


            • #7
              Grain Surgery version 2

              According to Visual Infinity Grain Surgery version 2 will be announced soon at Photoshop World (this week, I believe).

              Upgrade for version 1 owners: none.

              DOUG: Any plans to update the GS review accordingly?


              • #8
                <<Seems like a good time to trot out my link to further links on grain and noise removal/addition:


                The free Photoshop 6 actions are _really_ worth the download!>>

                I second that. You're going to put those people out of business.


                • #9
                  Hi Shag-Man, I can't take credit for creating the actions - just listing them in a handy manner, along with other info via links on the subject of grain and noise.

                  The actions in question can be found more directly here:




                  For a while I was working on my own 'degrainer' action with mixed results and thought that you could not do that good a job via an action and the inbuilt Photoshop controls...then I came over the sites action and was blown away - this was much better than anything I had come up with (I had done quite a bit of research and play, but obviously not enough <g>).

                  Two of the above actions are action sets which contain more than just a single denoise action and can be useful in many cases.

                  They are a free alternative to the Fred Miranda commercial actions which only cost a minimal amount - but these are cheaper!

                  When playing with the beta of AlienSkin ImageDoctor's JPEG Repair - I found the 75ppi sites action set to do a much better job, although it was not as interactive or quick the actions results were often better than the filter (not sure of the final version though).

                  Sadly these actions are v6 or higher only, although that does not stop someone from remaking them for v4 or v5.x if they really, really want them and do not have v6.

                  Stephen Marsh.


                  • #10
                    We'll have to see what their upgrade policy will be.

                    I've exchanged several emails with them about GS2 ever since my review, and even back then they said they had some stuff to include that would blow our minds.
                    Learn by teaching
                    Take responsibility for learning


                    • #11
                      Grain Surgery vs. SGBNR

                      Grain Surgery is definitely a good product, but a bit on the pricey side for what most folks need it for - that is, grain removal.

                      I've bumped into a little *free* goodie called SGBNR, which was developed for astrophotography. Seems that this program also can do a decent job on all kinds of photos. I've run a couple of samples through and find that it is capable of results rivaling that of Grain Surgery (at least the Photoshop plug-in version). In fact, if I use SGBNR followed by a despeckle, I often get results I like better than with Grain Surgery.

                      You can get SGBNR at:


                      The installation is not automated, but not really difficult (you just need to copy a couple of files into your Windows system directory). I used the 1.09.58 beta version, as it seems easier to use, requiring less tinkering to get nice results.

                      One of the tests I did was to take one of those old, hard to deal with textured school picture prints (one of those that look like they have embossed dots all over), scan it in and then use both Grain Surgery (demo version) and SGBNR against it. Comparing the result, SGBNR did a pretty good job.

                      Another test was with a fireworks display image scanned from a 35mm negative. This negative and my film scanner have had a hard time getting along in the past - the grain was terrible. Both Grain Surgery and SGBNR did similar handiwork on the image. But SGBNR, in my opinion, removed the grain while staying truer to the original image than Grain Surgery did. In fact, I think the SGBNR results tend to come out sharper with fewer artifacts.

                      I've attached an image comparing a small section of the original fireworks shot with Grain Surgery (demo, the cross-hatch marks are still there) and SGBNR. As I believe will be apparent, the SGBNR result is quite good.

                      I'm going to see how far I can go with SGBNR before forking over the cash for Grain Surgery - I personally think their price-point is too high. There are tons of scanner owners out there who might be buying it in droves if it were, say, $79 - and because many scanners these days come packaged with Photoshop Elements (which the plug-in does work with, btw), the market for the Grain Surgery plug-in is much bigger than they are catering to with their current pricing. Then again, I think I've proven to myself that Grain Surgery is not the only tool capable of doing a good job with grain.

                      My recommendation is to give SGBNR a go and see how well it works for you. There may be cases where Grain Surgery still is the tool of choice, but having SGBNR in the toolbox probably makes sense.
                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        Hi Rick,
                        Welcome to Retouch Pro. That was not only an excellent review and comparison but a great find as well. I did the downloads but haven't gotten any further than that to check it out. looks like you got some real good results with it. How did you find this? If it works that well and is fairly easy to use then that's great. Thanks.


                        • #13

                          I found this by doing an MSN search for "grain reduction" and came up with the following link:


                          I looked at the test pictures and the results peaked my interest. So I did some more searches and found the download page. I also noticed that a lot of astrophotographers seem to be using SGBNR routinely on their images. I figured that if these folks like it that much, I should try it as well...

                          Generally I've found that the defaults work pretty well, though I've had a case or two where tweaking the "uniform mask" setting or the "radius" was helpful. I'm sure that as I learn more about this tool I'll get better at knowing what to mess with and when.

                          I'm sure that there are probably some images that GS can handle better than SGBNR (though I haven't found one yet). In any case, free beats upwards of 200 bills.


                          • #14
                            Here's another astrophoto link which compares various of the grain reduction tools against one another:


                            In this evaluation, GS and SGBNR came out on top. GS was noted for its ability to retain detail in low contrast areas. SGBNR was noted for being relatively artifact-free, but more lossy in low contrast areas than GS.


                            • #15
                              I too was on the verge of purchasing Grain Surgery "until" I tried my own comparsions with other softwares. The URL RickM sent in pertaining to the comet was one that also sparked my interest sometime ago. Being into atronomy I can appreciate software that can remove grain without substantial detail loss to the image. I found by using programs such as EFT or SGBNR, results can be as good, if not better, than programs like Grain Surgery. Although this can be something that is highly subjective (and Grain Surgery does have other features as well) the bottom line, however, is results.

                              Just a thought. The image of the comet Hyukatatake was made available at the site you mentioned. Perhaps something on this order would make an interesting mini-challenge? That is, remove grain and maintain image sharpness (without painting in detail). I've found that in many instances, individual methods used in grain removal and keeping detail can be as distinctive as the software used. Just a thought.


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