Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro

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Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro

Since I reviewed MacPhun’s Tonality Pro a few weeks ago I’ve been asked by several people which is best – Tonality Pro or Silver Efex 2 Pro. It’s a subjective call, but let’s start by taking a look at some of the points of differentiation between the two programs.

1. Tonality Pro only works on the Mac. If you have a Windows PC, the discussion stops here.

2. Price. Tonality Pro costs $69.99, Silver Efex Pro 2 costs $149 (both prices in US dollars). However, Silver Efex Pro 2 comes in a bundle with six other programs. If you intend to use the other software in the bundle, Silver Efex Pro 2 represents much better value for money. But if you’re just looking for a great black and white plug-in at a good price, then Tonality Pro is hard to beat.

Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro

3. The history panel of Silver Efex Pro 2 is unbeatable. Tonality Pro has nothing like this. Silver Efex Pro remembers every edit you make, and lets you compare the current version of the photo with any stage in its history. You can also compare two earlier stages against each other. It means you can continually check to see whether the edits you are making are indeed improving the photo, and return to any earlier stage at any time.

4. Tonality Pro has layers. Yes, that’s right, and it’s the only black and white plug-in that I know of that does so. Just like Photoshop each layer comes with an Opacity slider that you can use to control the strength of the effect you have applied. The use of layers gives you a lot of control, and lets you apply effects as strongly or subtly as you like.

5. Tonality Pro uses brushes, Silver Efex Pro uses Control Points. While these are more or less two different ways of achieving the same thing, brushes do seem a bit easier to use. However, Control Points are a powerful tool, it just takes time to work out how to get the best out of them.

6. Silver Efex Pro’s tonal controls are more sophisticated. In this respect, Silver Efex Pro has the edge over Tonality Pro. It feels more like a professional tool.

Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro

7. Tonality Pro has a lot more presets, over 150 compared to 38 in Silver Efex Pro 2. Some of the Tonality Pro presets retain some colour, meaning that you can use this software with colour photos as well as those you want to convert to monochrome.

Tonality Pro’s presets are extremely versatile. Each one comes with an Opacity slider so you can set the strength of the effect. Many of the presets look overdone at full strength, but you can dial them back to suit the photo you are using them on.

You can also add the preset to a new layer and use brushes to create a mask determining which parts of the photo are affected by the preset. You can apply one preset to the background, and another to the foreground, setting the strength of each with the Opacity slider. There is a lot of creative potential here.

8. Film emulation. Silver Efex Pro can emulate 18 different types of black and white film. If you would like your digital photos, or at least some of them, to look like they may have been taken with film, then Silver Efex Pro gives you the tools to do so (note: you may also be interested in DxO FilmPack 4 or B&W Effects 2 if this is your aim). Tonality Pro has 19 film emulation presets which do a similar thing. If there’s a specific film you’d like to emulate, you should check whether one (or both) plug-ins has a preset for it.


Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro

9. Tonality Pro has several features that don’t appear in Silver Efex Pro 2. You can apply a Glow effect (useful for portraits), a texture overlay or a Lens Blur effect (note: Alien Skin’s Exposure 6 has a more sophisticated Lens Blur tool).


In Mastering Lightroom: Book Three – Black & White I state that Silver Efex Pro 2 is simply the best black and white plug-in you can buy for Lightroom. That was before Tonality Pro came along. Now, if I had to choose between the two, and tell you which is best, I would pick – Silver Efex Pro 2. It seems to be more of a professional tool for obtaining black and white conversions, and is extremely good at what it does. However, Tonality Pro does have some interesting features (not to mention lots of presets) that Silver Efex Pro doesn’t.

The gap is very narrow, and my preference may not be the best choice for you. The best way to see is to download the trial for each one (links below) and try them out for yourself. Don’t forget some of the other fine black and white plug-ins out there either (if I’ve written about them I’ve included the links below as well).


You can learn more about Tonality Pro, and download the trial, from MacPhun’s website.

You can learn more about Silver Efex Pro 2, and download the trial, from the Nik Collection website.

Further resources

Learn more about black and white photography with these articles:

Converting Photos to Black & White with Tonality Pro

How to Create the Black & White Matte Look in Lightroom

Creating Art with Topaz Labs Clean

An Introduction to Alien Skin’s Exposure 5: Part One – Black & White

DxO FilmPack 4

An Introduction to Silver Efex Pro 2

The Key to Successful Black & White Photography

Seeing in Black & White

And a little inspiration:

The Art of Black and White Film Photography

Inspirational Black and White Photos

50 Beautiful Black and White Photos (with apologies for the missing photos, one of the hazards of linking directly to Flickr)

Mastering Lightroom ebook

Alien Skin Exposure 5 reviewMastering Lightroom: Book Three – Black & White introduces you to the wonderful world of black and white photography in Lightroom. It’s a complete guide to working in monochrome that teaches you to see in black and white then convert your Raw files using Lightroom to create stunning monochrome images. Everything you need to know is covered, including the most popular black and white plug-ins and walkthroughs showing you step-by-step how I processed three of my favourite monochrome images.

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One Response to “Silver Efex Pro 2 vs. Tonality Pro”

  1. DavidOB says:

    Any article that starts with a shot of Wimmy is sure to be a hit with me. 🙂

    I currently use LR and/or Silver Efex Pro for BW conversions and am not unhappy, but am always looking for new things. The curse of being a tech junkie.

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