Mini Review: onOne Perfect Layers


Super Moderator Emeritus
Washington, DC
One of the strengths of Lightroom is that the already extensive capabilities of the programme can be enhanced or expanded with plugins. These range from free collections of additional presets to very complex and powerful commercial software.

One recently released plugin that falls into the latter category is Perfect Layers from onOne Software. onOne make a range of plugins for Photoshop but Perfect Layers is the first one specifically for Lightroom and offers Lightroom users the ability to use layers without needing to open Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements).

The programme is currently available from the onOne website as a public preview until 30 June so I decided to download it and have a look. Once installed Perfect Layers is accessed through the File menu under Plug-in Extras. All my other plugins are accessed through Photo - Edit In so I'm not sure why Perfect Layers installs itself in a different menu.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

You can use RAW, TIF, JPEG and PSD files in Pefect Layers. When you open any of these in the programme it creates a layered PSD file - the native Photoshop format.

The interface is excellent - possibly because it is so refreshingly simple. Perfect Layers is designed to do one thing and all the controls are geared towards that task. Once opened Perfect Layers offers simple but powerful blending and masking tools to work with.

I have used layers a little in Photoshop Elements but am not an extensive or regular user. That said, Perfect Layers was very intuitive and simple to use and I was able to use the programme's capabilities without any difficulty. At the moment support is limited to a set of instructional videos on the onOne website, but even if you have never used layers these are more than sufficient.

On the onOne website it says "Our goal with Perfect Layers is to deliver the layered file functionality photographers want in Lightroom and in Aperture at a very affordable and reasonable price."

So the key question is, as a Lightroom user will I be adding Perfect Layers to Lightroom? The short answer is, No. This is a good programme, well designed, easy to use and it does exactly as promised. But, once the public preview period is over, the final release version of Perfect Layers will cost $159.95. I'm sure for some photographers that seems like an affordable and reasonable price, but not for this one.

Photographers who make use of layers will already have either Photoshop or Photoshop Elements, both of which can do much more with layers than Perfect Layers. So it is hard to see what the programme adds. Those photographers who do not yet use layers and are interested in experimenting with or adding this capability would be better of getting PSE and getting all the additional functionality.

On the other hand if you already use layers in Photoshop and would like the convenience of being able to access layers from Lightroom without running PS, or if you would like to experiment with using layers and money is not an issue, I would happily recommend Perfect Layers.

As for me, I will be sticking with Photoshop Elements, currently available for $59.99 with rebate on Amazon


Hall of Famer
Great mini-review, Olli. I would love to be able to do all my work in Lightroom, but this doesn't look flexible enough for the 2% of photos where I need to go into PS.


Hall of Famer
The built-in tools in LR3 do a lot of what I used to do with layers, eg darken the sky, etc. The sharpening tools are also great.

The Nik plugins are also very smart. Viveza in particular removes almost all need for masking for the purpose of selective tone adjustments.

I think layers and masking are a thing of the past for most photographers.


betwixt and between
(I need to learn about Viveza, got it but haven't tried it, yet.) Meanwhile, I'm almost completely ignorant about layers...though a local friend of mine has Photoshop and I probably have seen him do his thing with layers.

Thank you for this mini review, olli!


Layers are terribly important to any decent use of retouching. For example, you can't even so something simple like local dodge and burn without layers. So this plugin meets a real need, but I agree the price is ridiculous!

The Nik plugins incorporate a certain sort of smart masking but do not let you do any custom masking, last time I checked. You have to place those circular (only) regions and hope the software guesses what you want to do. Which it does, sometimes. For those who don't spend big money on Nik stuff, a cheap (twenty bucks) layers plugin would allow far more control over every aspect of image processing. If it was priced that way every single photographer should buy it.

Or just get GIMP for free. But that requires a round trip.


Ontario, Canada
For example, you can't even so something simple like local dodge and burn without layers.

We may not be talking about the same thing, but I now do my local dodging and burning in LR3, via the adjustment brush. It's easy, accurate and versatile. Admittedly I don't do a lot, but it's there...

Oops - forgot to thank Olli for the review: exactly the stuff I wanted to know. Thank you.