How to Get Started with Google’s Free Nik Plugins for Photography

Kannon Yamada 12-05-2016

Google made its Nik Collection plug-ins completely free. The plugins work with photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, Affinity Photo, and GIMP 2 on platforms as diverse as Windows and OS X (and Linux with WINE Run Windows Applications on Linux (or Mac) With WINE Read More ). This article covers the basics of the Nik plug-ins, and some configuration tips for GIMP.


Where are the Nik Plugins?

Nik Software developed the plugins for professional photographers – it originally cost over $500. Google purchased Nik Software and dropped the price to $150. Then – in a surprise move — it made the plugins completely free. Installation won’t take much time or effort for most photo editors (GIMP is another matter).

Installing the Google Nik Plugins

There are two ways to use the Nik plugins: as standalone executables, or as plugins. The standalone executables do not require an external image editor, although they do require installation on the host system. When used as a plugin, the plugins require an external image editor, like Photoshop, Lightroom or GIMP.


For most photo-editing software, installing the Nik plugins requires little effort. The installer automatically detects most commercial photo-editors, so installation requires clicking through a few menus. Like all plugins, users can then access the filters through their photo editing program. The plug-ins are located wherever your software stores filters and other effects. Unfortunately, the configuration for GIMP 2 requires more effort.

In Lightroom and Photoshop the process is dead simple: First, Just download the plugin (available for Mac and Windows) and run the installer. It will prompt users for their language. After clicking through a few menus, the installer prompts users to select their photo editor.

nik collection installation plugin location


The installer should automatically detect any pre-installed photo editors. Choose the one you need. After installation, the plugins show up as filters in your editor. In Lightroom, here’s how it looks:

adobe light room filters

Standalone Executables

Warning: If you use the plug-in as a standalone, it overwrites the original photo. Before using the plug-ins, make a copy of all images.

After downloading and installing the Nik Collection, users only need to drag-and-drop images onto the executable in a file manager to get them working. Navigate to the folder where the NIK plugins are located. Normally this is C:\Programs\Google\Nikcollection.


nik collection windows file path

Using your file manager, open the NikCollection folder. Then, in a separate window, drag and drop a copy of the photo onto a plug-in. If you own a 32-bit computer, use the 32-bit plug-ins. This will launch the program. For example, the HDR Efex Pro plugin interface looks like this:

hdr efex pro example of standalone

Install Google Nik Plugins in GIMP 2

GIMP doesn’t fully work with the Nik plugins. Only three of the 32-bit (the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit What's the Difference Between 32-Bit and 64-Bit Windows? What's the difference between 32-bit and 64-bit Windows? Here's a simple explanation and how to check which version you have. Read More ) plugins work. But they don’t work by default. Users need to install two other plugins to get them functioning: ShellOut and Photoshop Plug-in (PSPI). Download them both and unzip them (how to How to Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z and Other Common Archives Were you ever faced with a .rar file and wondered how to open it? Fortunately, managing ZIP files and other compressed archives is simple with the right tools. Here is what you need to know. Read More unzip an archive How to Extract Files From ZIP, RAR, 7z and Other Common Archives Were you ever faced with a .rar file and wondered how to open it? Fortunately, managing ZIP files and other compressed archives is simple with the right tools. Here is what you need to know. Read More ).


You will need to edit the file to include the following lines of code, just after the entry for “programlist = [“:

["DFine 2", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\Dfine 2\\Dfine 2 (64-Bit)\\Dfine2.exe\"", "png"],
["Sharpener Pro 3", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\Sharpener Pro 3\\Sharpener Pro 3 (64-Bit)\\SHP3OS.exe\"", "png"],
["Viveza 2", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\Viveza 2\\Viveza 2 (64-Bit)\\Viveza 2.exe\"", "png"],
["Color Efex Pro 4", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\Color Efex Pro 4\\Color Efex Pro 4 (64-Bit)\\Color Efex Pro 4.exe\"", "jpg"],
["Analog Efex Pro 2", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\Analog Efex Pro 2\\Analog Efex Pro 2 (64-Bit)\\Analog Efex Pro 2.exe\"", "jpg"],
["HDR Efex Pro 2", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\HDR Efex Pro 2\\HDR Efex Pro 2 (64-Bit)\\HDR Efex Pro 2.exe\"", "jpg"],
["Silver Efex Pro 2", "\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Nik Collection\\Silver Efex Pro 2\\Silver Efex Pro 2 (64-Bit)\\Silver Efex Pro 2.exe\"", "jpg"]

Any text editor can modify these files, but I recommend using Note++ (it’s easy to use Soup Up The Notepad++ Text Editor With Plugins From The Notepad Plus Repository [Windows] Notepad++ is a worthy replacement for Windows’ in-built and much loved text editor, and comes highly recommended if you’re a programmer, web designer or simply someone who finds themselves in need of a powerful plain... Read More ). Along with Sublime Text (Sublime text is cross-platform Try Out Sublime Text 2 For Your Cross-Platform Code Editing Needs Sublime Text 2 is a cross-platform code editor I only recently heard about, and I have to say I'm really impressed despite the beta label. You can download the full app without paying a penny... Read More ), Note++ significantly improves on the default text editor in OS X and Windows. Remember to save the file before closing it. The final edited file will look something like this:

shellout python file

You can install both plugins by copying them into GIMP’s plugins directory. GIMP’s plug-ins folder is normally located under C:\Programs\GIMP 2\lib\gimp\2.0\plugins. Copy both and into that directory.


gimp plugins directory

Once you’re finished, after launching GIMP, you should receive access to at least three of the seven plugins (or perhaps more). Technically, you only need the plugin, but after some trial and error, I found everything worked best when was used alongside PSPI.

The Google Nik Plugins

The Nik plugins include seven filter categories:

Analog Efex Pro 2: The Analog Efex Pro filters simulate different kinds of lenses and camera types.

Color Efex Pro 4: The Color Efex pro filters offer excellent options for retouching photos. In particular, its contrast filters provide a means of taking underexposed or overexposed photos to the next level.

Silver Efex Pro 2: If you enjoy black-and-white pictures, the Silver Efex Pro filters are for you. The Silver Efex Pro filters can increase the perceived depth of your photos.

Viveza 2: The Viveza plugin can target specific areas within a photograph for layer masks. The filters can adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and other elements. In particular, the Viveza filters can help a lot of textures stand out, similar to Adobe’s AltaLux filter.

HDR Efex Pro 2: HDF Efex Pro can improve contrast and other elements that are normally not particularly visible in the original picture. It specializes in HDR photos, although it works on other kinds of photos as well.

Sharpener Pro 3: This plugin can improve otherwise unobserved details in photos. It compares favorably to the AltaLux plugin (which is really good).

Dfine: I use this plugin for reducing the presence of noise in underexposed photos or when the ISO setting falls too low. There are other plugins with similar functionality, but out of all the ones I’ve tried, Dfine offers the best results.

Should You Install the Nik Collection Plugins?

All of the filters are good, but both Dfine and Color Efex Pro are top-tier plugins — for Adobe users. For GIMP users, it’s more trouble than it’s worth. I recommend using plugins designed for GIMP Better Than Photoshop? Make GIMP Even More Powerful With These Plugins We all know that Photoshop is the premiere application for image and graphics manipulation. It simply does everything you could possibly want, which is the reason why most professionals choose it and why your wallet... Read More , which offer similar functionality, with no installation issues.

Has anyone tried out the Nik Collection plug-ins? What were your experiences?

Related topics: Adobe Photoshop, GIMP, Photography.

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  1. vickyg2003
    February 22, 2019 at 10:58 am

    Installing the Nik Collection on GIMP 2.10.8 wasn't nearly as hard as every article and youtube that viewed seemed to make it out to be.

    Install the Nick Collection via an executable
    Then get the shellout python script from alter vista
    and copy the to


  2. Pradeep
    December 15, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Has anyone tried to link the Nik plugins to GIMP on an OsX device? If yes how to go about it? Thanks in advance for the information.

  3. Anonymous
    May 14, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    I haven't heard of these before, but they look useful. Will try when I get home.