Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of the Total Eclipse of the Moon from my backyardOn my Tidbits Blog from time to time I have listed rules that I like to follow when taking images and post-processing them. I thought I would present my rules again since I really do try to use them as guidelines. So here we go!

10.  Use What You Know!

I like to remind myself that I don’t have to keep changing my workflow to incorporate that new technique I just tried  into it. Sometimes it is better and faster to use what you know, especially if just doing a little processing of an image. It’s fun to try new things, but sometimes the old “tried and true techniques” are still the best. The image above of the recent total eclipse of the moon was processed very simply (see my Total Eclipse of the Moon! Tidbits Blog for post-processing info) and quickly to be able to get it posted early in the day.

9.  Get the Shot!

So get the shot, even if you do not have your best equipment with you – it might turn out great anyway. Now that the new Smart Phones take such good photos, there is no excuse to not get “the shot” – may not be as sharp or the colors as great as your expensive camera, but it is the camera you have with you – so take the shot! With all the things you can do in Lightroom and Photoshop, you may be able to fix up the shot to look great. Also another great little tip I have heard from so many photographers and I try to remember is – once you take the shot, turn around and see what is behind you – it might be even better!

8.  Get Textures From Objects Inside Your Home!

This can be really fun to do, especially if you want to create an image that is totally yours. For example, in Photoshop I added a texture created from a shot of the corner of a large oil painting of a beautiful white cat in my living room to use on this image. (It can be downloaded here.) It is medium gray with lots of paint stroke texture that I use a lot on my images. I took some of the lace in my dining room curtains and even of my living room couch material. The kitchen countertop also made a nice dark texture. Try going around your home to see if you have some interesting textures that could spice up an image.

7.  Check Out Your Local History
Image of Holler Fountain at Stetson University in Deland, FloridaJust because you don’t get to go on that exotic vacation this year, it can be very satisfying to visit some of the local historical places near you. I cut out newspaper articles to some of the unknown treasures in the area and keep them in a file for a day when I need something new to shoot. In fact the Holler Fountain at Stetson University (link is webcam of fountain) above is an example of some local history in Deland, Florida, that I took a couple weeks ago. So don’t get discouraged – just pick up the local newspaper or surf on the internet for historical places in your area.

6.  Try Something New!

Image of some pretty Easter Flowers painted in Corel PainterI have been learning Corel Painter (see above showing my progress) which is something new for me. It is a challenge to learn, but it is trying something new and that helps keep me interested. I will probably never be as proficient with it as Photoshop, but it is still fun to try some new skills. I also want to try shooting more celestial shots, possibly through a telescope – I think that would be a lot of fun!

5.  Just Step Outside and Look Around!

Image of a singing bird in an oak tree If you find yourself bored because you have not taken any interesting images recently, just step outside and take a look around. Take pictures of your neighbors, go for a walk and shoot some local wildlife, or try some macro shots.

4.  See What Others are Doing

I have found that if I do not keep looking for new ways of doing Photoshop and graphics, I get into a real rut. Check out my Digital Lady Syd’s Favs page for some excellent reference books and websites/blogs I follow. There is a lot of inspiration out there – you just have to find it! So take some time every now and then and see what is happening. You might see something that will really inspire you and help with your digital darkroom skills.

3. Look Back at What You Have Done

I discovered there are many techniques I have used quite effectively in the past and had totally forgotten about – it added a whole new perspective to what I have been working on recently. And some of the effects I did not think were that great a few years ago, I now think turned out quite nice.  Guess it is just good to see where you have been so you can see where you are going. Next time you are stuck, take a few minutes and go back to see what was going on when you were first working on images. You might get a new inspiration that will help get you back on track (like I did)!

2.  Take the Time to Have Fun!

If you are not having fun, I can’t see that it’s worth taking the time to do – I would go do something else I really have fun doing!

1.   Take the Time to Experiment!

Kaleidoscope image of a building Since Photoshop is such a large program, it is not at all hard to try different effects to just see what you might get. This keeps you from being bored and gives a little bit of a creative edge when doing the same post-processing over and over. Sometimes you get some really interesting results like using a filter on an image that did not look like much originally. That’s what happened with the image above that used where Pixel Bender‘s Kaleidoscope filter was used on an old building in Photoshop CS5. When stuck and not sure where to go next in Photoshop, just EXPERIMENT.

If you want to see the all the rules as previously blogged, check out my Tidbits Blog in the sidebar Categories, click on Digital Lady Syd’s Rules – they will all pop up. I hope this gave you a little inspiration and some new ideas to keep you trying out new things and checking out a few old ones just to keep it all “fun.”…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Flowers in Pots growing in sunlight on a table I am basically a Photoshop kind of gal, but I thought I would do a quick post on a wonderful free application from Nik Software called Snapseed – after all they do make some of the best Photoshop plug-ins around. Snapseed is by far my favorite photo app for my phone. Since I do not use an an IPhone but an Android phone, my choices are much more limited with what can be done on a phone – but Snapseed has so many options, I am not sure you need much more. The app does not appear to run any differently with either operating system. What I do like is that I have been able to get some fabulous results just by fiddling around with it on my phone, especially when I have few minutes to spare – therefore I thought I would just show you what results I got and a few things I learned about using it. Below are listed all the individual tools and slider setting amounts of the app. I found the app confusing at first without this info, so maybe this will help those of you who are familiar with the app, but still would like to know the settings. The image of the flowers in the window used the Vintage settings and was my first attempt using the app – it really is easy to get a beautiful effect.

Since there is no history associated with the manipulated images, I have no idea what settings were used in several of my images shown here. The point is that it is really easy to get an effect you like by just sliding your finger across your screen and tapping icons. Google has a great link for all the questions concerning compatibility and image sizes with the various types of phones it can be used on so check out this help link. The actual app can be downloaded from your App store on your phone by just searching for Snapseed. The image below was taken at the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad Stunt Show at Universal Studios-Orlando. Lots of Detail Structure was added to this image.
Image of the set from the Eighth Voyage of Sinbad's Stunt Show at Universal StudiosSome basics to know: Press the Question Mark (?) in each area to open an overlay on how to swipe on the image to get the different effects. Press the Mountain icon in upper right to see what the original image looked like. Whenever crossed arrows are available, keep tapping the icon for different versions of the effect being applied. Also, if you make some changes you do not like, press the X on the bottom left of each tool to remove effect instead of the checkmark to apply. If you totally dislike what you have done, there is an arrow in the upper left under the Snapseed symbol – press it and you can Revert your image to its original state. Now each tool is listed with some basic setting and information listed for each.

Automatic – Only Contrast ( 0 to +100) and Color Correction (0 to +100). Pretty basic sliders here and there are better ones below.

Selective Adjust – Brightness (-100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100), and Saturation (-100 to +100) choices – first must click on the circled Plus icon at bottom left center to add a control point and pinch and drag to size it for a specific area to adjust, then move sliders left or right. Note that there is a red overlay which indicates the parts of the image affected by the set control point. Another point can be added by just clicking on the Plus icon again and dragging and pinching in image. If you click directly on the circle, you will get a copy and paste option, if you click just outside it, you can change and move the sliders. This too is the best to use for localized adjustments to the image. Most tools are global adjustments.

Tune Image – Brightness (-100 to +100), Ambience (-100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100), Saturation (-100 to +100), Shadows (0 to +100), and Warmth (-100 to +100) – Wonderful options for perking up your photos, especially Ambience which can give a soft look to your images when set to a negative amount. It also balances out the exposure with some subtle contrast and color applied. The Shadows slider opens up the blacks like Shadows in Camera Raw does.

Straighten – Just a basic grid here that can be dragged in and out and the image can also be rotated 90 degrees around by clicking on the arrow icons at bottom. Use this tool first if your horizon is off.

Crop – In this section there is also a grid that can be dragged in or out or choices for different aspect ratios by clicking on the icon to the left at the bottom center. Set this to Original instead of Free if the image aspect ratio is to be retained. Use the icon on right of center to change from portrait to landscape or vice versa.

Details – Sharpening (0 to +100) and Structure (0 to +100) settings that both run from 0 to 100. Click on the Eyeglass icon left of bottom center to zoom in on an area to see results of the settings. It can be dragged anywhere in the image. I really love this feature. The Structure slider adds micro contrast and looks for edges – really a nice effect and different from Sharpening. Don’t add too much or it looks overdone, but it does wonders on pets and male portraits.

Black and White – Brightness (-100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100) and Grain (0 to +100). If you click on the icon to the left of center, depending on your which slider you are using, you get other presets like Neutral, Contrast, Bright, Dark, Film, and Darken Sky. If you click the icon to the right of center, you can choose from Neutral, Red Orange, Yellow and Green filters to apply.

Vintage – Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (0 to +100), Texture Strength (0-100), Center Size (0 to +100), and Style Strength (0 to +100). Click the Star at the bottom center left, and get 9 Styles that look like cross-processing choices. Click square icon on bottom center right, and there are 4 textures to apply to your image. Set Texture Strength to 0 and no texture is applied.

Drama – Filter Strength (0 to +100) and Saturation (-100 to +100). Press the Star icon on bottom left center and chose from presets Drama 1 , Drama 2, Bright 1, Bright 2, Dark1, and Dark2. Don’t overdo this effect, just apply what is needed.

HDR Scape – Filter Strength (0 to +100), Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (-100 to +100), and Smoothing (0 to +100). If you press the blue star Icon to the left of bottom center, there are preset: Nature, People, Fine and Strong.

Grunge – Style (+1 to +1500), Brightness (-100 to +100), Contrast (0 to +100), Texture Strength (0 to +100), and Saturation (0 to +100). A selection circle can be set on the image to direct the effect to a specific area. The icon on the right center bottom contains 5 texture presets which when tapped, show more variations, and the icon on the left gives a different look each time your press it. By tapping in your image, you can adjust exactly where you want the effect to be applied.

Center Focus – Blur Strength (0 to +100), Outer Brightness (-100 to +100), and Inner Brightness (-100 to +100). Tap in image to adjust where effect will be applied. Click Star icon to left of center bottom and these presets appear: Portrait 1, Portrait 2, Vignette, Blur, Old Lens, and Foggy. Press the small dot a default Weak effect is applied, or press the large dot and it is a Strong effect.

Tilt-Shift – Transition (0 – +100), Blur Strength (0 to +100), Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (-100 to +100), and Contrast (0 to +100). Press the Question Mark (?) in upper left if you forget the way to swipe the screen to get the effect. Click the blue Star on bottom left center, and you can choose Linear or Elliptical.

Retrolux – Brightness (-100 to +100), Saturation (100 to +100), Contrast (-100 to +100), Style Strength (0 to +100), Scratches (0 to +100), and Light Leaks (0 to +100). Press the Blue Star icon at bottom left center to reveal 13 styles and a Properties wheel which contains several more presets like Fine 1 and 2, No Leak, and Crisp 1 through 3. Press the arrow icon on the right and you can go through the different preset effects.

Frames – 23 frame presets are shown by pressing the picture frame icon on the bottom left center. Tap each frame to get several different variations for the frame selected. Press the Settings (wheel) on center right bottom, you can turn colorization or adding a creme color on and off.
Image of Spring Flowers and processed using Nik's Snapseed Phone AppOne of the recommendations is to apply the same effect twice if you like the results – just press the check to apply, then do the section again. It is especially useful for creating a vignette effect using the Center Focus tool. As an example of settings, the image above used the Crop Tool, Tune Image filters (Brightness -36, Ambience +83, Contrast -16, Sat -31, Shadows +15, and Warmth +41), and Center Focus (Blur +13, Outer Brightness -26, Inner Brightness +57, and set to Weak with control point on flowers with white centers).
B&W Image of Baldwin Lake in Orlando, FloridaSince Nik has what is considered the best black and white plug-in for Photoshop, it is not surprising that Snapseed also gets some really nice black and white results. This image used the Straighten and Crop tools, Tune Image’s Ambience first and B&W afterwards to bring out the cloud effect. Center Focus was used last on the fisherman to help make him stand out.

Most of what I have learned using Snapseed is from this inexpensive E-book by Justin Balog called Snapseed – The Definite Guide. It is a great resource for learning how to use the the different tools together to get good image results. Another nice resource which is more basic and includes a nice workflow for using this app is called The Complete Guide to Snapseed Photo Editing App which contains several free videos by Emil Pakarklis. Snapseed will run on tablets and with a Chrome browser, which I had trouble getting to load so I am not commenting on this. I am surprised at how many of the feature that are part of the Nik family of Photoshop plug-ins have been included. If you like to take photos with your phone, I would recommend downloading Nik’s Snapseed from your phone store and start playing! Once again, it is a lot of fun – maybe not as much as playing in Photoshop, but still lots of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a Navajo pot with flower inside.
The image above is of my beautiful Navajo horsehair pottery that is hand-etched – I got it at the Native American Festival a year ago and added some flowers for this photo. Several dingbat figures were placed in the background to add to the rich Native American theme. So what exactly is a dingbat? Well, it is the same thing as a text font except instead of adding letters to a line, you are adding images. For this particular shot, I created a separate document that showed what pictures you get with each letter you press – both with caps tab on and off – to see what is in the font. If you have a font manager, this will work as well. Sometimes the numbers and special characters even have pictures attached to them so always check them out also. Cave Painting Dingbats and KR NA Dings were used in this image. There are dingbats for just about every occasion you might need and are usually found at most font websites.

How to Add the Dingbats to Your Image:

1.  In a separate document each dingbat to be used in the final image were placed on separate text layers, then put the text layers into a group (select all the text layers and CTRL+G), duplicated the group (CTRL+J), and last, right clicked and selected Merge Group. The dingbats now all appear on a single layer with no background – just the characters. This layer was copied into the image the characters would be used in. Each dingbat was selected individually with the Lasso Tool, then CTRL+drag to where it should appear, next Free Transform it (CTRL+T) to change the size and orientation and possibly warp, and finally CTRL+D to deselect. If you do not want one that you thought you might or it runs into your subject matter, then use the Lasso Tool to select it and press BACKSPACE key to delete it. Once the items are placed around your subject, in this case the pot and flowers, a layer style can be added.

2. The actual text layers can be added individually to the final image. This may be the easiest way to add them if you are not going to use these particular group again or are placing them in a texture that will be saved as a jpg. The individual text layers can be Free Transformed (CTRL+T) by holding down the CTRL key.

A Bevel and Emboss layer style with Contour checked was added, a stroke set to the outside, and an inner glow. By setting the Fill slider to 0, you actually get the clear embossed look as shown. I reduced the opacity of this layer quite a bit to get the effect needed. 2 Lil’ Owls Carnavale 16 texture was used along with Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle using the Fading Apricot preset.

Below is an earlier Tidbits Blog that I created a year and a half ago that uses the same principle using dingbats, so I thought I would repeat it since many of you may not have seen it.

This beautiful cat statue was located outside the door to the breakfast buffet at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii. After initial processing in Lightroom, the image was brought into Photoshop where French Kiss Bohemian Texture, a free download, was added behind the cat image. A black layer mask was added to the cat layer and the cat image was painted out with a white brush – it was refined by going into the Properties panel with the mask selected and clicking on the Mask Edge button to smooth out the selection. French Kiss Grunge No1 Chateau (a free download of PNG brush overlays) was placed on a layer above the texture but under the cat, and a brown Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped to the layer (go to Layers -> New Layer -> Solid Color Fill and check Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Group). The overlay was set to 69% opacity. Just above this layer another French Kiss overlay – Bohemian Template Overlay was applied (in set with Bohemian Texture download) with another Solid Color Fill Adjustment layer added using a soft cream color. The overlay texture was set to 48% opacity. Next above the cat image, French Kiss Artiste Impasto Texture (not free) was set to 32% to get a textured look on the cat – my own free gray Cat Painting Texture would probably work just as well. Now what was really neat is how I got the interesting animal and markings effect – they are from Tangaroa Dingbats font. By adding a layer style (double click on the layer) and selecting the Inner Glow with the default settings, and Pattern Overlay using my free Digital Lady Syd’s Smudge Texture as a pattern set to 258% scale, you get the soft orange-brown look. (To create a pattern from a texture, just open it up in Photoshop and go to Edit -> Define Pattern and it will appear at the bottom of your patterns list.) A separate text layer had to be created for each of the three objects selected and each text layer was set to approximately 30%. The Sharpen Tool was used on New Layer to sharpen the eyes just a little and that was it. I think it turned out pretty nice and it was a lot of fun to create.

This is a great way to create textures also – you do not have to use dingbats or text, any brush is fine. It can get quite creative with a little practice. Try out using dingbats in your images to add a little different look to a texture. This is particularly handy when you cannot find that clip art or Photoshop brush you are looking for, there just might be a dingbat font that would have what you need. Have a good week!….Digital Lady Syd


Image of some light pink and yellow rosesThis week I am including one of my previous Tidbits blogs on the Smudge Tool that I ran a couple years ago. Since I have recently started experimenting again with the Smudge Tool, it seemed appropriate to share that info along with some new tips. And yes, there is still a lot of confusion regarding the Smudge Tool and the newer Mixer Brush Tool.

Smudge Tool Tips

The image above is a good example of using a combination of the Smudge Tool on edges, a Regular Brush Tool for the texture, and Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4 to overall soften the image. I rarely use just one tool in Photoshop to get results. In this case, the Smudge Tool was set to the Rough Smear Brush – this is apparently a legacy brush from CS2. (To create in Brush Panel start with the Spatter 59 brush and set spacing to 2%, in Scattering section set Scatter to 30% and Count to 1, and check the Transfer and Smoothing sections. In options bar set Mode to Normal and Strength to 80%. Check Sample All Layers if needed.) This brush provided great results for softening up the harsh edges of the flowers and lines where floor and wall met. Many people use a Stipple, Chalk or Pastel brush to start with and create their own Smudge Tool brushes. The image looked really nice just doing a bit of clean up with the Smudge Tool.  This is one of the strengths of this often overlooked tool – does a fabulous job of smoothing edges and to me it seems a little faster than going into the Mixer Brushes, which also does this. Try using a short dabbing stroke to get this soft effect. (Other steps: A New Layer was created above and using my favorite Chalk 60 pix brush with Angle Jitter set to 19% in Shape Dynamics, a texture was applied using the brush at a very large size at 20% brush opacity. The last step involved adding a Topaz Simplify effect to just give the whole image a brighter color. You can also add another New Layer and do more Smudging to get the final look you like. This was so easy and pretty simple to do.) These flowers are from Michael’s Arts and Crafts Store – a nosegay in the bridal flowers section placed in a little tin vintage style bucket. Check out the next Section’s image description to get a few more Smudge Tool use tips and what the Strength field in the Options Bar does.

The Photoshop CC Manual offers a couple tips:  (1) Select Sample All Layers in the options bar to smudge using color data from all visible layers. If this is deselected, the Smudge tool uses colors from only the active layer.  (2) Select Finger Painting in the options bar to smudge using the foreground color at the beginning of each stroke. If this is deselected, the Smudge tool uses the color under the pointer at the beginning of each stroke. (3) Drag in the image to smudge the pixels. Press Alt as you drag with the Smudge tool to use the Finger Painting option. My basic understanding is the the Finger Painting option is not very useful and not used often.

The Smudge Tool can also be very useful on a layer mask to make subtle changes by nudging the edges using a Strength of 50%, Hardness of 0% and Mode of Normal. Try setting the Mode to Darken to push edges inward or Lighten to push edges outward.

Which Tool to Use – the Smudge Tool or the Mixer Brush Tool?

The next section is the content of my previous blog that helps explain a few more things about these tools.
I ran across an old tutorial that was in the very first Photoshop Creative magazine back in 2006. It was on how to create a digital painting by using the Smudge Tool. Well that was something I had to try out – couldn’t believe I had not tried this before! I really like the Mixer Brushes, which is what I usually use (see my blog Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes). Once I started playing around with the Smudge Tool using different brushes and sizes and opacities, it was actually fun. My curiosity got the best of me and now I needed to know what IS the difference between the two tools – they create very similar results? I was able to find a reasonable answer on the Internet at Model Here is what they said:

“The Smudge Tool simulates the effect you see when you drag a finger through wet paint. The tool picks up color where the stroke begins and pushes it in the direction you drag……The Mixer Brush simulates realistic painting techniques such as mixing colors on the canvas, combining colors on a brush, and varying paint wetness across a stroke.”

I think this is a nice short explanation of what is happening. [Added in new: One of the other big differences is that the Smudge Tool cannot apply color while the Mixer Brush Tool can. The Regular Brush Tool must be used to add color on a layer and the Smudge Tool will then blend the colors with those below.] For my Peach Dahlia I found it was nice to use both tools. It seemed it was easier to blend colors with the Mixer Brush and then smooth edges and shape color using the Smudge Tool. The Photoshop Wow Book for CS3 and CS4 (still my favorite Photoshop book) had a nice section on painting with the Smudge Tool. They recommended using the Natural Brushes that come with Photoshop and start by using short strokes, which samples the color underneath more frequently. Then use a small brush size for detail.

To create this image, first a blank layer was placed on top. Then these two brushes were used to paint: Mixer Brush – created Tool Preset brush with these settings: Stipple Dense 26 pixels from Natural Brushes set (Options Bar: No Current Brush Load, Load the Brush After Each Stroke, Wet 100%, Load 1%, Mix 91%, Flow 100%, Check Sample All Layers). Smudge Brush Tool Preset created using Stipple 54 pixels from Natural Brushes preset with Options Bar set to Mode Normal, Strength 78%, and Checked Sample All Layers. Be sure to save these brushes as Tool Presets so the Options Bar settings are retained – if just saved as brushes, the settings might not be correct. Also, note that if the Finger Painting box is checked in the Smudge Tool options bar, the smear stroke will start with the Foreground color. If turned off, the color under the cursor is sampled first. At 100% Strength, only the first color sampled is applied – at lower settings it fades out the first color and picks up the new one. Then I just alternated mixing and smudging until I liked what I saw. The last step involved adding three textures to the image to give a real painting look: the first one is a light gray canvas texture (I created it by taking a picture of a portion of the canvas on a large oil painting in my dining room – try this – you might really like the results) set to Soft Light at 53% opacity; next ShadowHouse Creations Old Photo 2 set to Overlay at 100% opacity – it provides the interesting edging on the image; and Flypaper Textures Aquaflora taster set to Overlay at 80% opacity. I painted out a little bit of the texture on the top two textures just to direct the eye to the center of the flower. A Curves Adjustment layer was added on top to give just a small contrast boost.

Art History Tool and Smudge Tool Image Frame

Image of Daisy Flowers in Different ColorsThis image is an example of how an image border can be created using the Art History Brush and the Smudge Tool together to get a pretty effect. Basically the technique involves increasing the size of your image by 2 inches all around and creating a Layer Snapshot from the Current Layer in the History Panel. Now just start painting the inside and/or outside edges to get a nice effect. Then use the Smudge Tool – selecting a stipple brush in this case – to smooth the edges. I painted a texture by creating a New Layer and painting with a grunge brush in purple to add some interest to the frame. It is also a good example of how the Smudge Tool can be used to smooth edges. For more info on how to do this, check out the book Beyond Digital Photography by Cher Thereinen-Pendarvis and Donal Jolley – an excellent reference book. Also, these flowers were white daisies that I shot in the grocery with my phone and turned into colorful flowers using 6 Color Fill Layers and Topaz ReStyle plug-in set to Wedgewood Blue and Tan preset.

I am finding I like the Smudge Tool and learning something about it! It is really quite versatile and can give some beautiful painterly results…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Smudging Those Petals!


Image of Spring Flowers painted in PhotoshopI thought I would post a couple things I have learned while painting with Photoshop. FIRST TIP: Use texture to hide messy backgrounds. The image above was taken at the grocery store – used a texture to get rid of the distractions and added in a couple extra flowers to balance out the image using the Clone Stamp Tool and Free Transform. SECOND TIP: One of the things that is becoming more apparent to me as I go along is that any filters or software that you have at your disposal are okay to use to get a final image look you like. In this image, Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify’s Flat preset was used first to get a painterly effect started. One of my favorite textures – French Kiss Studio 3 White Wash texture – was added on top and the flowers were painted back an attached layer mask. You can also do the opposite, set the flowers on top of the texture and add a black layer mask to the flowers and paint the flowers back in. Either way, the texture helps get rid of the clutter in the background of the image. THIRD TIP: Add new layers above and paint in areas that need more color or harder lines to clean up an object. Try both the regular brushes and Mixer brushes – sometimes using a different brush than just the round ones adds some nice texture to the image. In this image some of the flower centers were painted in more clearly and the background was darkened slightly with a darker color taken from the vignette framing the image. FOURTH TIP: Use Adjustment Layers and fill the attached masks with black (CTRL+I inside the mask) and paint back only in areas to be emphasized by the adjustment. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used above to keep the yellow color from becoming too dominating – filled the mask with black and painted back selectively like the now less bright yellow daisies. FIFTH TIP: Create Vignettes on New Layer in any color. On a separate layer on top, a greenish color was sampled from the image and a soft vignette was painted around the edges to darken it slightly – set to Normal blend mode at 90% layer opacity. A layer mask can be set to paint out areas accidentally covered. And don’t forget trying different layer blend modes.
Image of a painted Purple FlowerThe purple flower is one I painted for practice. In this case Topaz Adjust’s High Key II preset was used to sharpen up just the flower center – used a black mask and painted back just the center. This technique that can really take your images to the next level. By localizing your change, different effects can be made to look very pleasing yet not affect the whole image. SIXTH TIP: Use the Camera Raw Filter in Photoshop CC to help little adjustments, like color issues and vignettes. I usually convert the layer to a Smart Object before applying the filter to get back into it to adjust more if needed. Try this out – use  one radial filter to darken a little on the outside by setting the Exposure slider negative just a little. Now duplicate the Radial Filter by CTRL+ALT clicking on dot created by first Radial Filter, then hold down and drag just a little -now you have another one exactly the same size. Set it to Inside to bring out the color in the center of the image so the eye is drawn where you want it. In the case above the Clarity slider was moved left to give a slightly blurred background.

I like to use Topaz ReStyle with my painting images – it is the best Photoshop plug-in out there to find the best color combination for an image. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 and Topaz Clarity and Detail filters are also excellent when painting. Nik’s Analog Efex Pro gives some great results with painterly images – definitely a vintage feel to them. All these tips can help get your image looking very artistic. Hope you picked up a few ideas here to make your images look just a little more “painterly.”…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Learning to Paint in Photoshop
A Few Painterly Tips
How to Use a Solid Fill Adjustment Layer
A Splash of Color
Painting the Old and the New


Image of an Antique Show using a Difference Blend ModeThis week I thought I would do a short post on an effect that has always dumb-founded me, but often gives some great results – the Difference Blend Mode. The image above was taken during the day at the Deland Antiques Show. A duplicate layer above the background layer, where in this case Topaz (for website see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 was used to sharpen the image, was set to Difference and the “FILL” slider was set to 64% and Layer Opacity to 100%. If the Layer Opacity slider was set to 64% and Fill slider to 100%, a totally different effect would occur. This is one of the blend modes that show different effects when adjusting the Layer Opacity and Fill sliders. (The others are Color Burn, Linear Burn, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge-Add, Vivid Light, Linear Light, and Hard Mix.) Another effect was added to this layer by opening the Layer Style dialog (double click on layer in Layers Panel) and the Blend If This Layer white tab was set to 71/181 (to split tab, click on tab and press ALT+drag). (See my How to Get Blend If Slider Settings to Apply to a Layer blog for more info on this.) Three Camera Raw Radial Filters were added to highlight both the desk area even more and the mirror on the left. I was totally surprised with the results, but it shows what you can get with a little experimentation.

What the Difference Blend Mode is really doing is a little hard to understand. Sue Chastain has the best explanation for what the blend mode is doing in a link called The Difference Blending Mode. She says “…the Difference blending mode highlights the differences between the blend layer and the base layer. The more technical explanation is that the blend color is subtracted from the base color–or vice-versa, depending on the brightness–and the result is the difference between them. When white is the blend color, the base image is inverted. When black is the blend color, there is no change.” I guess that is why the images all appear a little dark in tone. Here is another very good link on how all the blend modes work called Photoshop Blend Modes Explained for more info on all of them.

Another good example of using the Difference blend mode is on an image I have presented before, but it is worth showing again so you can see a little different way to use the blend mode. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to a texture set to Vivid Light blend mode. The Adjustment Layer was set to set to a Difference blend mode at 71% Layer opacity and 85% Fill. The Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer can create some different results especially by changing the Hue slider, which is what was done in this case. Still get that spooky feeling in this image. For more on the original settings used in this image, see my blog My Version of Photoshop Tennis!

If you notice a strange color shift in your image when trying to create a stamped layer on top or are merging down a layer, this usually occurs when there are several layers using different blend modes, often including the  Difference blend mode. One way to fix this is to change your image to 8-bit mode before creating the stamped layer. Another way is to Create a New Layer in the Layers Panel directly below your Difference blend mode layer (or any layer you are having a problem using) – then CTRL+E to merge the layer down. This keeps the color intact but any attached layer masks will be lost.

A while back I created a short Tidbits blog called Complementing Those Complementary Colors on finding the complementary color in an image using the Difference blend mode. Comes in very handy at times so check it out. I hope you will try out this blend mode and several of the other less known ones – it can create that special effect you are looking for, especially if you play with the Fill slider. Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a painted daisy with textureOne thing I have been learning about while taking my “painting” journey is how brushes work and what changing the the different settings for my brushes will do, including an often overlooked slider – the Flow slider in the Options Bar. For this blog I am using one of my favorite painting brushes, Adobe’s Charcoal Brush 60 which I changed slightly by adding in the Shape Dynamics section of the Brush Panel an Angle Jitter of 19% to get a different stroke each time it was tapped. The image above was created using just this brush as both a regular brush and a Mixer Brush. For more info on this image, see Image 1 at end of blog.

Here is the technical definition. I like how an old Adobe Focus Guide on Brushes and Painting said “The Flow setting determines how quickly and smoothly the paint is applied. Brush strokes are made up of a number of points running together in a line. However, if you reduce the Flow, these points are painted less frequently, and the opacity of each is also reduced by the specified percentage.” Adobe’s manual defines the Flow as: “….sets the rate at which color is applied as you move the pointer over an area. As you paint over an area, keeping the mouse button down, the amount of color builds up based on the flow rate, up to the opacity setting. For example, if you set the opacity to 33% and the flow to 33%, each time you move over an area, its color moves 33% toward the brush color. The total will not exceed 33% opacity unless you release the mouse button and stroke over the area again.” The charts demonstrate this.

What I think is most significant is what the edges of your brush creates at the different flow rates. The Chalk brush was used for the chart examples, which has a very rough edge to it. Below is a chart using the regular brush and Options Bar settings of Opacity at 100% and Flows of 100% and 20%. Brush Chart showing Different Flows with Brush Opacity at 100%You can see how the edges of the glide strokes change when the Flow is changed. When used as a dab stroke, it almost looks like a lower brush or layer opacity. Very different effects. Below is another chart that shows the same brush set to a brush Opacity of 30% and Flowers of 100% and 20%.
Brush Chart showing different Flowers with Brush Opacity at 30%In this case, you can start to see more variation. With the Opacity and Flow set low, you can hardly see the brush dab and the edges of the glide stroke are very soft and subtle. With the Flow at 100%, the glide stroke looks very reminiscent of a watercolor brush. Try using these settings with different brushes – with a soft round brush you get very different edges. Notice how much more control you have over the brush at a lower Flow rate, which is not necessarily the look you want. Take a minute and try this out yourself – it’s pretty interesting.

Many digital artists find that by varying the flow of their brushes, they can get a greater control over the strokes and achieve effects that might not have seemed possible without this adjustment. I think you can see that if you try the different flow settings. Harold Davis in his Photoshop Darkroom books says that if you are using a mouse and not a tablet, set the Flow to 50% so that you have a little more control over your strokes. Aaron Nace changes the Flow of his brushes all the time when he is retouching an image. For painting effects, I am now setting the Flow to 50% to start and if it takes too long to add the color/paint, then I set the flow higher. A low opacity with a low flow is often used to smooth out skin.

Flow shortcut keys apply to these tools: regular Brush Tool, Clone Stamp Tool, Eraser Tool, History Brush, Sponge Tool, and Mixer Brush Tool. Select Tool and press any number key to get the tool opacity to change to that percent. For example, 3 = 30%; 0 = 100%; 4 plus five quick taps = 45%. Note that for Mixer Brushes the Wet amount changes with these numbers. To change the Flow, press SHIFT+number key as above. I found this tip is important: If the AIRBRUSH ICON is turned on, omit the SHIFT key for Flow – this tool’s opacity is controlled by Pen Pressure. I have gotten really confused and set the brush opacities wrong because the Airbrush icon was turned on (it is located right after the Flow field in the Options Bar).

Martin Evening explains how the Flow works in the Mixer Brush. With a low Load amount and a high Flow amount, the paint flows out quickly and in shorter paint strokes; set to a low Flow amount results in longer less opaque strokes. This can create a significantly different effect in your painting. By the way, it is not good to use a Mixer Brush in a layer mask – they do not always give the desired effect. Change the brush back to a regular brush, and use the same brush. Almost all regular brushes can be used as a Mixer Brushes and vice versa – just need to save the brush so it appears in the Brush Preset panel. Then you have access for all brush types. Below is another image that used the Chalk brush discussed above. For more info, see Image 2 at end of blog.
Image of a pot of flowers and some vintage expressionSince this was a setting I was confused about, maybe this has helped some of you understand what the Flow is actually doing in an image. If painting is something you like to do in Photoshop, it is important to keep an eye on this slider and try different values. I always save my brushes as a Tool Preset (click the far left arrow and click New Preset icon to save) since just saving a Brush Preset does not save your Options Bar settings. Then you will always have your favorite settings available for your brush. Try experimenting with this slider and see if you like some of the different results……Digital Lady Syd


1. This image was taken in the grocery store of some yellow daisies. Just basic changes in Lightroom were done and once in Photoshop, Topaz (for website link see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog) Detail 3 was applied to sharpen up the flower petals and center. Painted Textures Thanksgiving Foliage texture was applied and the flower painted back in a layer mask. Originally I thought it would be nice as in the falls colors since the daisy was yellow. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and that is when the colors got switched over to the purples and blues. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to add back some contrast. The on a composite or stamped layer (CTRL+SHIFT+ALT+E) on top, the Camera Raw Filter was opened and a vignette created to focus on the flower more. Then Nik’s Analog Efex Pro was used and it actually brightened up the whole image – even a white vignette effect was put around the edge in the plug-in. Some paint clean up was done and a little touch of pink painted into the flower petals. That was it!

2. This is another image taken with my phone at the grocery. This time Painted Textures Bowl of Roses Canvas was used as a backdrop and the Old Design Shop’s French Label Eau De Lavande2 was added to it. Image was taken into Topaz ReStyle and more pinks were added into the image. A white Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added and set to Color blend mode at 65% layer opacity. Camera Raw Filter’s Radial Filter was used to emphasize the flower pot. Some clean up and a Field Blur filter set to 20 pixels was applied. In the mask, a gradient was used so just the French saying and not the flower pot was slightly blurred. Last step was a Levels Adjustment Layer to add back some contrast.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush
Learning How to Paint in Photoshop
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes


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