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HOW TO ADD BRUSH STROKES TO PERK UP A BACKGROUND

Image of flowers in a pot in The BahamasFirst of all, I am taking a little break from blogging as I have some wonderful overseas guests arriving for a month, but I will try to pop in with a few shorter blogs. This week’s topic is not that ground-breaking, but sometimes there is a need to perk up a basic photo. You do not have to add a really fancy texture, sometimes just a well placed brush stroke or two will give your image that added interest and personalization it needs. Painterly looking brush strokes have been added behind the main subjects to get a more unique look than just adding a basic texture or two. So here are a couple examples on how to do this. All you need is to either create some interesting marks and save them as a Photoshop brush (on a small sized document in 8-bit mode, make or combine brush strokes using black for the brush color, then go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and it will appear at the bottom of your Brush Preset Panel), or download brushes from the Internet (to Load, go to the pop-out at the top of the Brush Preset Panel, select Load Brushes and find where you downloaded them, and click Open – they will appear at the bottom of your Brush Preset Panel) – some of my favorite downloaded brushes are linked in the text. One of my goals with this blog has been to help readers find resources to create interesting images.

This pot of flowers was shot on Green Turtle Cay in The Bahamas. It is a very simple object, but by adding some interesting brush strokes in Photoshop, it becomes a much more interesting image. My workflow for doing this is as follows.

1. My first step was to paint the flowers in Painter – no reason this could not have been done on a New Layer in Photoshop with a regular brush or Mixer brush – just sort of colored in the flowers and stems, and on another layer above the pot. For you Painter people, the flowers and stems were painted following the video Painter Cloning tools with professional photographer and digital painter Melissa Gallo and using the Coarse Sargent Jitter brush as a cloner brush to just paint in the flowers and stems. The original image was used as the source and an inverted version as a second source to paint in the darker leaves. The pot was painted using Melissa’s settings for the Luscious Oil Paint brush. The file was saved as a PSD file and opened in Photoshop.

2. This next step is important if you used Painter to paint the subject(s). In Photoshop first duplicate the flower layer. Using the Color Range command. Just remember when selecting in this dialog that the white area is the selection – if you select the background because it is easier to select, just check the Invert box before saying okay. While still showing a selection on the image, add a layer mask to the flower layer -the mask will pick up the selection showing just the flowers. There are other ways to create a selection and they work fine, just be sure to add the selection to a layer mask. You could click just CTRL+J to add them to a separate layer which is fine also. I like layer masks so I can check to make sure everything is included in the selection before the background is eliminated. It is also easier to clean up bad edges in a layer mask. Then right click on the mask and select Apply Layer Mask – now flowers are isolated.

For Photoshop folks, your subjects should have been painted on a New Layer(s) above the image, so you do not have to worry about selecting your objects.

3. You do need to add a New Layer over your original image and fill it with white to isolate what you selected. (Select white as your foreground color and ALT+BACKSPACE to fill.)

4. For both Painter and Photoshop subject, New Layers are added in which different strokes in different colors and opacities can be created. Three New Layers were added underneath each with a different stroke in different colors: The brown bottom color was a pastel brush I had, the blue paint was a Creative Toons watercolor brush (these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113), and the yellow circle behind the flowers was created in my Texture Brush Video on You Tube and set to 46% layer opacity – yellow is a very strong color so it has to be tamed a bit. The Pot layer was selected and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to it to get just the right color. Each of these layers can be moved around using the Move Tool (can highlight layer in Layers Panel and press the CTRL key to turn cursor into the Move Tool). I am finding large watercolor brush strokes are very nice for this technique.

The following steps are all just cosmetic – you can do anything you want at this point. For the above image, underneath all the brush layers one of my free textures created a while back called Digital Lady Syd’s Smudge Texture was added as a layer and set to 23% layer opacity, which is why there are some very light soft colors in the border. On the next layer flowers that were selected – a layer mask was used to clean up some of the halos in places around the branches from the rather rough selection. Next a little Sketch Brush was selected and the pot was lightly sketched around and the dirt in the pot was given a little more definition. On a layer above it, a round soft brush was used to smooth edges of the pot. Next 2 Lil’ Owls Studio’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage Frame 2-frame 15 was selected – the creases in the texture were painted out as it was distracting and it was set to Linear Burn at 97% layer opacity. In the layer style, the Blend If This Layer was white tab was split (ALT+drag to split) and set to 158/218, and the Underlying Layer black tab was split and set to 73/126 and white tab split and set to 239/255. The last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little more contrast. It really gave the image much more interest by varying the size, color and opacity of the layers. The image now has a lot more interest and the background strokes look very natural.
Image of Native American DollsNever been really excited by the doll images I took from the Native American Festival this year, but still had fun post-processing them. This was one of those images you were just not sure what you would end up with! In Lightroom added Seim’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) PW4’s Super Hero X – WhiBal preset. In Photoshop did a Perspective Warp first thing since the doll shot was not taken straight on – I was able to segment it into two pieces and straighten it up fairly nicely. Next on a New Layer did a Clone Stamp clean up for the ugly image edges I got from the Perspective Warp. Created a Stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and ran a Photoshop Shake Reduction filter.

Instead of painting this image, I wanted to just separate the dolls from their background which was really distracting. The white background was selected again using Color Range and adding a layer mask containing the selection. The Mask was applied and a lot of areas were added to it to get this image clean. (Color Range had selected not just the background but some of their clothes and parts of their faces, so in the mask these areas were painted back to white so they would show up on the layer.) The following step is basically the same thing as adding the various New Layers and adding strokes, if you create the texture yourself. My Pastel Watercolor texture was placed behind them and stretched out by Free Transforming the texture layer CTRL+T to make it fit right. For a free jpg download of this texture click here. Making a similar texture is very similar to what was done in Step 4 above when adding brush strokes layers above. In this case a New Document was created – I used 12 X 9 inches at 240 ppi. Next free brushes from bittbox called BB Watercolor II Brushes need to be downloaded – these are really pretty watercolor brushes I have used for years. On a New Layer Sampled Brush 19 was painted in a pink tone on the right and with 48% layer opacity; next on another New Layer Sampled Brush 14 was applied in orange with a layer opacity of 100%; next New Layer used Sampled Brush 1 on top of last brush stroke and set to 74% layer opacity; another New Layer with Sampled Brush stroke 3 in a different pinkish tone was added at 66% layer opacity; another layer using Sampled Brush 8 in yellow at 77% layer opacity; and finally a bright pink stroke on another New Layer set to 71% layer opacity – all at Normal blend mode. You can now move the whole document into the one your are working on, or individual layers with the unique strokes. The strokes can be moved around on each layer to adjust them just right or use a Free Transform to stretch out the stroke or warp it. Totally functional! And fun to do. I have used this texture a lot for my backgrounds and these brushes are really nice. By saving your texture as a jpg, it can be used like other textures that people make.

The rest of the post-processing is the following. For some reason I have been using the Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 filter (see my Digital Lady Syd’s Favorite Preset for Nik’s Analog Efex Pro with a few adjustments in the Detail slider including several control points on the individual dolls and the Luminosity curve). On a New Layer the Sharpen Tool was used to sharpen a few of the facial features. In Nik’s Viveza control points were added to drawing the eye toward the doll in the white coat in the middle. The Camera Raw Filter was further used to direct colors correctly in the image and a Radial Filter was used on the center doll. Then localized adjustment layers were added to pin-point areas I wanted corrected in the image. By filling adjustment layer’s mask with black (CTRL+I in mask) and painting back with a 30% opacity brush, areas that needed a color shift could be added. (A Color Balance, Hue/Saturation, and two Curves Adjustment Layers were added.) A New Layer was added on top and with a soft round brush set to 12% layer opacity, a couple of the dolls faces were painted over as they were too bright – the layer was set to 47% opacity. That was it – I really loved the doll with the bright orange-red dress on the far left and the feathers on the bird on the right!

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to create some interesting background easily – sometimes the easiest things are often overlooked. I think this is a pretty fun way to make new textures and to perk up some ugly backgrounds. Hope you have some fun experimenting! See you a few!……Digital Lady Syd

MORE COMBINING PLUG-INS FOR GREAT EFFECTS!

Image of a beach on Greater Guana Cay in The BahamasJust having some fun and showing a couple files I worked with this week. This image was taken on the beach in front of Nippers Beach Bar and Grill on the Greater Guana Cay in The Bahamas. They claim to be located on the beach right off the third largest coral reef in the world. Totally fun place to go and I thought this was a rather fetching way to end the summer season before moving on to fall!

So what did I do to get this look? It did not start out this way at all – it was just a nice beach picture which I liked just because the water was so pretty and the people were doing something interesting. I did not follow my basic plug-in workflow like I did in the image below. In Lightroom Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) PW4 Magic-Ugly Shade Fixer and Sampler Tone Chocolate presets were applied. Then in Photoshop the Shake Reduction filter was used – I am finding it works really well with any of my hand-held shots – subtle but nice difference! On a New Layer the Patch Tool was used to remove a few people in the right side of the image. The image looked pretty nice and what I thought I would originally post, but then I added Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle using my favorite preset, Cream and Plum. (Settings changed: Hue Primary -0.31; Sat no changes; and Lum Primary 0.08, Secondary 0.42, and Fourth -0.47; Texture Strength 0.44; Color Tone Black Level -0.81, Midtones 0.05, and White Level 0.20; and Detail Structure 0.34 and Sharpness 0.80.) This brought back a lot of the detail in the sand and water, but also gave the whole image a bit of a pink feel –  therefore in an added black layer mask (when you click the layer mask icon, hold down the CTRL key also to get a black mask), the people were painted in to remove the effect back in Photoshop. This layer was set to 89% opacity to reduce the overall effect a little.

Then a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added using a cream color (#eee3b9) set to Color Blend Mode at 34% layer opacity. The layer mask was turned to black (CTRL+I inside mask thumbnail) and the people were painted back. This color gave them more of a natural tan look. The photographer’s pants were bright red and drawing the eye away from the girls, so another Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added to turn the pants to a brown color (#221007). Did the same thing – filled the layer mask to black and just painted back the pants. It was also set to Color Blend Mode at 100% layer opacity. This is a cool way to change colors to an object in the photo – and by dragging in the Color Picker, you can see the change in live preview so you get just the right tone. I would recommend changing the layer to Color Blend Mode first before choosing a color so you can see the effect different colors are having. On a Stamped Layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Nik’s Viveza 2 was opened. Ten control points were added, mainly to the people and water at top edge to get nice effects. Did you know that if a control point overlaps into a different object and the results look bad, you can set another controlpoint  on that part – don’t have to make any slider changes – and it goes back to the original color(s)? By adjusting the size, you can remove any bad effects. I just love this plug-in!

On another Stamped layer, Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 was opened. I just love making my own presets so that is what I did in this plug-in. Only 4 sections were used: Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks, Lens Vignette, and Levels % Curves. (I named this preset Blown Out Beach and here are the settings if you are interested: Basic Adjustments – Detail Extraction 45%, Brightness -4%, Contrast 13%, and Saturation 0%; Light Leaks – Strength 23%, Soft type with the first top left corner leak used and set on the mid lower right between the girls; Lens Vignette – Amount 52%, slider under the ct in Rectangle, and Size 53%; and Levels & Curves – the grid is 16 blocks x 16 blocks so I will try to get the right location for the dots – RGB – (3,1) (9,10) (16,16), Luminosity (2,0) (11,8) (16,14.5), Red (0,0) (7,8 ) (16,16), Green (0,0) (3.5, 3) (16,16), and Blue (0,0) (5.5, 5.5) (13.5, 12.5) (16,16), and Opacity set to 70%.)

The last step involved adding Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 (also one of my very favorite plug-ins) using another preset I created that caused this rather soft blur effect (settings for my preset I call Soft Leaves are: Detail – Small Details -0.51, Small Details Boost -0.40, Medium Detail -0.39, Medium Details Boost -0.30, Large Details -0.51, and Large Details Boost -0.42; and Tone Exposure -0.40, Cyan-Red 0.58, Magenta-Green -0.29, and Yellow-Blue 0.31.) The Tone Exposure sliders really added the nice color to the water. The last step was a “clean up” layer where the skin was smoothed by sampling color and painting with a soft round brush.

Image of Sandhill Cranes on our local golf courseI loved these wonderful Sandhill Cranes that were wandering around our golf course this week. I have never seen this type of bird here, so I had to rush and get their picture! What gorgeous birds! Every bit as majestic as the beautiful Herons that are all over the place! Since fall is arriving, I felt a fall feel should be added to the image. Following my basic workflow from my my Digital Lady Syd’s Plug-in Workflow blog, these effects were added: in Lightroom Seim’s Super Hero X Natural and Tint Bronzed Sepia presets were applied; in Photoshop the Shake Reduction was applied using Auto settings; Topaz Detail 3 was applied using my favorite preset (Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01 ); next Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 created in first image was used (for this image these settings are different: set to Basic Adjustments with Detail Extraction to 70%, Brightness -23%, Contrast -9% and Saturation 28%; Light Leak Strength 36% and set in middle; and Lens Vignette – Amount 68%, Full right to Rectangle, Size 56% and set just above the birds); a New Layer was added for some burning on edges of the birds (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog); another New Layer was added and by using a soft low opacity brush, haloing was removed around the birds since this was taken on an Android phone; another New Layer was added where the vignette border was filled in using the Kahara brush created in my How to Easily Create a Photoshop Brush for Painting Blog; a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little contrast to the image; and finished up with Nik’s Viveza 2 setting control points on the two left birds to sharpen and highlight a little, and on the background trees to give the soft fall color look – one of my favorite ways to end post-processing an image.

I really enjoy working with the plug-ins because they can give your image a unique effect if used properly. Nik’s Analog Efex Pro 2 and Viveza 2 work very well together. I do still love a good photograph but I am constantly trying to find something that is totally different, and the plug-ins often give me lots of options for this. It does take time to understand what each does, but once you find an effect you like, saving a preset speeds up the process for the  next time you use the the plug-in. Short but sweet blog for this week. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd

COREL PAINTER 2015 – STARTING TO GET A HANDLE ON IT!

Sign on a deserted beach in Spanish Cay in the BahamasLittle bit of a strange title, but that is exactly where I am with this huge program. I decided to try and see what I could do with this new version of Corel Painter 2015 (this website has lots of resources to help you out), but I must be honest and say I keep falling back on my Photoshop painting experience. I was having a hard time deciding if it was worth the upgrade since I am still just learning this program. I do believe I am happy with the new version if for no other reason than it seems to be running a lot smoother on my older computer. Since I have not fully explored all the new “bells and whistles,” I am not considering this a review – just showing you what I am trying out using this updated version of Painter – I by no means have even scratched the surface of this program. For those who are in the know about Painter, Aaron Rutten has a great video on all the new things called What’s New In Corel Painter 2015 that I just watched and was really surprised at all the updates (he also gives useful tips on how to use them).

The sign image above was located on a beautiful beach on a basically deserted cay – only a marina and small hotel/restaurant were open – but lots of abandoned buildings from the 1990’s were still standing. It was taken at Spanish Cay in the Abacos. Most people only stop here in their boats to get through Customs for entering The Bahamas. This image was first processed in Lightroom using Seim’s (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Power Workflow 4 Super Hero X-Natural preset. The lettering was also sharpened with a Local Brush set to high in Clarity and Sharpen. In Photoshop clean up was done to the image and Topaz (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 was used to sharpen up just the lettering again (a black mask was added to the Detail layer and only the signs were painted back). A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to get rid of some of the shadows on the signs – once again a black layer mask was applied and just the brightened shadow areas were blended back into the image. Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset (one of a couple of my favorites in Adjust) was applied and this time a white layer mask was added in Photoshop and only the lettering brought back since there is some diffusion going on in this preset.

I opened up the original image in Corel Painter 2015 to try it out. I selected a clone brush using the Cloner Category – Bristle Brush Cloner (which is not new) to paint in the signs and some foreground on the Canvas layer. On a New Layer above I used Karen Bonaker’s July Cloud Category brushes (these were made for the X3 version, but once Imported they seem to work fine) – she did a wonderful video using her Cloud Brushes called Corel Painter Mixed Media Painting (if you have the time, it is worth the watch) and she lets you download them for free from the Digital Arts Academy – actually love all her brushes but these are especially nice. Her Simple Cloud brush was used to create the blue water effect and her Soft Cloud New and Summer Sky brushes were used in the sky. On another New Layer from the new Particles Category – my SJ Spring Feathers Sketch brush variant was used – same as the original Particle brush variant designed by Cher Pendarvis (of Painter Wow! book fame and another one of my favorite Corel Masters) for outlining the signs except in the Brush Calibration Panel the Enable Brush Calibration was checked – the brush just worked better for me this way. I did learn that if you open up this little gem of a panel and check the Enable Brush Calibration box and either adjust the sliders or open up the brush window to add your own stroke effect, you can override your general brush calibration settings and make it specific for this brush variant. Very cool! To learn more about this brush, check out her short video called Painter 2015 Particle Feather Sketch Brush – this brush is turning out to be a new favorite for me. To learn about brush calibration in major detail, check out Jason Maranto’s Chapter 04 Part 01 video on Brush Tracking (I have been following his free Painter 2015 Video Manual series on You Tube – he is doing a fabulous job covering this program.) The image was now saved as a Photoshop (PSD file) and reopened in Photoshop.

Now the cool thing – opened up both versions in Photoshop. Did some clean up to the Corel file layers and added a stamped copy on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E). Copied the Topaz Detail layer into this image to restore the sign lettering. This could be done by adding to the Topaz Detail layer a black layer mask and painting with a white brush just the lettering, or by placing the Detail layer under the stamped Painter layer with a white layer mask and painting with a black brush the the lettering – either way works just fine. Or use the Clone Stamp Tool between the two files to restore the lettering. All work equally well. I am sure I could also have done this some way in Painter, but I have not tried that yet. On a New Layer on top, my chalk brush was set to 19% brush opacity and used to paint in the ground area in the background – the complimentary color from the blue sky tones was used as a color.  To get a complimentary color quickly invert your image (CTRL+I in image thumbnail in Layer Panel) and then sample by ALT+clicking in the image to get color, and finally undo this step. Or add an Invert Adjustment Layer, sample the image, and then delete it. Also added a little bit of this color in the foreground. Next added a Selective Color Adjustment Layer and only adjusted the Neutrals – Cyan +2, Magenta +6, Yellow +3, and Black +17 set to Absolute, just enough to pop the image a little. Another stamped layer was added and Nik Viveza 2 was applied – it was used to bring out the sky and yet slightly soften the structure, and to sharpen the signs a little more. Added a Levels Adjustment Layer and moved Midtones to 0.79 and Output Levels to 36/255. This just gave me the effect I wanted. Usually I use Curves for both of the last two layer adjustments, but I could not get it to look right so I tried something else. That is the end of my workflow for this image. It took a lot more work than I expected but I am find that this is what happens when you are looking for the right effect and working between programs. Here is a link to the first time I published this image, if you are interested.

Image of a Small Barge docked at Spanish Cay in the BahamasThis small barge that was docked at the Marina in Spanish Cay in the Bahamas. Not sure why I painted it, but it was something different to try. Admittedly, I am still in the learning process with using Painter so I am trying out different types of images. I still like doing the final tweaks back in Photoshop and find I am using almost the same workflow I used when just painting in Photoshop. So for a quick recap of how I got to this point, and unfortunately this one took me a while also, the workflow is as follows. Topaz Clarity’s Color & Contrast Boost III preset was used with no changes – wanted a more natural looking sharpening and Detail made it too crisp. Next added Painted Textures Christmas texture and set to Luminosity Blend Mode at 100% layer opacity. I decided to use this as a sort of underpainting since it gave a really simplified view of the image. A layer mask was applied and the barge and some of the pier was painted back in. On top French Kiss’s (see) Studio 3 Wave texture was applied and set to Screen at 79% layer opacity.

Image was opened in Painter several layer were created. First used more of Karen Bonaker’s wonderful July Clouds category brushes from above. On one layer used Impressionist Sky brush variant with blues and whites to create a hint of clouds – layer was set to 17% layer opacity later in Photoshop, and another layer used the Impressionist DW brush variant at 105 pixel size where different colors were added to background to give a green yellow foliage feel and add some color interest. It was also set to Multiply at 76% layer back in Photoshop later. Another Painter person to follow is Aaron Rutten – I have been trying out his Corel Painter 2015 Custom Workspace and brushes and used his Smooth Palette Knife brush variant to emphasize the white color to the barge. I like a lot of his brushes and he also has some great instructional videos on You Tube. Next layer used a brush I created after watching Painter 2015 Particle Brushes Featuring Jeremy Sutton. It was based on one of the new particle brushes, Gravity Lazy Sketch which I really like, but in the Particle General Panel, Jeremy explains some changes that can be made. For my brush I set the Count from 32 to 73, Global Chaos from 0 t0 10, and Local Chaos from 0 to 32. A rather shimmery brush was created that was used add some depth to the water areas and some of the sky. Really liked the effect. Image was then saved and brought back into Photoshop where I proceeded to add yet another layer on top where my SJ Chalk Brush as a regular brush was used to soften some of the harsh edges on the boat. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to get a good contrast. A stamped layer was created and Topaz ReStyle’s Silver and Ivory Cloak preset was used. (Here are the adjusted settings if you are interested: ReStyle Layer Opacity 66% and set to Luminosity blend mode; Color Style Hue Primary 0.14, Fourth 0.14, and Fifth -0.44; Sat Primary 0.14, Secondary 0.02, Third -0.12, Fourth -0.47, and Fifth 0.09; and Lum Secondary 0.16, Third 0.67, Fourth -0.31, and Fifth 0.06; Texture Strength -0.77; Basic Color Temperature 0.33 and Saturation 0.03; Tone Black Level 0.31, Midtones -0.27 and White Level -0.17; and Detail Structure -0.03 and Sharpness 0.66; and in Masks painted back the white of the boat using Brush Edge Aware, Strength 0.55; Brush Size 0.25 and Hardness 0.30, then switched to Strength 0.18 and painted a bit of the in barge softly.) Set this layer back in Photoshop to Overlay at 71% layer opacity. Created another stamped layer on top and this time opened up Nik Viveza – added 13 control points to get the colors the way I liked them! Not sure I have ever used this many before. Mainly wanted to make sure the barge was working properly as the focal point. That was about it. I am always amazed how much work goes into creating these paintings, but usually I like the results if I spend the time doing it.

Well, as you can see I was able to get use some of the new things in Painter, especially the Brush Calibration panel for brush tracking and the new Particle brushes. Watching Jason’s videos (link above) is taking up a lot of time, but he is really covering the different topics very thoroughly so I am find them very helpful – and a lot of it is just on basic Painter. Since there are not many books on the newer versions available, these videos are a great resource. Hope you have all at least downloaded the trial to see what you think. Oh yes, another thing that is pretty cool is that there are now live previews like in Photoshop when using commands like Equalize and others I have not tried. That is very handy! Hopefully I will start to pull some of these new changes into my limited workflow and start painting more creatively! Well, I must get back to my painting and practice, practice, practice!…..Digital Lady Syd

DIGITAL LADY SYD’S PLUG-IN WORKFLOW

Image from The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show at Universal StudiosThis week I just did what I call some “fun” Photoshop and just played. Know I have touched on these things before, but liked the results so thought I would share again and go through my plug-in workflow. This time I have added small images showing the results of each plug-in layer. Also wanted to say thanks to the Photography Club of Flagler County, the club to which I am a proud member, for letting me “bend their ears” for an hour on my passion of painting using Photoshop. So many of its members are totally excellent photographers so check them out!

As I said before, for some reason I really loved Universal Studios Orlando and got some different shots when visiting. This image was from The Eighth Voyage of Sindbad Stunt Show. I liked the flames and graininess that were due to the high ISO (1250) needed to take this shot. The original RAW file was extremely dark (see below). Probably not the best image for drawing your eye to the focus point, which to me was the girl, but I still liked the image so here it is. In the original image as it came from Lightroom, Seim’s Super Gentle X preset was applied as a starting point. Have not talked much about Gavin Seim’s Power Workflow 4.1 Lightroom presets (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) – I really like them and find I almost always use them over playing with the sliders in Lightroom now. They are different from others I have bought – uses a lot of curves and HSL changes to get some very natural effects. You can download a free sampler, which is how I got started with them, and if interested, watch for the good sales he offers every now and then. He also has a really interesting You Tube video called Gavin Seim’s History of Photography. The Noise Luminance was set to 26, Detail 59, and Contrast 30 to handle some of the noise issue. Below is the RAW file and the file as it looked when brought into Lightroom. If that does not sell you on using Lightroom or Camera Raw, I am not sure what will!

Image of Raw file of Sindbad showImage of original file with Lightroom changes of Sindbad Show

Next Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used – I did not want to sharpen the noise, but definitely wanted a more natural sharp look to the image so Clarity was used instead of Topaz Detail. The Micro Color Boost II preset was used with a few adjustments (Dynamics White Level -0.55; Hue/Sat/Lum settings: Hue Orange -0.06 and Magenta -0.61; Sat Orange 0.42, Yellow 0.03, Green 0.47, Blue 0.77, and Overall 0.33; and Lum Red 0.17, Orange -0.14, Green 0.38, Aqua 0.33, Blue 0.19, Purple 0.16, and Magenta 0.36). Back in Photoshop a black layer mask was added so the effect was removed, and then it was painted back in where I wanted the nice saturated colors showing up, mainly the foreground and flames. The image below has just Clarity applied. Very subtle difference from the Lightroom preset image – mainly shows up in the colors in the foreground.

Image of Sindbad Show after using Topaz ClarityOn a duplicated layer (CTRL+J) Topaz Black & White Effects was opened and the Toned Collection Sepia II preset was chosen. This time a lot of the settings were changed, or else it would look like sepia, right? Here are the settings used (Selected the 4th over teardrop which set the settings for Section 4 Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone. Left Basic Exposure with preset settings. Adaptive Exposure was set to 0.24 and other setting left as set. Creative Effects Diffusion set to Softness 0.71, Diffusion 0.67, and Diffusion Transition 0.56. Finishing Touches used the Quad Tone settings provided by the preset. Vignette was set and centered on the girl. Vignette Strength set to -0.28, Vignette Size 0.61, Vignette Transition 0.83, and Vignette Curvature 0.82. Transparency set to 0.40 to just bring a little color back into the image). What is really neat about Black & White Effects is that the Local Adjustments section has so much variety that you can sort of sculpt the image. Therefore all the brushes were used to enhance most of the special effects above. First the Detail brush was used to paint over the girls face and body to emphasize it a little more. Used these settings for all brushes: brush opacity of 0.14, Hardness 0.00 and Edge Aware of 0.50. This is just enough opacity to see a change. Painted over the area again where more detail was needed. Second, painted with the Color brush over the flames once, her face several times, and her body once. Also the foreground color was lightly painted over. Third, painted with a Smooth brush over the flames – I usually do not see much of a change here with this brush but I wanted the overall feel soft, so it was used. Fourth, painted with the Burn brush on the areas that shows up too bright around the edges. This included part of the flames on the right edge. Fifth, painted with Dodge brush just around the large pot in the foreground and her pant legs to brighten these areas up just a little. In Photoshop a white layer mask was added and some of the detail was painted back in the foreground and flames – that is because the Diffusion settings were pretty strong in this plug-in. I wanted to use it for a more ethereal feel, but there are places that needed more detail. The Local Adjustment brushes did add some of this detail back, but there is a little more painting control back in Photoshop. Once again the difference was very subtle, but there is some definite darkening going on by adding this plug-in. Also, this plug-in’s layer was only set to 59% layer opacity which also lessens the effect. Below is how the image was starting to appear with Black & White Effects applied.

Image of Sindbad Show with Black & White Effects applied

Two Curves Adjustment Layers were added to darken the edges down and brighten the girl just a little. Below you can see the Adjustment Layer mask’s were turned black (CTRL+I inside the mask to turn it black) and a white brush was used to paint back the localized sections to reveal. Since I am never one to leave things alone, Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to add the red tones to the flames (actually used the little eyedropper under the Hue slider and sampled the red in the flame to add more) and pop her face a little (mainly used just a little Contrast of 28% and Structure of 44% to make the face show up just a little more). You can see the flame settings in the screenshot below. (Click on image to see settings larger in Flickr.)

Screen Capture Image of Nik Viveza 2 settingsSince the effect was still a little strong, a black layer mask was added and just the areas I wanted more were painted back in white, of course using my Chalk Brush 60 with 19% Angle Jitter. How cool to use so many of my favorite plug-ins in one image. The final image is shown at top of blog and below is an image of the Layers Panel from the finished file. (Click on the Layer Panel to see close-up in Flickr.)
Image of Layers Panel for Sindbad ShowWell I hope this gave you some insight into how to do use plug-ins effectively in Photoshop. You do not have to overdo the effect – can just add a black layer mask in Photoshop and paint back with white where you want the effect to show up. Or try changing the Layer Opacity or Blend Mode to get a different look. And don’t forget to try some different types of brushes other than the Round brush when painting in that layer mask. Lots of choices here! Until later…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How Topaz Black & White Effects Can Create Some Surprising Results!
More Clarity on Topaz Clarity
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity
Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem!

HOW TO USE THE PUPPET WARP TOOL CREATIVELY

Image of Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville sign at City Walk in Orlando, FloridaJust having some fun with this week and trying some new things out. This is the sign on the restaurant for Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at City Walk in Orlando, Florida. So the reason this is rather “wonky” is because I decided it looked kind of good “wonky!” This sign was at the top of the building and was not shot straight on, so the sign on the right side was further away than the side on the left. There was lots of reflection in the restaurant windows in the original since it was taken during the brightest part of the day – totally awful! And the blue lettering and the parrot were almost indistinguishable in the sign. I thought this would make a good image to experiment with the brushes created in my How to Easily Create a Photoshop Brush for Painting blog. First the image was cropped in Lightroom and then opened Photoshop where it was taken into the Edit -> Perspective Warp command to see if it could be salvaged. It actually did a pretty good job on it but there were a few disturbing areas. It was tweaked using the Edit -> Puppet Warp command and that is when it went “wonky” – I just started pulling and pushing the pins all over and got this really whimsical look that I liked – it looks like the sign is on the top of a sombrero. (For info on how to really use this tool effectively, see my short Tidbits Straightening with Puppet Warp! blog.)

It occurred to me that Puppet Warp is actually very similar to the Warp Tool in Free Transform (CTRL+T). On a New Layer on top the sky was blended using the Creative Toons Mixer brush from my linked blog. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) above, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 was opened and an underpainting look was created. (Here are my settings: Topaz Detail 3 – used Abstraction II preset. Made changes to Tone Cyan-Red -0.69, Magenta-Green -0.12, and Yellow-Blue 0.09; Color Temperature 0.30, Tint 0.02, Saturation 0.05, and Saturation Boost 0.02; and Effect Mask – Painted out the effect off the bird’s face, trees, and Jimmy Buffett’s lettering using a Brush Strength of 0.45, Brush Size 0.11, Hardness 0.66, and Flow and Edge Aware at 1.00; and Overall Opacity set to 1.00.) This layer was set to Subtract blend mode at 89% layer opacity and on a layer mask the lettering was painted out to make the Jimmy Buffett’s lettering show up better. In the Layer Style dialog, the Blend If This Layer black tab was split (ALT+click on the tab and pull apart) and set to 56/77 to really darken down the sky. (See my How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders! blog) How I came up with this I do not know, but on another stamped layer above, the image was inverted by clicking on the layer and pressing CTRL+I – now it was all white looking. A black layer mask was added and just the same lettering was painted back. Looked terrible so a Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer was added to turn the lettering from the ugly yellow to bright red – now you can see it. On another New Layer I used the SJ-Kahara Regular brush from my linked painting blog to paint on the sky around the the bird and trees to make them stand out a little more and add some interest to the night sky. On yet another stamped layer a Camera Raw Radial Filter was added to just the parrot’s head (hum) to bring the focus to him. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to adjust the green color in the image and that was about it. Oh yes, lastly added Jack Davis’s Wow Texture 02 (got this style along with many others from the CD in a little gem of a book called Adobe Photoshop 7 One Click Wow)– this to give a more painterly look. Whew!

Image inside the Trolley Train Ride at Universal Studios Orlando This image was shot looking up at the center from the stairs going up to get on the High in the Sky Seuss Trolley Train Ride at Seuss Landing in Universal Studios Orlando. I really loved the bright colors but was not quite sure what to do with the image. It seemed like a good candidate to try a little Puppet Warping on, so that is what you see. In Lightroom the image was cropped and Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Power Workflow 4 Magic Ugly Shade Fixer preset was used to help with this issue. In Photoshop on a duplicate layer, the Puppet Warp Tool was used. Once again, the mesh was turned off first. Then pins were stuck in each corner to hold the image still. The various pins were placed and dragged to get this crazy result. Back in Photoshop Topaz Adjust was opened and a preset I created called Negative Preset was applied with no changes. (Here are the settings: Global Adjustments Adaptive Exposure 0.07, Regions 50, Contrast -0.02, Brightness 0.00, Protect Highlights 0.02, and Protect Shadow; and Finishing Touches Warmth 0.18, Border Size 0.26; and Vignette Strength -1.00, Vignette Size 0.01, Vignette Transition 1.00, and Vignette Curvature 0.87.) It gave it a bit of the surreal look. 2 Lil’ Owls Studio’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Member Freebie of July 2012-57 was applied and set to Hard Light blend mode at 61% layer opacity. The Blend If This Layer black tab was split (ALT+drag tab) and set to 125/191 and the white tab was also split and set to 215/255. This pulled back some of the texture from the image to get this kind of nice effect. Her Ultimate Texture Collection Chalkboard Burgundy was applied at Soft Light and 100% layer opacity. Three New Layers were added with painting on each to smooth out the white highlights in areas that were distracting. A stamped layer was created on top and set to Multiply blend mode and a white layer mask was used to bring back the texture details in the darker areas. Another stamped layer was created and my free SJ Thin Double Edge Frame layer style was applied with the default colors. I think it turned out to look a little scary!

Image of the Giraffes in a Store Sign at Seuss Landing in Universal Studios OrlandoThis was just too much fun to stop at one image. The puppet warp was used to warp another store sign in Seuss Landing at Universal Studios. These funny giraffes are from the first Dr. Seuss book called And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. I wanted to show a painterly image that had very little brush painting done in it – all done with filters and textures. Ran the same Shake Reduction Filter in Photoshop, selected the plain blue sky using the Select -> Color Range Tool, and added Melissa Gallo’s Painted Texture June Seashore for a bluish sky that looked like painted clouds. Next a new texture by French Kiss called Color Wash Sage was added. What really made this image get this rather grainy illustrative look was in the layer style of the layer (double click on the layer to open). The Blend Mode was set to Color Dodge at 94% opacity and 95% Fill Opacity, and the Blend If This Layer White Tab was split (ALT+drag to get a smooth transition) and set to 224/255; the Underlying Layer Black tab was split and set to 29/47 and White tab split and set to 145/177. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top but a huge color shift occurred. This is because the blend mode of the texture below was set to Color Dodge and this happens – to get rid of this just set the stamped layer blend mode to Color. Decided to try the whole image in Topaz ReStyle and voila, instead of a blue image, I had pinks and warm tones which I really liked. (Here are the ReStyle Settings: colors based on Orange Peel preset – ReStyle Color Style Hue Fifth 0.53; Sat Fifth 0.41; and Lum Primary -0.48; Texture Strength 0.00; Basic Color Temperature -0.31, Tint 0.61, and Saturation 0.11; Tone Black Level -0.31, Midtones -0.02, and White Level 0.02; and Detail Structure 0.38 and Sharpness 0.16.) The last step added my SJ Thin Double Edge Frame on a top stamped layer – sampled colors in the image to get the frame colors.

Sometimes it is just fun to play with the different tools and see what results you get. I think I would get bored if I did the same workflow on every piece I did. Sometimes you have to when working on a special occasion or group of images, but it is kind of nice to take a break and try something different. Until next time – Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Get Blend If Slider Settings to Apply to a Layer

JUST PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP AND HAVING FUN!

Image of totem poles in front of a store in St. Augustine, FloridaThis week is all about just having some fun painting – which is why I do anything in Photoshop! Thought I would pass along a few tips that occurred to me while painting away this week. This image is of some really beautiful wood totem poles that are in front of a store in St. Augustine, Florida. Had to take the image! The colors were marvelous!

This is an example of how to use your new brush skills to remove areas in your image – the texture was used to hide a very messy and distracting background and the basic objects were painted a little but kept in tact so you can appreciate the detail of the pieces. Since the last few posts have been about creating some nice brushes, this image used the one created for the first image in How to Paint with a Texture Brush blog. I like this brush because it contains a whole bunch of texture. If you want a more obvious texture in your brush, increase the Depth slider. What does this do? Well basically by setting to a high level, the deepest areas of the texture would not get any paint; set to 0% means that there really is no different between the high and low parts of the texture and very little of it will be seen in the brush stroke. The Depth Jitter adds some randomness to the brush texture in the stroke.

Lots of clean up was done before starting on this image – need to get any distractions out of the way and clone in areas that are covered up. Saves a lot of time later. In this case all the bottoms of the front totem poles had to be reconstructed and many had white sales tags on them. Note – Open up that Clone Stamp Panel and click on icon in front of the W – this reverses the direction of what you are cloning – totally useful to help with reconstructing a missing area. Added on top Melissa Gallo’s August Copper texture. By using a layer mask to paint back the totem poles, a pretty nice painterly effect is achieved. This is actually a very popular technique used whenever a texture is added. (See my Texture Resources – So Many Choices! So Many Choices! blog.)

Another tip is do not forget to try some of your plug-ins once you have got the image close to finished. I have often created much better results by doing this. This image used Nik Viveza 2 (one of my totally in-disposable plug-in) and Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 (another favorite) as a black and white layer and set to Overlay blend mode at 86%. Viveza let me make the faces a little sharper where I wanted to direct focus and add some slight vignetting in the corners. My last step involved adding yet another texture, August Marble also by Melissa, and setting it to a Color Burn blend mode at 52% layer opacity – and no layer mask this time.

So in this case we found that painting is not that much of the process – need to really clean up the image, use  your plug-ins wisely, and find a perfect texture to hide distractions! Always be on the look out for that great texture!
…..
Image of a painted bouquet of flowersThis bouquet is of an image I actually put a white background behind and shot with natural light. All that was done on this image is to just paint on a New Layer on top of the flowers using a Mixer brush. First Seim’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) PW4 Super HDR X preset was added to add some contrast and sharpen the image a little. In Photoshop I converted the image to 8-bit (Image -> Mode -> 8 Bit) and made the image smaller since I was going to use a Mixer brush to paint and it is common knowledge that these brushes slows everything down – a lot! Usually this works along with keeping the brush size pretty small. This image just used Photoshop’s default Flat Fan Single Bristle Wet Edge brush at 25 pixels as a Mixer brush. The Options Bar was set so the “Load the brush after every stroke” icon was turned off – do not want to add any color – and Sample All Layers turned on. Set the Wet to 100%, Load 1%, Mix 100% (want to mix our colors up), and Flow 100%. I could have used the Very Wet Heavy Mix, in the drop down which increased the Load to 50% – not sure it matters at this point since no color is being loaded. Now just dabbed and stroked away to my hearts content on this image trying to keep my focal point in mind and not overdo that area. Two texture layers from French Kiss (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) were added – the Atelier Valley set to Hard Light blend mode at 35% and Tableaux Mirage set to Vivid Light at 67% layer opacity – no layer masks were added. A New Layer was created and set to Overlay – then with a dark greenish brush set to 19% brush opacity, some of the lines in the flower were painted back to emphasize the separation in my focal area. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) Another New Layer was added where the Mixer brush was used to just add some extra strokes in the leaves – if the texture that was added is too strong, this can be blended into your strokes to make this less obvious. It just cleaned up some of the painting. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add back some of the contrast when the textures were added. A stamped layer was created and now I decided to go into Topaz ReStyle just to see if I could improved upon the color palette. The Thistles and Bright Sky preset was used (here are the setting if you are interested: ReStyle opacity 55%; Hue Secondary 0.30, Third 0.38, and Fifth 0.86; Lum Primary -0.33, Third -0.09, Fourth -0.33, and Fifth -o0.37; and Sat no changes; Texture 0.86; Basic Opacity 49% at Color blend mode; Color Tint -0.56 and Saturation 0.03; Tone Black Level 0.20 and Midtones -0.30; and Detail – Structure -0.42 and Sharpness 0.20.) Another Curves Adjustment Layer was added and by dragging in the focal flower area, more contrast could be added. By filling the layer mask with black, just this area was lightly painted back until it looked just right. It took a lot of steps but it ended up creating a very nice result! Used a similar process but different brush in my Tidbits Blog called Red Carnations on a Bright Sunny Texture.

Here’s a little tip I wanted to pass along – actually found this in the Photoshop Manual’s shortcut key section and it is a real time-saver when changing brushes. In the Preset Brush Panel pressing the “.” (period key) takes you to the next brush in the list and the “,” (comma key) takes you to the previous brush. You can skim through all your brushes very quickly by just pressing these keys. Also, by pressing the “<” key, you are taken to the first brush in your preset list and the “>” takes you to the last one. This is very handy since every time you create a new brush, it ends up at the bottom of the stack , and if you are like me, there can be many brushes in your list – so just press the > key and it takes you to the last entry quickly.

Well that’s it for this week. Maybe you picked up a couple new brushes or tips to try. See you next week!…..Digital Lady Syd

HOW TO PAINT WITH A TEXTURE BRUSH FROM YOUR IMAGE

Image of a painted Rooftop at Harry Potter Land - Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I only have this one example using an image taken at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios Orlando, but it works well for this very useful technique. Since I have been learning more about the brush engine in Photoshop, I discovered a rather useful way to link a part of the texture of the background to the brush being used to paint over the image.

Here are the beginning steps to making this image. First converted image to 8-bit (Image ->Mode->8-bit) so the brushes will paint faster. The sky was a very bland flat blue color so it just seemed to be begging for something to perk it up. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits blog for website link) Detail 3 was applied for an overall image sharpening and then some basic spot cleaning was done since my camera sensor was a little dirty.

Owl Steps: Next an owl brush from a set called harry_potter_brushes_by_nyvelvet-d4qcowz was applied on a New Layer by clicking just once at 100% brush opacity to get a nice owl outline. On another New Layer underneath, some brown was painted in the owl wings and head, then on another New Layer white was painted in other parts of the owl to make it stand out and look painted – just used a regular soft brush at 100% opacity. These three layers were grouped (highlight the layers and press CTRL+G) and named Owl.

A stamped layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and this layer was opened up in Topaz Simplify where the BuzzSim III preset was applied to use as an underpainting. This broke up the image into a really nice color palette that can be used to sample colors for painting over the main objects. Note you do not have to use Simplify (or Detail above), these are just some ways I am experimenting. An underpainting could be created using different Photoshop filters or adjustments layers. I plan on covering this topic at a later date. Used Topaz ReMask to remove the sky and the selection was loaded as a layer mask from the plug-in (check ReMask settings at bottom to set this up) although Photoshop could easily have used for this as it was a very easy selection. Now a texture needed to  be added underneath to fill up the sky and various ones were tried. I settled on French Kiss Atelier Georgia texture (see sidebar at my Tidbits blog for website link) which gave the image a nice painterly feel. Obviously the Simplify BuzzSim edges in the towers looked bad, but it is now time to make a brush to smooth these out.

Creating Brush Steps: A brush was made right in this image by turning off all the layers except the texture layer. Next use the Rectangular (or Elliptical) Marque Tool and select a small portion of the texture that represents an area that might make a nice brush. Press CTRL+J and it copies the brush selection up onto its own layer. Turn off the full texture layer and on top of the sample layer, add a Threshold Adjustment Layer to get a strong nice black and white look – all brushes have to be in black and white tones or it will not pick up the texture. I think my Threshold Level was set to 162. Highlight the brush layer under the adjustment layer and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. Down at the bottom of your Brush Presets Panel is your new brush. The new Brush now needs to be turned into a pattern, so on a New Layer a one stroke click was done with the new 208 pixel brush at 100% opacity in a black color. With the Marque Tool again just the brush stroke was selected and then go to Edit -> Define Pattern and name it the same as your brush. Deselect and highlight all three layers to put into another group and name brush and pattern.

Now the rest of the Brush in the Brush Panel must be set up. The Brush Tip Shape size was set 30 pixels and Spacing 56% – keep the Size small but play around with the Spacing watching the Preview area. Next in Shape Dynamics the Control was set to Off and the Angle Jitter to 4% – just enough to give a bit of variation. The last step involved adding the new brush pattern that was just created. By clicking on the down arrow next to the current texture, the last entry should be the new brush pattern just created – select it. Set the Scale to 131% – needs to be set over 100% so no obvious patterning is observed. If you are using the CC or CC 2014 versions of Photoshop, adjust the Brightness and Contrast sliders – I used Brightness -19 and Contrast 11. Make sure the Texture Each Tip is checked and change Mode to Multiply. Depth was set to 100% and Depth Jitter to 59%. All these settings can be manipulated until you get a stroke you like, but these are settings I used on this image. A new Brush Preset was created with these new settings by clicking on the Create New Brush icon at the bottom of the panel. A video going over these brush and pattern steps is below in case you got lost in the description.

Finalizing the Image: Several New Layers were painted using just this Regular Brush to paint over the objects – no mixer involved – and by sampling in the different colors that Simplify supplied, the image could be painted fairly quickly. Basically I like to sample a darker similar color and paint over a light one and vice versa to get a nice blend effect. Since the texture adds enough empty space in the stroke the colors blend nicely and it also looks somewhat  like the added large sky texture. This does not have to be painted perfectly and it will give a totally painted look. It really was a lot of fun and did not take too long to complete. A Pattern Adjustment Layer with the new pattern set to 100% Scale was put on top. The layer opacity was set to Normal at just 3% layer opacity – just gave a little bit more of the overall texture. On a stamped layer, a Radial Filter was added in Camera Raw to help draw the focus to the top cupola.

Update: I just added a Tidbits Blogs called A Little More Painting with a Texture Brush where I finished up the image started in the video and got a very different result. Check it out for a couple more tips.

Hope you get a chance to try this – as you can see from the video, a different texture gives a very different brush – some are better and some are worse, but it is nice to be able to match the added texture to the paint brush strokes so the objects fit more smoothly into the texture. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

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