I started playing around with the small image below that was taken of the ruins at St. Andrews Cathedral in Scotland. I loved the composition and feel of the image before I ever did any adjustments to it. This image shows what it typically looks like in Scotland.
The original appears pretty flat but overall it has a lot of interest and the details are very sharp in this shot.
- First I tried processing the image in Lightroom and applied my Vivid Drawing Look preset, a preset from a previous blog (Great Free Plug-in for Lightroom – The Fader!) and is available for download here. Then only an adjustment to the Luminance slider to get rid of a little noise and the Detail slider to add detail back to the overall image was done. (This can also be done after loading image into Photoshop by using Russell Brown’s script – see my blog called Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script.) I also created this preset for people that use Camera Raw from Photoshop and it may be downloaded here (I just realized it has the wrong extension on the file in the Zip folder – change it to .xmp to get it to work). Just download and load into ACR using the pop-out panel in Presets tab.
- The next effect is from a blog by Rick A. Brown at Moose’s Photography Site called Technique for Dramatic Low Saturation Images (does not appear to be available anymore).
I modified his technique to make it faster and I will give you a quick recap of how to do this here:
- Open image and duplicate the background layer.
- Turn off top layer (click on layer eyeball in Layers Palette to remove) and highlight the original Background layer.
- Create a black and white image using any method you feel gives a really contrasty high key (washed out or over-highlighted) look. He used Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 which is a great program but very expensive. I think the Black and White Adjustment Layer does a fine job and if you own Lightroom, there are many really nice Black and White presets for that program that can be downloaded for free.
- Make a composite of these two layers by highlighting the Adjustment Layer and going to CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E (keeps image intact so you can adjust later if need be by deleting this layer).
- Turn on the top layer (click where eyeball should be and it turn ons) and change blend mode to Soft Light.
- This may be all it needs for corrections. If not, create another composite image as in Step 4, duplicate it and set the blend mode to Screen. Add Layer Mask and paint in area to brighten up image.
- Now this next image really changed up the feeling – it surprised me how good it looks in a monochrome. Nik Silver Efex Pro2 was used but any black and white conversion method that gives a really contrasty appearance can be used. Then a Hue/Sat Adjustment level was added and Colorize was checked. I found a really spooky inky blue color (Hue set to 242) and dropped the Saturation to 25 and this is what you get!
- Below a totally different look was created in Lightroom and used a preset called whoiswolf_cross_retro – there are several nice free presets in this group that can be downloaded here. Only this preset and then the Luminance and Color sliders in the Noise Reduction panel were used.
- For this next iteration, Gavin Hoey’s Blast From the Past actions set called Lomo effect Style 1 was applied to create this soft look. This is a very inexpensive set of actions that are great for creating some new effects.
- In this image below, first the Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog Filter was applied using a dark blue color for the foggy feel (could just use the Fogs and Mists brush set by BB Brushes to create you own effect – see my Foggy Weather! blog for more on this) ; then a Curves Adjustment Layer to get a vivid blue on top and bright green color on the ground; next a Gradient Map adjustment layer with a tan color (c4b190) to a light blue color (c2d0d8) for the gradient (try different gradients – get some really interesting results doing this) and set layer Blend Mode to Color Dodge at 82%; a Levels Adjustment Layer to wash out the results to get more of a foggy look; added a New Layer and painted on Wycked – birds-sm brush from the Tranquility brush set (this is a fabulous set to own); and finished off with a PhotoFrame from OnOne Software (simply the best!). This image is presented to show what a very different look you can get with just a little experimentation.
- The next picture was created using an action I created in my blog “Create Postage Stamps with Your Images” blog under Method Two called Vintage Effect from Cloudy Text Effect (here is the download link). I am presenting it here, even though it has a similar feel to other effects like the Lomo action above, because the action is free and it gives a very nice look on many types of landscape images.
- My last image is for my son, Metal Chris at DC Heavy Metal (a great music blog with some fabulous musician photography for DC folks), who likes it when I do something different with my photos. The Mirror Filter (Kaleidoscope vertical) was applied from the Plugin Galaxy 2.0 (see my blog Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop for more on this great plug-in), along with the Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog filter and a Gradient Map adjustment layer. Gives a whole new perspective to the picture.
That should about wrap up the blog for this time. I think I could just keep doing effects – this image lends itself well to that. As I have said before, if you can get a good picture in your camera, you have lots of post-processing options – the image makes the processing easy.
Hope this inspired a few people to try different effects with the same image – it is a lot of fun to see how different the image ends up!…..Digital Lady Syd
This smokey look from all the small forest fires as seen in the photo above taken right outside our addition in Florida a couple days ago made me start thinking about how to get this look without actually seeing (and smelling) it. I decided to try several different ways to create a hazy foggy look and see which I method I liked the best. The image below is of the Scottish Highlands (where Hamish the cow can be seen) and is a great example of how the the last tendrils of fog appears once the sun rises. No corrections were done on this image except some power lines were removed using the Healing Brush in the lower right corner.
Here is a link where I downloaded several free stock images on Stock.xchng to see what the fog really looks like for reference.
The most important thing I learned is that decent fog brushes are absolutely essential. So lets begin with that – these two set of fog brushes will give the needed look: Fogs and Mists by ~BBs-Brushes – Brush No. 11 and Brush No. 13 give really nice fog effects, and Tranquility Brushes by ~wyckedBrush – the Sky brush and experiment with several others to see what you like. Here is a nice link to 10 sites which includes the above at 10 Free Fog Brush Sets.
Two fog tutorials, three Photoshop plug-ins and one action tutorial were tried to see which had the best results. My first attempt began with a tutorial called “Create Dramatic Misty Landscapes” in Photoshop Creative Issue No. 72. There is also a very similar tutorial on the Internet called “Realistic Fog and Mist” and has very clear and simple steps to follow so I will not list them here. After trying both tutorials with several image, I just did not like the results, not even well enough to show them here. I could not seem to get a really good flat colored image appearance and I did not like the way the fog was distributed – too heavy and uneven. Hopefully you might get a better result.
Next, I pulled out my arsenal of Photoshop plug-ins: Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0, Topaz’s Lens Effects, and a very old filter I had from 10 years ago by the Imaging Factory called Graduated Fog. (Download it for a 30 day trial – not sure if it is still available for sale.) Believe it or not, the Graduated Fog filter did just as well as the other two advanced plug-ins. They all either made the colors too vivid or the fog effect way too heavy or both – very unnatural looking. Below is an example of what I did with The Imaging Factory’s Graduated Fog effect – note the fog color is a yellow (the white appeared too heavy) and not exactly realistic. I added a layer with some light white brush strokes using BB Fogs and Mists Brushes – Sample Brush #11. Still, this image turned out the best of the plug-ins.
There is another stand-alone program that can be downloaded in the demo mode only (meaning you cannot save any results) – it has a fairly large learning curve, but it appears to have a really great interface for this particular look. It would take some effort but a nice effect can probably be obtained with some experimenting – try downloading AutoFx Mystical Lighting and Ambiance 2.0 demo and go to Ambiance, then Haze and Fog effect. I will definitely spend some more time in the demo looking at some of the other effects also.
Then I came upon a recent blog that made me feel much better! This tutorial supplied an action that works very good and is a great starting point. The link is called: “How to Create Fog in Photoshop: Gloomy Photoshop Action Included” by Timkainu. Definitely check this link out and download Tim Kainu’s Sun to Gloom Photoshop Action – the two photos below (of Maui and the Scottish Highlands) used this action and it required just a bit of touch up. He says that the action works great with images taken in harsh sunlight! I think the image below reflects more what I believe a fog would really look like for this image.
The final image is the same as the one above, but done entirely with the brushes linked in this blog. The effect is a little heavier, and it was created by just putting the fog on its own layer (or several different layers) and building up the effect until you like it. A layer mask can be added to get the exact intensity using different brush opacities, blend modes can be changed, and layer opacities adjusted – it was definitely easier than anything else I tried except for the wonderful action. I would suggest giving this a try if the action does not give quite the look you want.
This has definitely been a long week of experimenting. I learned about many things that did not work! I also learned sometimes it is easier to just go with what you do know – the special filters and tricks may not cut it. I hope I have helped guide a few fellow digital artists to find the resources they need and not waste time with what they do not need. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd
Since the Fourth of July is just around the corner, I thought I would create a blog for making some of your beautiful night images into spectacular holiday images. Just to get you in the mood, here is a link to Stunning Fireworks Photos from Smashing Magazine. This was helpful to see the colors needed to get a realistic look on some of the fireworks.
As far as I can tell, there are two major ways of making images look like a fireworks celebration: either by adding fireworks images to a nighttime image or painting in the fireworks with brushes. This blog will address both types.
Creating Fireworks with Images
The above image used five different fireworks – old jpg images (from a 2 megapixel camera taken 8 years ago so don’t delete those old images, you may use them years later) brought into the original nighttime photo of the Main Street Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida. The basic steps are as follows:
- Do correction to your original image. A really dark scene is helpful.
- Go into Adobe Bridge and just drag the first image into Photoshop (does the same thing as File -> Place an object).
- The new image comes in as a Smart Object (right click and your will see the Free Transform choices) and can now be moved and sized (adjust by just dragging in the handles). Click Enter. I usually rasterize to get rid of the Smart Object as it makes the file bigger and is not needed for this workflow – just right click on the fireworks layer and select Rasterize layer.
- Double-click on the fireworks layer to open up the Layer Style and go to the “This Layer” slider near the bottom of the dialog box. Since the fireworks images have dark backgrounds, move the black tab right to get the correct effect. Then hold the ALT key to split the tab, click on the left side of the tab and drag it back to get a smooth the transition. If your image has a white background, move the right tab left, hold the ALT key and drag the right portion of tab back for the desired look.
- Add a layer mask to the layer and paint out any areas that are covering up part of the background image to make the fireworks look realistic. May need to lower the opacity of the level to see where to mask and then bring it back up to 100% when finished.
- Keep adding in more fireworks.
- Use a Basic Soft White Cloud Brush (download here) to paint in the soft black smoke coming from the fireworks. Set layer opacity to around 5-10% – do not overwhelm the image with smoke.
This basic workflow is from Scott Kelby’s book, Classic Photoshop Effects, “Adding Fireworks to Nighttime Photos,” one of the few nice fireworks tutorials I could find. Also, the Basic Soft White Cloud Brush was created by following the video “Brush Dynamics and Fluffy Clouds in Photoshop” by Ice Flow at PictureSocial.com.
Several beautiful fireworks images were downloaded for free from Stock.xchng and can be added to your images following the above workflow. They were moved into a black background. Here is a link to the Fireworks images – there are 46 pages of them so have fun finding some nice ones! Once you log in and download an image, you need to right click and select the Save Image As to your computer.
Painting Fireworks into your Images
Here is an example of Fireworks brushes that can be downloaded from the internet. After trying many fireworks brushes, the best are once again from Obsidian Dawn’s Fireworks set. (There are also jpg’s of these same brushes for download – to use follow the steps in the next section.) Obsidian Dawn had some great tips on how to use her great brushes so I thought I would share:
- Can use as just a solid color and they look great but to make them more colorful, apply a Radial Gradient to the layer. This is pretty easy – just follow these steps:
- Create a New Layer above your nighttime image.
- Click to make just one brush stroke – choose a bright color.
- On the brush layer, double click the layer to open the Layer Styles dialog and go to Gradient Overlay. Change Style to Radial and select any Gradient. A new group of gradients may be added by clicking the drop down arrow and clicking on the right pointing arrow in the top right corner. Try clicking Reverse checkbox to change color order. Change the scale to adjust which colors go where and try different blend modes and opacity.
- Remember some fireworks are brighter in the center – some the outer edges. To get this effect for using only one color, use a basic Black and White gradient in the Gradient Overlay Layer Style and set the blending mode to Screen. Set the Gradient opacity to 50% so it is not too bright. Use the Reverse checkbox to toggle where the darker and light colors show up.
- Try an Outer Glow Layer Style to make them more luminescent – try a different color too. Also try Color Overlay in a different color at a very low opacity to add some new color.
The Fountain above was created by using Photoshop Free Brushes Firework’s Brushes no.3 – placed on its own layer, duplicate it, Free Transform (CTRL+T) and flip Horizontal. Add a Linear gradient to get the effect. This set of brushes were created from clip art so most of them are not so realistic looking but nice if you want a more graphic look.
Some great resources for gradients that for fireworks are: Gorgeous Gradients (the one called Preppy give a nice result), Warhol gradients from Graphix1 (check out all their gradients), and Mellow Yellow Gradient from Photoshop Daily.
There is another way to get some interesting fireworks results that was posted as a comment on Photoshop Daily blog by Jo Cole that you might want to try. Once a fireworks brush is selected, here is what Kazzie said in her comment about creating a new brush to get a really nice fireworks:
“Shape Dynamics: size jitter – 75-100%. Color Dynamics: foreground/background 75-100%, Hue – 50-100%, Saturation – 100%, Purity – (+100). Brush Tip Shape: spacing = 1% or OFF. I set the foreground/background colors to bright colors in the main menu. Then I just clicked in the same place to achieve glorious fireworks using basic white color in between clicks.”
I tried this and it creates some very nice results that look similar to the orange and yellow fireworks above, but you must be careful not to click too much or you lose the effect. Go in and try different Hue settings. Once you get some settings you like, be sure to save as a new brush so you do not have to keep resetting it every time you try a different brush. (See my blog on “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text.”)
Combining the two processes
For the above image, both fireworks brushes and several jpg images from Obsidian Dawn were used. Since the fireworks are on a white background, I used the free Adobe Pixel Bender filter and my favorite filter for it, the free Kill White filter (it works better with Pixel Bender than just as a Photoshop plug-in) to delete the white areas – can get some very interesting effects using Kill White so I recommend downloading it. (Note often an error warning comes up when applying Pixel Bender – just say OK.) Below is the workflow used for the jpgs.
- Open up your base nighttime image.
- Drag over one of the jpg from Adobe Bridge – comes in as a Smart Object so adjust the size and position. The right click on the layer and choose Rasterize layer to remove Smart Object.
- Go to Pixel Bender and select MikeYael_Kill White.
- Double click on the fireworks layer and open the Layer Style. Choose the Gradient Overlay and set the Style to Radial. Open up the different Gradients and load any new ones you want to try by clicking the popout at the top right and appending them. Then adjust the Scale, try reversing the colors and changing the blend mode.
To get the reflection on the water, after making all your fireworks, put them in a group named fireworks. Next right click on the Layers Panel popout and select Merge Group to create just one layer of the firework objects. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and select Flip Vertical. Hold SHIFT Key and drag straight down to a point. Enter. Go to Filter -> Blue -> Gaussian Blue and select a Radius between 3 and 10. Add a layer mask to mask out anywhere the reflection should not be or to tone down some of the brighter colors with a 20% opacity soft round Brush. Can add in some smoke with the Basic Soft Cloud Brush and set to a very low opacity – usually between 5 to 10%.
I guess you can tell that an image which may not be that great can take on a really nice look with the fireworks. This has once again been a lot of fun to explore and try. It is really worth your time to play around with some of these effects – you can learn a lot! Hope everyone has a very happy Fourth of July celebration!…..Digital Lady Syd
I was looking through some of my old magazines and I came across an old article in Photoshop Creative Issue No. 5 called “Create Space!” They had created this beautiful looking planet so I just had to try it out. My results are shown below.
I used another tutorial called “Creating Planet Rings” for the ring effect and the starfield and space object brushes are from Obsidian Dawn’s Space Brush set. This image took quite a while to complete so I began thinking about how this could be done easier. First, I will recreate the steps using just the magazine instructions for the planet (since I am not sure this issue is still available). Afterwards, I will show you how to get the same effect with the Planet brushes I created using this image. It only takes a few minutes!
THE LONG WAY – Actual Steps
STARFIELD: First create a New Document which will eventually be your final image so make sure it is set to the size you which to make. Create a black background layer and on a New Layer, use some of Obsidian Dawn’s Space brushes to create the stars. I used the color c2d0d8, a light gray-blue, for my objects. Put each of the objects on its own layer so it can be repositioned easily and the opacity may be adjusted individually. You may eventually need to add a Layer Mask to the starfield layer to get rid of any interfering dots in the body or rings of your planet, and the opacity may need to be reduced on this layer if the stars appear too bright.
PLANET: This looks hard but it actually is pretty simple:
- First find a texture that you think may create a nice look. In this case, I used a free texture from Mayang Texture called concrete_with_stones_4060445.jpg. Open this image up in Photoshop.
- With Elliptical Marquee Tool, create a circle (hold SHIFT and ALT keys to center and make a circle while dragging) to just fit the inside the edges of the texture. Now CTRL+J to copy the selection to a New Layer and name “Texture.”
- With selection still active (if not, CTRL+click on the layer thumbnail), go to Filter -> Distort -> Spherize and set to 100%. Repeat this filter a few times to get an effect you like for your planet terrain.
- Fill your background layer with black and and copy your Texture layer three times (CTRL+J).
- On Texture 1 copy, fill with a blue (may want to change this color later to get a better effect) and name the layer “Color.”
- On Texture 1 copy 2, fill the circle with black (CTRL+click the thumbnail and ALT+Backspace to fill with black), name it “Shading.” Texture 1 copy 3 name “Atmosphere.”
- Highlight the Atmosphere Layer and set to Screen Blend Mode. Create a Layer Style (double click on name to bring up Style dialog) and select first: Inner Shadow changing just these settings – Mode (Screen), Color (light cyan – I used b5d2e3), Global Light Angle (8 degrees), and adjust Distance and Size sliders to the right to get the color effect on the planet you like; Outer Glow — Mode (Screen), Color (Light Cyan), Size to create halo effect or atmosphere (120); and Inner Glow — Mode (Screen), Color (Light Cyan), and Size (120). Now create a New Layer underneath and merge the Atmosphere layer down (highlight both layers and press CTRL+E to merge) – this applies (gets rid of the layer styles which you do not need anymore).
- Highlight layer called Shading and move it above the Atmosphere layer. With Move Tool, drag darkened disk up to the right so it masks the top-right third of the Atmosphere layer. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set Radius to 95 pixels. Go to the Texture shape layer (be sure to use only this layer) and CTRL+click on thumbnail to create circle selection; then with the Shading layer highlighted, go to Select -> Inverse (SHIFT+CTRL+II) and then press BACKSPACE to remove shading from starfield. CTRL+D to deselect.
- Highlight Atmosphere layer and add a Layer Mask. With a soft brush set to 10-20% opacity and gently remove most of the remaining glow on the top and left side of the planet. See photo above for guidance. When done, right click on Layer Mask and select Apply Mask.
- Drag Texture layer above Color Layer and set blend mode to Screen. Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation and select Saturation and move to bring some of the color back into the planet. Reduce opacity of layer to 33% and duplicate the layer two more times. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and select Rotate on the two duplicate layers you just created to adjust some of the detail on the planet. Highlight all three Texture layers and CTRL+E to merge together.
- Duplicate the Texture layer. On copy go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels and pull black and white tabs towards the middle – try to create a hard cloud effect. Free Transform (CTRL+T) and Rotate to get a good effect. Rename this layer to “Clouds.” Rename the Texture layer to “Land.” Reduce the Shading layer opacity to 95% so more texture shows through.
- Duplicate the Land Layer. Go to Filter -> Stylize -> Emboss and set the Angle to (-15), Amount to 1, and Amount 500%. Name this layer “Highlights” and duplicate layer and name it “Shadows.”
- On Highlight layer go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels and input 145/1.00/210 and set layer to Linear Dodge blend mode at 50% opacity. On Shadow layer go to Levels and input 87/1.00/111 and set layer to Multiply blend mode at 70% opacity. The Clouds layer may need to be brightened a bit now – go to Levels or Image -> Adjustments -> Brightness/Contrast.
All the steps above do not have to be done exactly as listed – sometimes I did not Free Transform three times if I already liked the effect or sometimes I went back to adjust my colors. This is just a basic guideline on how to create a relatively realistic planet.
Your planet is done!
RINGS: Now I followed the “Creating Planet Rings” tutorial to create the ring for this planet. Here are the basic steps:
- Create a New Document and fill with black. Set your Foreground color to Black and Background to White. Go to Filter -> Render -> Clouds. If you do not like the way the pattern looks, run the filter again until you like it.
- Go to Filter -> Distort -> Twirl and set to 999 – then apply the filter about three times to get a clean twirl look.
- With a Layer Mask, clear out inside and outside the twirl to create a ringed circle. When happy with the result, right click on Layer Mask thumbnail and Apply Layer Mask.
- Go to Edit -> Transform -> Scale and flatten ring as much as you want.
- Go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set to 15% and Gaussian. To get rid of the colored dots, go to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation and set Saturation to (-100).
- Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Levels and move center tab to right (0.32). The go to Image -> Adjustments ->Hue/Saturation and click colorize. Choose a color. Set layer to Screen blend mode so black parts become invisible.
MOONS: These are just like small planets only they do not need atmospheres or textures on their bodies.
- Create a small circle on a New Layer and fill with a light color.
- Duplicate layer and fill circle with black – with Move Tool drag to create shading cut out. May need to adjust the opacity of the color layer if it appears to bright in your sky.
The final stage is to copy your planet, ring and moon into the Starfield document. Now clean up any starfield stars that may show up in the wrong places, add a Layer Mask to ring layer (if needed) to hide overlapping areas, and place your moonlet. I actually lightened the ring in the darker area behind the planet to try and give a more realistic look.
Here’s another image using similar steps to the first image but I have also supplied the brushes for the planet in the download.
In this case two colors were used for the rings – just click on the layer and with the Free Transform Scale (CTRL+T and right click to select Scale) to make the rings fit, then erase if they enter into the planet. The texture for this planet can also be found in my Planet brushes. I used BittBox’s Grunge Ice Texture 3 for the red planet. As an update to this tutorial, Photoshop Creative Magazine just came out with an article in their latest US edition (Issue 74) called “Create a Spacescape” that uses similar techniques to that above. Definitely a good reference.
THE SHORT WAY – Planet Brushes
Now that you can know how all the space images were created, here are those same images using brushes made from the major components above.
Here are the steps to create the planet images as brush images very quickly:
- Create your starfield as discussed above.
- Set Foreground color to b5d2e3.
- Add a New Layer and select the SJ-Basic Planet Brush brush. Click once.
- Next create a New Layer and select the SJ-Texture for Planet brush. Click once.
- Create another new layer and change Foreground color to white. Use the same brush and click once on top of the texture layer you just created. Add a layer mask and use a black brush set to 50% opacity and lighten up area inside the planet so it is not too bright – you still want a fairly white rim around the edge.
- Go back to the light blue color and use the SJ-Graduated Light Ring brush. Click once and adjust layer opacity to get the right effect.
- Add galaxies using Obsidian Dawn’s brushes. Select SJ-Moonlet brush to add a small moon circling the planet and then change the color to black and click once more to add shading.
Try experimenting by stacking the planet texture brush strokes in different colors on individual layers – then change the blend modes and opacity, or add layer masks and only let a small amount of color show through. Also, use the Blender brush I included in the download for a soft blend of the the colors or to adjust the atmosphere of the planet. You can some very unique planets this way.
Here is another example of an image that was created just using brushes. Some of the brushes used are: my planet brushes that can be downloaded above, my lens flare brushes (for the sun in the upper corner) that were created in the blog “How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text” and can be downloaded here, Obsidian Dawn’s Space-Starfield2 and Comet1 brushes, Hawkmont’s Moon8 brush, and qzma’s Realistic Planets and Star Field Brush-Frozen Planet. I created the face following my blog on creating Photoshop brushes linked above.
I feel that following the long planet tutorial at the beginning does give the best planet results but it is a rather time-consuming process. The brushes can give the same feel quickly if you need to fill a certain look in an image or need it for a background. For just plugging in realistic images of our solar system in the sky, then download Obsidian Dawn’s Planet brushes – these are absolutely wonderful. They would be perfect for that full or partial moon that is missing from your image. Also, here is a Life Photos Gallery link to “NASA Envisions Alien Worlds” that shows what others are envisioning for this type of art. I hope this has inspired you to try a couple quick, out-of-this-world images for a real change of pace…..Digital Lady Syd