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Image of some of the characters making up the Caro-Seuss-el at Universal Studios OrlandoI think most people are pretty much in a rut and do not even think about using anything other than a basic round brush in Photoshop. But Wow! There is so much more sitting in that Brush Panel that is not really that difficult to use and the results can do some amazing things to an image. This week I am going to give you some very basic settings for making a nice brush variation and how to use it as both a regular brush and a Mixer Brush without having to learn everything “under-the-sun” about them. So here we go.

I have decided I must see things differently since I seem drawn to shooting these sort of close-ups of funny things I see at theme parks. They do such a good job with color and expression that it is hard not to enjoy them. So once again a Universal Studios Orlando image close up of a couple of the characters to ride on from the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing.

Getting Started

I decided I wanted a painterly feel to this bright colored image. Most people will over-saturate an image in Camera Raw or Lightroom as the painting can make the image lose its contrast. In Photoshop first do any cropping, straightening and clean up of distractions and convert your image to 8-bit mode to help speed up the painting process (Image -> Mode -> 8-bit).

This step does not have to be done – you can just go on to Creating the Brush step and then start painting on a New Layer without an underpainting effect. For this image, on a duplicate layer (CTRL+J),  Topaz (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened to create an underpainting before beginning to add my personal painting brush strokes. This is the same process as traditional painters do when they paint large blocks of color on their canvas before they begin painting the details. Especially for these bright contrasty images, it is a great way to start. Simplify does a great job of doing just that, simplifying your picture so you can take time working on your details. A preset I created back in version 3 was used (here are the settings used: Simplify section: Size 0.60, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0.80, Details Boost 1.28, Details Size 0.60, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.47; and Adjust section: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 0.82, Saturation, Saturation Boost 2.31, Dynamics 0, Structure and Structure Boost 1.00; no other settings used. ) This creates a rather bright flat image, but perfect for painting on the image. There are other ways to create an underpainting – the copy of the actual image could actually be blurred so only the basic shapes and colors are distinguishable and the detail removed. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 is another plug-in that creates a great underpainting effect. (See the first image in my More Plug-in and Painting Effects blog for an example using Snap Art 4.)

Creating the Brush

Next a New Layer was added on top and a watercolor Regular brush was created from the set I am always talking about – Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113. (See next section for some other choices.) The brush used was Sample No. 15 but in the Brush Tip Shape in the Brush Panel, I set the size to 90, Roundness 100%, and the Spacing to 55%. Then added these brush sections by clicking on the words (not just check boxes or the settings don’t show up): Shape Dynamics was set to an Angle Jitter of 19% – no other settings on; Scattering with Scatter slider turned on and set to 30% and Count to 1 – no other settings on; Texture was turned on and the Gauze Pattern in Photoshop’s Artists Surfaces set was selected – Scale 100%, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Multiply, Depth 100% and Depth Jitter 40%; and of course Smoothing. (To locate pattern, click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Artist Surfaces in list and Append – newly loaded patterns appear at bottom of already loaded patterns.) All the Control settings are turned off in all the sections. Be sure to save down as a Brush Preset so you do not lose your settings by clicking on the third icon over at the bottom of either the Brush Panel or the Brush Preset Panel. These were all settings I figured out since I really liked the shape of the original brush from Creative Toons, a brush that originally had a Size of 2500 px and Spacing of 25%. When painting, the 90-pixel size is as large as you want to use, especially when used as a Mixer brush. I believe any nicely shaped watercolor brush would work with these settings. Please try different settings and different types of brushes, not just watercolor, as you can get some very different but equally beautiful effects – I just happen to think this brush is very versatile and blends so beautifully. When using as a Regular brush, I usually set the brush opacity in the Options Bar to 30% and leave the Flow at 100%. If painting on a layer mask, may want the brush opacity set to 100%. For info on Flow, check out my blog called What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?

Where to Find Some Nice Starter Watercolor Brushes

If you are unable to create this brush since the set is not free without the magazine, try downloading this large set of brushes from Env1ro watercolor brush and select Brush 3-697 pixels using exactly the same settings – when tested it creates the same effect as the brush used above since the shapes are very similar. It is also used in image below. Some other similar results were obtained using  SwimchickWatercolours – brush no 480 which gave a little softer result. Kahara has a nice 8-brush set and the third one made a beautiful brush with these settings and a different pattern, a concrete  pattern from Photoshop’s Texture Fill set (click on side of pattern in Texture brush section, then click on the cog in upper right corner and select Texture Fill in list – new patterns appear at bottom of loaded patterns). Changing up the patterns can give a brush new life. For a great list of free brush downloads, check out 45 Watercolor Brushes For Photoshop by Petshopbox Studio.

Turning it into a Mixer Brush

The real trick is to get your new Regular brush to work as a good Mixer Brush, and that is determined by what is up in the Options Bar – these settings are all sticky so when using your Mixer brushes, check them out if the brush is not working correctly.

So here are the options to make this really easy:

  • To blend the colors (creating a blender Mixer brush), in the Options Bar turn off the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon by clicking on it and always leave “Clean the brush after every stroke” clicked on, and selecting the Very Wet, Heavy Mix in the drop-down – have Sample All Layers checked. Now you have a pretty nice blending Mixer brush. If some color shows up, you left the “Load” icon turned on.
  • But what if you need to add some color to an area (creating a painting Mixer brush)? Turn On the Load the brush after each stroke icon (or no color will be painted) and flip the drop down to Dry, Light Load. Dab a few times to add your color and go back and turn off the Load icon and set to the Very Wet Heavy Mix to blend some more.

Really not that hard at all if you know where to look. And that is what I did on this image. Photoshop does try to make it easy. I blended areas where Simplify left a rough edges between color and added color to areas that were blown out as highlights or needed a more solid color added. Be sure to use dabs as well as longer strokes to get a nice painterly feel. If your brush gets much bigger than 90-pixels, the computer may slow down considerably so reduce the brush size – I usually paint at 20 pixels or less anyway. If still having problems, resize your image smaller – it will not matter if you are creating a painting – it can always be increased again after the image is finished. This was just too much fun to do! I love happy characters to work on!

NOTE: For painting with the Mixer brush – to sample colors that are under a brush stroke where you are painting, just press ALT+ click to add the(ose) colors to the “Load the brush after each stroke” icon which shows what is being painted by the brush. If you want to use a pure color from the Color Picker, you will need to use the Eyedropper Tool or double-click on the foreground swatch. I find this very time-consuming, so I do two things. First I have set up a keyboard shortcut for the letter “n” to open up the Color Picker. (Go to Edit -> Keyboard Shortcuts) Since I do not use the letter “n” for the 3D Camera Rotate Tool, I changed it in the Shortcuts For: Tools and scrolled to Foreground Color Picker, clicked Add Shortcut button, and typed in the letter “n” – it said it was in use and do I want to do this and I said yes. There you have it – very handy! Also my Wacom Stylus pen is set up so that the top of the long button opens up the Color Picker by selecting my “n” shortcut key, and the bottom is for Enter to accept the new color. This speeds up the painting process immensely! As a Regular brush – to sample an image color, just ALT+click on the color in image and the Eyedropper Tool pops up and selects it. The “n” shortcut key will bring up the Color Picker no matter what brush tool you are using.

Finishing up Your Painted Photo

I decided that the image needed a few lines showing, especially on the faces to draw the eye a little better. Again, this does not have to be done with a plug-in. One of the best ways to do this is to add a New Layer and select a Pencil Ink pen and add them in yourself – adjust the layer opacity so it is not over-whelming. For my painting the original bottom layer was duplicated and Simplify was opened again. This time the Black Line Only preset was chosen and just the Reduce Weak slider was set to 1.00 – all other settings were left. In Photoshop the layer was moved up to the top and set to Overlay blend mode. A black layer mask was added and just the eye areas and a few other details were painted back with the lines showing using a low opacity white brush. Many painted images have some lines in them and there are various actions around that add lines to your images, but by using just the Edges section in the Simplify plug-in is by far the fastest way to do this. The Reduce Weak slider controls a lot of the lines in the image but also check out the Edge Strength and Simplify Edge sliders for getting the illustrated look you want. This layer was set to Overlay blend mode so the white disappeared and a black layer mask was applied – painted in lightly with white brush where just the eyes and a few other areas had lines added for a little additional definition. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. The Camera Raw Radial Filter was added to draw focus to the eyes , especially the center figure (Inside Radial Filter settings: Exposure 0, Contrast +5, Highlights +44, Shadows -4, Clarity +41, Sat 0, and Sharpness +33). And finally OnOne’s (see website link in sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Effects plug-in was used to add the pretty border – they have always had the best borders. This one was called Antique Rounder Border. This turned out to be quite a lot of effort, but when you are painting an image, it usually does take some extra effort – even with the underpainting already added.

Here is another example using the same settings on a new brush.

Image of Dwarf Firebush flowers with the ICW in the background This image is of some Dwarf Firebush tubular flowers growing in my front yard and the Halifax River (aka Intracoastal Waterway) at Ormond Beach, Florida, is the background. Not sure how I came up with this combination, but it turned out kind of nice and definitely different. The reason it fits in this blog is that the flowers were painted using the same settings as the Mixer Brush in the above image, but with a similar brush I created. Wanted to show you that applying these settings to any brush is totally easy and the results can be very nice. But first I had to select just the flowers from the background using Photoshop’s Color Range Command. I needed to put them on something, so I added a Pattern Adjustment Layer and found this image of the river that looked kind of nice behind it since the roof on the pier is so similar to the flower colors. The pattern was left at a Scale of 100%. I wanted to add a little grunge to the image so Kim Klassen’s Make Grunge Set Allard texture was added and set to Luminosity blend mode at 54% – any grunge texture would be fine but I like really like Kim’s textures as most of them are very subtle. Next Env1ro watercolor brush 697-3 was loaded with the same settings that were used on the Creative Toons brush. Unfortunately due to an electrical storm that knocked out electricity and totally busted my Photoshop preferences, workspace, brushes, and image, I lost the layers for this image – what a mess! But since I did have my History in Preferences set to Metadata and Edit Log Items Detailed, and all my steps were listed in the File -> File Info and the History tab. Pretty nice extra-back up to have, especially in this case! Another Simplify Black Line Preset was added on a duplicate background layer and placed on top, set to Overlay blend mode, and a black layer mask added to paint back the flower details. Topaz ReStyle was applied to a stamped (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top with my favorite Cream and Plum preset (here are my settings: ReStyle blend mode set to Color. In Basic blend mode set to Luminosity; Temperature was set to -0.75, Tint 0.20, and Saturation 0.13; Tone Black Level -0.37 and White Level 0.22; and Detail Structure -0.20 and Sharpness 0.64). This gave it a bit more of a soft look as opposed to a grungy effect. The last step was to use the new brush as a Mixer and blend the edges by painting around it. I am not sure this image has that much of a painterly look, but I still liked the results.

Hopefully this blog makes sense to you and you now have enough information to actually start painting on layers on top of your image. Also use the same brush to paint in a layer mask, to use with the Clone Stamp, and create borders. It really is not that hard. Experiment with the settings in the Options bar – try some of the other choices in the drop-down menu for the Mixer brush. Try different patterns in your brushes. It is all pretty easy – just keep saving your brushes as presets so you do not lose them. I would suggest going in to the Preset Manager (icon at bottom of the Brush Panel) and saving your new brushes down since I did lose all of the ones I had created when my electricity went off. And if you have Topaz Simplify, try out the line and flat painting presets. Hope you have a fun week experimenting – I know I will!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Simplify 4


Image of Edinburgh, Scotland, from the castleI have been enjoying learning about several actions people have created that give some interesting twists to an image, and some are quite painterly. Last week I presented Part 1 on action based images, and this week Part 2 is a totally different kind of look also created with actions. I have to thank Diana Day for the blog comment (here is a link to a beautiful flower image she created with the following set) that directed me to this little gem.

Ultimate Artist Action by Brandy Murry

The above image was taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland.The Ultimate Artist packet is an inexpensive set ($7.50 at this time) provided by Scrap Girls, one of the really nice website that scrapbook hobbyists use. Besides the three actions provided, this packet also included three brushes (although you can use any of your brushes),  six layer styles including one pattern for use in the styles and Pattern Adjustment Layers, two videos, and PDF instructions. I wanted to try a landscape so the Sepia Action was selected. The supplied Sketch brush was used to painted detail in the buildings but not the sky area. Following her suggestion in the videos, I copied the bottom original layer and moved it on top to add some color back into the image. This layer was set to Vivid Light at 59% opacity. On a New Layer some color was added into the image by painting with her Sketch brush. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added to get the colors exactly how I liked them, then set it to Darker Color blend mode at 77% layer opacity. Now the sky looked bad, so a cloud texture I had painted in Corel Painter were added for a more painterly feel. Any cloud brushes would also have worked. The sky color was changed back to a beige color as the blue just did not look right from the original. To do this a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the painted cloud layer and the city was painted back in the mask.  Added a painted edge border on a New Layer on top – used the provided Sketch brush again to do this. Finally on a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Brandy’s Texture 2 layer style was applied. The pattern did not completely cover the image and left a line down the right side, so the Pattern Overlay Scale was changed to 165% and the Blend Mode was set to Multiply at 24% (from the default Overlay at 100%) to get a very subtle overall textured feel. I really like the supplied pattern for this effect. This image took a long time for me to get to a point that I liked.

Image of yellow daisies that used Ultimate Artist action for effectThis image of my front yard yellow daisies that gives a very popular effect and is sold as an artistic effect in many stores. This image was cropped into a square and then the Color Action was run. The Watercolor Brush supplied was used to paint in the flowers on the action’s created black layer mask. When finished I decided to apply the layer mask so that I could add a texture behind the flowers that I painted in. The Outline Guide layer was turned off and Melissa Gallo’s beautiful Painted Texture April Pastel was brought in as layer under the flowers. French Kiss’s (see my Tidbits Blog for website link) Vintage French Recois overlay (the French writing) was placed over the flowers layer and set to a brownish color using a clipped Color Fill Adjustment Layer (CTRL+click between layers to clip). A layer mask was added to the lettering layer and it was lightly painted away from the flowers. Next I decided I wanted a more painted texture in the image so several New Layers were added using Creative Toons Watercolor brushes ( Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) on the different layers in different colors at different opacities. They were grouped to create just one layer look and set to 82% layer opacity. On a New Layer French Kiss Dot Grunge 04 was added and changed to a purplish color using same technique as the French Kiss overlay. Last step involved creating a watercolor border by painting around the edge of a layer with your favorite brush – the supplied brushes can do this easily. This was really a lot of fun to create and the package was very inexpensive.

Image of a vintage post cardJust having some more fun with this little action set. The flower followed basically the same actions and painting steps as above, just different Creative Toons Watercolor brushes. Next added the image to a beautiful free frame from Keep called Antique Design Background and Rustic Frame and then Shadowhouse Creations free vintage Post Card Set 3-post card 3. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle was used to really get the look I liked. The address is one of my overlays I created (see my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog) and the French stamp is from French Kiss Collections. This image really took a lot of fiddling around with to get it to all go together but it was lots of fun to do.

A Few Brush Hints

After spending a large amount of time with these actions, I felt really nice effects can be achieved with them. The bottom two image worked out very well when flowers are used. But the landscape image turned out to be a lot of work and a  lot of manipulation had to be done to achieve a look I liked – I believe I could do this same effect in some of my Photoshop plug-ins a lot easier and get a similar result. I discovered the watercolor brush to be especially nice, but you need to go into the Brush Panel and check the Spacing checkbox to see the stroke effect in the Preview box. I had trouble getting the nice watercolor effect she got in her videos so some of the brush parameters were adjusted. Remember that the Options Bar settings are sticky so check the opacity and flow settings – a wrong setting can give very different results. On her Watercolor Brush she has the Enable Airbrush-style Build Up turned on – this means that the paint builds up as you hold her Watercolor Brush in one place. (To turn on in a brush, check the Build Up section in the Brush Panel – it activates the Option Bar icon at the same time or just check the Options Bar icon.) Jack Davis uses this setting in his watercolor brushes but most do not use it. I got a little bit of edge difference so experiment with turning it on and off – and a mouse vs. a stylus can give very different results so play with these settings. And if your lines are not as scattered as hers, go in and change the scattering – check out the preview section and change the sliders to see what is happening. I got a really nice Scattering effect with this brush by setting the Scatter to 190% and the Count to 2. The Brush Panel can be very useful to help get the look you like. Also, if you find a brush you like, be sure to save it as a brush preset to use again – otherwise your settings are lost when you change brushes.

Overall I think Brandy has done a great job in creating thee actions – it definitely creates more of a sketch look and would look great on note cards or for personal gifts. I still need to work with the actions to get some better results. Definitely spend time watching the included videos as they do give some extra info on how to set up the brushes. There were several images I used that did not work out – the landscape image needed a lot of contrast, which she says to do, to get a good result. What I liked best were her brushes – very nice place to start so you can create some really useful ones of your own – and her layer styles. If you enjoy this painting effect, it would definitely be worth purchasing – there is a lot of “bang for the buck” with this set. See ya next week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Illustrative image of the Circus McGurkus at Seuss Land, Universal Studios, FloridaSince we are all clamoring to learn how to paint and how to give our images an artistic flair, this blog is about some really cool free painterly actions that I recently learned about! I really did not have high expectations since these were not sites I was familiar with (like the wonderful Jack Davis and his actions! See my Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can! blog). But still, since they were about painting effects, I had to try them. Well, if nothing else  these actions can serve as a great starting point to getting a painted look up and going rather quickly. I decided to break this down into two parts since this is a pretty long topic to cover in one blog, so next week a different action will be presented.

Painting Effects by SparkleStock

The above is another one of my quirky images from Universal Studios Orlando (I think I am obsessed with this place!) of The Circus McGurkus in Seuss Landing and I just had to do something with it. So this is how I got the really cute illustrative effect with lots of paint in it without too much trouble.

1. First step is to download the Painting Effects by SparkleStock from Photoshop Tutorials – there are three free actions for download.
2. Need to change your image into 8-bit mode if it is in 16-bit as the actions use the Photoshop Filter Gallery and will not work with 16-bit mode images. Go to Edit -> Mode -> 8-bit.
3. Run the action.

After applying Seim’s Power 4 Workflow (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Magic-Harsh Sun Fixer preset to image in Lightroom, it was opened in Photoshop and the Modern Watercolor action was selected. The original action did not leave that great a result, but by changing the patterns in the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layers, totally different results can be easily obtained. The Outline layer was changed to Soft Light at 36% opacity. The Underlying Layer Blend If slider was changed to black tab 24/53, and Color Overlay was turned off. In the Pattern Fill 1 Adjustment Layer, I found a leafy pattern that had a lot of gray and white in it set to 110% Scale. In the Dark Paint Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, I selected a very colorful pattern from 10 Free Seamless Colored Splatter Textures Pattern 7 set to 535% Scale that shows up in the white areas of the image . Both of these layers were left set to Overlay blend mode at 100% layer opacity. Then on several New Layers I painted on the image using various brushes, including those wonderful watercolor brushes from Creative Toons ( Creative Toons Watercolor Brushes – these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113)). Clouds were painted in, the elephant’s body shadow lines were smoothed, and more color was added to the circus tent to give a more festive look. This was too much fun! A stamped layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and two identical outside Radial Filters in the Camera Raw filter were added to really light up the edges (used these settings: Exposure +2.25, Contrast -47, Highlights -50, Shadows -21, Clarity +100, Saturation +28, and Sharpness +43) – layer was set to 74% layer opacity. Created another Stamped layer and applied Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 (these settings to adjust the color just a little sharpness to the image: Overall Small Details 0.3, Small Boost -0.05, Medium Details 0.35, Medium Boost 0, Large Details 0.25, Large Boost 0, Shadows -0.34, Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green 0.61, Yellow-Blue 0.45.  Set Overall Effect in the Mask section at 58%). Used French Kiss’s Sponged Edge overlay (from her Tableaux Texture Collection) and set it to a light pink. This action really allowed me to get a great painterly effect while it did the groundwork.

Image of a street in St. Andrews, ScotlandThis is an image I took a while ago of one of the most beautiful and charming cities I have ever visited (and of course the home of the most famous links golf course – Wow! See my The Old Course at St. Andrews image on Flickr.) The same Modern Watercolor action was used like above – I seem to get better results with this action than the other two. Detailed steps are listed as to how I got this look since it did take a lot of manipulation to get the effect. I have found the action is a great starting place, but it takes some help to get a really nice painterly feel to it. So bear with me as I list my steps (or skip over if you don’t need them).

1. Used the new CC Perspective Warp Command to set this town up a little straighter. There was some real tilting going on in the original image. (For instructions on this, check out Terry White’s What’s New in CC-1/14/14 Update)
2. Ran SparkleStock’s Modern Watercolor Action. Be sure you are in 8-bit mode before running.
3.  Changed bottom pattern to Sandpaper and Scale of 100% – Layer Blend Mode changed to soft light at 68%. Set This Layer blend If to 176 and 255.
4. Changed the second pattern to my SJ Purplish1 Impasto Texture Pattern at Scale of 238%. Set Blend Mode to Divide at 100% Layer Opacity. This texture I created in Painter and it really is a pretty subtle one – I converted it to a pattern by going to Edit -> Define Pattern – you can do this with any texture you have. This texture was basically just some smaller brush strokes in various tones of purple and white – I would suggest finding a couple of textures you own and just converting them to patterns and trying them out in the image. I probably tried out 10 textures before I found one I liked for this image. And try different Scale settings and blend modes. Each image will give very different results.
5. On Color Adjustment layer changed Saturation +67 and Lightness -11.
6. Changed Outline opacity to 47% and turned off the Cutout filter eyeball.
7. Added a Selective Color Adjustment Layer on top of action group (Absolute (Greens-Cyan -25, Magenta +1, Yellow -18 and Black 0; Blues-Cyan +13, Magenta -8, Yellow +20, and Black -11; Whites-Cyan +4, Magenta -9, Yellow -8, and Black +25; Neutrals-Cyan +7, Magenta 0, Yellow -14, and Black -1; and Blacks-Cyan -6, Magenta +1, Yellow -8, and Black -1) and set to 54% layer opacity. This made adjusted the color in the sky to ones I liked.
8. Added New Layer on top and used DC (David Cole’s Complete Digital Painting Techniques ) Watercolor Washer Brush (click here to download his wonderful brushes) on the foreground and to touch up little areas. Gives more painterly look.
9.  Created 2 New Layers to blend in the sky which I just didn’t love the way it looked – used Mixer brush by Fay Sirkis using  her CS6 Oily Rich Blender #1. (I love her brushes! If you are a KelbyOne member, they can be downloaded from her older webinars.) If not, download the Wet Media Brushes that come with Photoshop, change to the Mixer Brush Tool, and select the first brush, Round Point Thin Bristle set to a small size – under 20 px. Use these settings up in your Options Bar to get a nice blend brush – Turn on Load after every stroke, Turn off Clean after every stroke, set to Very Wet, Heavy Mix which sets the other settings, and check Sample All Layers. Try a different brush if this does not work – any brush can used as a Mixer Brush as long as it is listed in your Brush Preset Panel. It is really fun to paint with a Mixer Brush.
10. Create a Stamped Layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) which combines all layers into one on top.
11.  Opened Topaz ReStyle and applied the Bleached Raw Umber preset (Settings used ReStyle opacity 36%;; Hue Primary -0.19, Secondary 0.34, Third -0.23, Fourth -0.70, and Fifth 0.48; Sat Primary 0.55; and Lum Primary -0.58, Fourth 0.39, and Fifth -0.58; Texture 0.27; Basic Tone Black Level 0.47, Midtones 0.05, and White Level -0.28; and Detail Structure 0.42 and Sharpness -0.55. In Photoshop set opacity to 46%). Totally transformed the image into something that is just the look I wanted – ReStyle Rocks!

Okay – what have we got here? A pretty nice action set (and you cannot beat the price!) that gives you a great place to start – it reminds me of how an underpainting would look. Personally I find it works best on landscape type images – not having good luck with flowers and close-ups, but I will continue experimenting to see if I can figure it out. If you need a decent Mixer Brush to use on a New Layer above the actions, check out Step 9 – everyone can make this brush and it does a pretty nice job of blending some of the wild texturing. Also, create some patterns out of your textures for use in the different Pattern Adjustment Layers – see Step 4 – totally easy! Now you have some real variety and some very interesting results should happen. SparkleStock has created a very nice action for all of us to you. Next week I have another action that gives a totally different look, but still a great artistic look – so stay tuned! Until next week and Part 2, have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd



Image of top of Caro-Seuss-el at Seuss Landing in Universal Studios OrlandoFor some reason this week I kept playing around with Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects – have not really done this in a while and am enjoying some of the really different effects that can be achieved with this little gem of a plug-in. I am not a great black and white image fan, although I have been trying to learn the technique. There are so many things to learn just to get a great black and white image. But I use Black & White Effects more for getting that unique and sometimes artsy look.

So what did I do to get this totally different look from this plug-in since this image was taken in the middle of the day in bright sunlight? This is another image from Universal Studios Orlando of the top of the Caro-Seuss-el in Seuss Landing. In Lightroom used Seim Power 4 Workflow (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Gentle Afternoon preset before opening image in Photoshop. Topaz Detail 3 was applied on the whole image to sharpen it up a bit. Nik Viveza 2 was used to add more emphasis to the little blue elephant and the really cool shadow from the pterodactyl-like bird. Then the image was taken into Topaz Black & White effects and one of my presets I created a long time ago was used. For the preset settings, see Image 1 info below. The Sharpen Tool was used on the elephant on a New Layer and some paint touch up was done to smooth everything together. A cloud layer was used (used my free Cloud Brushes No. 11) to add a little sky interest – the sky was cloudless. To get a really cool darker look, Kim Klassen’s free Simpleset Simple 2 black texture set to Screen blend mode at 56% was added and a dark blue Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT + click between layers) to the texture to make it dark blue instead of the black background color.  Image of a sign at Universal City Walk in Orlando, FloridaI have to be honest and say I love to photograph and post-process images of signs, especially unusual and brightly colored ones. Universal Studios Orlando has so many from which to choose. This one is from Universal City Walk that is outside the two large theme parks and has some great restaurants and entertainment offered nightly. In Lightroom used Seim’s Power 4 Workflow Ultra Color preset. In Photoshop a Color Balance and Curves Adjustment Layers were added to sharpen up the image a little. On a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Content Aware Fill was used to get rid of some extraneous objects in the sky. Next Topaz  ReStyle was used – The Bright and Shiny preset was selected and few minor changes were done to the Basic Color sliders and Detail and Structure sliders. Some clouds were lightly added to background using Creative Toons Watercolor Brush 41 (these were free from Photoshop Creative Magazine No. 113) and then a layer mask was added to remove the cloud paint from the signs. A Gaussian Blur set to Radius 3.8 was used on a duplicate layer above to soften the background. The layer mask was copied (ALT+drag to new layer) from the layer below. On another stamped layer, Topaz Black and White Effects was used – started with my House Fronts preset and then did minor adjustments. (For settings, see Image 2 info below.) What made this effect look so good was the use of the Local Adjustments brushes – the Detail Brush was used to sharpen the letter in the signs, Color Brush was used to paint back in the original photo color of the arrows to brighten parts of them, Dodge the Brush was used to soften some of the background details, and the Darken Brush separated the edges of the signs that ran into the busy roller coaster background. The brush settings were all the same and were Size 54, Opacity 0.56, Harness 0, and Edge Aware 0.50. This really perked up the image and gives it less of a “canned plug-in” look. Topaz may do brushes the best of any plug-in as they are very different and easy to apply! The last step added a Camera Raw filter Radial filter to just the inside to brighten it up only a bit. I was so surprised how this image turned out – I keep forgetting how good Black & White Effects really is!
Image of a blue cactus plant in a basketThis beautiful cactus was growing on the porch of a friend of mine and I had to take it’s picture – it looks like a variety of Mother of Pearl Plant, (aka Ghost Plant, Graptopetalum Paraguayense Plant). The color above is actually pretty close to the original – very lovely plant. Anyway, just another quick example of a different look in Black & White Effects. What really worked on this image was adjusting the Quad Tones to new colors – used a dark reddish brown, turquoise, citrus green and light yellow for the different regions. The Adaptive Exposure Protect Shadows brought back the detail in the pot so it did not look too flat. (For settings, see Image 3 info below.) Last step in Photoshop was adding an overlay for a slight vignette effect from a texture by 2 Lil’ Owls Artisan Collection 2/1 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) –  then added a Color Fill Adjustment Layer clipped to the layer (ALT+Click between layers) to change the color to a dark green color. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog for info on how to do this.)

I would recommend you try using the different brushes in Black & White Effects and see if you can get some creative results. It has a lot of good adjustments – can use low or high opacity brushes and flow, can set the hardness to hard or soft, and has a pretty good Edge Aware capability when needed. This was an area I had not even bothered using much, but I can see some real benefit in learning how to use these tools in the plug-in for that unique look. And the Quad Tone section is really a great addition to give some very interesting tones to the image. I am really trying to pass on some of the little tricks I am learning when I use this plug-in and maybe the settings listed at the end will give a good starting place to create a very different look. Hope all are having a great weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together!
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!

Image 1 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: The Vignette setting is one of the areas that made this special effect so dark. The teardrops on the upper right area control Paper Tonal Settings. Here are the settings for all sections: Conversion Basic Exposure 0.02, Brightness 0.02, Boost Blacks 0.71 and Boost Whites 0; Adaptive Exposure 0.62, Regions 34, Protect Highlight and Shadows 0.01, Detail 2.47, Detail Boost 1.04, and PDI checked; Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.19, Balance 0, Silver Hue 42.58, Silver Tone Strength 0.46, Paper Hue 46.48, and Paper Tone Strength 0.48; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 1 (color black), Color 2 Region 67.18 (color R3/G36/B22), Color 3 Region 146.6 (color R214/G223/B238) and Color 4 Region 255.0 (color white); Vignette Strength -0.25, Size 0.01, Transition 0.17, and Curvature 0.50); and Transparency 0.92.

Image 2 Topaz B&W Effects Settings: This is my SJ House Fronts preset adjusted from last week’s image to fit this image. The settings are:  Basic Exposure – Contrast -0.50, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks 0.20, and Boost Whites 0.59; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 1.49, and Detail Boost 1.13 – PDI checked; Color Sensitivity: Red 0.73, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.61, Cyan 0, Blue -0.33, and Magenta 0.02; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.68; Simplify Size 0.08 and Feature Boost 1; and Vignettes – center on image, Strength 1, Size 0.78, Transition 0.59, and Curvature 0.78. In Local Adjustments painted in detail back into the signs using brush size 54, Opacity 0.56, Hardness o and Edge Aware 0.50; painted in color back into parts of arrows and signs to give a more painterly effect using same brush, used Dodge to remove man in lower left edge; and used Burn to sharpen edges of signs from roller coaster edges.

Image 3 Topaz B&W Effects Settings:  I created a SJ Cactus preset with these settings that also contain the new Quad Tone colors:  Conversion – Basic Exposure Contrast 0.08, Brightness -0.11, Boost Blacks -0.27, and Boost Whites 0.21; Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26, Protect Highlights -0.04, Protect Shadows 0.15, Detail 2.02, and Detail Boost 0.79; Color Sensitivity Red 0, Yellow 0.51, Green -0.33, Cyan 0.50, Blue 0.68, and Magenta 0; and Color Filter Hue 106.0 and Strength 0.67; Creative Effects Softness 0.37, Diffusion 0.74, and Diffusion Transition 0.50; Finishing Touches Silver and Paper Tone – used first tear drop called Selenium above; Quad Tone Color 1 Region (R49/G5/B5) at 0.00, Color 2 Region (R51/G76/B83) at 92.08, Color 3 Region (R106/G127/75) at 128.9, and Color 4 Region (R240/G240/B178) at 255.0; and Transparency Overall set to 1.00. In Local Adjustments used the Detail brush to paint over the foreground flower Brush Size 110, Opacity 0.60, Hardness 0.01, and Edge Aware 0.50; next used the Color brush to paint in more of the blue color in the foreground flower and its stem – set Opacity to 0.20; the Overall Strength for the brushes was set to 0.57.


Image of a candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I thought I would just do a quick additional blog to go along with the one last week on Topaz Black & White Effects and Alien Skin Snap Art Together! Alien Skin Snap Art 4. Loved this little candy shop at Harry Potter Land in Universal Studios-Orlando. I am not sure I have seen so much candy in one place in a long time! What I want to emphasize is that you can combine different painting techniques, including free hand painting, to achieve a look that is unique. This image has used the same workflow as last week, but also had additional painting throughout to remove distractions and to add additional tones and colors.

In Lightroom started with Seim’s (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) free Color Fantasies 2 Sampler HDR Classic preset. In Photoshop, followed the basic workflow from my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above, then applied Snap Art’s default oil preset. On a duplicate layer above, Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Black & White Effects plug-in was opened and the Harry Potter Sky preset was applied without the vignette settings (for settings see the last image info in my Fun Photoshop Blog linked above). Topaz Simplify 4 was opened on another layer and the Color Sketch 3 preset was applied – then a black layer mask and just a few areas painted back where I needed a little line effect. Try using different Simplify sketches and adjust the Edge Section sliders to get a nice sketch look. Then in Photoshop the opacity and blend mode can also be changed to get more choices. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added for contrast. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) layer was created and the Camera Raw filter was opened and two radial filters were used to direct focus to the cones in the center of the image. A New Layer was placed on top and a Photoshop Oil Mixer brush was used to smooth some of the areas around the candy and remove some of the distractions in the ceiling. (These were the Mixer Brush settings used in the Options Bar to get this effect: Both Load and Clean were turned on, Wet 0%, Load 50%, No Mix, Flow 19%, and check Sample All Layers.) Sample colors in image by clicking on the ALT button to get a matching area shown under the dropper, or bring up the Color Picker and sample just one color. Another New Layer used my Chalk Brush as a clone stamp brush. Both these layers were necessary to give the image a true painterly effect, and not just a canned feel. Finally another New Layer was used with the Sharpen Tool to localize sharpening. Pretty much what was done in my last blog.

Image of some pretty pink rosesCreated this effect by combining Alien Skin Snap Art 4’s Impasto Vignette preset and Topaz Simplify 4’s Oil Paint preset, in that order. I had never tried this combination, but I liked the results! Simplify’s layer was set to Screen at 38% opacity and the main focal point flowers were painted out in layer masks on both plug-in layers to direct focus better. 2 Lil Owls Stained 12 texture (see sidebar for my Tidbits Blog for website link) (these are some of her prettiest textures I think) was added on top and just the flowers I wanted showing were painted by in a layer mask using my Chalk brush. Added back some contrast with a Curves Layer, and the free font is Ornatique Regular. On a New Layer set to Overlay, the edges in the flower were painted in with a black brush set to 12% layer opacity to just give a trace where edges needed to be sharpened in the flower. (See The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) That was it – Snap Art, Simplify, and painting edges on an Overlay Layer.

Guess what I am learning in my painting adventure this year is that you do not have to go only one way with your painting effects – and if you do not get the results you want using one technique, try another. And use your brushes – they do not have to be in the same media even – to give that unique look. Creating or finding a couple brushes that you can use to get your own style is great to to have – that is what I am trying to do with my simple Chalk brush. The plug-ins can be a great aid to filling up a canvas quickly, but that additional layer on top with your own paint strokes can give the image your personal stamp. I am learning to do this and feel I am slowing getting a good workflow and painting technique in place. It does take a lot of practice to get the feel down but I believe it will be worth it in the end!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
What I Am Learning About Digital Painting
6 Tips for Painting in Photoshop
Painting Effects – Which Ones to Use?


Image of a three wheeled riding bike at Universal Studios OrlandoThis week I wanted to show some of the results be combining a couple of very popular third party Photoshop plug-ins to get a very painterly or artistic effect with just a little experimenting. This above image was taken at Universal Studios-Orlando – they have some wonderful looking bikes around the park. I particularly like the effect of Topaz (for website see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects and Alien Skin’s Snap Art together, although this first image did not use both. The above image started with one of the free Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) using Classic Holga preset in Lightroom. In Photoshop Topaz Detail 3 was used to really sharpen up the lines of the bike by adding a black layer mask and just painting the bike back in in white. (Used a very subtle sharpening preset I use all the time on my images with these settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01.) On a duplicated layer Nik Viveza 2 was used to even out the tone and color with several control points. Next on another duplicated layer Topaz Black and White Effects was applied. (Here are my settings: Basic Exposure Contrast -0.33, Brightness -0.01, Boost Blacks and Boost Whites 0.25; Adaptive Exposure 0.86, Regions 18, Protect Highlights 0.02, Protect Shadows 0.10, Detail 2.50, and Detail Boost 1.11, and check PDI box; Color Sensitivity Red 0.15, Yellow -0.14, Green 0.47, Cyan 0, Blue 0.31, and Magenta 0; Color Filter Hue 325.1 and Strength 0.27; Creative Effects Simplify Size 0.12 and Feature Boost 1; Silver and Paper Tone Tonal Strength 0.40, Balance 0.30, Silver Hue 0, SilverTone Strength 0.50, Paper Hue 4.00, and Paper Tone Strength 0.25; Vignette – need to adjust center, Strength 1.00, Size 0.71, Transition 0.44, and Curvature 0.55; and Transparency Overall 1.00.) This is a great plug-in that most people use for black and white image, but I like the Transparency turned on at 100% which adds back roughly 50% of the color in the image. By using the individual Detail, Darkening and Color brushes on the image,  a very painterly effect can be obtained. Try experimenting with the brushes in the Topaz products – can get some great effect with them! Back on another duplicated layer of the Nik Viveza 2 layer, Topaz Simplify’s Pencil Hard II preset was applied, moved to the top of the stack, and set to Overlay blend mode at 26% opacity. This gives it a more illustrative feel which I was aiming to get. On a New Layer on top, the vignette and some of the colors were evened out out by sampling in the image using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19% in Brush Panel). The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back contrast to the image. Sometimes all the different manipulations tend to make the image lose its contrast.
Image of a Lost Continent Eatery at Universal Studios OrlandoThis image of a small water fountain at an eatery in The Lost Continent at Universal Studios in Orlando just caught my eye – loved the tiles. Very similar settings in Topaz Black & White Effects were used. On a New Layer above the plug-in layer, the chalk brush was used to even out the vignette, instead of using the plug-ins brushes. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 was applied using the Detailed Watercolor preset. On a New Layer, the Clone Stamp Brush was set to my Chalk Brush as used above, and at 60% brush opacity, it was cloned to add a few brush strokes into the areas so it looks like a really painted effect. On a New Layer on top, some small paint spatters were added back lightly into the image to give it just a little bit of a realistic feel and set to 70% layer opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was place on top.
Image of the rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios OrlandoOne final image is of the Rooftops at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios Orlando. Had so much fun taking images there! This image used Topaz Detail 3 with my detail preset from above, then I added a cloud since the sky was a rather flat blue using my Cloud 1 from my free set of Cloud Brushes. Next Snap Art 4 was opened and this time the Impasto Vignette was applied. On a stamped layer Topaz Black & White Effects was applied using a preset I called Harry Potter Sky (Here are the settings if you want them: Conversion Basic Exposure: Contrast -0.04, Brightness 0.09. Boost Blacks 0.29, and Boost Whites -0.24; Adaptive Exposure 26, Regions 26, Protect Highlights and Protect Shadows 0, Detail 1.07, and Detail Boost 0.70; Color Filter Hue 63.87 and Strength 1.00; Quad Tone Color 1 Region 15.08 – R1 G1 B12; Color 2 Region 143.9 – color R63 G78 B85; Color 3 Region R216 G211 B129; and Color 4 Region R255 G254 B237; Vignette – Vignette Strength -0.11, Vignette Size 0.68, Vignette Transition 0.93, and Vignette Curvature 0.75; and Transparency Overall 0.85.) Really gives the more spooky look that I wanted for this image. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer for additional contrast. The last step used the Photoshop’s Camera Raw filter using the same Radial Filter effect to add the largest tower. Lots of fun to do!

I hope you can tell that with just a little experimenting you can get a very painterly feel on an image. And try a different brush, instead of just a round soft brush, to use when cloning – this can really add a painterly feel to the image and the clone effect is not nearly so evident. It is so much fun to try out different presets and sliders and different plug-in combinations to get something very different. Hope you try mixing up your plug-ins and see if you can get some very artistic looks too!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
A Nice Illustrative Look
Get Great Results with Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Topaz ReStyle Together!!
Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!


Painted image of a cafe in Edinburgh, ScotlandThis week I am going to discuss an issue that has always been a problem for me, and that is – how to find the focal point of my image, and then how to emphasize it once you know where it is. Darren Rowse, in a short blog called Using Focal Points in Photography, sums it up when he says “The reason a focal point is important is that when you look at an image your eye will generally need a ‘resting place’ or something of interest to really hold it. Without it you’ll find people will simply glance at your shots and then move on to the next one.” In other words, if you want people to look at your image seriously and not just consider it a snapshot, you better have a good, and if possible, interesting, focal point.

The image above was a good example of a focal point issue I had. This is an image of an outdoor cafe in Edinburgh, Scotland, with just a lot going on in it – loved everything about the scene and was not sure where to place the emphasis. (Click here to see my initial posting of photo on Flickr – notice that your eye goes everywhere when viewed – no obvious focal point in the image.) In the above painted rendition, I decided to draw the eye to the white jacket the woman had which was not so obvious in the first posting image. In this case by whitening just a little bit of clothing, it was enough to create a nice focal point. Also, the Camera Raw Filter’s Radial Filter helped provide the desired results with the subtle vignettes it provided. (See Image 1 Info at end of blog for settings used, including the Radial Filter.)

How to find your Focal Point

Deciding where the focal point of your image should be is the first thing to do before any post-processing is done to an image. You have to know where you want people to look to get a good result! Melissa Gallo is the major champion of focal points – she is both a traditional and digital artist and I believe she is the first person to really help me understand what a focal point is. She teaches a video class called Painting with Photoshop Workshop where she explains this concept very thoroughly. (I highly recommend your getting Melissa’s class if you are at all interested in creating digital art – and she provides lots of  her beautiful textures for this class.) I learned these two tips are very useful for finding the focal point.  First decide what was so important that it made you take the picture? – that should be your focal point.  I tend to take a lot of images where I have not put a lot of thought into why I took it. I now understand that I am just taking memory snapshots, not something with major intention behind them. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and I do get some shots for creating nice photos or art, but overall the results are not good. Melissa’s second bit of advice was to “Squint at your images. If the focal point doesn’t stand out while squinting then something is wrong.” That is the area in the image to work on – you want to drive the viewer’s eye to the focal point. In the above image it was the people that attracted me – although beautiful buildings are in the background and there is the interesting signage, the people are the main story for me. And by painting more of a white color in the ladies shirt, it made the focal point a little more apparent. By squinting, the white does stand out to your eye.

A few good references on this subject are listed here. A most helpful one covers this topic in a lot more detail than my blog and is from Digital Camera World called Using Focal Points in Photography: How to Get Perfect Composition Every Time – check it out for some really good info. Another quick resource blog is The Importance of a Focal Point in Photography by by Wayne Turner. Also this short blog shows how Leonardo da Vinci developed his focal points using color, contrast and structure – see’s blog called Focal Point.
Image of guy serving Butter Beer at Harry Potter Land, Universal Studios-Orlando

Some easy ways to emphasize the Focal Point

There are lots of ways to draw focus, but I really like the Radial Filter in the Camera Raw Filter. Frequently I use this as my last step to add a nice subtle vignette to emphasize the focal point in my image. The Camera Raw filter’s Radial Filter is one of the biggest improvements that came with Photoshop CC.  This can also be done in CS6 by going back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop, or by using Russell Brown’s script (see my Edit Layers with ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) Script blog) that let’s you open Camera Raw on an individual layer in earlier versions – and CS6 does have the Radial Filter available. The Radial Filter appears to be able to replace a lot of the other ways used to de-emphasize or emphasize a photo, and does it really quickly. All the Basic sliders are available and several radial filters can be placed all over your image so it is fairly easy to draw the eye to the focus point exactly the way you want.

The above image is of a man serving the best tasting Butterbeer from a street cart at Harry Potter Land at Universal Studios-Orlando.  His interesting face was my main focal point. Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3 was used to add just a little sharpening, although the Sharpen Tool on a New Layer or Camera Raw Filter’s Sharpening Panel could have been used – Detail is just so quick and does a great job with this so I tend to use it most for sharpening (my settings are in the Image 2 info at end of blog). Next two Radial Filters from the Camera Raw Filter – one for just his upper body where I want to draw attention and want the vest detail to show up, and another one for the rest of the image. Since the red on the truck was so overpowering, by using the outside radial filter the color could be slightly desaturated so the man shows up better. Also the detail in his shirt could be emphasized some with the inside radial filter. (See all settings for Image 2 at end of blog.) A Gaussian Blur Filter was added to a stamped version on top and the Radius set to 4.8. Then a black layer mask was added and areas around his face were blurred slightly, like the woman’s face and parts of the background. This is also an easy way to draw the eye to the focal point.

A couple quick tips on using the Radial Filter are listed here. Be sure to make your layer a Smart Object before opening up the Camera Raw Filter so that you can go back and adjust the Radial Filter settings if needed (Right click on the layer and select Convert to Smart Object.) A Smart Object and a Smart Filter are the same thing so either one will work. To duplicate a radial filter in Lightroom or Camera Raw, just hold the ALT+CTRL buttons and then drag the first dot so a second dot appears – next be sure to change the radial button setting to Outside or Inside if needed. By using this technique, you can cover the whole image to localize the effect you want. Don’t forget that you can place several radial filters in an image. The filter can be duplicated to apply the same effect twice to the same area. Sometimes you may just want to add or subtract color in a certain area and then go back and set another one to do something else, like sharpen or add clarity. This is a really versatile tool.
Image taken of a store display at Universal Studios Orlando
This image was taken in a store at Universal Studios Orlando. I loved all the beautiful shapes and colors in this image, but it a really good example of trying to pick the correct focal point. I tried to make the three pots on the lower left the focal point – still not sure I succeeded, but I believe they do stand out more than the rest of the image. I tried to follow the color, contrast and structure principle to emphasize the focal point. To me there is a question of exactly how far do you go to emphasize a focal point when there is so much to see in the image? When I “squint,” my eye does rest on the orange colored pot, so I believe I succeeded in emphasizing the correct area for my focal point. (See Image 3 for info post-processing.)

I hope I was able to help anyone else who has problems figuring out where the focal point is in an image and then what to do to emphasized it. It is not an easy topic. The above related blog links should help if you need more info on this. I will continue working hard on emphasizing my focal points in my photography and Photoshop. Have a good week!……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Storytelling with Your Images

Post Processing Info

Image 1 : In Lightroom some basic changes and Dave DuChemin’s Classic India Split Tone preset was applied. Some major clean with removing cars and people that you can see in the original linked above on a New Layer. Three stamped layers were used, one after the application of another filter, for each plug-in.  The image was actually painted in using three of my favorite plug-ins: Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Detail 3 with my abstract setting (Detail Overall – Small Details, Medium Details and Large Details sliders all at -1.00; Color Temperature -0.27, Tint 0.34, Saturation -0.65, and Saturation Boost 0.21.) which gave the image a soft pinkish smooth look that was kind of interesting by itself; Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 using Oil Paint Thick Paint preset with three Detail Masks to add detail back to the people and plants a little bit, Adding some Saturation and Contrast to the Colors tab, and using the Canvas default texture; and Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle’s Cypress and Tan preset with no changes and applied at 66% layer opacity. The last step involved creating two Radial Filters in the Camera Raw Filter – Outside used Exposure -0.40, Contrast -41, Shadows +42, Clarity -44, and Saturation +6; and Inside, which was placed very close around the people sitting at the table, had Exposure +1.00, Contrast +71, Highlights +20, Shadows +74, Clarity +19, and Saturation +48. The Feather for both settings was set at 89%. Back in Photoshop the Camera Raw layer was set to 73% layer opacity.

Image 2: In Lightroom added Seim Power Workflow (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link to free sampler with this preset) Super HDR X preset that was applied at 79% using The Fader add-on. Opened in Photoshop and Topaz Detail 3 using a very subtle preset I use all the time on my images (my settings are just: Detail Overall Medium Details 0.38 and Large Details 0.16 and Tone Contrast 0.30 and Shadows -0.01) were applied on a duplicate layer. The image was turned into a Smart Object and the Camera Filter was opened. Two Radial Filters were used – one to emphasize the server, and one for the rest of the image. Outside used Exposure -0.60, Contrast +45, Highlights -12, Shadows +21, Clarity -73, Saturation -31, and Sharpness -72; and Inside, which was placed very close around the mans upper body and really brought out the detail in the vest, had Exposure +2.10, Contrast +47, Highlights +51, Shadows +93, Clarity 0, and Saturation +5. The Feather for both settings was set at 89%. Back in Photoshop the Camera Raw layer was set to 73% layer opacity. The last step involved created a stamped layer on top and adding a Gaussian Blur with a Radius set to 4.8 – a black mask was applied and just the lady and detail around the man’s face was painted back blurred using a 30% opacity white brush on the mask. I felt like this area was just too sharp and took away from the man’s face or the focal point.

Image 3: In Lightroom Seim’s Color Fantasies 2 HDR Classic preset was applied (another free sampler to download). In Photoshop the background layer was duplicated and set to Screen blend mode to lighten image as it was very dark. OnOne (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Perfect Effects 8 plug-in was applied next. Stacked these layers in the plug-in: Split Tone, Detail Adjustment Brush painting in the three bottles on center left, Glow Adjustment Brush painting in just the three bottles on center left, Sunshine Glow, Big Softy Vignette set to Subtle with Size set to 7, Center placed on the three bottle in center left. Trying to make the bottles the focal point. Back in Photoshop another Camera Raw smart object was opened and two radial filters as before were created – emphasized the three pots in lower left. The Sharpen Tool was further used to help draw the eye. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to add more color into just the three pots. On a stamped layer on top a Gaussian Blur set to 3.8 was applied. In a Layer Mask, just the pots were painted back leaving the rest of the image slightly soft. This is another way to draw the eye to the focal point. That was about all I could do. Vignetting, Color,Sharpening, and some selective Blurring.


Painted image of neighboring dachas in BelarusThis week’s blog is sponsored by the word “Confused” – I can’t seem to make up my mind how I want to paint digitally! I do one version, then try it differently, and realize I like both version, but they are very different. And I am finding out that I can’t seem to settle on one program or plug-in – sometimes I have to use everything but the “kitchen sink” to get the results I like! Therefore, this week I am just going to share a few things I have painted recently, do a little image comparison, and explain what I learned from each image. Maybe you might get a few ideas that will help your creative process, and let me know of any other suggestions.

Painter and Photoshop

I like the above photo of neighboring dachas on a dirt road near Minsk in Belarus. This image was basically painted in Corel Painter. The brushes used were created from a short Corel video called Reason #2 – Cloning Feature by Melissa Gallo.  The basic colors and shapes were cloned in roughly following her basic steps. The image was then brought into Photoshop where Melissa Gallo’s Painted Texture Embossed Fabric Warm Paper was set to Color blend mode. Just the dachas and greenery along the trail were painted back. This gave a beautiful yellow orange feel to the sky and looked pretty nice already! On a New Layer on top a Cool Grunge Mixer brush (碎块) in Blur’s Good Brush 5.1 Pro set (a wonderful huge free download of all kinds of Photoshop brushes including several really nice Mixer brushes!) was used in a beige-white color to add some texture mainly to the sky. Also used this brush, 透明水色 – 2(正片叠底), to add more grunge on another layer. On a New Layer on top of this, Fay Sirkis’s (a Corel Painter Master) Fays #2 tap n blend brush (one of my favorite mixer brushes – if you are a Kelby One member, her fabulous painting brushes are all downloadable for free from her webinars posted on the site) was used  to clean up some of the painted edges from Painter. What really popped this image was a Selective Color Adjustment Layer that was added next and just the Reds Colors were changed to give a more pinkish tint to the overall image. A little frame I had created in Painter previously was added to finish off the image.

What I learned from this image: It seems that at my stage of learning, I am still heavily relying on Photoshop. My results when Painter is used has a much more abstract feel to them. I think it is okay to use both programs to get that final result if you are comfortable going back and forth between the programs. Also, you have got to create some brushes that you can use easily. Otherwise it can be overwhelming. Melissa’s Painter brushes were a great place for me to start, then adjust them to get the right stroke effect. I will add that Fay Sirkis is another artist with fabulous brushes and I use them a lot.

Photoshop, Alien Skin Snap Art 4, and Topaz ReStyle

Image of the dirt road a some dachas in BelarusI tried to create a different painterly effect with the same image as the first one. I did a lot of experimenting with the image to get this more “photorealistic” look to the image. I like the results, but it took a long time to get it the way I liked. First in Lightroom Seim Power Workflow 4 (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog Sampler Super HDR X preset (free download that contains some really nice presets) was used to brighten up the image first. In Photoshop some clean up was done to remove the electrical lines and a box, and flowers were copied and added to the bottom front. The Warp Tool was used to get a nice effect. On a stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) everything I could think of was added. Two Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, two layer textures, Alien Skin Snap Art 4, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle, Nik Viveza 2, two Curves Adjustment Layers, a Selective Color Adjustment Layer, and a Blender Mixer Brush layer. Whew! At least I got to experiment a lot to decide which tools and plug-ins work best with my painterly style. Lots of fun!

What I learned from this image: You do not have to do a lot of painting to get a really nice painterly look in an image. The plug-ins worked nicely instead of a lot of hand painting – just one layer used the Mixer Brush to clean up a few things. But beware, if you really want an overall artistic feel to an image, it will probably require some initial work in Painter.


Painted image of the entrance to Dr. Seuss LandThis was fun to paint! The colors and lines were so bold and beautiful in this sign indicating the entrance to Universal Studios Orlando. And it was relatively easy to do! Basically in Lightroom added Seim Power Workflow (free sampler link with this preset) Magic Ugly Shade Fixer preset and Dave Delnea’s LR Develop Presets Backlight Vertical Right preset (love both these presets). Then in Photoshop Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures May Garden was added on top of image with a layer mask. Using my Chalk Brush (Adobe Chalk Brush 60 with a Shape Dynamics set to 19%) set to black at 30% opacity brush, the major parts of the image were painted back – actually quite a bit was painted back. The rest involved using the Chalk Brush as a regular brush, Mixer Brush, Eraser Brush and Clone Stamp Brush to get it looking like I wanted it to look. Just be sure to save the altered regular brush to your Brush Presets so you can select it for the other types of brushes. When finished, the Camera Raw filter was opened up and a Radial Filter was used to direct the view and lighten up the focal point, the red door.

What I learned from this image: One favorite brush can do a lot in an image, especially in Photoshop. Find one you like and practice using it. I am liking my Chalk Brush more and more as I become better at painting.

Painter, Photoshop and Topaz ReStyle

Painted image of Dr. Seuss Land sign at Universal Studios OrlandoWhat I really love about Painter is that the colors seem to be so much more vivid which gives your images a bit more of a painterly appeal. I am still trying to get comfortable with a more abstract feel to my Painter images. This image follows the top blog image’s workflow very closely and used the same Painter brushes. The results in Painter are never what I really like so the painted file goes into Photoshop. The detail is added back in just a little and the Mixer Brush is used to clean up my Painter messes. This time Topaz ReStyle was used to get a little better color palette using the Peach Prairie preset. That was about all that was done. This time I did not paint all the way to the edge in Painter so I have a naturally occurring frame.

What I learned from this image: Painter does have better color and brushes – hands down! It has a large learning curve, but once again, find a couple brushes that work for you and stick to those until you get the hang of what you are doing. That is what I am trying to concentrate on. It is so tempting to try and learn everything about every type of media and brush, but you really need to find one that suits you to start using. I find I am leaning towards the oils and pastels, and will learn watercolor when I am more accustomed to Painter.

Photoshop and Alien Skin Snap Art 4

Image of silk flowers post-processed with Alien Skin Snap Art 4Since this image of some silk flowers had a lot of soft background color in it (actually emphasized nicely in Lightroom first by using Seim’s Power 4 Workflow Sunday Cross preset and Dave Delnea’s LR Develop Backlight Vertical Right preset), the Snap Art 4 plug-in was used to add paint in the area quickly. The Oil Paint Abstract preset was modified by setting Photorealism slider set back to 21 so it does not look too much like a photo and the Colors Saturation set to 46 to add more color to the image. On New Layers above the plug-in layer, an Oil Pastel Mixer brush was used to paint over the flowers and to add some some more random colorful strokes to the image. More details were painted back into the image using the original image as a guide. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to add some contrast back into the image and John Derry’s Varnish Satin Light layer style was added to the top layer to give a more painterly finish.

What I learned from this image: You do not have to have everything perfect – it sometimes looks better to have the color but not the lines to give a strong feeling to an image. It was a little scary putting bright blues and purples on the flowers, but it gives a more artsy feel to the image than what the plug-in did – and it lets you put your own twist on the picture. Now the viewer can use their imagination to see what was really going on with the image. Needless to say, I am still working on this concept.

Painter and Topaz ReStyle

Image of silk flowers post-processed in Corel Painter This final image started the same as the one above, but this time the image was painted completely in Corel Painter. First the source image was changed and set Adjust Color to Hue Shift -2, Sat 84, and Value 62. Melissa Gallo’s same brushes from Reason #2 Cloning Feature video were used – her Medium Bristle Rough brush, Coarse Sergeant Brush Jitter and Luscious Oil, used mainly as clone brushes. There is nothing wrong with using cloning brushes in you digital art, especially if you are actually doing the brushstrokes – you really are just sampling color and positioning objects from the photo. The Painter image was brought back into Photoshop where a little clean up was done on a separate layer with the Chalk brush. A Levels Adjustment Layer was used to adjust contrast. Then Topaz ReStyle’s Snow Cover preset was applied which added a little structure to just the flowers in the Basic layer mask for the plug-in. The image had a much softer lighter feel to it now. I am always amazed how different the images can turn out!

What I learned from this image: It is okay to clone – just do your own strokes. And add some of your own color into the image. It does not have to look just like the original photo – in fact it is probably more interesting if it does not. Many famous artists added different elements than what they were actually seeing while painting.

That said, I do believe that both programs will probably be in my workflow for digital painting since in Photoshop I do know what to do if I really mess things up! I still have problems getting brushes to paint on separate layers in Painter, which to me seems so necessary with my Photoshop background. There are ways around it, but you do have to spend a lot of time researching this. I plan on discussing this topic later in another blog. I hope you enjoyed some of the experiences I am having with my painting venture this year. Hope you are having as much fun learning about it as I am!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Some Pros and Cons of Corel Painter (And Why I Still Love Photoshop)
New Years Resolution – Painter and Photoshop Together!


Image of Scott Monument taken from Edinburgh Castle in ScotlandI recently ran across an article on how to get a nice depth-of-field effect using the localized tools (Graduated Filter, Adjustment Brush and/or Radial Filter) in Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw) without going into Photoshop to apply a Gaussian Blur or Field Blur. This technique is so basic, but it is easy to forget that you can do this quickly to your image without the use of Photoshop! The image above of the Scott Monument as taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is a good example of how you can drive the focus of your image very easily by just using Lightroom or ACR.

I was reminded of this little trick in a short Martin Evening Peachpit article where he explained that by stacking the Sharpness and Clarity settings, you can increase or decrease your depth of field in an image. First do your regular Lightroom or ACR changes. To get the soft localized blurring as shown in the background and the foreground above, a Graduated Filter was opened using these settings – Sharpness set to -100 and Clarity to -30. By applying the Graduated Filter three times to the sky area, twice to left bottom corner of the image, and twice to right side of the image, a pretty nice blur was created leaving the center sharp. Since the spire of the monument was too blurred, the Adjustment Brush was opened up and the spire painted over with the Brush sharpness set to +100 and the Clarity to +30 using two different points to add the sharpness back to that area. Also some more localized blur was added with a new Brush mask to the background around the monument and the left foreground trees. All in all a pretty easy way to accentuate the focus point in an image. Martin does mention that after so many applications of the settings, there will be no change. Also he recommends viewing your image at 1:1 view to see the results accurately. After using the Graduated Filter on this image, it was opened in Photoshop and Topaz (see sidebar at Tidbits Blog for website link) ReStyle’s Dutch White Smog preset was selected to finish up the post-processing – thought it gave a pretty close representation to what Scotland looked like to me.
Image of Hogwarts School at Universal Studios OrlandoHogwarts School at Universal Studios Orlando in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is the image shown above. It used exactly the same principal as the first image with blurring the foreground area but sharpening the school to draw focus to that area. I am finding this technique seems to work best on landscape images. I tried it on a portrait and had trouble keeping the skin looking smooth – other techniques would work better in that case. In Lightroom some basic straightening and sliders were applied. Then 6 Graduated Filters were used on the trees in the image. Next Seim Effects PW4 Sampler Tint 81A Warming preset was applied before taking the image into Photoshop. Seim offers this preset sampler free at his website – I really like the presets he has created. This may seem counter-intuitive, but Topaz Detail 3 was used to sharpen up the the image – a black mask was added and only the school was painted back, therefore leaving the trees still slightly blurred. This step could have been done in Lightroom with an Adjustment Brush set to a large amount of sharpening. A Camera Raw Radial filter was added so the eye is further drawn up to the school, which could also have been done in Lightroom. Last step was adding my SJ Thin Double Edge Frame – this is the only step that would need to be done in Photoshop. Image of an old castle-like building in BelarusThe above is an interesting castle-like old building in the countryside of Belarus – I can’t help but wonder what this structure was years ago! This building drove me crazy trying to get it to look straight – I just don’t think it is a straight building but I did my best with the Adaptive Wide Angle filter (see my blog How to Use the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter). Clouds were added using my free Cloud Brushes 1 and 11 set to 32% layer opacity. Last step involved applying Topaz ReStyle Cream and Plum preset (my favorite preset for this plug-in).

This blurring effect is a great technique to use if you do not want to go into Photoshop to finish up the image. I believe the best way to do this is by applying the Gradient Tool several times and then going back in with an Adjustment Brush set to the opposite settings to remove the effect in localized areas, also several times if needed. And don’t forget the same settings can also be used with the Radial Filter and several areas can be selected. This is a great quick trick to add to your Lightroom (ACR)-Photoshop arsenal of tools to speed up your workflow. The same principles apply when using any of the localized tool settings. Give this a try and see what you think!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a horse in St. Augustine, Florida using Nik Analog Efex Pro2NIK has updated Analog Efex Pro to the 2 version and kept it free for all Nik collection owners. I am loving the results already. This easy to use plug-in is now even better!

The New Stuff: Nik has added several 6 new cameras called Tool Combinations – B&W, Color Cast, Motion, Subtle Bokeh, Double Exposure, and Multilens – each with presets. The biggest improvement is the addition of control points. The control point sliders for the Basic Adjustments section includes all 4 sliders for easy localized adjustments. Light Leaks, Dirt & Scratches and Photo Plate all have Control Points with a strength slider so the effect can be removed from certain object or areas. Motion Blur has an interesting item called Add Blur Point that allows you to set the angle of the blur and the strength by dragging the blue dot around or using sliders, and several points can be added. Double Exposure is another interesting filter – can either just click in your image and you get a square that superimposes your image on the original. By dragging out the corners of the square, the scale can be change and hovering near a side of the square, the rotation can be changed on the superimposed image.  You can also add your own image to superimpose – some really creative possibilities with this one. One of my favorite new features is the Multilens which allows you to divide your image into various different configurations (see last image)! The Lens Distortion Tool has a new Defocus slider which can be used to shift the image out of focus. The Bokeh Tool now contains both the elliptical style and a new linear style which acts like a Tilt Shift filter. There is now an “I’m Feeling Lucky” preset at the end of each Tool Combination – when clicked it completely randomizes all the preset filter settings from the selected Tool Combination. This is different from the Vary button at bottom of the right panel which makes just subtle changes to only the settings of the individual filter that is open (hold SHIFT while clicking to get greater variation). More choices are in the Dust and Lint styles. In the Film Type section all the styles have names which is helpful and two new groups, B&W Neutral with 15 styles and B&W Toned with 12 styles, have been added. Frames now has a very handy Scale slider and added 10 new styles to the Lightbox frame choice. I think that about covers it – a pretty big update!

The horse image was taken in St. Augustine, Florida on a recent beautiful day! First applied Topaz (see Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Detail 3’s Soft Dreamy preset on the background before taking the image into the updated Nik Analog Efex Pro2 – both are favorite plug-ins I use all the time. I wanted to show what a nice effect you can get without actually making the image look too vintage. Three control points were set for the Basic Adjustments section which included the Detail Extractor slider. Individual control points can be set throughout the image, just like in the Nik Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro plug-ins – and when the layer is converted to a Smart Object before entering the plug-in, the control points are saved and can be adjusted later. Got to love this plug-in! Four control point in Light Leaks were added – only the texture strength can be adjusted and you cannot add a different light leak to the image, but it is still better to have the localized option. For this image a Lens Vignette, Film Type, and Levels & Curves were also selected. A New Layer was placed on top and the Sharpen Tool was used to just sharpen up the horse face and details. Last step involved adding my free Thin Double-Edges layer style – sampling colors from the image for the border.

Image of a roller coaster at Universal Studios-Orlando with Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 appliedThis roller coaster image was actually very much in-focus but I really liked the effect I got from using the Analog Efex Pro 2 update. This wonderful roller coaster at Universal Studios-Orlando is called Dragon Challenge Roller Coaster (for You Tube Video click here). The photo used Basic Adjustments, Bokeh to add some background blur, Motion Blur and two control points were added for more blur on the left track, and Direction Blur applied on the roller coaster, Light Leak set to 54% Strength, a slight light Lens Vignette, and Film Type using the Nikko2 preset – slider set towards Faded.

Image of view from Castillo de San Marcos in St. AugustineThis image is a view of the Montanzas River (technically part of the Intracoastal Waterway or ICW) from Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine, Florida. The settings used were: the Basic Adjustments with a control point on the trees to sharpen and brighten them even more; Lens Distortion set all the way left to Pincushion; Bokeh with the new Tilt Shift style set vertically over the Palm Trees and using a Blur Strength of 22% for the rest of the image; Dirt & Scratches Organic style with Strength at 26% just to get some vintage look, and a control point on the trees so they are still the main area of focus; Lens Vignette to darken edges slightly; Film Type using the new B&W toned Mijet2 preset style; Frames with Scale at 76%; and Levels and Curves where a Luminosity curve was created. I do not believe there is any other plug-in that can give this type of vintage feel to a photo so easily and quickly.

Image of a beach in Hawaii using Nik Analog Efex Pro 2 multilens effectThis last image shows what the Multilens filter can do – I really liked the results. This is a Puako Bay beach on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii that has been split and enlarged in sections with different focal points. Very different result and it was easy to do with this plug-in. The filters used were Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks, Film Type, Multilens, Frames, and Levels & Curves. It really looks like a vintage postcard to me. Note that if the Multilens images look in the wrong order, just click in the section and drag the little square around to set it correctly. Drag corners to scale and click near edge of square to rotate – pretty simple to and and lots of fun!

I loved Nik Analog Efex Pro when it first came out and I totally love Nik Analog Efex Pro 2! If you like a touch of the vintage feel, and it is really popular right now, this plug-in will probably give you any look you like. It is definitely in my top 5 plug-ins. If you have the Nik collection already, it is a free upgrade – just download the trial and it will automatically be added to your software for you. Okay, now I must get back to working on some more vintage images!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik Analog Efex Pro
Topaz ReStyle with Corel Painter & Nik Analog Efex Pro


Image of Magnolia Avenue in St. Augustine, FloridaThis week’s blog is basically a simple tip on getting a textured border to match your image effect, and the video shows how to create your own border brush. National Geographic cites the above image as one of the “Most beautiful Streets in America” – Magnolia trees with Spanish Moss shade the street near the famous Fountain of Youth located in St. Augustine, Florida. In earlier blogs I discussed using plain double-edged layer styles for a clean-edged look on regular photographs. Dave Cross has some great tutorials on more creative edges and adding some great looking borders that he teaches on KelbyOne and in his still excellent book Photoshop Finishing Touches. But when I am creating a “painterly” look, these really do not do add to the image and I am left with a feeling that the image is unfinished. Since most watercolor images have a light border around them, I had created one that I liked a lot, but it still was not quite the effect I was looking to get. (See Related Blogs at bottom – some with free download links for styles and frames.) Therefore, I have come up with this little workflow to create the perfect artsy border each time.

The trick to getting a this beautiful edge on your image is to:

1.  Create a New Layer on top of your final post-processed image.

2.  Select the Paintbrush Tool using a similar brush that was used to paint in the image, (or create the one in my video), and paint an edge around the photo – you do not have to paint at 100%, but also try 50 or 60% brush opacity and make sure that you are a little sloppy so that it looks like an actual painting showing bits of the underlying canvas.

3.  While still on the border layer, this time switch to the Eraser Tool and select the same brush from the Brush Preset Panel. I set the brush size a little less in the Eraser Tool and painted back around the painted border rough edges. This creates a really nice natural edge look. All brushes in the Brush Preset Panel can be used with any type of brush tool – eraser, smudge, sharpen, mixer, clone stamp, pattern stamp, etc. – very handy.

4. Now go back and forth between the Paintbrush Tool (B) and the Eraser Tool (E) until you get the border you want. A quick tip is that if you hold how the E tool very quickly and paint, it will return to the Paintbrush Tool when you release the key. This can make creating the border very fast.

As a last optional step, add a Bevel and Emboss layer style (double click on the black part of the layer in the Layer panel) and click on the words Bevel and Emboss. The above border was set to Style Inner Bevel, Depth 75% and Size 17 pixels. Contour was check with Range 25% and Texture Pattern was set to a Gesso Pattern by John Derry at Scale of 250% and Depth of +75%. Experiment with the pattern as this can really help blend the border into the photo if a plug-in was used to add the effect. Below is a video link showing how I created the second image’s border using the basic steps above. (Does not show up in RSS Feed – need to open blog to run You Tube Video.)


Image of a shop display in St. Augustine, FloridaSince I am pretty new with creating videos, just bear with me on this, but I do like the brush created in it. I hope you will be able to enjoy painting borders just like this one. Try different base brushes and playing with the Brush Panel settings. I hope to be able to create some more nice painterly brushes as I learn more about the various settings. Once again, it is fun to add your own spin to your images. Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Post-Processing Info:

Image 1: The original was taken from a moving trolley bus so it was a good candidate for a “painterly” look. Photoshop CC’s Shake Reduction filter helped the blurriness just a little. Next I followed Ian Barber’s Photoshop Soft Light Glow video to add a really nice lighting effect (the Gaussian Blur Radius was set 143). Next some major clean up removing posts and signs and a Levels Adjustment layer to add some contrast back. Alien Skin Snap Art 4“s Impasto Vignette preset was used with a mask set at the end of the road to add a little more detail. Next Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle Treehouse preset was added with no changes. Painted the border with an oil brush using the same brush in the Eraser Tool to get the same edging effect. I think it now looks like how I want to remember it!

Image 2: I was please this image turned out so nice since it was behind glass. Just the basic adjustments in Lightroom. In Photoshop OnOne (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Perfect Effects 8.1 was opened and an orange and blue Split Tone filter was applied with the Balance set to 74, and an Detail Adjustment Brush was used to sharpen up the birdhouse and glasses. Shadowhouse Creations released Texture Set JJ – several really nice free textures last week including the Texture 5 shown here. An really nice brush from David Cole Complete Digital Painting Techniques called wax resist was used to paint back in the items in a layer mask on the texture (click here to download these brushes). This book is older but is still quite relevant to the basic digital painting techniques being used today. A Curves Adjustment Layer and Levels Adjustment Layer along with a couple clean up layers were added before the border was added as shown in the video.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How To Make Frames or Borders
Digital Lady Syd’s Free Layer Style Frames
More Border Fun!
Feeling Like a Walk on the Island
Soft Painterly Effect


Image of a Cherry Tree created in PhotoshopI thought I would post something I did for fun a few weeks ago – used some basic ingredients to create some similar but different images. Know I have posted this type of thing before, but sometimes you just need to unwind with what you like to do. All these images used a 10″ X 8″ size at 200 Resolution. The above was the first image created with the various resources listed below. It began with a really nice free vector tree using Mel’s Winter Tree 2 brush and painting in some pink blossoms on a separate layer above it. The brush I used a really cool brush from the Paint with Photoshop Workshop by Painted Texture’s Melissa Gallo and another one from Blur’s Good Brush 5.1 – a really interesting set of free brushes but many labeled only in Chinese. The pretty blossoms can be created using the Size 100 brush with a (- 2) at end of brush name about half way down the list. Next on a New Layer using my free Cloud Set brush 9 flipped (click the Flip X in the Brush Tip Shape section of Brush Palette) was added and set it to 74%. Next French Kiss Color Wash Juin was applied and set to Linear Burn blend mode and 24% layer opacity. Everything else was added to layers either above or below this core area of layers. I used my 60 px Chalk Brush (see my A Dreamy Rose! blog to create) to paint in the ground, Shadowhouse Creations Assorted Brush Pack bird brush 1, and my free Snow 2 Overlay-slightly blurred (colored light blue using a Solid Color Adjustment Layer) at 50% layer opacity for some more texture. The flowers under the tree were actually created in Painter and turned into a png file to add to images (see my I Didn’t Know That! Export Layers Files in Photoshop blog). The font is Dirty Halftone by Offset and a Radial Filter in Photoshop was used on the Cherry tree to draw the eye towards it more. Dave Cross’s Spatter & Splattered Stroke Filter Frame (created using a Dave Cross technique presented in his Photoshop CS5 Finishing Touches for Photographers video on Kelby One Training – this is still a good video to watch if you are a member even if it is for CS5 as Dave does great border effects. Really love the colors from the textures and border.) was added and a Solid Color Fill Layer was clipped to it (ALT+Click between the two layers to clip). It was finished up with a Levels Adjustment Layer on top to give just a bit more contrast.
Painted image of a summer treeThis is a similar image using using Mel’s Winter Tree 2 brush and painting in green leaves on a separate layer above it, then placed in a group named Tree. Underneath this group, the first layer was a texture from French Kiss’s Artiste Collection called Flower Garden. A selective color adjustment layer was added and the reds, yellows, and greens were adjusted. A New Layer was added with just some small 40 pixel colorful strokes to add a flowery feel on the ground using a chalk brush set to 19% Angle Jitter in Brush Panel. On a layer above painted a few more clouds using my Cloud Brushes again (layer set to 54%). Used Shadowhouse Creations Bird brush 1 again. Above the tree group, a text layer using the same font and Camera Raw Radial Filter were added. On a New Layer on top, French Kiss Dot Grunge 05 brush at 498 pixels was splashed on in a darkish green color. Also same border using a Pattern Adjustment Layer clipped to it for the edging effect. These steps are very similar to the image above, just different textures and colors. This was so much fun to do!
Painted image of a red fall treeThe Fall scene is another example of using the basic brushes from above. The tree is the same one as in the first image. Under the group a New Layer was used to paint a soft ground area in white using the Chalk Brush. On various layers the same painted flowers from first image, clouds and birds were used. Above the group more French Kiss Dot Grunge was added and my snow overlay at 40% opacities. Painted Textures Baby Gold texture was set to Linear Burn at 100% which made the tree color red and the tones brownish. Same text font, Camera Raw Radial Filter settings, and border with a different pattern were used. Loved the different result!
Painted image of winter treeThis time it is the same tree without any leaves. Underneath the tree group, French Kiss Artiste L Aube was set to Normal at 100% as a background. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added to give more of a bluish tone. On a New Layer, used my cloud brushes to created a soft white ground and clouds. Shadowhouse Creations birds were used again. My Snow 2 Overlay-slight-blur was added and the same Camera Raw Radial Filter and border was used.

I hope you can see how easy it is to use just a few elements and get some very dramatic differences. I love creating these kind of images – totally fun and you never know how it will end up!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
What To Do With a Plain White Cup?
How to Create an Image From Nothing!


Image of Elephants on Parade from Shorpy's websiteThis week I have been playing around with actual vintage images and adding some different effects to give even more of a vintage look to them. The image above was a free download from Shorpy Historical Photo Archive, one of my very favorite websites to visit daily. Images are updated frequently during the day and by clicking on an image, a larger Full Size view is shown to scroll around in and really see the details. Fabulous site if you are a history nut like I am. To see the original black and white of the above image that was taken in 1905, click the image link – “Coney Island — Luna Park promenade.” To get the best image quality downloaded from Shorpy, open it in the Full Size view and then right click on image – in drop-d9wn menu select “Save Image As” and make sure the jpg file type is selected in “Save Type As” field at bottom. The lower resolution photos are all free. This is a wonderful place to get old photos of many famous places.

For the elephant parade photo, Topaz (see sidebar in my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was used to really give a nice natural sharpening to the image – this is actually a perfect use for Clarity plug-in if you own it. Next Nik Analog Efex Pro plug-in was added on a duplicated layer and Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks which was used to direct the color towards the parading elephants, Lens Vignette, Film Type, Frames, and Levels & Curves were selected to create a more vintage feel to the image. Three of 2 Lil’ Owls Studio textures (see sidebar for my Tidbits Blog for website link) were added: Forgotten 9 set to Linear Light at 43% layer opacity, The Artisan Collection Big Set 1-1 set to Color Burn at 34% layer opacity, and 1-2 set to Divide at 45% layer opacity. The last step involved adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to just add back a little contrast the textures removed. I really liked the original image and could imagine standing in the scene as it was happening!

Image called House on the Water from Shorpy Historical Photo Archive site with vintage effect addedThis Shorpy image is called Tampa Pier – a house on the water that was from the 1890’s. The smoke is coming from a locomotive and a water tower is on the right. It was suggested that this may have been the home of the harbormaster,  I was totally intrigued by the thought of living in a big house on a pier! If you would like to see what appears to be a different view of this port, check out the Port Tampa Inn and Docks (Wharf): 1900 image, which would make another great photo for adding vintage effects. OnOne (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Perfect Effects 8 was used – this is a huge plug-in and I love the way the filter effects can be stacked to get wonderful results. This one used an already created OnOne preset created by photographer Nicole S. Young, in her Daydream collection called Hazy Memories – it actually stacks 7 different filters to give a nice old-fashioned look. Next the Sunshine Glow filter was stacked, and on top the Detail Adjustment Brush was painted on just the house. Back in Photoshop on a stamped or composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz Detail 3 plug-in was applied for some additional sharpening, especially where the smoke was in the sky. On another stamped layer Nik Analog Efex Pro was used again – this time only the Detail Extraction, Light Leaks, Lens Vignette, and Levels & Curves Luminosity Channel were used and saved as a preset to use again. A Camera Raw filter in Photoshop was opened using only the Radial Filter used – exposure was increased one stop on the house and train. The cool border mask is a free one by Shadowhouse Creations called Layer Overlay Mask Set Box 4 and was set to Screen blend mode at 100% layer opacity. This image was great to work on since it was in good shape to begin with and has such an interesting history.

Image from Shorpy Historical Photo Archive showing a sailboat with wheels on the beachThis is another great Shorpy image called Sailing on the Sand taken in 1903 at Ormond Beach (where I live), Florida. The image uses two French Kiss Artiste textures – Jardin set to Overlay blend mode at 82% layer opacity and Old Master set to Hard Light blend mode at 41% layer opacity – it also has a layer mask with the center painted out. Topaz Detail was used to sharpen up the whole image and a frame was created using a Dave Cross technique presented in his Photoshop CS5 Finishing Touches for Photographers video on Kelby One Training – this is still a good video to watch if you are a member even if it is for CS5 as Dave does great border effects. Really love the colors from the textures and border.

I hope this blog gave you an inspiration to try something new and try some different vintage effects. The Nik Analog Pro plug-in seems to be the best plug-in for adding the old-fashioned feel to an image, but all the plug-ins I have create some wonderful results. With all the great textures available it is hard to choose one to use. I love the old photos and it is a nice change of pace to work on something I did not shoot. And Shorpy’s website is always a lot of fun to check in on……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Pseudo HDR Using an Old Image
Some Beach Fun!
Where Am I?


Image of Chaudoin Hall at Stetson University The Adaptive Wide Angle Filter is one of those darn Photoshop filters that does not seem that useful until you really need it – and then you wonder how you ever got by without it. I often just do a crop and straighten and then if my lines are still “wonky,” I go into the Puppet Warp Tool to try and fix things up. In reality, it would have been much easier to just use this handy filter that Photoshop included in its CS6 edition to adjust your image using the lens distortion – and you do not even have to remember which lens you used because Photoshop finds it and sets it up for you. Bottom line here – don’t worry about all the technical sounding things – just use the filter to straight up your lines! It works and is pretty fast. That said, check out my basic steps which will get you through the post-processing steps to get good results.

The filter was actually designed to take the distortion out of fish eye or other wide angle lenses. I think this is why I didn’t use it much – I do not use my wide angle lens much and do not own a fish eye lens, but my 18-200 mm standard zoom lens was able to use this filter effectively for the building shot at the widest angle, 18 mm. The above image is of Chaudoin Hall at Stetson University and is a great example of how an image can really get straightened out with the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter. (The beautiful vintage colors came from running the image through Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link.) ReStyle and applying the Wedgewood Blue and Tan preset.) This building was very difficult to shoot since I could not stand back from it very much, but I really wanted the image for the historic feel. It may not be perfect, but it is much better than the original image. See below for the original image and a screenshot of the filter to help see how this filter works.

Basic Workflow For Using the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter

1. Using a tip by the wonderful Russell Brown, be sure not to check the Enable Lens Profile Correction in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom before opening in Photoshop. But do still check Remove Chromatic Aberration since wide angle lens often have some of this.

2. Convert the image to a Smart Object so that if an adjustment is needed, the settings are still available.

3. By default the top tool, the Constraint Tool, is selected for you to show Photoshop where the issues are. Click and drag out a green line – the line will bend as you move across the object. To remove the line created, just press ALT or Delete and click on the line and it will disappear. The line can be readjusted by clicking on the end and dragging it out longer or shorter. It can be dragged all the way off the image. The circle in the middle will let you adjust the angle of the line by moving the little round handles – I found this a little difficult to use. If you want the lines to be perfectly straight, as I did in the image above, hold down SHIFT key while click and dragging to get a perfectly straight line. Vertical lines will appear as yellow and horizontal lines will be red. If you want an already straightened line to be perfectly straight, right click on it and in the drop down choose what you want – Arbitrary just removes the curve.

4. Since this filter will by default cut off your image, adjust your Scale to get exactly what you want to show up in the image. Use the Move Tool to get around the image and line up the area you want to see exactly.

5. If the Scale is adjusted, after applying the filter, the area needs to be filled in. Either crop in or use the Edit -> Content Aware Fill command. If the image is a Smart Object, it must be applied or rasterized (right click on layer and select Rasterize from menu) to be able to use the Content-Aware Fill command. Use the Magic Wand Tool to select the outside transparent areas, then go to Select -> Modify -> Expand and put in 4 pixels to help Content Aware Fill work right. (Thank you Scott Kelby for the setting.) If the area is small, just use the Clone Stamp Tool to clean up.
Image of original Stetson Bldg without Adaptive Wide Angle Filter applied

Here is a screenshot of all the adjustments that were made to this image to get the windows, roof and bricks to line up right. If you look closely you can see the yellow and pinkish-red vertical lines. The scale was set to 89% since I wanted the little tree to be anchored in the photo and not be cut off in the middle.

Image of a screenshot using the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter

Images with no Metadata

If Photoshop has found the lens listed in its arsenal of lens, it will go immediately to the Auto button – the lens used will be listed down in the lower left corner. If there is no lens data, first flip through the Correction choices – sometimes one looks a lot better than the others. Then click on one end and then the other of something that needs to be straightened. Click in circle in the center of the line and it will bend the line so it fits. Usually this will fix the line. It can get a little tricky if not using a RAW file. When not using Auto Correction, the Focal Length slider and Crop Factor Slider (the amount sticks to the setting from the last image that used it, so reset to 1 and then adjust) are available that may help in fixing the image. To get a really good overview of how this filter works, check out Russell Brown’s A Detailed Look at Adaptive Wide Angle video that covers very thoroughly how to adjust images with no lens metadata. The shot below was taken with my phone of the glass ceiling at the Daytona Beach Airport and is an example of how to use this filter without a defined lens. Once again I used Topaz ReStyle – this time the Russet Toned Black and White preset – I think this may be the best plug-in filter for anyone doing creative work.

Image of reflections in the Daytona Beach Airport ceiling. Here is the screenshot of the image while using the filter. The final is quite different from where I was.

Screenshot of the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter

Other Good Info

A few more tidbits are discussed here about this filter that could be helpful. On the first image the windows were connected with the constraint lines going across the bricks in between. You do not always have to have perfectly vertical lines – I did for the building since that is what was needed, but there may be many cases you just need a little nudge. The Polygon Constraint Tool is used for quickly fixing something in a rectangular shape like a door or window – I have never tried this tool but it sounds like it would work.

Thinking back on it, the first image might have made a better image by shooting a couple portrait overlapping panorama shots. In fact, this is exactly what lots of people use this filter for – panoramas. There are some other creative possibilities that I have not explored that can be done with this filter. Some people have tried straightening lines that should not be straightened for a different look. Some people have used it on textures to get a special effect.

The bottom line is that next time you have a fairly complicated image to line up, check out the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter before going through a lot of steps and aggravation to get the look you want. It can be a very quick and handy tool to have in your collection of techniques……Digital Lady Syd


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 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) 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


Painted image of wood boats at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on the Big IslandThis week I want to cover a very simple thing – creating a signature block for your images, but more importantly, how to make it show up without being over-powered by the image. The image above is of one of the wood boats at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii – one of the most relaxing things you can do at the hotel, especially at night when the stars are out! Anyway, I did not want to place my signature block in the right corner as I felt it would have ruined the effect I was looking for. Instead it was placed in the left corner, but had to be brought out a little to see.

Creating the Signature Block

A few months ago I went to my local photo club meeting where one of the members showed everyone how to make a nice signature effect for your images. I decided to upgrade my basic copyright symbol and name (last line of my signature brush) that I have used for years to create the one above. To do this, these are the very basic steps – probably a review for most of you – but worth the time to do.

1. Open up a New Document in Photoshop. I used a 10 x 8 inch document with 240 dpi. I believe you can make this much smaller, but this worked for me.

2. Select Text Tool and create your line of text. Since I wanted to create an overlapping text design, three text layers were created, each using the same font and sizes. The font I used was Easy Street Alt ESP. The first letter was set to 100 pt. and the smaller ones to 40 pt. I wanted to space the lettering so they would overlap evenly, so the letters were adjusted using a few of these tricks:

  • Highlight two characters in text line and press ALT + -> key to increase the space between them
  • Highlight two characters in text line and press ALT + <- key to decrease the space between them
  • To change word spread, highlight the text and ALT + right or left arrow keys like above

A fourth line of text was created using the Dom Casual BT font and the last line that is my copyright line uses Freehand 575 BT font. See my Adding Copyright Information to Your Image blog to add a copyright symbol to brush. The Move Tool was used to line up the different layers of text to create the one used above. And you are not limited to using just one brush for your photos or using only text layers for your signature. You can write on the layer with the Brush or Pencil Tool to get an authentic signature in your brush.

3. Flatten the image by going to the fly-out menu in the upper right corner of the Layer Panel.

4. Go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and voila! you have your custom brush listed at the end of your Brush Presets Panel. If it is too large, you can either Free Transform (CTRL+T) it and recreate it at a smaller size. Also, you can just save it as a Tool Preset. To do this, in Options Bar set the correct size for brush and go to the far left brush icon and click – press the little bottom icon on right that Creates a New Tool Preset. Now anytime you select the Brush Tool, you can click on the icon and it will always be listed with that size setting. I keep it as a Tool Preset since I use it on almost every image. Image painted in Photoshop of Yellow and White Trees

Adding Layer Style to Make Name Brush Stand Out

Now that you have a preset of your photography brush set up, you need to make it so that the brush does not get lost in the photo. The image above is one I actually created in Photoshop. You can see the signature block would have not shown up well if I had not added something to smooth out the area behind the lettering. This is how I do this.

To create the Layer Style, add a New Layer to an image, select your signature brush and apply one once. Then open the Layer Style by double-clicking on the layer in the Layers Panel. Click on the words “Outer Glow” in the left-hand list. Change only these settings – Blend Mode: Normal, Opacity 34%, Spread 15%, and Size 20 px. Click on New Style button and name and save – mine is SJ Sig Out Glow.

To apply the Layer Style to your signature layer, do this:

1. Create a New Layer and add your signature brush to the layer in the color you would like it to appear.

2. Double-click on the layer to open up the Layer Style dialog and click on Styles in the upper left-hand list – your new layer style should be listed at the bottom. Click on it to apply and click on the checked Outer Glow words in the left-hand list.

Or open up the Layer Style Panel and at the bottom will be the new style – click on it to apply. Then double-click on the Outer Glow line attched under the layer to open up this section.

3. First click on the color swatch and sample in your image to a color that will make your signature show up. In the case above, the bluish-gray tone was chosen. Now adjust the opacity, spread and size to make it as noticeable as you want. Sometimes it takes a couple different colors to get it to blend in correctly, but it does a very nice subtle job of enhancing your signature. The Opacity was set to 89%, Spread 18% and Size 35 px on the image above. Note that in this image it says Painted By in the signature block – a new brush was created for my images created from scratch.

For the top image, a light pink tone was added at 72% opacity, Spread 41%, and Size 65 px – different settings than on the bottom image. I know this seems really basic, but it is an important part of every image. You do not want the signature to be overwhelming but you do want it to be noticeable. Hope you can use these tips to create a very nice signature block on your images…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of pink tulips and roses painted with Mixer Brushes in PhotoshopDecided to take the next couple of weeks off from this blog to catch up on some new Photoshop techniques. I will be posting on my Tidbits Blog – just taking a break from my longer blog posts. The above image (which I took with my cell phone in the local grocery store – they have great lighting in groceries) is an example of what I am learning in Melissa Gallo’s Painting With Photoshop videos – if you are interested in painting with Photoshop, I highly recommend these videos. I believe they are the best I have seen from anyone on teaching painting in Photoshop including creating your own mixer brushes and textures. Melissa has a wonderful way of teaching and I am learning a lot from her videos. On this image several of Fay Sirkis’s Signature Mixer Brushes were used since I am really familiar with them. And I still have a goal of learning Corel Painter this year, which I hope to get back to this week.

Also giving a heads up that CreativeLive will be starting another Photoshop Week and you can watch it for free the week of February 24th thru 28th on two different channels. They did this last year and I learned so much – this year they have some great presenters including several Adobe gurus – Julieanne Kost, Russell Brown and Bryan O’Neill Hughes, and my favorites Dave Cross and Jack Davis, among many others. Definitely try to catch some of these shows as they are one of the best ways to learn Photoshop.

In the meantime, since I have not taken a week off in three years, I will catch ya in March. Keep having fun in Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a purple wildflower on a black backgroundThis week I have been reading a book, The Way of the Digital Photographer, from one of my favorite photographers and Photoshop people, Harold Davis.  As always, I love reading his books because they are not over-complicated, but have a fresh approach to post-processing your images. The above is the first time I have used his LAB inversion technique and I really liked the results. Harold has a nice website article called Using LAB Color Adjustments that goes into a lot more details on how to get this effect and even more creative results than what is shown in this blog. He has a great tutorial in one of his older books called The Photoshop Darkroom if you really want to understand it. The bottom line is that by switching LAB mode and inverting the LAB Channel at the top of the Channels panel, all color values in the image will be swapped with their opposites, and Harold says it can create electric blues. With just the L (Lightness) channel selected, the grayscale information is reversed so that the black becomes white and white becomes black – this is great when the image is on a white background and you want it on black as shown above. With the “a” channel inverted, the magenta pixels become green pixels and the green become magenta. Same with the “b” channel when it is inverted – blue pixels become yellow and yellow pixels become blue. Once this is done, he likes to adjust the blend modes and layer opacities for more effects and to use layer masks to apply some of the results to localized areas of the image. Pretty creative process here!

The above image is of a little tiny wild flower plant growing on my porch – just hanging in there. I had to lie down flat to get the picture since the plant is no more than 2 inches tall with a white cardboard background set behind it. The original image from Lightroom is shown at the bottom of the blog so you can get a feel for how this technique can really change up an image.

After the doing the basic Lightroom adjustments which included sharpening the main flowers, the image was brought into Photoshop where the image was changed to LAB mode first. To do this, go to Image -> Mode -> LAB. This needs to be done on a flattened layer since the LAB mode does not read all Photoshop layers info like masks and adjustment layers correctly. Therefore you may want to duplicate your image at this point and use it in LAB mode. Once in LAB mode, duplicate your layer (CTRL+J). Go to the Channels panel where you can now invert the whole LAB image, or the individual channels, especially the L channel where only the luminance info resides. Just do a CTRL+I if using all the layers, or highlight the individual channel and with all the eyeballs on, CTRL+I to invert just the one channel. For the above just the L layer was inverted, but I tried them all. Very interesting results with each. Instantly this beautiful black background showed up with the soft colors in the background objects. At this point you can try localizing the effect with a layer mask, or changing the blend mode of the inverted layer. The image now needs to be flattened again so that the colors do not change when converted back to RGB. Go back to Image -> Mode -> RGB to continue the processing. The steps are listed more clearly further down in the blog. In this image a little more sharpening was done and Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Taupe Canvas was applied.

Image of a display of Margaritaville mixers that have been inverted in LAB modeAbove is another example of what a LAB inversion effect does to the L channel. This image was a lot of fun to do, but it did take a lot clean up – I basically wanted the colors to stand on there own – an image of mixers at Margaritaville in Orlando just happened to have the elements I wanted to show. The original image I posted on my Mixers for Margaritas! Tidbits Blog. (Here are the details on what was done to get the above image using the image from the blog: This blogimage was flattened. The layer was taken into LAB mode where the layer was duplicated, then in Channels panel, the L channel was inverted. Back in Layers panel the blend mode was changed to Linear Burn, then flattened before returning to RGB color mode. The layer was duplicated and taken into Topaz Simplify 4 where only black lines were applied – only Edges section is used. Once out of Simplify, went to Select -> Color Range where the Highlights were selected with Fuzz 1, Range 255, and Inverted checked. A layer mask was added and the selection applies. To get a little more black line emphasis, PS Ink Outline filter was applied using Harold Davis settings of 11/5/19. The Color Range line layer was set to 59% and the original Simplify layer was deleted. Some clean up was done to finish up.)>

Image of the Incredible Hulk Coaster done with a LAB inversion effect
This image of the Incredible Hulk Coaster (to see a video from the front seat of the ride, click here) at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, is a good example of what an image will look like with the “a” channel inverted in LAB Mode along with the L Channel. In this case the L channel caused the background to turn to a nice dark color since it was originally light, and the “a” Channel conversion caused the roller coaster to become a red-orange color from the original green-yellow. To help you follow along, here are the LAB steps that are basically the same for  each image:

1. Opened image in LAB by going to Image -> Mode -> LAB.
2. Duplicated layer and highlight it.
3. Go to Channels Panel and select “a” channel – invert (CTRL+I) the channel.
4. Highlight the L Channel and invert it also.
5. Click LAB Channel eyeball so all channels are turned on.
5. In Layers Panel, changed blend mode to Linear Light. (Could add a black layer mask at point and add only parts of the effect into the image.)
6. Go to Image -> Mode -> RGB and choose Flatten Image.

Pretty dramatic change but I like the results. To make the reds and blues really vibrant, just before converting back to RGB Mode, the LAB layer with the inverted channel changes was changed to a Linear Light blend mode. Then, once back in Photoshop, the layer was duplicated and set to Multiply blend mode at 52% layer opacity just to make it more vivid. The Lightroom original for this image is shown below.
Image of original photos of purple wild flowers and roller coasterAs you can see, this LAB conversion technique does have some possibilities. It tends to give a graphic feel to your image. It can pick up a little noise and I had to run Topaz DeNoise 5 at an overall setting of .39 to the coaster image – then added a black mask and painted in areas that looked too noisy – surprisingly it was not the dark background (since it came from a light sky) but the reds and blues. This LAB Inversion effect is definitely something to remember when you want to do something very different to an image – pretty easy technique to follow and some really interesting results can be obtained. Hope you will give it a try!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Unsharp Mask Filter In LAB Mode


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