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

10.  Use What You Know!

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

9.  Get the Shot!

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

8.  Get Textures From Objects Inside Your Home!

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

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

6.  Try Something New!

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

5.  Just Step Outside and Look Around!

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

4.  See What Others are Doing

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

3. Look Back at What You Have Done

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

2.  Take the Time to Have Fun!

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

1.   Take the Time to Experiment!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

How to Add the Dingbats to Your Image:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Smudge Tool Tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Art History Tool and Smudge Tool Image Frame

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

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

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Smudging Those Petals!


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


Image of Photoshop CC floating in the waterSince I have been under the weather this week, I decided to do a short post on where the Adobe Photoshop CC Manual – a whole 1061 PDF pages – can be downloaded. Here is the link to the file called the Adobe Photoshop Help and Tutorials. The PDF link for Photoshop CS6 is Adobe Photoshop Help and Tutorials. There is even information on the latest update and how to use the new tools. I have used this reference quite often when I cannot figure something out. I have also included the website link for Help documents for Creative Suite including Photoshop CS5, CS5.1, CS5.5, and CS6 applications (PDF and HTML) for all their associated programs. There is also a link to a PDF reference file on Photoshop CC and CS6 Adobe Bridge, Mini Bridge and Camera Raw specifically. And for Lightroom users, here is the download link to their Adobe Lightroom 5 Help and Tutorials. Here is a link for the Adobe Help Page which includes the update links and videos – nice easy way to find it if you need it quick!

I also just noticed a couple of little things the January 14, 2014 update did that will be really helpful (not to mention the big things like the new Perspective Warp, 3D enhancements, or the scripted Pattern Fills item that I discussed last week – see How to Create a Scripted Pattern Fill Border.) They are:

1. A single click on the lock icon (at far right on Background Layer) unlocks the layer. How handy!
2. You can now see recent swatches in the Swatches Panel. Yeah! This is too cool – open up your Swatch Panel and across the top the last 20 colors you used are shown – just click on the color and you can get the same one you were using before.
3. Layer names can now be as long as 255 characters. Another great thing since I personally love to put notes on the layer name to let me know what I did on that layer – it can get rather long if I list filter settings.
4. Improved selection of shapes using the Direct Selection Tool. Don’t use this much, but it is nice to know they have improved it.
5. Color Replacement Tool now has a Clear All button in Options Bar – not one I use a lot, but could be handy.

Hope you will find a use for these PDF’s.  Check out some reading and also my related blog link below for a short tutorial on text!…..Digital Lady Syd

Here is a quick explanation of how I created this image: Created New Document and then added a Color Fill Adjustment Layer and used the a sampled light blue color from the Photoshop logo. Created the Photoshop text using Cosmi Script 40 that I have had for ages and added a layer style I created following a tutorial called Elegant Glass-Gorgeous Text Effect. Next I used a different font called Freshman – added my Thin Double Edge Frame Layer Style and used dark blue and light blue for colors. Caleb Kimbrough from Lost & Taken’s Summer 4 texture was applied placing it above the Color Fill Adjustment Layer and setting the layer to Overlay at 100% opacity. On a New Layer above it, using my SJ Cloud 5 brush enlarged to fit, a darkish blue color was brushed once to look nice – the layer was then set to 39% opacity. The CC text layer was rasterized (right click and choose Rasterize) and then Free Transformed (CTRL+T) to make larger – a layer mask was applied and the center of the letters was lightly painted out to show the water inside. A New Layer was created and some white water looking waves were painted in along the bottom edge of the type to make it look like it was floating. This layer was set to 56% opacity. My free SJ Soft Sparkle Two Tone Overlay Frame was placed on top and a white Solid Color Fill Layer was clipped to it to get the pretty edge effect.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Add Images to Text


Image of red carnations with Photoshop Fill Scripted Patterns BorderIt’s been a while since I have done a Photoshop tip but this week I ran across one I had to share. With Photoshop CC’s update to 14.2, the Scripted Patterns were part of it. Not something I had dealt with before, but sure enough, there is a pretty nifty upgrade to this feature that makes it now worth using. Andy Anderson has a nice short video called Photoshop CC: Scripted Patterns and Fills on many of the pattern fill new options. The feature is hidden in the Edit -> Fill screen with Contents Use: Pattern selected and Scripted Patterns checked. (To get this to work on a separate layer like Andy did, be sure to uncheck Preserve Layer Transparency.) The image above demonstrates one of the Picture Frame borders that can now be applied really easily. First I will start with the easier border below.
Image of characters on Seuss Landing Trolley RideSo how is this done? For the cute Seuss Landing Trolley Train Ride at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, the image was first opened in Lightroom where the normal RAW work was done, then in Photoshop the image was taken into OnOne (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Perfect Effects 8 where the HDR Adjustment Brush was used to paint over the area in the back of the image – I was totally impressed how it sharpened up the trolley and lines in the background! A Detail Adjustment Brush was used on the eyes and hands of the characters – it did not need much work. A New Layer was added on top and then from the Menu Bar, Edit -> Fill was selected. Many times Content Aware is in the Use field, so to select Pattern is unusual – but change the Use to Pattern, uncheck Preserve Transparency, and check Scripted Patterns. See screenshot below:
Image of Fill Dialog Box with Scripted Patterns selectedIn the Script drop-down box, there are now three new choices: Picture Frame, Place Along Path, and Trees. If you select Picture Frame, it does not matter which Custom Pattern shows in the little icon in the dialog box. When you click OK – this huge pop-out dialog now appears as shown below:
Image of Frame Dialog Box with Picture Frame choices shownYou can see above many of the choices you have for making borders – my image used number 38 – Crisscross Double Line Box – there are currently 42 canned choices. Some of the options for creating the frame borders are shown in the screenshot below:
Image of Frame Dialog Box Screenshot showing options for bordersThe settings shown are the ones I used for my basic frame, which I actually really liked. Some of the borders are a little clip-arty looking, but with so many settings to change, an interesting border can be created as shown in the red carnation image. This image took forever to figure out exactly what settings it needed – lots of trial and error, which is a bit of a drawback to this feature since it cannot be used as a Smart Object. If you do not like the way the border applied, you have to CTRL+Z (undo) and go back into Pattern Fill to change it and reapply. The good news is that you can actually save the frame and its settings as a preset to use again once you do discover a good combination. Here is a screenshot of the Flower choices for some of the frames.
Image of screenshot of the Frame Flower choices in Pattern Scripted Fill dialogI am supplying the settings used in case you need a bit of a starting point – as I said before, a little trial-and-error is required. (Frame: 9 Wisp, Vine Color R145/G147/ B45, Margin 5, Size 9, Thickness 11, Angle 0, Arrangement 1, Flower 19 Heart, Flower Color 200/180/167, and Flower Size 57) Since the frame is on its own layer, it can be free transformed and sized or warped or distorted easily. Also blend modes and Layer Styles can be added to the image to get a little different effect, which is what was done on the this image. Bevel & Emboss (Style Inner Bevel, Technique Chisel Hard, Depth 72, Direction Up, Size 16, and Soften 0 and Texture checked); Stroke (Size 3, Position Outside, Blend Mode Normal, Opacity 82; Fill Type Color; and Color Medium Gray); and Outer Glow (Blend Mode Normal, Opacity 100%, Noise 0, Color Gold sampled from image, Technique Softer, Spread 22%, Size 51%, and Contour – one that goes up in the center – not sure where I got it) effects were added on this layer. Since the border still had a bit of a clip-art feel, the layer was set to 65% opacity to soften the the overall effect. I think this type of frame would look good on cards or invitations. This image used a texture I painted in Corel Painter using Skip Allen’s Buttery Oils Fine Bristles Smooth brush in soft yellows and coral tones. Flowers were painted in Photoshop using Fay Sirkis Mixer Brushes. Fay is both a Corel Painter Master and a Photoshop painting guru – if you were a NAPP member, and now are a Kelby One member, her fabulous painting brushes are all downloadable for free from her webinars and videos posted on-line at the site. Font is Quilted Butterfly. (This font does require a $2 donation to use.)
Image of green dahlia with scripted pattern border effect
This tinted dahlia is just another quick example of this technique. This time Frame 36: Line Box was added with a Vine Color of white, Margin 7 and Thickness 50. Once applied, a Gradient Fill Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers) to the border layer and Wow Gradient 41 (from Jack Davis’ Photoshop 7 One-Click Wow Presets book CD) was applied. Back on the frame layer a Bevel & Emboss layer style was added. On a layer mask, the border was painted out so some of the petals popped out.

Well I hope you get a chance to experiment with this little effect. The scripted trees also look like fun to experiment with – just did not have time to try them yet. The great thing is that this feature is part of Photoshop and is not a plug-in – pretty cool!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a pink gerbera post-processed in Corel PainterThis week I decided to mention a few things I personally like and don’t like about Corel Painter at this stage of my learning process, and basically, what I think it does better and worse than Photoshop. I have been starting to dive down into some of the more hidden features of Painter. (PRO) We all know the brushes are definitely better – there are so many ways you can change a brush in Painter. I have not even begun to explore how to use them properly, much less figure out what can be changed to get certain effects. I find I am going into Photoshop a lot to clean up parts of the painting. I understand Photoshop’s brush panel and I know which brushes to use for the final tweaking. So that is where I am at this week with my New Years Resolution.

The above image is a good example of how I can get to a certain point in Painter, but then end up in Photoshop. For one thing, I usually do some basic processing in Lightroom – then I have to take the Camera Raw image into Photoshop if for no other reason than to change it to an 8-bit image since (CON) Painter will not open up a 16-bit image. Then I save down the image and usually designate it for use in Painter in the rename.

Now the image is opened in Painter. Not sure what I would do without Corel Master Skip Allen‘s wonderful videos on YouTube and his website – there is so much information there if you need help. This time I followed his video called Advance Auto-Painting with Watercolor, which selectively applies effects using channel selections in this technique. I never thought I could do watercolor images, but he explains it so well that I may actually get comfortable with this artistic medium. After following this video tutorial, the gerbera image actually looked pretty good, but I decided to add some contrast in Photoshop. I really like the Curves Adjustment Layer and this does not seem as easy to do in Painter. (CON) Painter does have an Effects menu with various items listed that appear to be similar to Photoshop’s layer adjustments, but many of them have very different results when applied. They cannot be applied as easily as Photoshop’s Adjustment Layers. Therefore, I find myself going back into Photoshop to control the contrast that I am used to. (PRO & CON) This does not mean that Painter does not give some interesting results when manipulating, for example the Effects -> Tonal Contrast -> Color Correction which has a Curves option in the drop down under the curve, but it definitely gives different results than in Photoshop. I also added a Photoshop Selective Color Adjustment Layer where the Reds, Greens, Cyans, Magentas, and Neutrals were adjusted. Adjust Selected Colors in Painter seems similar – check out Skip’s Beyond Painting videos to learn about how this is different. On another layer WOW BT Watercolor Small brush was used to clean up edges and fill in – I am finding it is very handy for adding in some color to a missed place or smoothing out an ugly edge. This brush is in Davis One-Click Wow Preset Mini Sampler of brushes from Jack Davis, who allows you to download it from his Facebook page Freebies or directly by clicking here if you do not have Facebook. (He has lots of other goodies on his Facebook page so check it all out.) Added a watercolor frame created using my SJ WC Salt Brush at 60 pixels on a New Layer. The last step involved going into Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) ReStyle to check for a little better color combination. This time I got one (started with Butterfly Wings preset and set ReStyle Panel Opacity to 78%; Color Blend Mode; Color Style Hue to Fourth -0.62 and Fifth -0.33; Sat – no changes; Lum Primary -0.27, Third 0.52, Fourth -0.45, and Fifth 0.83; Texture Strength 1.00; Basic Panel Opacity 28%; Multiply Blend Mode; Color Temperature 0.56; No Tone changes; and Structure Detail -1.00 and Sharpness 0.44. Named preset SJ Very Soft Watercolor). Plug-ins can actually be added into Corel Painter – ReStyle is one of them – but I am just more comfortable adding them in using Photoshop. (CON) In Painter to create a stamped layer on top so the plug-in effects can be applied requires going through a lot of steps – another disadvantage.

******Image of a painted Yellow RoseThis yellow rose, a free image from stock.xchng y MEJones, was used to begin my painting. Skip’s Beyond Painting Tutorial videos were followed on this image. (PRO) Painter’s Stroke Attributes feature is really interesting and helped to get the effect in the rose petals especially. Skip talks about how to use this with Painter brushes – it is very similar to changing the Mode in the Options Bar in Photoshop. Now here is the big question – how often have you done this in Photoshop? Probably every so often when using the Burn Tool to adjust bright spots, but usually not to paint on an image. Most Photoshop gurus say don’t mess with this since it is easy to forget that you have changed the Blend Mode since it is a “sticky” setting and will mess up a different image when using the Brush Tool again. It is recommended to change the Blend Mode in the Layer Panel instead. The Stroke Attributes actually is a really nice feature in Painter and seems to be better than its Photoshop counterpart. For me the biggest problem seems to be that Stroke Attributes do not work on all brushes, only some and I do not understand how to tell when it will work. This appears to be another “quirk” Painter has and it takes some sorting through the brushes to figure out which ones work best. By watching the videos, you can learn a few of the brushes that do work with this feature.

(PRO) Painter also has a couple of extra Photoshop “blend modes” or what they call Composite Methods. One is Gel which acts like a transparent area or gel overlaid on top of your layer, and another is Colorize which affects just the color in an image. If layer is set to Gel and you want to take it into Photoshop, change the method to Multiply so it will copy since there is no Gel blend mode in Photoshop. Colorize comes into Photoshop as Color and looks bad – change to Lighten blend mode. The reason I bring up this information is that if you find brushes they works with, it can create some really nice effects on your images. You can switch between Composite Methods for your layers depending upon whether you want to darken an outline in the image, or add some really bright strokes in another part to smooth out or fill out an outline. Sample the color by ALT clicking on color in image (just like Photoshop) and painting. (CON) A layer mask can be added, just like in Photoshop, but not all brushes work on layer masks, unlike Photoshop. Need to watch Skip’s videos to get a handle on this, but the good news is that he does supply you with a pretty decent brush to use on a layer mask. The original background, splashes of color, and flower coloring were all done in Painter, and then I brought the image into Photoshop. On a New Layer, Jack Davis WOW Watercolor Small brush was used again to clean up some of my mistakes. A Curves Adjustment Layer was added to increase contrast just a little. Next a different plug-in, Nik Analog Efex Pro, was added to get the vintage feel – the Nik plug-ins will also work with Painter. Lots of filter effects were used on the image, but not Film Type which can change the color of an image and I did not want that.

Skip says he actually prefers doing the things I am doing in Photoshop in Painter because he learned that program first and understands it better. I totally get that – I am not sure I will be able to do everything in Painter as well as he does. I seem to need my crutch using Photoshop. I hope Adobe is working on making the brush engine better in Photoshop so that many of the Painter brush effects can be achieved. The Mixer Brushes were a great start, but they do not have many ways to manipulate them or the range of strokes effects like Painter. When I look at my work in Painter, it does seem to be more realistic like I would expect a painting to be. So this is where I am at – a few steps forward but still a lot of things to learn. I hope I have not confused everyone, but I believe that if this program can be “tamed,” it will reap great benefits toward creating a unique style for anyone that wants a creative look in their images – but I will always love Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of painted Alstroemeria flowersEven though I have been spending a lot of my time recently trying to learn some of the “bells and whistles” of  Corel Painter, I find I still enjoy going back into Photoshop and using brushes I am more familiar with using. This is where I started learning painting techniques and I believe it is a good place for others to start. Painter has a lot to offer, but you have to get used to using brushes in either program to create beautiful images – for me Photoshop was the place to begin. And selecting flower images was a nice easy place to get the feel of a brush or to experiment with new settings. That is what was done in this case above with the Alstroemeria flower that was shot a while back.

1.  First a texture was dragged into and re-sized to fit an image from Bridge, but you can right click and choose Place -> In Photoshop. If you open the texture in Photoshop and then move it into the image, you lose the texture name in the Layer Panel which I find useful to have. I guess you can tell it is Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Christmas Present Texture that she graciously gave away for the holidays. Can’t say enough good things about her textures! If you want to learn a lot more on this effect from a real expert, she offers classes on this type of painting at her site . This texture was left at Normal blend mode and 100% layer opacity.

2.  Next a layer mask was added to the texture and the flower was painted out partially with black to hide some of the petal edges using my Chalk Brush set to 30% opacity. This was an easy brush to create and a good example of one I just started using and liked the  results – in this case just used Photoshop’s Chalk Brush 60 with the Shape Dynamics turned on and Angle Jitter set to 19% in the Brush Panel. The jitter creates a little different angle for each stroke so the strokes do not look so uniform in the image. On the layer mask I  just dabbed with short strokes to keep some of the rather scratchy effect from the texture on the flower. By using a lower brush opacity, 30% or less, or changing the size of the brush, you can go over certain areas to get just the right amount of the image being hidden. And if you go too far, just press the X key to switch the paint color to white and paint back areas that don’t look correct. If you are not quite sure you like the effect of this brush, try some of the other brushes Photoshop offers – Spatter 59 gives a slightly different effect with the Angle Jitter turned on. If you like a brush you created, save it down as a New Brush Preset by clicking on the pop-out in either the Brush Panel or the Brush Preset Panel. When I really like a brush, I also save it as a Tool Preset by clicking on the little arrow next to the brush icon in the far left of the Options Bar and click on the bottom icon, New Tool Preset. This is where I keep my Chalk Brush – always have it available.

NOTE: A couple little things to know about the Brush Panel. You need to click on the words of the individual  brush section to get it to open up – if you just check the section on the left side, it applies whatever settings are there without your seeing them. One thing I noticed, if you set the Shape Dynamics Angle Jitter to 19%, this setting is sticky (does not change until you make a change to it) if using the same type of brush tip – it will always appear at this amount in the Shape Dynamics section until you change it. The Chalk and Spatter brushes are use the same Brush Tip so the setting sticks. But if you switch to a different Brush Tip, like an Airbrush for example, the Angle Jitter amount changes. It is recommended that you lock the setting in a section when creating new brushes if you like the setting so it does not change when trying out different brushes. Any unlocked attributes revert to those with which the original Photoshop brush tip was created. I do not lock my brush settings once save it down as a preset. Whew! Brushes in Photoshop can be confusing!

3.  Used the same brush to add paint on a New Layer above the texture layer to add a few different colors (light pinks and blues). Also used Fay Sirtis’ Water Impressionist Blender Brush #1 Mixer Brush. Fay is both a Corel Painter Master and a Photoshop painting guru – if you were a NAPP member, and now are a Kelby One member, her fabulous painting brushes are all downloadable for free from her webinars and videos posted on-line at the site.

4.  Now to add some texture back into the area where the layer mask removed it. The same texture layer was duplicated (CTRL+J) and placed at the top of the layer stack with the layer mask deleted. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the layer (ALT+click between the layers) and with the Colorize button checked, Hue was set to 282, Saturation slider was set to 21, and Lightness -37. (I just discovered that with Colorize checked, the Saturation slider only goes from 0 to 100 so a setting of 21 is not that saturated in this case.) This added a slight pinkish cast to the whole texture. The texture layer was then set to Hard Light blend mode at 28% layer opacity – this adds the stroke texture over the flower and just added a little pinkish color. Basically I just experimented until I got a look I liked.

5.  On a New Layer on top, French Kiss Spatter2_13 brush was used to add a little more localized texture to the image in different colors. These were added at a very low opacity.

6.  The last step was to walk away until the next day (learned this from Aaron Nace) and realized I needed a little more color pop so a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added. The Reds were adjusted so more pink was showing up in the upper right , Whites cyan was adjusted toward red, and Blacks cyan, yellow and black sliders were adjusted. Since this was over the top, the layer mask was filled with black (CTRL+I in mask) and just the areas I wanted to look a brighter were painted back. You have to be careful when messing with the Whites and Blacks Colors in this adjustment layer as they can really ruin an image if too much is applied. That was it. I really like the resulting colors!

******Image of red anthuriums on a white textureThis image used even fewer steps with a different texture – just painted out parts of the flower with the Chalk Brush. I did not think it needed texture added above the flower in this case. The beautiful white texture is from French Kiss’s Tableaux collection and called CremeFraiche, another one of my favorite texture sites. Next a Selective Color Adjustment Layer was added and only the Reds and Yellows were adjusted to darken the red in the front flower and greens in the leaves. The layer mask was filled with black and just a little bit of localized color was painted back with a white low opacity chalk brush I created. The last step involved adding Nik Analog Efex Pro using just a few filters – Basic Adjustments was checked with the Detail Extraction set to 74%; Light Leaks was added over the red flowers using the first light leak in the Dynamic category and set to 52% Strength – this gives the lovely light pink in the texture; Lens Vignette was added to just whiten the image edges; and Levels & Curves – what I like to manipulate is the Luminosity Channel, just dragged it up a little and the RGB Channel down a little all set to 100% opacity. I believe the Luminosity curve is what makes me like this plug-in so much! Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer in Photoshop. This was a very simple process, but the image is so much prettier than the original with the distracting background.

I am still learning to paint in Photoshop, but I feel like I can count on getting a pretty nice painterly look with just these few steps. The bottom line is that you should just make a couple of brushes that you like (and as noted above, be sure to save them as a brush and a tool preset if you really like them). Just start building up paint on separate layers or removing texture with layer masks at very low opacities, and maybe higher if you like the effect. With a few adjustment layer tweaks and blend mode changes, a very interesting image can be achieved out of one that looked rather ordinary. ….Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Trying Out Some Aaron Nace Techniques
A Few Painterly Tricks!
How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes


Image of a pitcher of flowers created using Corel PainterThis week I took it a bit easy. Hope everyone is having a great New Years. It always feels good to put the past behind and start over or focus on what you want to accomplish in the coming months ahead. As I stated in my Tidbits Blog, I am not very good at keeping resolutions, but I have one I am going to try to keep this year – learn Corel Painter. I will still learn everything I can about Photoshop – not sure you ever could quit learning with this program and it is my favorite program ever – but I want to expand my abilities and try to incorporate the two programs into something that will create my own “personal style.” With that in mind, the above is one of my first efforts at creating a watercolor in Painter, but with a lot of help in Photoshop (and I hope tolerance from the blog world). I am learning that for my particular “style” I have to try different effects in both programs. This painting used Skip Allen’s wonderful Floral Maker brush that eats away the Painter canvas (this technique is totally amazing!) and his Roman Candle brush created the little rows of flowers. More info and links on Skip and his magic in the paragraph below. Since I do not draw, the pitcher was created from a low resolution Shutterstock stock photo (from a 2006 Advanced Photoshop Magazine No. 25 CD – could not find this pitcher on Shutterstock anymore, but they have several other beautiful pitcher images if you need one) – just selected the pitcher in Photoshop and took it into Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 using one of their watercolor presets. Next Painter supplied the flowers, and finally back in Photoshop Melissa Gallo’s 2 for 5 Friday Set 2 Seafoam texture from her Painted Textures website was layered into the image using a Darker Color Blend Mode at 79% opacity. To smooth out the texture a little, a Gaussian Blur was added to the texture so it gives more of a soft watercolor look. Used the same border as the image below, and voila, a floral image!

Floral Arrangement Image created in Corel Painter and Photoshop Wish I could take credit for this image idea, but instead I followed Skip Allen’s 10-video tutorial called Corel Painter X3 SP1, New Flower Brushes…Loads of Fun that teaches you how to paint this image. He gives you links to download his brushes and everything you need to create an image similar to the above. I can’t say enough nice things about Skip and these videos – not only did I learn a lot about how to paint a watercolor, but I also learned a lot about Painter. My image was pretty rough compared to Skip’s at this point, but since I know Photoshop pretty well, I decided to clean it up there. My leaf lines were way too sharp, so on a New Layer the Wow BT Watercolor Small brush was used to clean up and soften the edges quite a bit. This is a brush supplied in Davis One-Click Wow Preset Mini Sampler of brushes from one of my favorite Photoshop people, Jack Davis, who allows you to download it from his Facebook page Freebies or directly by clicking here if you do not have Facebook. (He has lots of other goodies on his Facebook page so check it all out.) I also removed a few of the splats that I got carried with. Since I always try out Topaz (see website in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) ReStyle when dealing with major color issues, this plug-in was opened and sure enough, I found a little bit better color combination. The Orange Bush in Snow preset was selected that brought out more of the reds that I really liked. (Changed these settings in the preset: Hue Third -0.81 and Sat Third =0.34; Strength to 100%; Temperature 0.39 and Saturation 0.09; Tone Black Level 0.23, Midtones -0.11, and White Level 0.11; and Detail Structure 0.25 and Sharpness 0.44.) Back in Photoshop, the layer was set to 42% opacity so the color change was not overdone. The last step involved adding a watercolor frame created using my SJ WC Salt Brush at 60 pixels on a New Layer. It had been saved from another image so it was just added onto this image. As you can see, Photoshop really helped me finish up my photo.
Image of a wintry scene using textures and Corel PainterHere is just another rather quick painterly image that I just like – the colors are a palette I would never have tried without Topaz ReStyle. The trees are the same painted grouping I created in this image on my Snowmen Passing Through! Tidbits Blog a few days ago. This time several of Melissa Gallo’s textures were stacked in Photoshop: 6 for 6 Thanksgiving Foliage texture set to Soft Light blend mode; 2 for 5 Friday Set 12 Summer Silk texture set to Hard Light at 13% layer opacity with a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer attached and set to Hue 18, Saturation -56 and Lightness -11; another layer of Summer Silk Texture set to Overlay blend mode at 100% layer opacity; and 2 for 5 Friday Set 12 Ice Palace set to Divide at 100% layer opacity – the Blend If This Layer white tab was set to 159 to bring back some of the underlying color. A stamped layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and Topaz ReStyle using Tiara Frost preset was applied with a few adjustments (Sat Fifth 0.66 and Fifth 1.00; Texture Strength 1.00; and Structure -0.61 and Sharpness -0.55). This layer was set to 80% opacity. Melissa’s textures create such interesting results when combined with your own basic painted images.

Painter does seem to have a lot of quirks and to really learn it, I believe you have to do a little in the program every day – not that different from Photoshop. What I really like about Painter are all the beautiful effects you can get from its brushes, as shown above with Skip’s. I like Photoshop’s Mixer Brushes, but find they have a very limited scope when compared to all the different Brush Controls in Painter. If you are interested in learning how to use this program and especially watercolors, I would recommend downloading the trial and following along with Skip’s videos – you may surprise yourself like I did. I never thought I would be able to create anything that remotely looked like a watercolor, but am finding I really enjoy the artistic media and will work on improving my skills in this area. Happy Painting!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Topaz ReStyle with Corel Painter & Nik Analog Efex Pro
Photoshop with Corel Painter for Texture
Happy New Year!
Christmas Flowers!
Just Painting!


Image of a Golden Retriever lying on his back in the sunHappy New Year to everyone! Hope you have a wonderful year ahead and create some really spectacular images from your photos! Recently I have gotten interested in adding a painterly feel to my photos. Alien Skin’s Snap Art 3 has definitely been one of my favorite Photoshop plug-ins for doing this – not only for its ease of use, but also because it gives some great results quickly. (See my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 3 blog). I was excited to hear the plug-in was being updated to version 4. Since I reviewed Snap Art 3 not that long ago and since it is the holidays, I am just going to do a fairly quick update for this version. Needless to say I love Snap Art 4. It is definitely worth a second look if you love the painterly effects like I do. To be honest, I do not see a whole lot of difference between the two versions except for the new interface, which looks more like Lightroom’s interface. The biggest change is that thumbnails are note created of your image showing all painting style variations in each artistic group – this makes it easy to choose a particular filter or effect for the image. Also the Background and Detail Masking Panels can be seen at the same time which is very helpful. F5 still resets the Background to some default settings, but I am not quite sure how this is determined. CTRL+R resets the Detail Mask so you can create new ones. The sliders and artistic effects are all the same as version 3.

The image above is of a beautiful golden retriever dog (similar to one I used to own) that was enjoying a nice sunny morning in Savannah, Georgia, in October. This is a great example of how subtly the plug-in can be applied, yet still get a nice painterly feel. In Lightroom, Trey Radcliff’s Dramatically Clean Chipmunk preset was applied before opening the image into Photoshop and the Snap Art 4 plug-in. I applied a preset I created from Snap Art 3′s Factory Default preset settings – still one of my favorites that is based upon an Oil Paint effect. To sharpen the details when using this filter, increase the Photorealism slider and decrease the Stroke Length slider. In this case, two Detail Masks were created to add back the detail to the dog’s fur and face. Pretty simply!
Image of a bloom from an Elephant Ear plant
I am finding that I like to use this plug-in with other Photoshop plug-ins to achieve the look I like. In this Bird of Paradise bloom pix from my yard, a 5-image HDR was processed using HDR Soft’s Merge to 32 Bit HDR and returned as a 32 bit TIFF file in Lightroom. Some localized sharpening and Trey Radcliff’s Gradient Folding Colors preset was applied before taking the it into Photoshop. The layer was duplicated and made into a Smart Object before opening in Snap Art 4 (it is very helpful to use a smart object so you can go back and adjust the detail masks if needed), which achieved this beautiful painterly result using the Abstract Pastel preset – two detail masks used on the bloom where a little more Color Variation and smaller Stroke Length were used. Next Nik’s Analog Efex Pro plug-in was applied using only three of its filters that just popped the color: Basic Adjustments with Saturation set to 85%, Lens Vignette with amount set to -29%, and Levels and Curves with just a little RGB and Luminosity tweaking and an amount set to 67%. By combining these different applications, a very beautiful image was achieved.
********Image of Victoria Station using Snap Art 4 Colored Pencil effectThis image of Victoria Station in London uses Snap Art 4 Colored Pencil filter. First Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) ReStyle’s Cambridge Battleship preset was set to Soft Light blend mode. Then one of Snap Art’s colored pencil presets was applied. In the Detail Masking panel, the Photorealism slider was set to 100 and the people were painted over to bring out detail in them. Created the frame back in Photoshop  by painting around the image edge on a New Layer with a Sponge brush, then opening up a Drop Shadow layer style where Distance was set to 0, Spread to 34% and Size to 5 pixels. This gave the cool dark edge effect in the border.

Check out Alien Skin’s website page for several useful tutorials, especially one called Chris Wieck’s Snap Art Tips. Well, that’s it for this post – just wanted to get this review done since I believe Alien Skin’s Snap Art 4 is a fantastic way to add some painterly effects to an image, or to totally change the image. This is in my top five plug-ins for Photoshop so that means it is pretty darn good! Lots of fun – and that, my friends, is the “name of the game!”

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Get Great Results with Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Topaz ReStyle Together!!
A Day in the Sun!

2013 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List

Image of snowman and card scene created in both Photoshop and Corel PainterThe last two years I have done blogs on inexpensive gift items that I felt were a good deal if you are a Photoshop and/or Lightroom lover like I am. All the previous items I still recommend and would still make great gifts.

2012 Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List
Inexpensive Gifts for the Photoshop Lover on Your List (for 2011)

This year I am running a little late with my list, but I thought I would add a few more items that might help you out if you need another quick, last-minute gift. All can be downloaded in some form and put on an inexpensive little thumb drive from WalMart or Staples for a nice little gift. These items are not listed in any particular order, just how I thought of them.

1. Topaz ReStyle ($59.99)

The snowman greeting above used this Photoshop plug-in which has turned out to be my favorite Topaz plug-in (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) – since I love all their plug-ins, that is quite a statement! I almost always try it on every image opened in Photoshop, usually as a last step, just to see if a slightly better color palette can be achieved. More times than not I will apply it. At least try out the trial to see if you like it – just a fabulous plug-in that no one else has. The snowman image was originally in whites, greens and browns, which looked okay. But when put into Topaz ReStyle and the Warm Steel Wash preset applied, this was the result which looks more wintry to me. Totally love this plug-in as seen by the various references to it throughout many of my recent blog postings.

2. Dave Delnea’s Lightroom Develop Presets ($10)

This is a set of 46 presets that I use all the time – I love the way he has added different light effects that sit on top of your other presets in many cases. It can really helps even out a dark corner in an image and the presets can be easily edited in Lightroom if the effect is too strong. These sell for $10 or you can get a bundle with David duChemin’s Lightroom presets (see last year’s #10 item) and get them for $16. Can’t go wrong with either set.

Image of Colonial Park Cemetary in Savannah, GeorgiaThis image of the Colonial Park Cemetery (the link is to a website on the ghosts said to haunt the cemetery in Savannah, Georgia where over 10,000 people are said to buried) used both David duChemin’s Toxic Cool Heavy + MTC preset which added the soft fall tones, and Dave Delnea’s Backlight Horizontal Left preset that filled the back corner with light for a more natural tree shadow and lighter background.

3. Argus Preset Viewer ($9.99)

Last year I recommended the Preset Viewer Breeze by Tumasoft (last years #3 item) and it has been a great little program, but the Argus Preset Viewer appears to me to be just as good, faster and cheaper. It adds thumbnails down the right side of your Windows Explorer where you can view a complete set of Photoshop brushes, swatches, styles, shapes, gradients, or patterns. This is such a time-saver and at such a reasonable price. Definite must have!

Image of screenshot of how Tumasoft Argus preset viewer looks

Above is an example of how my free Cloud Brushes look in the Argus Preset Viewer from my Deviant Art site when highlighted in the Windows Explorer.

4. Flypaper Nik Color Efex Presets  ($8)

We all know that Flypaper Textures are great. Recently they offered 84 presets for Nik’s Color Efex Pro plug-in and they have turned out to be really nice. Also gives a great starting point for stacking several filters to get an interesting effect. And the good thing is that they are very inexpensive! This would be a great stocking stuffer!
Image of an old building in the Belarusian countrysideThis image used three plug-ins: Topaz DeNoise, Nik Color Efex Pro using the Fly For Girls preset which stacked Cross Processing, Darken/Lighten Center, Reflector Efex, and Graduated Neutral Density filters, and Nik Viveza. The clouds were added using my brushes 1 and 2 in brush set shown above. The image is of an old residential building in the Belarusian countryside outside Minsk – I have always wondered what stories it could tell.

5. Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures  ($5 to $35)

Her textures are so gorgeous and I use them on many of my images. If you like the very true vivid painted texture look, check out her textures. She does have a couple texture sets at very reasonable prices – her Winter Solstice Mini Collection of 10 textures for $20 and her Monet Collection of 20 textures for $35. This is something that you cannot get right now, but usually the first Friday of each month, she offers two of her beautifully painted textures for sale for $5 – only time they will be available. She has some more expensive bundles with tutorials and actions included. If your Photoshopper likes textures, definitely check these out.
Image of Mums with Melissa Gallo texturesJust an example of what several of Melissa’s beautiful textures can produce. My mums were not that outstanding an image, but by stacking Melissa’s Mist on the Lake texture at 100% opacity and painting back the flower, her Thanksgiving Mayflower texture set to Overlay blend mode at 87% layer opacity, and finally her Spring Rain texture set to Soft Light blend mode at 92% opacity, an interesting and unique texture look can be achieved. These textures were all from her 2 for $5 deals each month.

6.  Lightroom 5 Unmasked E-Book  ($20)

If you are like me and get a little discouraged that every time Adobe upgrades their software, you have to spend bunches of money on a new book to cover all the little upgrades they did, this is the solution. When Adobe upgraded to Lightroom 4, I bought Piet Van den Eynde E-book and it served my purposes since I knew how to use the program, just needed a quick reference for the new things. When Lightroom 5 came out, Piet came out with an update to his book for just a few dollars (Lightroom 5 Up to Speed) and I was now all set for version 5. His updated complete Lightroom 5 E-book is 356 pages.

7.  Trey Radcliff’s Photomatix Pro Presets  ($14.97)

Needless to say anything Trey sells has got to be good! I am listing these presets as they are very unique and once again I do not know anyone who sells this type of item. Trey also has several nice inexpensive Lightroom preset sets and many inexpensive E-books available in his website store so check them all out.Image of miniature mushrooms that look like hobbit homesThis is a 3-image HDR using Photomatix Pro 5.0 and Trey’s A Little Sumfum Sumfin preset was applied.Some mushroom edge sharpening and a radial vignette were added in Lightroom. These were the tiniest mushroom I have ever seen, only 2 inches high at the max, and I had to shoot them lying on my stomach! I actually expected a little tiny hobbit to walk out!

8. The Way of the Digital Photographer by Harold Davis  ($25.61)

I have always been a big fan of Harold Davis ever since he released The Photoshop Darkroom and The Photoshop Darkroom 2 books (they are still great books). This book is his latest and I just bought it. Planning on spending a few days enjoying some of his new techniques this holiday. Anyway, not sure you can go wrong with any Harold Davis book and they are all available in Kindle editions from Amazon.

9.  Video Tutorial – Snapseed – The Definitive Guide  ($15)

I just bought this and it looks really good. Snapseed is a free IPhone or Adroid application from Nik to create all kinds of interesting effects on your phone images. The above E-book, example images, and videos from Flatbooks discuss how to get the most out of this really cool app. Would make a great gift for someone just getting a new phone (like I did).


10.  Adobe Photoshop Suite CS2 and/or Photoshop CS2

For people who do not really want to buy Photoshop because they do not need to use it that  much, this is a pretty good alternative. Adobe no longer is supporting this version but they will let you download it for free. Since it is a 10-year old program, it lacks a lot of the bells and whistles of the newer versions, but for people who just want to add an adjustment layer or select with a channel, this is not a bad way to go. Thought I would put this out there since not everyone is as crazy about Photoshop as I am. And the bonus is that you can learn the basics of some of the other Adobe programs and see if you might want to actually upgrade to the CC Cloud verion. The link above goes to a recent Gizmoto blog that discusses this in more detail and contains the link to Adobe.

11.  NKS5 Natural Media Toolkit

This is a Photoshop Panel that I have been trying out a little but have not spent much time on it due to the holiday overload. It is a free download and you might want to give it a shot. It is opened from the Window -> Extensions -> NKS5 where a panel with all kinds of brushes and effects are set up on icons. It could be a real time saver. I actually added it to Photoshop CC without any issues even though it says it is for CS5 and CS6.

For some other fairly inexpensive gifts for the photographer, check out this recent episode of The Grid where Photoshop Guys Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski discuss all kinds of items. Lots of fun to watch too. Also, I cannot say enough good things about Creative Live and all the programs they present. If you like what you see during the live presentations, you can get the videos for a reduced price. Keep checking in as they often have different videos at reasonable prices – several are under $50. Still one of the best places to learn about all types of programs that have to do with photography.

Hope this little blog will give everybody some quick ideas for their last minute shopping.  Happy Holidays everybody!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Bagpipe Player in Edinburgh, ScotlandI have become a big Aaron Nace fan ever since he appeared on Creative Live earlier this year. He is a Photoshop retoucher by trade, but he does a lot of You Tube videos through the website Phlearn. A while back I did a blog called How To Use the Apply Image Command for a Cross Processed Look that used one of his tips. This week I wanted to share some of his workflow and editing tips he uses for his images.

My image above is of a Bagpipe Player near Waverly Station in Edinburgh, Scotland – someone is always there throughout the day playing a bagpipe. Aaron’s 5-part Post Processing series (link shows all 5 videos) has some very good tips and ways of looking at your images. Originally this image was in color, but after watching Aaron’s short videos, I changed it to a black and white to better help direct focus to the subject. One of his workflow tips is to convert your image to a black and white version first – if it does not look good in black and white, it will not look good as a color image. He says that by converting it to a black and white, just a tonal representation without any color distraction is seen and a lot of the problems in the image can be located more easily. I used a Lightroom preset by for my black and white conversion using David duChemin’s Lightroom B+Yellow Filter Cool Duo preset. Cropping was also done in Lightroom as there were several distractions off to the right that were ruining the image. The background and the bright orange color in the benches were a big distraction from the bagpipe player, the focus of my image, so this was the main reason I selected a black and white version. In Photoshop the stones and person in the background were softened since they still were distracting, especially the big blob of shadow in the upper left corner. This was done by using a Curves Adjustment Layer to lighten the background and then bring back the subject by filling the layer mask with black (CTRL+I), selecting the Gradient Tool and with white as foreground color in the Color Swatch, use a white to transparent linear gradient on the layer mask to apply most of the Curve change to the background. Next a Gaussian Blur was added to the layer mask (highlight Layer Mask and go to Filter ->Blur->Gaussian Blur and a Radius of 8 was used although this size will depend on the effect you want). The subject had to be painted back in a little more on the mask. The image was sharpened using the High Pass method as discussed below. The last step was my idea and involved adding the bluish-green tint by taking the image into Topaz (see website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle and using the Tiera Frost preset. I felt it showed off the plaid in the kilt nicely. Back in Photoshop the effect was dropped back to 80% layer opacity – Aaron says he usually does this as the special effects can be a bit overdone easily and I am finding this a useful tip. I was surprised how well the focus is centered on the bagpipe player. All these techniques are discussed in his videos and I would recommend your taking a look to get a feel for how easy it is to get a good workflow started. I found it refreshing to have someone discuss how to choose your image, how to find the focus of an image, and if distractions are taking away from the your subject, how to then get the focus back on the subject.

Image of a Cinderella Castle ornamentAnother tip from Aaron was to walk away from you image when you think you are finished and then come back later – it helps you see distractions or effects that you may have missed or overdone. That is what happened in this case with the Cinderella Castle ornament from Disney World. I thought I was through but the next morning discovered several things I did not like. As a first step, this image was also turned to black and white which helped me decide that it would be a good choice to process as a color image. What attracted me to this shot was the beautiful bokeh that was created by the Christmas lights. In Lightroom the regular basic sliders were adjusted, then it was opened in Photoshop. Since I got the new OnOne Suite 8 (see my Tidbits Blog for website link), the image was opened in Perfect Effects 8 and several filters were applied to get a little better color in the image (Bleach Bypass, Detail Adjustment Brush over the castle, and Vigette filters were used). In Photoshop I added a light orange Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer set to Color blend mode at 20% opacity from Aaron’s really short Make Your Images Stand Out video where he uses a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer to make the image pop. This evened out the colors a little bit. There were still many light distractions that had to be adjusted out. Distractions were painted and cloned out on another layer. I recognize that there is a bright green bulb at top, but since it is a Christmas Card with lettering, I decided to leave it as is since I love that color of holiday green. (Sometimes you just have to break the rules!) Aaron says that to get someone to look at your subject, you usually need to make it lighter than everything else – that is why you create a vignette. Aaron’s vignette was created to just add a little spotlight on the castle. To do this a Curves Adjustment Layer was added on top to lighten the image. Filled the layer mask with black, created an Elliptical Marquee selection over castle in image, and pressed SHIFT+BACKSPACE (or go to Edit -> Fill) and Use: White – then enter to create the spotlight effect. Finished by adding a Gaussian Blur with Radius set really high like 170 px to feather the edge of the spotlight nicely. Now it was time to sharpen the subject. A stamped layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top of the Layer Panel and desaturated it using SHIFT+CTRL+U. Changed the blend mode to Overlay and went to Filters -> Other -> High Pass. Added a black layer mask and painted back with a 30% opacity brush the subject so only the areas I wanted were sharp were sharpened. This is a great technique that many well-known retouchers use, especially on portrait work. The text font is Bambino. So I looked at the photo in the Lightroom the next morning and this was when I tried some of my downloaded presets and found one by Jared Platt called DeSat Warm Tone. It essentially desaturated the colors and used a Split Tone and Tone Curve to create softer muted colors. I liked the look a lot so I took the image back into Photoshop and added a Camera Raw filter with some of the Lightroom preset’s settings. I did change some of the settings to get the blue and green colors I wanted. Once again Aaron says to experiment – you may be surprised at some of the results you get.

I hope I have not put everybody to sleep – I just wanted to show you how you can turn a pretty good image into a really good one using some of Aaron’s techniques. He also has some good videos on portrait retouching. A lot of what he says is probably obvious, but I like his workflow to actually look at the image, look at the tones, walk away from it, try some different effect and see what happens. It might help you find that little thing that will set your work apart from everyone else. It is also nice to see a younger person’s perspective on Photoshop editing. Anyway, I would recommend you take a look at some of his videos – he does use a slightly different approach for working on images, and I am adding them to my workflow and editing arsenal……Digital Lady Syd


Arrangement of an wood egret, flowers, and clock done in Corel PainterSince the holidays are coming quickly, I decided to show you a little more about these plug-ins and program and how they all all work together – maybe it will help you decide if you want to purchase them. There are a lot of plug-ins I could have used, but these are the ones I have recently been using the most. I will add that Alien Skin just came out with Snap Art 4 – have not totally explored it but it is definitely as good as Snap Art 3 that I loved it! This week I am just going to show what a little Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle and Corel Painter and/or Nik Analog Efex Pro can do to an image. All these images used Photoshop to apply the plug-ins, but you can actually apply both the Topaz filters and Nik Collection from Painter. (To do this, find the Topaz or Nik folders on your hard drive and copy the whole folder over to the Corel Painter -> Support Files -> Plugins folder. They appear in the Effects menu item.)

Corel Painter and Topaz ReStyle

I am really enjoying Painter, but it does have some quirks and a huge learning curve that you need to know to be really good at using it. I am still diving into that. I thought I was finished with the image above when I took my final Painter image back into Photoshop for the last steps. That is when I did something I do a lot with my images – take the it into ReStyle for a last look – just in case somethings really strikes me. It is easy to try different color presets to make the image look totally different. ReStyle also has a couple of very useful sliders in its interface that can really make or break the whole effect. By using the Texture slider in the ReStyle section and the Detail Structure and Sharpness sliders, some really interesting results can be obtained. Sometimes I put the Structure slider down and the Sharpness up or vice versa. And then the Texture slider can also have a big effect, although sometimes I do not see any. You have to be careful to not “overcook” the look (especially the Lum sliders seem to do this a lot), but it is worth experimenting with these sliders just to see if you can improve the appearance to the image.
*****Image of a white bird of paradise flowerI was so excited to find my first Bird of Paradise bloom – it was hiding under my huge Elephant Plant leaves – guess it likes the protection since I have not had good luck getting the plants to bloom. I actually did not know that they came in white flowers! The image was first processed in Lightroom with just the Basic tab sliders and cropped slightly. In Photoshop OnOne’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) new Perfect Effects 8 was opened and the Dynamic Contrast Natural preset and the Sharpening Amazing Detail Finder preset were used – love how these two filters work together on an image. Another reason I like this image is that I created the background texture in Corel Painter X3 using a series of my favorite brushes. This texture layer was set to Pin Light blend mode and a layer mask was added so the plant could be painted back into the image. The original texture color was a light turquoise, but I ran the image through Topaz ReStyle and realized I liked more of the grayish tones for this image (the settings: Selected Dusty Desert preset as a starting point. Set Texture Strength to 0.86; Basic tab set Saturation to 0.53; Tone Black Level 0.34 and Midtones 0.05; and Detail Structure 0.19 and Sharpness 0.83). Just a little clean up and contrast was added. Note the Texture and Sharpness sliders are set high and the Structure slider not so much.

Nik Analog Efex Pro and Topaz ReStyle

Image of buildings in London treated with Nik Analog Efex Pro and Topaz ReStyleThis photo is one I took a while back in London during the first Scott Kelby Photowalk. The original image is rather industrial look – it was first just cleaned up with the Basic sliders in Lightroom and added Dave Delnea’s Backlight Vertical Left preset to lighten up that corner a little. In Photoshop it was first treated with Topaz ReStyle starting with the Firebrick Red preset to bring out some bright orange tones, then Texture was set to 0.61, Detail Structure 0.52 and Sharpness -0.20. The image looked very sharp and detailed at this point. Next Nik’s Analog Efex Pro plug-in was added – both were smart filters connected to the same layer. I really liked the way the tower on the left was slightly blurred and bowed by setting the Lens Distortion tab Pincushion Barrel slider towards the Barrel end. This image actually used all the plug-in tabs but the Zoom & Rotate Blur and Dirt & Scratches to get this really cool vintage effect. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was added and the layer mask filled with black – then painted in white to lighten parts of the sky just slightly, and a Levels Adjustment Layer was added to add just a little overall tonal contrast. I really like the rather surreal vintage feel to the image. By combining these two plug-ins, you can get really interesting results – this is one of my favorite pastimes in Photoshop is to try different combinations.

Corel Painter, Topaz Restyle and Nik Analog Efex Pro

Image of collectibles at Michaels Arts & Craft storeThis image of some Christmas collectibles at Michaels Art & Craft Store uses a similar process as above – the same texture from the Bird of Paradise image, but this time Topaz ReStyle changed the color palette so you would never guess the original texture and image colors (started with Cream and Plum preset. Texture Strength .88, Color Style Lum Fifth 0.38, Sat Secondary 0.64, Fourth 0.34, and Fifth -0.20; Color Tint -0.42 – no Structure or Sharpness).  This image used Nik’s Analog Efex Pro and a preset I call SJ Blurred Good preset (settings used include Basic Adjustments, Bokeh at Blur Strength 9%, Light Leaks 2 over 3 down at 25%, Dirt & Scratches Organic 3 over 2 down at 74%, Frames Lightbox 3 over, and Levels & Curves adjusting the Luminosity (slight upward curve) and RGB (slight S curve) channels). To get really nice results in Analog Efex Pro, I am finding the Levels & Curves tab makes all the difference – especially Luminosity curve. To use the same curve in Photoshop, you must go into LAB mode. The snow is my SJ Snow1 Overlay (a free download in my set of SJ Holiday Overlays) with a 33% layer opacity. The text is from Obsidian Dawn’s Christmas Vectors.
Image processed with Corel Painter of some benches in a park in Edinburgh, Scotland
Here is another example of an using all three programs. In this case, the original image of a bench in a park in Edinburgh, Scotland had the Nik Analog Efex Pro applied to it using basically the same preset as in the Christmas image. This photo was then taken into Corel Painter where Auto-painting was done using the Sponge brushes – the Dense Sponge brush at 30 px, 15 px and 9 px on three different layers. (See a really good book by Martin Addison called Corel Painter 11 for Photographers – pg. 118 or video included on book CD for info on this technique.) The photo was saved as a PSD file in Corel and brought into Photoshop where the spot healing brush was used on a separate layer to clean up rough edges. Topaz ReStyle was then applied to get a little look from the really bright green in the image. (Settings were: Started with White Fields preset. ReStyle Opacity 65%; Color Style Hue Third 0.45; Sat Primary -0.05, Secondary 0.02, Third -0.86, and Fifth 0.23; Texture Strength 0.77; Basic Opacity 62%: Color  Temperature 0.16 and Tint -0.17; Tone Black Level -0.17, Midtones 0.19, and White Level -0.06; and Details Structure 0.11 and Sharpness 0.13.) I was not really familiar with the Auto-painting function in Painter, but it does seem to do a nice job.
Really liked this one.

All of these programs have trial and it would be worth your time to check them out. What I like about Corel Painted is that you can still get some nice results without knowing everything about the program. The two plug-ins have very short learning curves and both give really great results. Anyway, hope this gave you a chance to see some more of the results you can get. Have fun checking them out!….Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle
Photoshop with Corel Painter for Texture
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik Analog Efex Pro
A Day in the Sun!
Let’s Hear It for the Graphophone
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 6: Try Something New!
Corel Painter and Photoshop Together to Create a Pastel Painting
Surprising Results with Nik Analog Efex Pro
Rural Church in Belarus


Image of Pink Chrysanthemums in BelarusIt seems like this has become a rather popular look, especially with the Vintage Film looks that are so popular right now. Thought I would preset a few different sources for creating some nice looking light leak effects. The Belarusian Chrysanthemum image above used the Light Leak tab (see below) in Nik’s Analog Efex Pro (Crisp – 5th row down-3rd over) to get this nice subtle effect on these flower.

Lightroom Technique

Image of St. Andrews Castle in Scotland using light leak effectWell I just found several good short Lightroom videos that Gavin Hoey, a great Photoshop guru from England, posted on his Gavtrain website. I followed his Light Leak Effect Creative Lightroom Episode 1 to get the beautiful color in this image of St. Andrews Castle in Scotland. He gives you two ways to do this, one using Graduated Filters (the left side of image) and one using the newer Radial Filter in Lightroom (the right side of the image). I was totally surprised how nice this turned out. First I applied Jack Davis Cross Processing 01 Lightroom preset (basically it is a higher Clarity, lower Vibrance and higher Saturation for the sliders, and a slight backward S-shaped Tone Curve – download his Lightroom presets on link above) before adding Gavin’s light leaking effect. In the Adjustment Brush settings that Gavin used, I did change a few settings to get the effect to look right on this image. The image was taken into Photoshop where Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Clarity was opened and the Architecture Collection’s Exterior Texture preset was applied as is – it really sharpened up the bricks on the castle. That was all that was done. I guess I got more of a dramatic effect, but I really liked the result so it is my customized “Light Leak Effect.”

Using a Photoshop Plug-in for a Light Leak Effect

Image of Santa at the Beach using a Light LeakThis Santa image took advantage of the beautiful Light Leak choices in Nik’s new Analog Efex Pro plug-in. This one used the first one listed in the Soft list of Light Leaks and set to a 50% Strength – definitely created a little pop to the image. All but the Lens Distortion, Zoom & Rotate Blur, and Dirt & Scratches tabs were used. In the Light Leak tab there is a large dot on the image that can be adjusted so the light leak affects just the part you want. The candy cane border was created by adding a Stroke Layer Style (Position Inside, Blend Mode Color Burn, and Opacity 82%) and setting the Fill Type to Pattern using Christmas day by Photoshop-Stock pat 5 set to a Scale of 239%. Once again I love the vintage effect that Nik’s Analog Efex Pro gives to an image.
Image of man blowing a wooden whistle in Old Village in BelarusThis image at The Old Village of Ayaymku in Belarus of a guy blowing a wooden whistle was processed in both Nik Color Efex Pro using Flypaper Textures Steps preset and then in OnOne (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Photo Suite 7.5, (but the new Suite 8.0 will have these effects), using their Light Leak 3 and Brushed Realism 10 set to 81% opacity, then Amazing Detail filter, and topped off with Sloppy Border 19 and the Tin Type 001 at 57% to get the real vintage look. I did not want to overdo the leak look, but it does add some colorful effects to the image.

Using a Light Leak Overlay on the Image

Image of buildings in Minsk, Belarus, using several filters and presetsThere are actually quite a few jpg Light Leak images on the internet that can be downloaded for free. The image above used one from Lomo Light Leaks by Denny Tang (scroll way down to download from website)  – really nice light leak images. Have to talk a little about this image – it was an awful image taken from a moving car and the third shot I took in Minsk, Belarus. I wanted to see what the new Trey Radcliff’s (my favorite HDR guy) Lightroom presets could do with a bad image – I loved the results and I love the new presets – this one used Super Flatjack – really grainy and very subtle. Once in Photoshop I had to remove a whole bunch of electrical lines (see my Get Rid of Those Power Lines Fast – with Paths and Spot Healing Tool! blog). Next I applied Topaz Adjust’s Classic Collections Low Key I preset – another great product from Topaz. Of course, I could not stop there even though the image looked really nice – Nik’s Analog Efex Pro was added and the beautiful vintage color came out (used Basic Adjustments, Light Leaks which added a slight red tint using just a -36% amount, Lens Vignette, Film Type and Levels & Curves) and the layer opacity was set to 76%. The sky still did not look quite right to me, so now Denny Tang’s light leak was applied – set to Screen blend mode and 75% layer opacity – to add just some subtle interest into the sky. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added and I just dragged in the sky with the Targeted Adjustment Tool to get the color I wanted (note – used ALT+CTRL to get the Hue slider to change as the Tool defaults to the Saturation slider). Also, Shadowhouse Creations has 17 beautiful light leak textures for free download.

Hopefully you can see what a nice effect the Light Leak can create. They really add a little additional vintage feel to an image. It does not have to be overdone and with a Hue/Sat or Selective Color Adjustment Layer, you can tweak the colors for a great subtle look. Hope you get a chance to try out this technique. It really can add that little bit of extra interest into an image to really make it pop!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of miniature mums using Corel Painter in backgroundThis week I am going to discuss a really short but sweet way to increase areas to be brighter and darker in localized areas. Last week my Photoshop with Corel Painter for Texture blog covered how to use Corel Painter in image backgrounds, which is what was done in the above Miniature Mum shot. For this week’s technique, Pete Collins (one of the Photoshop guys) did a short video on the NAPP website (best deal for Photoshop Nuts to learn new tricks) a while back demonstrating this concept, but I have also seen it in other places.

The Technique

The basic premise is that you can use any adjustment layer – does not matter which one you choose – to create an overall brightening or darkening of your image by just changing the blend mode of the layer. So to brighten your image, select the Screen blend mode, and to darken your image choose the Multiply blend mode, for example. Now just fill the layer masks with black by clicking in the mask and pressing CTRL+I or going to the Properties Panel and clicking the Invert button. With a soft brush, or any kind of brush for that matter, paint back in white areas you want brighter for the Screen blend mode layer or darker for the Multiply blend mode layer. In the image above, an unadjusted Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer was set to Screen blend mode and the white petals were painted back at a low opacity brush setting to dial in the focus a little more to the flower and yellow center. Next an unadjusted Curves Adjustment Layer was added and set to Multiply blend mode. The image became really dark. By filling the layer mask with black and painting back a slight vignetting effect, the focus could once more be directed to the flower effectively. If you want to add a little feathering for the vignette, go the Properties Panel and set it to 100 pixels as a starting point. The Layer Opacity was set to 68% so the vignetting was not too dark. (See screenshot of Curves Adjustment Layer below showing no changes made to it and corresponding layer highlighted in Layer Panel.) If you wanted the image lighter or darker, you can always duplicate the adjustment layers and then adjust the layer opacities to get the exact amount required. You can also make changes in the actual adjustment layer if it helps the image. This is such a wonderfully easy technique and it keeps the image size much smaller than if you were duplicating the layer each time. The text font is a free download called Adorable.

Screenshot of Curves Adjustment Layer

Christmas Ornament of Santa Claus imageJust thought I would add a Christmas image that used the same technique above. This time the Brightness/Contrast Adjustment Layer was set to Screen and the Santa Claus and Red M&M ornaments were painted back in the black layer mask. Then on top another Curves Adjustment Layer was set to Multiply – this time the outside edges were painted white in the layer mask to reveal darker edges, similar to the screenshot above. No Painter was used but it does use my free SJ-Snow2 Overlay – slight blur set to 65% layer opacity that I created last year. Last, Obsidian Dawn’s Merry Christmas brush was placed on a layer with a layer style added (using Bevel & Emboss, Stroke, Pattern – created using Christmas day by Photoshop-Stock pat 5 set to a scale of 332%) to get the candy cane look. I should also add that the first thing done in Photoshop was to apply Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) DeNoise, the best noise plug-in around, and Topaz Clarity, another favorite used to add a little localized sharpening on the Santa Claus.

This is definitely a really easy way to pop you images and get the lighting the way you want in your image without having to do a lot of Camera Raw, Curves or Levels adjustments. Hope you enjoyed this tip – have a great Turkey Day for my fellow US friends!…..Digital Lady Syd


Violets image post-processed with Photoshop and background texture in PainterThis week I have been really busy watching Creative Live and Jeremy Sutton‘s presentation called Intro to Photo Painting: A Creative Approach Using Corel Painter X3. Wow – had not realized all the things Painter could do. I have Painter XI and was able to learn a lot in spite of not having the newest version (on my major wish list now!). This week I am doing just a short post showing you a few tips on adding some texture from Painter into an image first processed in Photoshop. This is pretty basic info since I am not that well-versed in Painter yet, but I thought it would prove interesting all Painter user, especially those who have never used it much.

The violet image above was first cleaned up in Lightroom and Photoshop before saving a copy down as a JPG for Painter. Several brushes were then used in Painter: Painter 11 Custom Brushes by Mitkov Abstract 1 brush (these are a nice group of brushes that are a free download on Deviant Art), Jeremy Sutton’s “Jeremy’s Jittery Dabber” brush, and Fay Sirkis’s “Sea World Fan Blender” brush, along with others that were used in small amounts (more info on Fay and Jeremy’s brushes below). In Photoshop the Mixer brushes were used to do some clean up I missed in Painter and to add the text using Radium J font. The reflection of the violets was created by using the Clone Stamp Tool and in the Clone Stamp Panel, setting it to a 180 degree angle and Flip Vertical – turned out pretty cool. Just a lot of fun to create.

The Technique

Image of a Pink Gerbera with Corel Painter textured backgroundWith the image of the little gerbera above, I was happy with the bokeh effect, but was disturbed by how bright the bokeh was in the image – really pulled the eye away from the main focus, the flower. By taking the image into Painter, other color and blending could be done just to the background to soften the bokeh spots in the background by replacing them with some interesting texture. This was done by finding a couple brushes you like and alternating between sampling a color you want, painting on the background, and then blending the texture to soften somewhat. In this case it almost gave a shimmer to the background. I am still using a regular brush that lays down color and a blender brush which blends it in. Now this could be done in Photoshop with the Mixer Brushes, but Painter has so many more brushes to choose from that it is easier to get some pretty nice textured results.

Much more was done in Photoshop in this image – just skip the italics if you are not interested. Details on how this image was created. The RAW file was first opened Lightroom and Auto Tone was used and David duChemin‘s Classic India Split Tone preset for the soft vintage colors. (Here are the settings if you want to create it: Split Toning Panel using these slider settings: Highlights Hue 50 and Saturation 60, and Shadows Hue 266 and Saturation 35.) The Adjustment Brush was used to slightly sharpen the flower. In Photoshop Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) DeNoise 5 was used set to Overall .07 and Shadows .47 since I wanted a little noise left in the flower petals. Kim Klassen‘s Brush 1793 was used to add some color grunge in the top part of the image and the layer was set to 61% opacity. 2 Lil Owl’s Workbook Bonus Texture Set-14 was placed on top and set to Linear Burn blend mode and 61% layer opacity. Nik Analog Efex was used adding these tabs: Basic Adjustments, Lens Distortion, Zoom & Rotate Blur, Light Leaks, Lens Vignette, Film Type, Frames, and Levels & Curves. As you can see, this was a major evolution! At this point the image could have been done and it looked pretty nice.

After saving as a PSD file, I saved it as a high quality JPG and took the image into Corel Painter. Since Analog Efex Pro changed the tone of the image when the pretty frame was applied, I could not remove it so I had to work with the edges of the frame in Corel. Painter is basically a pretty destructive program – I am find out that not every brush will work on layers above the canvas like it does in Photoshop with the Mixer Brushes. Therefore, most of the painting is done on the canvas itself. When it gets to a point you like, do a Save As and number it. Then go back and try some more painting and do the Save As again with a new number. I did this several times until I got a look I really liked. Basically worked with a Jeremy Sutton “Jeremy’s Jittery Dabber” brush from his  Painter X Creativity book’s extra CD, and Fay Sirkis‘s “Sea World Fan Blender” brush from her Fay’s Master Brush Collection from Kelby Training several years ago (unfortunately it does not appear to be available anymore – her brushes are the best!) Since Painter has so many different brushes, and there are many available for free on the Internet including Deviant Art, it is pretty easy to find some brushes you like. By adding color and blending, the background is what resulted. Jeremy has a website that you can join and get all of his workspaces and brushes – see Paintbox TV.

The PSD file from Painter was brought back into Photoshop where a little Topaz Detail 3 was added – really added a nice edge to both the flower and texture in the background. I duplicated the layer and converted it to a Smart Object. Then I went into the Camera Raw filter just to fine-tune the colors in the HSL sliders. That was it!


Armstrong Junior College image with a Corel Painter frameThis is just a simple frame that I created in Painter using a brush called Dems Oil Chunky Funky, a favorite of Jeremy’s and a free download. I saved the frame as a JPG and brought it into this image of the top of an old historic building that is the Armstrong Junior College building in Savannah, Georgia. The frame layer was highlighted and Select -> Color Range was used to select the white inside – then check invert box, click OK, and add a layer mask. There is your frame. You can adjust the opacity, change the blend mode, add Solid Color Adjustment Layer or Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer to get the effect you want. Very simple. And you can use it on many different images if you save it with your own texture collection.

I hope you found this blog useful. Using Painter with Photoshop is really not that difficult and you can get some startling results without too much effort. I hope to be able to show some more techniques using both programs in the near future……Digital Lady Syd


Image of Lafayette Fountain in Savannah, Georgia, using Nik Analog Efex ProWell this was a most unexpected and very much appreciated addition to the Nik Collection since Nik had not given us any hope that they would be updating or adding to their plug-ins. If you own the Nik Collection already and have not gotten the update, just go over to Nik’s website and download the trial – it will automatically update and add the new plug-in into your software for free. Since I am not very familiar with some of the older film processing, it has been fun to try some of these looks on my images. The above image is of the top of Lafayette Fountain in historic Savannah, Georgia. All filters but the Lens Distortion, Zoom & Rotate Blue, and Light Leaks were used on this image – that means the other 8 camera filters (Basic Adjustments, Bokah, Dirt & Scratches, Photo Plate, Lens Vignette, Film Type, Frames, and Levels & Curves) were added! (Other than Lightroom basic slider changes and a Selective Color Adjustment Layer adjusting the Reds and Yellows for more yellow tones, there were no other changes but the plug-in.) Since I love adding a vintage feel to an image, I am finding this plug-in to be one I am using more than I thought I would! All my original images are shown in the Tych Panel at end of blog so you can get a feel for what this plug-in actually does to an image.
Toy Camera processing on gumball machines imageAll but the top image were taken with my cheap little point-and-shoot, which does not take the best images to begin with, and were then processed in the new Analog Efex Pro by Nik. It was a perfect match and I totally love the results. For the gumball machine image a basic Lightroom workflow was done and then in Photoshop the Adaptive Wide Angle Filter was used to straighten out the shelves a little. Since the edges got a little wonky, I added Kim Klassen‘s Serendipity texture set to Normal behind the image to fill in the blank edges with her beautiful brown texture. The last step involved add the new plug-in – opened up the Toy Camera presets and choose the fourth down, then just did a few adjustments to get the look I liked. Most of the changes occurred in the Basic Adjustments sliders and Lens Vignette tab. The Film was changed to the bottom middle one the Subtle group and a more Faded look was added. Not much to change here. For a quick overview of what each filter does, check out the Nik Collection Help link here.

What I Like About Nik Analog Efex Pro

1. It is totally creative and fun – what a big surprise since I was not even sure what these different type of old-time cameras did. Can make a boring image into something fabulous.

2. There are On Image Controls for most of the filters – very easy to adjust and set up in your image.

3. Love that you are not limited to the settings they want you to use for each of the camera categories. By going into the Camera Kit, you can add any of the other filters not used in the original camera preset. Totally creative use of the filters!

4. I love that they gave us Nik Collection owners the plug-in for free – totally made my day!

What I Don’t Like About Nik Analog Efex Pro

These are pretty minor gripes.

1.  It would be nice if you could apply some of the filters more than once. For example, I would like to add more than one Light Leak on the same image. At least they can be moved round inside your image but not rotated or resized. It would be nice to have more border choices too or to be able to adjust the width of the frames in this section.

2. Not real happy with the Vary button since you never know what the variation will be and what sliders will be changing – just have to hope a nicer one comes up next. It can be fun to try different looks within the filter by clicking on the Vary button and if you hold down the SHIFT and click Vary, all the filter’s settings randomizes for all the filters being applied. Luckily you can get back to the original settings in the History tab as long as you have not applied the plug-in first.

3. No control points. Nik says at this point that the plug-in does support U-Point Technology but they plan on adding it in later versions. It would be nice to have that.

I am finding that if I get settings I like, I am saving them down as presets such as SJ Toy Camera-gumballs. Since I have been using the Vary button a lot, this seems to be the only way to save those effects to use again. It is nice there is Smart Object capability which will save these settings, but you would have to open the original image that contains them by moving all the settings or writing down the settings and resetting to a new image to achieve the same look.

This guy below was an image taken at the wonderful Gulfstream Family Day in Savannah, Georgia, a while back. He really screamed vintage to me so he got it!
Image using Nik's Analog Efex Pro on an eagleThis image needed some major clean up since there were distracting feet at the top and a rope on his foot, and it just did not seem right to have this beautiful bird looking this way. In Lightroom just basic changes were done. In Photoshop the Patch Tool was used to get rid of a lot of the problem areas. In Analog Efex Pro the Wet Plate Camera 9 preset was used as a starting place. I removed some of the filters on the right by going into the Camera Kit and picking what ones I wanted removed and what I wanted added. This really is a trial-and-error process since every image I process comes out quite different when applying similar effects. The Wet Plate presets are quite lovely and I could have used several of them on this beautiful bird. The plug-in really is one of those that is just plain fun to use.
Image of cowboy on stilts post-processed using Nik Analog Efex ProA cowboy picture is definitely a worthy image for this plug-in! This guy was up on tall stilts greeting everyone coming into Family Day – what fun! Just the basic panel sliders and cropping were used in Lightroom before going into Photoshop. Then Analog Efex Pro was applied – not sure what I started with but the following filters were used: Basic Adjustments, Bokeh at 45% blur strength, Dirt & Scratches at 67% strength, Photo Plate at 31% strength, Lens Vignette left for darker edges, Film Type at 100% strength, and Frames. It does not seem to matter where you start if you plan on adding the filters you like and saving it as a preset. Very simple to use. That was all the changes made on this image.
Ferris Wheel at Gulfstream Family Day image using Nik Analog Efex ProThis may be my favorite image I have processed using the new plug-in. Again not much done in Lightroom except for a dramatic crop. In Photoshop I applied a saved preset I had used on my first image using this plug-in and saved the results at a preset. So you can compare how the strengths and filters varied, I have given you basic strength settings.  It started with a Vintage Camera preset and the Basic Adjustments, Bokeh at 88% blur strength, Dirt & Scratches at 82% strength, Photo Plate at 20% strength, Lens Vignette set to the right for a white edge, Film Type at 52% strength, and Levels & Curves dragging RGB curve down in midtones were added. The Camera Toolkit was used to get all the filters used. I added my own little edge frame as I did not like how the ones in the plug-in looked. I love the delicate colors in the final image!

As promised, here are the originals – don’t be too critical – my point-and-shoot is not the best, but as the saying goes – at least I got the shot! (Got to get my phone upgraded – on the to-do list!) It is pretty amazing what you can do with an imperfect image!Tych Panel of the original images from this blog

Bottom Line

This plug-in is definitely worth a second look. You can get similar results using Photoshop or other plug-ins. But Nik does such a super job of interfacing with Photoshop, and they make it so easy to apply the effects, that I think it is a real winner. I think the greatest thing is that Nik is back and gave us another great plug-in – we Photoshop Nuts have to be ecstatic! This plug-in is lots of fun and I am starting to see many uses for it. I am now going to get back to having some more Fun with the Analog Efex Pro plug-in – please excuse me!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Using Nik’s Analog Efex Pro on a Historic Statue

Digital Lady Syd Celebrates 3 Years Of Blogging!

Digital Lady Syd and texture image for celebrating 3 years of bloggingThis week I am celebrating three years of blogging on my Fun Photoshop Blog! I can’t believe it – time passes by so fast! (See My First Post – Painted Oleander.) Since my mission is to have “Fun with Photoshop,” so far it has been great fun creating this blog. The good thing about Photoshop blogging is that it takes some effort to really learn about a new technique or tool so that you can share it properly. This week I am taking a little breather and just looking back.  Below is a little slideshow compilation of some of the images I used or created for my blog during the past three years. (It runs for 2:46.)

The slideshow was done totally in Lightroom using the Default template in the Slideshow module. The music is a little ditty called Malt Shop Bop by Kevin MacLeod that is royalty free – basically you must use music if you do a slideshow or it does not look good. It was then uploaded to my You Tube account and linked into the blog. If you have some photos you want to share, give this quick slideshow effect a try – very quick and easy to do.

While celebrating, I thought I would share with you a list of a few of what I consider are some of my most useful and favorite Photoshop things from the last three years. I find it funny that I often go back to my own blogs for steps on how to do various tasks that I don’t use that often (like creating seamless Panoramas) – another benefit of blogging!

Digital Lady Syd’s Most Used Blog Techniques From the Last Three Years

I do a lot of Photoshop technique blogs, and I use them all to some extent, but the ones listed below I use on a regular basis and are, should I say, my very favorite techniques. There usually is more than one way to do something in Photoshop, but I have found that when a technique sticks in my mind, that is the one to use.

How to Use a Selection to Draw Focus in an Image
Learned this technique from an Australian wedding photographer Yervant and use it all the time! Just works wonderfully!

Using Curves Adjustment Layers to Get Rid of Shadows and Highlights
This is a similar technique by David Nightingale, a famous photographer from England, as the one above and I use it equally as often.

The Best Dodging and Burning Technique!
I use this technique by John Paul Caponigro (one of best Photoshop guru’s) every day – period!

How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture
I was pretty excited when I figured out how to do this. Now a texture can be added as if it were a vector and the color changed easily using a Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer clipped to the texture – opened up a whole lot of new possibilities. Beautiful framing or borders can be added to your image this way. Also a soft grunge feel can be used on the whole image to get that perfect effect.

HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!
This is definitely one of my favorite blogs on post-processing landscapes and it was developed by one of the top Photoshop guru ladies, Katrin Eismann. Everything she does in Photoshop is wonderful and creative! This blog discusses one of her many techniques and I still use it all the time!

Digital Lady Syd’s Favorite Plug-ins

Let the celebration continue! Since I am a big fan of Photoshop plug-ins I thought I would sum up what my very favorite ones are. This does not mean I do not use lots of the others I own, and they may be equally as good, but these fit my style and I use them regularly. My plug-in favorites are:

Nik Viveza 2
I have always said if I could only buy one plug-in, this is the one. I did not use it that much when I first bought it – thought it was like ACR – but now I use it on almost every image. What does it do? It will crisp up soft edges, adjust a color glare spot by letting you change the color with a control point, add a slight vignette around the edges, desaturate a color competing with your main focus, add clarity (structure) where ever you need it in an image, remove shadows, add warmth – all in very localized areas. It can fix up a ruined image in a few clicks. And it does it much quicker than the Adjustment Brush in ACR and Lightroom since you use their Control Point technology. See my Nik’s Viveza 2 Plug-In – A Hidden Gem! blog for more info.

Topaz ReStyle
I love all the Topaz plug-ins – can’t say enough good things about this little company that keeps the big plug-in producers on the run (and gives free updates to its owners). Almost all their plug-ins have an interesting twist to them that can really make an ordinary image look creative and unique! My biggest surprise came with their latest release, Topaz ReStyle. I really thought I would not love it, but I use it all the time! It puts different color combinations together based upon the Saturation, Luminance and Hue of your original image that can make your image look totally different and incredible! I usually check this out as one of my final steps just to see if I can get a little better result. And I do not know of any other plug-ins at this time that can do this! See my Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz ReStyle blog.

Alien Skin Snap Art 3
This plug-in blew me away! The results can be totally stunning, especially when you have a soft image but really like it. After setting up a few presets, and making a few localized tweaks in the image, it can make almost any image beautiful. This is not for a realistic image look, definitely for creatives. Alien Skin will be coming out with a new version very shortly. I use it all the time and it looks great with ReStyle. See my blogs Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Get Great Results with Alien Skin Snap Art 3 and Topaz ReStyle Together!!

There are several other plug-ins I use quite a bit, OnOne Suites (new version coming out very soon) and the Nik Collection (especially love their vintage effects), but the ones above I use the most. I also use Topaz DeNoise for problem images – by far the best around for this since you can target just the Shadows (or other areas) if that is where the issue is. And there are specialty plug-ins for HDR and black and white processing, that I use (see the last blog technique above), but maybe not quite as much those listed above. As an aside note, Nik recently came out with a new free plug-in for their Collection owners called Analog Efex Pro that appears to be quite intriguing.

Digital Lady Syd’s Other Favorite Photoshop Things

Photoshop amazes me when I see all the different things you can do with just this one program! Below are a few miscellaneous things I really like and, once again, use all the time.

Many panels are now being created to make things easier to access, including one I made for myself when painting in Photoshop – definitely a major time-saver. See my How to Create Your Own Panel for Photoshop blog. They are so handy to have. Perhaps the best ones are created by the brilliant Dr. Russell Brown of Adobe – I have written several posts on his panels. Check out my blog link above and scroll down to the bottom for several more blog links to other great panels.

I have to say that Fay Sirkis in particular has taught me so much about Photoshop brushes and hers are the best. In order to download them though, you need to be a member of NAPP (best Photoshop value for the money in my opinion). There are many other people with good brushes, but I still think Fay’s are the best! See my How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush blog for one of her wonderful brush tips. Click on my Photoshop Brushes category on the right side for more on brushes.

Wow – there is so much going with textures these days, and so many great ones to choose from. During the past three years I have had the opportunity to really learn about some of the great texture techniques and I have totally enjoyed the results. I have discovered new ideas and learned so much from many talented people. But what is the most fun is to create my own textures and I have tried to pass on tips about this. See my Texture Resources – So Many Choices! So Many Choices! blog for so many great texture sites that usually share their tips on their websites. There are too many of my blogs on texture techniques to list – just click on my Textures category for a long list.

Video Training
This is a rather vague term, but I have learned so much from two major sources – Kelby Training and CreativeLIVE. Both present top-notch Photoshop and Photography experts and I always learn something from their videos. Kudos to them for making available the kind of videos that really help when learning Photoshop. Kelby Training (and NAPP) have a long track record of creating some great videos by the Photoshop Guys along with the most talented photographers. CreativeLIVE is fairly new in the process, but you can watch live shows for free and around the clock for the next 24 hours so you can decide if you want to buy the videos – I have several in my Photoshop arsenal. And there are so many wonderful things I have learned from the many Photoshop experts presenting at the sites above that I have not listed – Jack Davis, Ben Wilmore, Scott Kelby, Dave Cross, just to name a few. I would highly recommend either training site or both for anyone wanting to learn Photoshop seriously.


Well that about wraps it up on some of what I have learned over the past three years. It has been a pleasure to learn and try to share with you some of the wonderful things Photoshop can do – as much as I grumble about the software and all the changes, I could not live without it! So thanks Adobe for creating such a wonderful software and making it so much fun to do what I love! Let the Celebration continue and let’s have some more Fun with Photoshop!…..Digital Lady Syd

Please check me out at my other sites:

My short sister blog at Digital Lady Syd’s Tidbits Blog or click tab at top of this blog.
My personal website at Syd Johnson Photography
My Flickr Account at Syd Johnson (aka Digital Lady Syd)
Digital Lady Syd on deviantART where my recent give-aways are located
Digital Lady Syd’s Files on File Social for my older give-aways
Digital Lady Syd’s You Tube link

Three Year Anniversary Image Notes: Need to give a few credits for items used in the top image. The bottom texture is one I created in my How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders! blog – turned it to purples and blues and used the Blend If slider again set to This Layer 102/255 to get the edge effect I wanted. Used Mel’s New Years Brushes for the wine glass and some of the bubble background. Used Bubble Sparkler 2 by Cloud 9 for the bubbles coming out of the glass. Painted a layer with white foam for top of glass. Used Nagel Rough Pastel 3 for the rough purple color behind the glass. Used the Birch Standard font for the Celebration Time Is Here font and made one line into a brush that I sprayed on the image in different hues. The three year anniversary font is Angelic War and the I Must Blog font is Batik Regular. Just put them all together with different layer styles. Lots of fun to celebrate!


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