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Digital Lady Syd Reviews Alien Skin Snap Art 3

Got to say I love this plug-in! I had never used it before but I saw a few of Dave Higgins images where he had used this plug-in and I decided to check it out. Alien Skin Snap Art has been around for awhile – this is version 3 – but it never seemed to do anything more than I could accomplish in other plug-ins or in Photoshop itself. Now it has really increased its appeal and is definitely a great plug-in for us “creative-types” to keep in our Photoshop arsenal.

The image above was taken in the little town of Mir outside the beautiful Mir Castle in Belarus. (See one of my Mir Castle images on Flickr.) The Oil Paint Abstract – Soft preset was used as a starting point and then various sliders were adjusted to get the final result. (To see how the whole image was processed, see Image 1 information at bottom of blog.) You can very quickly go through the Factory Settings presets to get a feel as to which artistic media you want to apply to the image. The Favorites section is a good place to start as all the different artistic media is represented here. It is definitely worth the time to watch the short videos on Alien Skin’s website to learn how to use most of the sliders. Also Dave Higgins has two great short videos on how he uses the plug-in – one called Snap Art Review and the other is Snap Art Tutorial on Using Layers – I would recommend that you take a look at these as it gives you a feel how the program is set up and actually works.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT SNAP ART 3!

1. Many choices for using different types of media – and you can save your own presets with the layer masks maintained in a special layers section. Very handy – and you can reset the layer masks by clicking CTRL+R if you do not want them applied to a different image.

2. What sets this program apart from the others is one slider I particularly like – the Photorealism slider that can be used on the whole image or in the Effects section for the layer masks. You can make just one part of your image more detailed and really direct the focus into that part of the image while the rest is left with a more painterly appearance. Also the Brush Size can be adjusted to add more emphasis. My other favorite slider is the Temperature (warm/Cool) slider in the Color Tab – along with the Saturation slider, they can really pop an image.

3. This program works seamlessly with Photoshop and is very fast loading. It uses the same shortcuts as Photoshop has set up so you do not have to learn a bunch of new key strokes. This applies to brush size, zooming, Hand Tool, Preferences, etc.

WHAT I DO NOT LIKE ABOUT SNAP ART 3!

1. Some of the presets are not real practical – really need to play in the program and set your own presets once you figure out what all the sliders do. I am still trying to figure out the Pencil and Sketch settings.

2. I find it hard to correlate the sliders in the Background tab to the ones in the Layers tab since they both cannot be open at the same time and the Layer tab Effects do not come up with matching numbers. It would be nice to have both areas open so you can adjust between the two sections. Update: Ben Wilmore just set me straight on CreativeLive in his Extending Photoshop using Plug-Ins video where he says that in the Layers tab the center tick mark is where the slider is set in the Background tab. By double-clicking on the slider white tab, it puts it on the tick mark. Move the tab right or left from that point to add more or less of the effect for each sliders. Still a bit cumbersome, but better than nothing at all.

3. Wish they had a reset button or keystroke command for the Effects section and the Mask Tool brush in the Layers Tab. The Effects section is reset by choosing No Change in the drop-down preset and the Mask Tool has to be manually set. You have to be careful that you are not using the old settings from the last item you did although it appears F5 or CTRL+R Reset (which resets the Background tab settings) does change these sections to their Factory Default settings. The actual layer masks can be reset or removed by pressing R.

A couple nice to know things are: Need to turn off the Duplicate Layer option in Preferences if using in a Smart Object – otherwise it adds the filter twice. This program interfaces great with Lightroom also, but you will not have a layer with your settings saved as you can with a Smart Object in Photoshop. Press the Spacebar to see your original image.
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This image was taken at a dacha in Belarus – the flowers are so beautiful there in the summer. This time the Pastel Sketch Factory preset setting was first applied. A layer mask was not even added – basically just stuck with the values given. In the Colors tab, the Brightness was set to 12, Contrast -11, Saturation 17 and Temperature 26. I am finding that the Saturation and Temperature sliders can work wonders on the images so check them out before applying the plug-in. See Image 2 info at bottom of blog for more info on post-processing.
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Another example of the beautiful treatment the plug-in can give an image. This was a really busy looking image, but by adding the Impasto – Landscape – Small Brush preset and then changing a few settings, the colors and tones look fabulous in comparison. Below is how one of the layer masks looks for this image (click on it to see a larger view in my Flickr account). By varying the Amount of the Layer Brush (in this case it is 27), you can paint a lighter strength in parts of the image. The fence was just lightly selected while the sunflower and background bench were selected with a larger amount of 58. See Image 3 below for more settings info.
As you can see this plug-in has a lot of great options and gives some really nice results. It is interesting that you never add a brush stroke to it other than strokes for a basic layer mask.
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Here is another example of how layers were used to direct focus to the center flowers. This image used the Factory Setting Watercolor preset and there were three layer masks with varying amounts of the brush effects. See Image 4 info at end of blog for settings used.

Alien Skin’s Snap Art plug-in has some great versatility and I believe it will work well combined with other plug-ins or the Photoshop brushes including the Mixers Brushes to get some great results. I plan on experimenting with it in this way in the future. Bottom Line: if you like the painterly look, it is a nice choice since it has so many choices. I found this plug-in to be totally fun to use and I believe I will be using it a lot in my future creative Photoshop endeavors. In the meantime check out the trial and see if you like it as well as I do!…..Digital Lady Syd

IMAGE INFORMATION:
Image 1: After just he general RAW processing in Lightroom, the Content-Aware Move Tool (it lives with the Spot Healing Brush) was used to move the dog into the image more. He was almost out of the image in the original. General clean up was done and a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top and turned into a Smart Object (right click on the image and select Convert to Smart Object). First Photoshop CC’s new Shake Reduction Filter was was run on the image using just three sample areas – one on the horse and driver, one on the trees, and one on the dog. It created a very subtle change. Next a Shadow/Highlights Adjustment was added to make the color more vibrant and sharp. (Shadows 19%, Tonal Width 39%, Radius 30 px; Highlight Amount 17%, Tonal Width 50%, Radius 30 px; and Adjustments – Color Correction +100 and Midtone Contrast +31) Now the image was ready for Snap Art 3. I created another composite layer on top and converted it to a Smart Object also before going into Snap Art. Once Snap Art is opened, the Background tab is active. The Factory Setting Oil Paint using the Abstract – Soft preset was first applied. Now you can play around with the five sliders – Overall Brush Size (this image used 63), Photorealism (59), Paint Thickness (52), Paint Stroke Length (69), Stroke Color Variation (70), Brush Style – Soft Brush in drop-down, and Random Seed 3258. This is a huge amount to adjust just to the overall image and you still have three other tabs to adjust – what a wonderful amount of options! The Color Tab was selected next where the Brightness (0), Contrast (-18), Saturation (30) and Temperature (Cool/Warm) (15) was set. In the Layer Tab is where the layer masks are applied – up to three layer masks can be added. To create a mask, the Mask Tool located in the bottom section – first icon next to Add/Erase – must be clicked. Click on the right side black arrow and three sliders appear so the brush can be set up painting the mask on the image. This image used Size (10), Feather (50) and Amount (21). Now just paint over any areas you do not want the effect appearing. To create the strength of the mask, adjust the Effect sliders – there is another drop-down here if you want to use them – there is a None choice if you do not want any effect on those areas! This image used just one layer mask painted over the horse, man and dog – wanted a little more detail in those areas. In the Effect drop-down, Detail was chosen (Brush Size (54), Photorealism (79), Paint Thickness (41), Paint Stroke Length (68), Stroke Color Variation (-47), and Brush Style – Default Brush)). To see the actual layer, press the right-hand black arrow across from Mask Layer 1. This is where you can add another layer. The last tab is Canvas and there are so many options that I am not sure how they all work – just click on all the little right-hand black arrows. This image was set to the Default Canvas Preset and Lighting Preset. The Vignette used different settings to get the lighter edges (Amount (74), Size (56), Softness (53), and Distortion (41)). The vignette settings can also be saved as a vignette preset by clicking on the icon next to the black arrow. The last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer back in Photoshop to add just a little more contrast. Loved the saturated color look!

Image 2: Very little processing in Lightroom – just the basic Lens Effect and Chromatic Aberration check boxes and a crop. Once in Photoshop, the Shake Reduction filter was applied – I am finding this tends to help any hand-held images you take. Shadows and Highlights did not help this image so it was opened as a Smart Object in Snap Art. The Pastel Sketch preset was used as a starting place. Most of the settings were left at the default except for the Color tab settings given under image. Back in Photoshop a layer mask was applied to the image and just the center of the red flower was lightly painted over to draw as a focus point. My free SJ-Painter Oil Frame was applied and transformed to give a nice painterly border. That was it!

Image 3: Once again very little processing in Lightroom. I did try to make the image very vibrant by adjusting some of the colors in the HSL panel. Once in Photoshop, the background layer was duplicated and a Smart Object created before opening up Snap Art. I first tried this as a Pencil Sketch but it just did not look good. Then I tried the Impasto section and the Landscape-Small Brush setting really looked nice. In the Layers tab three different mask were created – one for the foreground bench and stone steps, one for the flowers on the side and behind the bench, and one for the dacha itself and bench in front. The most detail was placed in the foreground bench, a little less for the flowers. Different amounts of masking was used on the dacha with the fence getting very little. See Dave Higgins videos on how to do this as reference above. Nothing else was done to this image – it looked great as it was in Photoshop!

Image 4: This image was first made very vivid in Lightroom by adjusting the Vibrancy and HSL sliders. Once in Photoshop Snap Art was opened as a Smart Object. In the Background tab the image was set to Watercolor from the Favorites Factory Settings. Then all the sliders were adjusted: Overall Brush Size 24, Photorealism 15, Paint Coverage 85, Paint Stroke Length 100, Stroke Color Variation 47, Brush Style – Dry Brush, and Random Seed 9809. In the Color tab only the Temperature (cool/warm) slider was changed to 26. In the Layers tab, the Mask Tool was set to a Feather of 50 and an Amount of 100 – this will apply the Effect section above changes at 100% strength to the main focus area, the center purple flowers. For the two purple flowers slightly behind and to the left of the main flowers, the Mask Tool Amount was changed to 17 and they are not as affected by the effects. Layer One Effects settings were: Brush Size 10, Photorealism 73, Paint Coverage 65, Paint Stroke Length 93, Stroke Color Variation 10 and Brush Style Default Brush. For a second layer mask the front little purple flowers were selected using a Mask Tool Amount of 100. Layer Two Effects settings were: Brush Size 76, Photorealism 52, Paint Coverage -36, Paint Stroke Length 93, Stroke Color Variation 66 and Brush Style Default Brush. The last layer mask covered the flowers growing up the brick wall using a Mask Tool Amount of 100. Layer Three Effects settings were: Brush Size 76, Photorealism -17, Paint Coverage -36, Paint Stroke Length 93, Stroke Color Variation 10 and Brush Style Wash. In the Canvas tab the Lighting was set to the Diffuse (warmer) preset. Now it was taken back into Photoshop where a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to add just a little more contrast into the image.


How to Use Those Handy Blend-If Sliders!

Got a little creative here and thought I would share what motivated me. Recently I purchased this little gem of a book called Digital Art Wonderland by Angi Sullins and Silas Toball. They do some incredible creative work and include several tutorials on how to make textures and create interesting fun images. So I decided to try out what they were showing and just start playing. Blend If sliders were a big part of the effects in their examples. So what am I talking about? These are the very under-used sliders that create the most interesting effects once you start applying them. They have been in Photoshop since the first version, which is hard to believe. Lots of the very creative work you are seeing in today’s digital art uses these sliders. To get to them, the Layer Style for a layer has to be opened. There are a few of ways to find the Layer Styles: 1) From the Menu, go to Layer -> Layer Style -> Blending Options; 2) Click on the fx icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel and select Blending Options; or 3) The easiest way is to double-click on the layer (not the thumbnail or layer title but just on the empty part of the line) and Blending Options dialog box automatically opens up. Once opened, towards the bottom are the Blend If sliders. The strips represent the darkest to lightest parts of your image – just like the strip in the Levels Adjustment Layer. If the black tab is pulled to the right, then the dark parts of your image to the left of the tab will be removed – the more the tab is moved right, the more pixels are removed. The same goes for the white tab – pull left and anything white to the right will be removed. The tabs can be split by ALT-clicking on them – this creates a smooth transition between the pixels that can and can’t be seen – the area between the tabs is the fade area. With no split, there will be an abrupt edge change, which sometimes you want. This Layer affects the layer you are working on and those pixels are removed; Underlying Layer removes the pixels from the layers below and how they blend with this layer. The rather rough edges of the corners in the shown texture is the result of using the Blend If sliders. I am never sure what I will get when applying these sliders, but it can prove to be quite interesting. See this screenshot for how the Layer Style looked after adding the White Hawaiian Flowers layer.
My basic background texture is actually layered textures from all sorts of places: 1) VP-Brown Paper 4 on the bottom (this texture came from Advanced Photoshop #84’s CD); 2) Caleb Kimbrough Subtlegrunge 2 was added and in the Layer Style the This Layer black tab was split and set to 121/166 – this gives the beautiful dark edge around the image; 3) a New Layer was created and French Kiss Splatter4-01 and 02 were painted in a dark color and set to 78% opacity; 4) Tim in Ohio’s Mr. Wilson’s Front Porch was set to Luminosity blend mode, 68% layer opacity, and in the Layer Style the Underlying Layer white tab was set to 142 (no split); and 5) Flypaper’s Taster Elysium texture was set to Overlay at 61% opacity. This provided a really nice base texture to use in the top and last images.
Once I created the texture, the rest of the image was pretty easy to do. First a White Hawaiian Flowers object I had created from an earlier post was placed on top. The settings used are in the above screenshot for the Layer Style. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment was clipped to the flower layer (ALT+Click between the layers to clip) and the Hue of the flowers was set to -141 to blend in nicely with the texture colors. A Levels Adjustment Layer was also clipped to the flowers and the Midtone tab was set to 0.35. It still looked too plain for me, so Painted Textures Black Friday Set 1-Floral Swirl was added and set to Overlay at 56%. In the Layer Style the Underlying Layer black tab was split and set to 62 and 93. A New Layer was created and some petal outlines were painted in with a small brush set to 12% opacity, and using a sampled color to emphasize some areas that were washed out slightly. The last step was to add a Curve Adjustment Layer to pop the color a little. In the layer mask, the right top corner was slightly painted out so it did not push the eye into the image too strongly.

You can see how great the Blend If sliders work on an image – they can really change the whole effect of an image. Angi and Silas and many of the really great texture creatives use these sliders all the time. If you are interested in getting unique perspectives or interesting textures, it is worth learning how they work and their book gives some wonderful examples and tutorials on how to do this.
…..Here is another image inspired by the Digital Art Wonderland book. Below I have gone to great length to show you how the various combinations of layer styles and Blend If sliders are working together to give the results for each of the items in the above image. You don’t have to understand it all – just get a feel for the steps that can be done to get a very unique look. Also there are some great resources at these links (some are free downloads and some are not) if you need some new ideas. This is basically a two-step process: create a unique texture and then add your own elements to get a charming personal image.

Once again a texture was created before adding elements to the image. The texture was created using these components: Lost and Taken‘s Hand stained paper 11 texture; Isabelle Lafrance Photography Christmas 2011-Lift texture and in the Layer Style Blending Options, the B Channel was unchecked and the Blend Mode was set to Overlay at 100% layer opacity; a New Layer was created and Nakatoni Custom Brushes Amazing Texture 2 (does not appear to be available anymore but any soft grunge brush would do) at 1500 pixels was used to create a beautiful textured effect that combined the soft pink and light yellow foreground and background colors – the layer was completely covered and set to 32% layer opacity; on a New Layer French Kiss Spatter4 Brush 21 was set to 3719 pixels and a greenish color and a few splats were painted on the layer – the layer opacity was then set to 23%; a New Layer was created and in a light pink foreground color, the Straight Grunge Lines by DieheArt was used to add lines across the image – the layer opacity was set to 52%; and a New Layer was created and the foreground color was changed to a light brown tone and also painted across image – the layer opacity was set to 41%.

Now for the various items. On a New Layer the first item added was a big dark green flower brush 1997 by Brush Lover (these used to be posted at BrushLovers.com but they do not appear to be available anymore – but there are many other choices at this site) at 1600 px and set to 72% opacity.  An object added was from Obsidian Dawn’s Fairies Brushes oo12. Since it was black, a Solid Color Fill Layer set to a darkish pink was used for a color. On the brush layer, the Layer Style was opened and a Bevel and Emboss was selected and set to the default and a Depth of 164; and Stroke set to 3 pixels, Position Outside, Opacity 72% and Color set to White. That gave the cutout edge around the brush. A vector from Buburu Resources called Pink and Green Clipart which was a plant, flowers, and butterfly on top, was added – since I only wanted the butterfly, I removed the rest of the vector. The layer was set to Luminosity Blend Mode at 67% opacity. In the Layer Style, lots of things were done: This Layer white tab was set to 213/255; Underlying Layer black tab was set to 79/128; Outer Glow was applied using a reddish color sampled from the Fairy layer and Size set to 8; Pattern Overlay was applied using a Normal Blend Mode, Opacity 100%, 10 Splatters Patterns by Idealhut – pattern 09 at 87% Scale; and Color Overlay sampling a light tan color from image using Normal Blend Mode and Opacity of 39%. A Text Layer was created using Beyond Wonderland font set to a light pink color. The layer was set to 65% opacity and a Layer Style set to Outer Glow set to Dissolve blend mode, Noise 20%, and Size 98 px; Pattern Overlay set to Normal Blend Mode, 100% opacity, and Photoshop’s Watercolor Pattern Bockingford Rough; and Color Overlay using a orange-tan color set to 71% opacity. Playful Flowers vector by Dryicons.com was added and once again the Layer Style was opened – in Blend If This Layer white tab was set to 139/223, and a Drop Shadow using an Opacity of 64%, Distance of 12 and Size of 5. The Layer was set to Color Dodge at 80% opacity. Kim Klassen‘s Frame It was applied on a New Layer and transformed to fit – a light pink color was used and the layer opacity was set to 50%. The last object was the Dirigible4 by NadinePau stock – a Layer Style was applied using Blend If This Layer black tab at 51/74; Drop Shadow set to Color Blend Mode, 100% opacity, Distance 11 px, and Size 9; and Bevel & Emboss set to a Depth of 100 and Size of 5 px. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added on top to increase the Midtone colors and add some contrast.
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Just another example of what you can get with those Blend If sliders. They can definitely give an image a totally different look. The above is an image of some yellow gerberas in a pot on my porch. This image turned out pretty crazy but once again it was a lot of fun to do – and that is why you do this! The first thing done was to work on the bottom layer that is covered up here. Last week I took some pix of clouds that were all broken up by shooting straight up and a brush was created. That is why you see a little bit of cloud along with some texture that was added on another layer. 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Bokeh Grunge Set 5 overlay was placed above all this to soften the image. Then a composite of the image was made (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was created on top and taken into Topaz (website link in sidebar of my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 – Watercolor II preset was used and the pot and flowers were painted out with a brush set to .62 opacity. With a little clean-up, I ended up with a really pretty flower picture, but nothing special. The layer was duplicated and to get the funny hanging effect, the top layer was created by using Photoshop’s Lens Correction filter with the Remove Distortion at +50 and Scale of 67% as a Smart Object. A layer style was added and these styles were applied: Stroke set to 9 pixels; Outer Glow using a light pink color set to Normal, 75% opacity, Spread of 19% and Size 250 px; and Drop Shadow with an opacity set to 75, Angle 52,  Distance 40 and Size of 4. On a New Layer, one brush stroke of Midnight Touch’s rEgrets I’ve Had a Few Sampled Brush #6 at 500 px. was applied. Then the Blend If This Layer slider’s black tab was split (click ALT+click to split) and set to 6/55 and the Underlying Layer black tab was set to 188. Then the default Bevel & Emboss, Stroke, Inner Glow and Outer Glow were added to create an interesting white flying egret. The Blend If sliders make the wing slide under the top left corner paint. These were grouped and turned into another Smart Object. The Layer Mask Hides Effects was checked and then a layer mask was added to the image. Some of the edges caused by the layer styles could then be softly painted out. One of the final steps involved adding Nik Color Efex Pro 4′s Solarization filter set to Method 1, Saturation 50%, and Elapsed Time 50%. That’s what made the back pop – and that is where you can see the white area that was the Blend If sliders letting the layer underneath show through. Really interesting effect. Not sure how I feel about this image, but it was a good example of what you can do with the sliders.
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This image was created using one of the tutorials in the Wonderland book – didn’t think I would like doing it but was a lot of fun creating it. It basically involved taking some old master paintings that you like and combining them into something different. This image contains three paintings I admire with areas masked so they blend together nicely. Then Topaz Clarity’s High Contrast and Color Pop II preset was added to get the colors to work together better. Then Topaz Simplify 4 was a applied to a duplicate layer and Watercolor II was used with the Transparency set to .30 so some of the original poked through. My palm tree object with a Gradient Overlay Layer clipped to it was added to get the color correct in the trees. Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Touch texture was used as an overlay and set to 50% opacity. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog on how to do this.) Text was ExtraOrnamentalNo2 font. A Levels Adjustment was added increasing the contrast a little and setting Output Levels to 15/255 for a bit of a hazy look. The last step involved adding the texture shown above on top and setting it to Difference blend mode at 100% opacity. The Blend If This Layer black tab was set to 0/77 and the white tab was set to 80/183. The Underlying Layer black tab was set to 0 and the white tab was set to 178/233.

I hope you get a chance to try out these sliders. Also turn off the Channel R or G or B check box(es) and move the Fill slider around to see how the colors in the image are affected. (This was done on the texture for I Can Fly image above.) And of course keep trying out the different blend modes in this dialog box. It all adds together to give some very unique results. Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd


More Clarity on Topaz Clarity

Since I have been trying Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Clarity for a few weeks, I thought I would just pass on some of my recent image results. I am using this plug-in more now that I have created a few of my own presets for a starting point with the sliders. So far I have not had a reason to selectively apply it – although a few times I have taken out a sky so it is not affected. The yellow gerberas above provides one of the sentiments that I base this blog on – playing in Photoshop! The image used Topaz Clarity twice, and then I went back to the original background layer and processed it using Topaz Detail without the Clarity layers included. It was then placed on top and a layer mask allowed the Topaz Clarity results to pop through. Then just some textures, text and fancy brushes. Total Fun! For specific information how I processed this image, check out Image 1 at end of blog.
…..This is one of my favorite images from Belarus I took several years ago. This time Photoshop’s HDR Toning was applied first, then Topaz Clarity and Detail. The last step was to add a light pink overlay from Kim Klassen – all this resulted in this magical effect. See end of blog for Image 2 settings.
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The image below represents some of the tools used on a the windmill above. I thought I would show how the image will differ when a Topaz plug-in is used without Clarity applied first, and when it is applied before the other plug-ins. Below is what the image looked like with just the Enabling Profile Corrections and Removing Chromatic Aberration checked – basically a RAW file. The right image is after using Topaz Clarity on the image. See Image 3 notes below for the exact settings if you would like to see them.
Now this next image shows both Topaz Simplify with a preset I had created a long time ago that I call Nice Soft Pastel Effect. I selected it as it really shows what a different look you can get with Simplify on an image. For settings used, check out Image 4 at end of blog.
BelowTopaz Black & White Effects plug-in was applied – another one of my very favorites. This plug-in always produces absolutely incredible results and was recently updated to add most of the interface features Clarity has. The preset used was Platinum III. You can really see what a nice job Clarity did to enhance this black and white image.
The last image is Topaz Adjust with my personal favorite preset, French Countryside. I don’t know why, but this preset has the look that I really like on images.  I would probably print this one as it gives a little bit of that vintage feel the log cabin building exerted, but still has the nice country colors in it. As you can see, adding Clarity first can really change the whole look to your image. I would recommend trying both ways if you are having problems getting a plug-in to look the way you want it to. It may need Clarity to boost the contrast in a very natural way. Well, if you have not tried out this new plug-in from Topaz, you might want to give it a whirl. Check out my related blog links at the very bottom for more info on using this plug-in. It adds that very subtle contrast to an image that I really love, and am finding I am using it more and more!……Digital Lady Syd

Notes for Images:
Image 1: Just the little processing in Lightroom (Cropping, Lens Correction and Defringe) before opening in Photoshop. The background was duplicated and Topaz Clarity was opened and only changes to the Clarity section were applied. (Settings include:  Dynamics settings – Micro Contrast 0.91, Low Contrast 0.53, Medium Contrast -0.86, and High Contrast -0.48; Tone Level settings – Black Level 0.56, Midtones -0.16, and White Level 0.28; and HSL Filter – Hue: Orange -0.11, Yellow -0.02, Green -0.05, and Overall 0.09; Sat: Red -0.03, Orange 0.02, Yellow 0.17, Green 0.03, Blue 0.27, and Overall 0.11; and Lum: Red 0.16, Orange 0.30, Yellow 0.55, Green 0.50, Blue -1.00, and Overall 0.08.) Once applied the layer was duplicated in Photoshop and Topaz Clarity was opened up again. (Settings are the same for the Clarity section above. HSL Filter – Hue: Orange 0.52, Orange -0.30, Yellow -0.31, Green -0.05, and Overall 0.09; Sat: Red -0.03, Orange -0.62, Yellow -0.37, Green -0.27, and Blue 0.27; and Lum: Red 0.30, Orange -0.67, Yellow 0.20, Green -0.39, Blue -1.00, and Overall 0.08.) The Background layer was duplicated again and this time Topaz Detail was applied. (The settings: Detail Section – Overall, Small Details -1.00, Small Details Boost 0.00; Medium Details -1.00, Medium Details Boost 0.00, Large Details -1.00, and Large Details Boost 0.00; Tone Section – no changes; and Color Section – Temperature -0.27, Tint 0.34, Saturation -0.65, and Saturation Boost 0.21.) This layer was moved above the top Clarity layer and a layer mask was applied. The yellow flowers and center were lightly painted out in the mask so the detail from the Clarity layers showed through. Next a Darken layer was created (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). This time I used a dark brown brush sampled from the image instead of a dark black brush. 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh-Grunge Set – 3 was added as a layer on top and set to Hard Light blend mode and 100% opacity. A layer mask was added to remove a little bit of the texture from the centers of the flowers. French Kiss Artiste Old Master texture was placed next and set to Soft Light at 73% opacity. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to lighten up the image a little by moving the Midtones slider to the left. Two text layers were created – one using Rough Typewriter and one using Batik Regular and the opacities of both reduced almost halfway. My free SJ Cloud 1 (actually taken while on the International Coastal Waterway in St. Augustine, Florida) was set to 4300 pixels was added in a New Layer on top. Shadowhouse Creations free Bird brush 7 was added on another New Layer and set to 30% opacity. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer where I just dragged down in the image to get the right tone.

Image 2: In Lightroom David duChemin’s New Maasai Split Tone preset was applied along with some basic slider adjustments. In Photoshop’s HDR Toning, the Vibrance was set to +100, Saturation +100, and Detail +100. I had thought I might try to make this a painting, and I still might, so these settings were used to enhance the image. A duplicate of the image was created and Topaz’s new Clarity plug-in was applied. These were the setting used: Dynamics – Micro Contrast 0.98, Low Contrast 0.42, Medium Contrast 0.22, and High Contrast -0.37; Tone Level – Black Level -0.23, Midtones -0.19, and White Level 0.06; and HSL Filter – Hue Green slider set to -0.30, Saturation sliders: Red 0, Orange -0.47, Yellow 0.36, Green 0.47, Aqua 0, Blue -0.12, Purple 0, Magenta 0, and Overall 0.11; and Luminosity sliders: Red -0.72, Orange 0.11, Yellow 0, Green 0.19, Aqua 0.55, Blue 0.10, Purple 0.66, Magenta -0.05, and Overall 0. Next Topaz Detail was applied to a duplicate layer setting the Overall Detail to 0.78 and Red 0.40. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was put on top and Cyans were set to Hue 41, Saturation 5, and Lightness 31, and Blues set to Hue -13, Saturation -37, and Lightness 1. A Darken Layer was created and set to Overlay blend mode to burn in some of the clouds. Kim Klassen’s beautiful Cloth & Paper Texture Touch was used – an overlay had been created using it and it was set to Normal blend mode at 77% opacity. The last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the whole image. (See my How to Create an Overlay Out of a Texture blog.)

Image 3: The Topaz Clarity plug-in was opened and I started with Street Scene Strong Contrast. Changed several settings to: Dynamics: Micro Contrast  1.00, Low Contrast  0.30, Medium Contrast  -0.34, and High Contrast  -1.00; Tone Level: Black Level  -0.14, Midtones  0, and White Level -0.44; and HSL Filter: Hue – Red -0.83, Orange 0.10, Yellow 0, Green 0.10, Aqua -0.29, Blue -0.83, Purple -0.10, and Magenta -0.17;  Sat – Red 0.06, Orange 0.17, Yellow 0.94, Green 0, Aqua 0.78, Blue 0.27, Purple 0, and Magenta 0.38; Hue – Red 0.61, Orange 0, Yellow -0.45, Green -0.12, Aqua -0.36, Blue 0.06, and all the rest 0. Named preset Balanced Contrast. That is all that was done at this point.

Image 4: The Topaz Clarity settings are the same as those in Image 3. The Simplify plug-in used these settings: Global Adjustments: Simplify – YCbCr, Simplify Size 0.27, Feature Boost 0, Details Strength 0, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size 0.20, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.31; Adjust – Brightness 0.10, Contrast 1.48, Saturation 1.70, Saturation Boost 1.24, Dynamics 0.36, Structure 3.33, and Structure Boost 0.67; and Edges – Edge Type Color Edge-Normal, Edge Strength 0.00, Simplify Edge 0.30, Reduce Weak 10.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0; and Finishing Touches: Tone – Color 1 Region (R0G0B0) slider 0, Color 2 Region (R54G27B9) slider 100.0, Color 3 Region (R170G135B136) 180.0, and Color 4 Region (R255G255B255) slider 255.0; and Tone Strength 0.46.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity
Clarity with Texture!
Pretty in Pink! with Topaz Clarity
Some Vintage Zinnias


How to Create an Image From Nothing!

This week on CreativeLive I watched a two-day webcast called Photoshop Mastery: Retouching and Collaging with Ben Wilmore – another totally fantastic webinar by the best Photoshop teacher around. Check out CreativeLive’s calendar for their list of upcoming free live webinars. After all this inspiration, I decided to try out a few things I learned. It took a while to create, and lots of mistakes were made, but overall it was just super fun – and to me that is what Photoshop is all about! A new 8X10 document was opened, and then Photoshop’s Grass brush in a pink color got me started. After that, just different items were added to it until I ended up with something I will eventually use on my website! Since several techniques were used, I thought I would go over some of the steps on how to get this graphics look – it was not hard – just time-consuming.

1. Started with an 8 X 12 inch, resolution 300, 16-bit New Document.

2. A New Layer was created on top and the Grass brush was painted on top using the color 8f618e. A Layer Style was opened up (double click on the layer to bring up the Blending Options dialog box) and the Blend If Gray – This Layer’s white tab was set to 191. (Ben gave a good explanation of this – basically by dragging the white tab left, it removes any white areas in the image up to the point you stop. So a 191 setting corresponds to all tones between 191 to 255 on a histogram being eliminated. This technique is used a lot to remove skies and background areas. Split the tab by ALT+clicking on it to make a smoother transition if needed. This step did not split the tab.) This removed a lot of the white in the grass blades that were painted. Also an Outer Glow in a light pink and a Drop Shadow were added. The layer was set to Multiply Blend Mode at 100% opacity.

3. To make the grass look like it was on a cloud my free SJ Cloud 4 in a light grayish color (#bfbfbf) was clicked once on a New Layer and placed under the grass layer. It was stretched across the bottom using the bracket key to make the brush large although the Free Transform key (CTRL+T) could have been used to do this. (Tip – it does not make a difference whether you make the brush larger first or Free Transform holding the SHIFT keep to in proportion – get the same result.)

4. I selected 2 Lil’ Owls Studio French Script Brush 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) in a dark pink/purple. A Layer Style (double click on layer to open) was added using a Bevel and Emboss with Contour on, an Inner Shadow, and a Gradient Overlay going from gray to purple. The image below is where I was at – notice I had some birds that I removed later.5. This step would have been much easier if I had decided what I wanted to do with the French sign brush at the start – but I did not plan in advance so it took me a long time to get this right. Just realize that it would have been much easier to add the wood to the background sign (this used Caleb Kimbrough’s free Old Wood 3 texture), add one of my Overlays created in my How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images blog and was in png format, and then displace the text on the wood using the steps in my Displacing an Overlay blog in a different file and add it back into this file. Otherwise this gets really messy, which is what I realized after-the-fact. I ended up doing all this as Smart Objects, and used three sub-groups within a top group to nest all the sign effects. The webcast did a very nice job of explaining how to use Smart Objects. At least I got some practice doing this. At this point, a layer mask was created on the top group and the sign post painted into the grass so it looks like it is coming out of it.

6. Since adding just brush strokes onto different layers gives transparent areas, a texture can be added behind them with no selection required. After trying at least 10 or 11 different textures, French Kiss Atelier Valley texture was chosen – I liked the subtle colors and the way it made the clouds look like soft grassy areas. It was placed just above the Background Layer set to Normal at 100% opacity.

7. Since there was no ground edge, a New Layer was created under the Grass brush layer and a Mixer Brush was used to add some straight lines to define the shoreline of the image. Used Fay Sirkis’s Palette Knife Classic FX Highlights #1 Brush, (one of the great brushes that can be downloaded for use with her Four Seasons painting online training classes on NAPP – she teaches you how to use this brush in her great Four Seasons painting series Fall training class on NAPP).

8. Another New Layer was created above the Clouds brush layer and using Fay Sirkis’s Cloud Moist Sky Blender 05 brush (included with the brushes in Step 7 – learn to use cloud brushes in her Four Seasons Spring training class), the clouds in the background were embellished a little to make them look a whiter and puffier. It was set to 54% layer opacity.

9. I wanted to add some kind of building structure to my image. I went up on the free stock photo site Stock.xchng and found an image called abandoned stone house – perfect for what was now getting that spooky feel. The house image was brought into the image above the sign groups layers and then Free Transformed (CTRL+T) to fit. A layer mask was added to paint out the road and green trees around the house. It was way too bright so a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to the image and the Yellows and Greens sliders were adjusted to match the feel of the image. I put these layers into a Group called Old House Image.

10. The last major thing done was to add a reflection to the foreground grass by using Flaming Pear’s Flood plug-in – an oldie but a goodie. I do not know of any other filter that does this as well. A composite was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and the filter run. Just played around with the various sliders until I got just a slight wave effect and that was a a little darker than the image. See my The Flood Look blog for more details on this plug-in. (Here are the settings I used for this image to give you a feel for the amount of detail this plug-in contains: Horizon  83, Offset 0, Perspective 42,  Altitude 50, Waviness  9, Color Swatch Black, Complexity  20, Brilliance  44, Blur  9, Size  0, Height  33, Undulation  40, and Glue Normal.) Lots of fun to use! A black Layer Mask was added to the layer and just the reflection was painted back where I wanted it.

11. The French Kiss Atelier Valley texture was duplicated and placed at the top of the stack to add the canvas feel to the whole image. First a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and set to Saturation -100 and Lightness +46. Then the texture was set to a Multiply blend mode at 12% layer opacity. Now the whole image has the texture but no color from the texture. See my Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture blog for more on this.

These were the basic steps. There was some clean up and a Curves Adjustment Layer added, but overall this was it. Sort of surprised how it finished up – the beautiful texture really added the overall effect to the image. Try just fooling around with some of the interesting brushes that come with just Photoshop (or check out some of my other blogs for some interesting brushes that can be downloaded free from the Internet) and some of the skills you know – you might be surprised what you come up with. Have fun creating!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Create a Winter Scene with Photoshop Brushes and Textures
Just Plain Fun Brush Effects!
Spooky Halloween Fun!
Hyacinths Deep in Reflection


Can You Get a Painting Look With a Photoshop Action? Jack Davis Can!

This week I am just doing a post on Jack Davis’ Painting Actions Sampler Beta 2013. I really enjoyed a video called Adobe MAX: Expressive Painting in Photoshop that Jack Davis (Photoshop Hall of Famer and very creative artist besides being the Wow Book guy!) did for the Adobe Max 2013 recently. This is a very entertaining video and I recommend your listening to it to get some new ideas for giving your photos a painterly look. He directs you to his Jack Davis Wow Facebook page where you can download several items including the action used on these images after Liking his page (see Freebies). The last image covers the Mixer Brush techniques from the video. The Pattern Stamp Tool and Art History Brush Tool techniques are in the PDF files downloaded from the site. He provides all the brushes, patterns, textures, pdf’s, and actions to use the tools he teaches so this is definitely a resource you will want to get.

Above is the Clansman Restaurant in Loch Ness, Scotland. I love the understated way this image looks even with this filter. Not so obvious you are using the Oil Paint Filter. In Lightroom 5 the Lens Profile, Chromatic Aberration and Upright Perspective checkboxes were ticked. Next David duChemin’s Lightroom preset Mid Tone Lift + Vignette + Clarity was applied before bringing image into CS6. This gave the whole image a little bit of a vintage feel. The first thing you need to do is to convert you image to an 8 bit file if is not already one by going to Image -> Mode -> 8 Bits/Channel – otherwise some of the filters in the action will not work. You also must right click on the image and select Convert to Smart Object as all the filters line up underneath your original image. (In Lightroom you can select Open as Smart Object in Photoshop to save this step.) I noted that you can actually duplicate the image and use the top layer for all the action work. This can be handy if you want to mask out some effect and pick up the image below. After that, the Davis Painting Actions Sampler-Beta 2013 needs to be loaded into the Actions Panel and Wow Smart Object Painting 1 selected. Run this action – five filters will line up in your Smart Object: Median, Oil Paint, Emboss, and two Filter Gallery (Rough Pastel and Texturizer). If you do not like any of the results, you can go back into any of the filters and adjust them until you get the effect you like. It is very quick and gets you a very good start going towards a nice painterly effect. I have already covered the Oil Paint Filter in Photoshop CS6 (and for CS5) in a previous post (see my Photoshop’s CS6 (and Pixel Bender’s) Oil Paint Filter blog), check it out for how the different sliders work for this filter. The close up below tries to show the nice painterly effect that is created. For more info on how this image was processed, see Image 1 notes at end of blog.
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This old building in Oahu, Hawaii, used the action twice on the image – it was first run as the action is set up with the Oil Paint Filter settings left alone. The second time it was run, the sliders were changed to these settings: to Stylization 1.39, cleanliness 4, Scale 10, Bristle Detail, Angular Lighting 0, and Shine 0.35. Then a black layer mask was added and the areas where more detail was required were gently painted back in with a low opacity white brush into the mask. Definitely has more of the traditional Oil Paint Filter look to it. See Image 2 at end of blog for more info.
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These pink pentas were painted from a picture I took in my front yard. Basically this is a mega action called Davis-Mixer Paint SetUp-BETA that was run and the steps were followed. This is an absolutely genius action (if you listen to the video you get the background on it). You end up with 8 layers to paint on using the Mixer Brushes he supplies. The action includes layers called Rough Underpainting, Refine Painting Details, Final Highlights, Final Shadows, and Final Blending beside several reference and back up layers. See the notes for Image 3 at end of blog for more tips on how to use this action.
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The images above do not do justice to how the image really looks at 100%. The texture is very subtle on them. I am not near as good as Jack Davis is with his painting actions, but I am going to try to play with it some more as I see several possibilities to create some very nice paintings. I also believe incorporating the Mixer Brush technique from the video improves the final outcome. Definitely check out his video and also watch for him on CreativeLIVE where he gives free tutorials on all aspects of Photoshop, Lightroom and Graphic Design. I have followed him for years and still refer to a little book called Adobe Photoshop 7 One Click Wow – this is where I learned how to create and use layer styles. Hope you enjoy trying this little action – it really is a lot of fun to use!…..Digital Lady Syd

NOTES FOR IMAGES

Image 1: After the action was applied to the image, some clean up was done where a couple things looked funny. Next 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh Grunge Set – 5 was applied and set to Linear Burn blend mode at 94% opacity. In the layer style the This Layer white tab was split (ALT+click on the tab) and set to 194/214 – this took some of the white out of the center of the image. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added for contrast with the Midtones set to 0.71 and the Output Levels set to 41 and 255. A New Layer set to Overlay was used to darken the centers of the flowers and a few other places. (See my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog.) The last step used my free SJ B&W Border Frame with the black color changed to one sampled in the image.

Image 2: Adjusted the Basic sliders and in HSL section several Luminance sliders. Also a Post Cropping white vignette frame was created setting the Style to Color Priority, Amount to +100, Midpoint 11, Roundness -100, and Feather 3, before opening image in Photoshop CS6. The image was converted to 8 bits/channel. A couple clouds were added on a separate layer using my free SJ Clouds 1 brush. This layer was set to 72% opacity. A composite layer was created now (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and then duplicated so that I could run the action twice. The first composite layer was turned into a Smart Object and the action was run. Then the second layer was turned into a Smart Object and it was run. Then the Oil Paint filter was double-clicked to open up the interface, and the settings under the image were applied. A black layer mask was added to this layer and just the parts where I wanted more detail were carefully painted back with a low opacity white brush. The last step involved just adding a Curves Adjustment Layer to add a little contrast back into the image.

Image 3: This image actually froze up my computer while doing it – not sure if it has to do with the very RAM intensive Mixer Brushes, but be prepared for a bit of a slow down. The way the action was set up is so that you do not Sample All Layers which make the Mixer Brushes a lot faster. Only the Blender layer requires All Layers. A few tips I wrote down to help you do this type of image are:

1. The Eraser Tool was set to 50% opacity and 123 pixels. I found when something got messed up on one of the layers, it was easier to just erase it away and then paint over it the correct way. If you own a Wacom tablet, you can set up your pen so it will erase when you turn it upside down. I do this all the time.

2. At the beginning especially, keep your Reference for Tracing-Outlines on all the time and Turn the Reference for Tracing-Photos on and off as needed.

3. Use your Highlights layer to shape the edges of you image. The Shadows layer seemed too heavy-handed, but the Highlights really helped. By keeping your Eraser Brush at 50%, you can reduce the intensity real easy by flipping your pen.

4. I changed the patterns in both Pattern Fill Adjustment Layers in the action. I turned off the bottom Pattern Fill 1 Adjustment Layer and added French Kiss Studio 3 White Wash texture and used a Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer and Curves Adjustment Layer both clipped to the texture to remove color.

5. I found I had to go back to the Rough Underpainting layer to fill in areas that got covered up wrong several times. I really spent a lot of time working back and forth between all the layers to get the effect I wanted.

6. The last thing I did was to add a black layer mask to the Reference for Tracing-Photo and painted back in with a soft low opacity white brush any areas that had the wrong color or rough edges still.

7. Found a Curves Adjustment Layer was needed to add just a little contrast back into the whole image.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Dr. Brown’s Painting Assistant Panel for CS6 and CS5! – uses a similar method to create a painterly look


Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Clarity

Topaz Clarity is Here! I was surprised that Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) was coming out with a new plug-in and am finding that I actually love it! It is very different from any of their other plug-ins. So what are we talking about here? In a nutshell, this program provides two major features for your images: the use of Dynamic sliders to add contrast by using variations already in the image, and the use of  their IntelliColor Technology (keeps unwanted color shifts under control) by adjusting the Hue/Saturation/Luminosity of the image. I believe that Clarity does exactly what you expect a good plug-in to do – it takes a canned program’s limited capability and creates many more options, which is especially useful for that difficult image or for us “creative types.” This plug-in lets you create a very natural, sometimes quite stunning, look without any halos or artifacting (and that alone is a major accomplishment!). I am confident that I will use this plug-in on most of my images now that I have learned how to use it. The above is a farm located outside Minsk in Belarus. I have included the original RAW file images throughout the blog as I believe this is the best way to see what the plug-in can really do. See Image 1 info below for more on how it was post-processed, the Clarity settings used, and the before and after images.
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WHAT I LIKE!

1. The fact that the four Dynamics sliders are very similar to my very favorite Dynamics slider in TopazFXlab and Topaz Simplify. I believe it uses slightly different technology, but Nicole at Topaz Labs describes these four sliders as the original Dynamics slider “on steroids.” They do a great job of bringing out detail (using contrast instead of detail size) without looking unnatural. It has a really subtle sharpening feel to it. This alone is why this program is worth getting!

2. The Hue/Saturation/Luminosity sliders can be targeted to specific areas of your image easily. I like the Overall sliders at the bottom of each section that can give some very surprising results – sometimes just the thing to pop your image! And once again we get Orange (for skin tones) and Purple sliders which I really love. And if you have used Detail or photoFXlab, you know how good the IntelliColor technology is.

3. The addition of Color Range Brush and Feather Brush. I am still working on using these effectively, but so far they are proving to be quite useful. I like that certain areas of my image can be targeted by color(s) – saves a lot of time trying to get your selection in the Masks sections just right. The Color Range works very much like the one in Photoshop, which I use all the time. The Feather Brush is really nice since it now has the capability of softening or sharpening a selection’s edge as needed – once again similar to Photoshop’s Properties Panel for their layer masks. These are both great additions for the Masks panes. (And don’t forget this little Color-Aware Brush that is hidden with the Content-Aware Brush – it is becoming my favorite mask brush!) There is also a Gradient Tool Feature in the brush area that can be handy when working on your masks too.

4. I like that I can create more than one preset collection. I am finding it handy to have one that only addresses Hue/Sat/Lum Section changes and one for the Clarity Section changes. And you get previews for all of your own preset too!

5. The Dynamics/Tone Level section and the HSL Filter sections can be left open at the same time so that you can go back and forth between them to make adjustments very quickly. Small thing but really saves time. Unfortunately this is not true with the two Mask sections.

6. Overall Opacity sliders at the top of each section is proving to be very handy to use – works like the Layer Opacity slider in Photoshop or the Overall Transparency sliders in their other plug-ins. (This is different from the Overall sliders in 2.)

7. Maybe the best thing I like is that Topaz pushed the bar a little and tried something new. There is no one out there that I have found recently who is creating new plug-ins or effects to make your Photoshop experience a little better. Kudos to the staff for this!

WHAT I DON’T LIKE! (Not much)

1. It needs an Apply button so several different presets can be added since the Dynamics and Tone Level effects are so different from the HSL sliders effects. It would so nice to be able to stay in the program and selectively add the different section changes to the image instead of exiting the program and re-entering the plug-in for each change. My understanding is that they are trying to implement this shortly.

2. It can be a bit time-consuming to work on a mask that is at 1:1 – you have to keep hopping back into the Navigator pane to move the preview box to the next area to paint in. They need a toggle shortcut key or something else to make this easier. I left a request with the Topaz folks so hopefully this will be an option soon. On the good side, the Mask pane is much larger and easier to see than in their other plug-ins.

3. Would love to be able to copy the Clarity mask to the H/S/L mask and vice versa. Right now you have to create it again if you want the same areas selected. Possibly a shortcut key would be all that is needed here too.

4. This is a small nag, but when you zoom in on an image to mask out some eyes or something really small, the brush size is really hard to get to a reasonably small size. Some brush preset choices would be nice also, as they have in Black & White Effects.
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This image is actually of some beautiful bright red dahlias (see original below) that I planted in my front yard recently. Since I do not have an Apply button at this point, Topaz Clarity was actually opened three times, on three separate layers, by exiting, duplicating the layer, and going back into the program. For info on the processing and Clarity settings, see Image 2 notes at end of blog. No detail or color enhancers were required – it was all done with the sliders in Clarity. What was so nice is that it was relatively easy to give these flowers a totally different look without a lot of hassle. When playing around with HSL sliders in other programs, it is almost impossible to get two radically different colors on something that was one color to begin with – and make it look believable. Below is the original RAW file as it was brought into Photoshop (and yes, I did add a flower in the top right to balance out the image).…..
Below, this rather ordinary tourist shot taken of Umauma Falls on the Big Island is a good example of the results after processing with just Clarity, showing much improved color and contrast. This image would have been a great HDR candidate due to the large tonal range, except that there was no place to set up a tripod. Since I had the opportunity to get just a few quick snaps of this gorgeous waterfall, Clarity really gave me exactly the feel I wanted to accomplish in the first place. Considering this was a marginal hand-held, very shadowy shot, it turned out much more natural than an HDR tone-mapped image would have created!
See before and after close ups below. See Image 3 note at end of blog for more post-processing info. …..
The photo above is just a little bit of a change up here. This image, taken from Edinburgh Castle in Scotland, used Topaz Clarity and Adjust to get this slightly artistic effect. Clarity was again applied three times and Adjust once. I really love to combine several different Topaz plug-ins, especially in photoFXlab (check out its InstaTone tab to get some really creative results), to try out different looks. See notes for Image 4 below for details on how this image effect was created.
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It is hard to imagine that these beautiful Zinnias were adjusted using only Topaz Detail and Clarity, but it is true. I was really pleased at how I could get an almost illustrative look to the flowers by using Clarity. For more info on how this image was processed and my Clarity settings, see Image 5 notes below.

BOTTOM LINE:
Topaz Clarity is a great addition to the Topaz arsenal of plug-ins. I am not going to quit using Topaz Detail 3, my most used plug-in, just because of its release, but I am finding they work quite nicely together. This plug-in is definitely a great alternative to that over-the-top HDR effect that comes with too much sharpening, or even the over-application of Detail or Adjust. I think it would improve almost any kind of image you apply it on. It does take a few minutes to figure out exactly what each of the sliders will do. But once a combination is found, it is easy to set up a preset and use this as a starting point for your particular type of processing. And once again, you get it at a reasonable price and the Topaz guarantee that upgrades will always be free! Just another quality product from a quality company!

I will be doing more experimenting with this plug-in in the coming weeks and will share my findings, so stay tuned. Download a trial and give this new plug-in a try. You might be surprised at your results – I was!…..Digital Lady Syd

NOTES FOR POST-PROCESSING OF IMAGES
Image 1: No changes in Lightroom except cropping and checking Enabling Profile Corrections and Removing Chromatic Aberration. Once in Photoshop a preset I had created was applied in Topaz Clarity. (Here are the settings for my Very Vivid Sharp preset – Clarity Section-Dynamics: Micro Contrast 0.84, Low Contrast 0.56, Medium Contrast -0.31, and High Contrast -0.09, and Tone Control were all left at 0. In the Hue/Sat/Lum Section: No changes to Hue; Sat – Red 0.25, Orange 0.13, Blue 0.06, and Overall 0.17; and Lum – Red -0.81, Orange -0.09, Green -0.08, Blue 0.23, Magenta 0.33, and Overall -0.12. Then the Blue Lum was adjusted to -1.00 and Sat t0 0.22 to bring out the clouds a little more. See middle image below. Since I felt this whole look was a little too much, the layer was duplicated and this layer was taken into Clarity again. This time a preset I created with a more desaturated look was applied and the result is shown in the left image. (Here are these settings: Clarity Section-Dynamics: Micro Contrast 0.50, Low Contrast -0.42, Medium Contrast 0.03, and High Contrast -0.27; and Tone Level: Black Level 0.25, Midtones -0.37, and White Level -0.52. Hue/Sat/Lum Section: No changes to Hue; Sat – Overall -0.45; and Lum – Red -0.10, Orange 0.10, Yellow 0.10, Green 0.10, Aqua 0.10, Blue -0.10, and Purple -0.10) This gives a bit of spooky look to the image but the opacity of this layer was set to 28% to give the too bright effect a little softening. What an improvement to the clouds! Click on image for a larger view in Flickr.

Image 2: I did nothing in Lightroom except apply the Lens Correction Profile and check Remove Chromatic Aberration before taking the image into Photoshop. Cleaned up some spots on the flowers with the Spot Healing Brush and then into Topaz Clarity. First the Macro preset Flower 1 which changes only the Clarity Sections (Dynamics and Tone Level sliders) was applied. Then the Color Aware Brush (use eyedropper to sample the color first) was used in the Mask Section where the middle red flower was painted to keep the effect from applying on it. Since I wanted the opposite effect, the Invert icon was clicked so now just the middle flower contained the Clarity settings. Said OK to apply this to image and duplicated this layer. Entering Clarity again, the Reset button was clicked to start over. This time I wanted the three small flowers to be softer and a different color. This time only the Hue/Sat/Lum Section was used. To get the yellow flowers, the Hue Overall slider was set to o.41 to get all yellow flowers. In Lum settings, the Orange was set to 0.72 to lighten the center to give a greenish look, and the Overall Lum slider was set to 0.08 just to lighten up the flower color a little. Again these settings were applied and in Photoshop a layer black mask was added to this layer and just a touch of the pink color was brought into the petals. To get the painterly look, Painted Textures Creamsicle texture was layered on top using Soft Light at 100% opacity. The top painterly looking border was created using 2 Lil’ Owls Studio Bonus Texture 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link), turned 180 degrees, and turned into an overlay. (See Related Blogs below for more info on this.) Any border you have would work, but what is interesting is that the border was a then opened up in Clarity and the whole color scheme and contrast was changed. (These are the settings used: Dynamics: Micro Contrast -1.00, Low Contrast -1.00, Medium Contrast 0.26, and High Contrast 0.69; and Tone Level: Black Level -0.72, Midtones 0.16, and White Level -0.03. HSL Filter: Hue settings: Orange -0.44, Yellow 0.50, Green 0.33, and Overall -0.42; Sat settings: Orange -0.20, Yellow -0.11, Green -0.66, and Overall -0.09; and Lum settings: Orange 0.11, Yellow 0.08, Green -0.53, and Overall 0.09. Created Textures preset.) Note: When you change the Hue of an item, and then go to the Saturation or Luminance sliders, be sure you adjust the same sliders and not the new color sliders- there will be little or no change. In other words, if you change the Red Hue to a Yellow color, when you enter the Saturation sliders, you will need to still adjust the Red Saturation to adjust the actual yellow color saturation. Took me a minute to get the hang of this.

Image 3: Lightroom was only used to crop the image, add a Lens Correction profile, and check Remove Chromatic Aberration. In Photoshop the Background layer was duplicated and then Topaz Clarity was opened where the Landscape-Color & Contrast III preset was applied. The Micro Contrast slider was changed to -0.22, and in the Clarity Masks section the waterfalls were lightly painted out – they were  sharper than I wanted for the water effect.

Image 4: First just HSL adjustments to the whole image; second time the Landscape Midday I preset was selected with the effect removed from the sky using the Clarity Masks section – and adjusting some of the HSL sliders; then my favorite Adjust preset – French Countryside – was applied as is; and finally Clarity’s Cityscape I preset was added. 2 Lil’ Owls (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) Color Bokeh Grunge Set – overlay 2 was added to give a slight vintage vignette effect using Vivid Light blend mode at 74% layer opacity.Image 5: Just the same Lightroom changes – Lens Correction and cropping. If you would like the illustrative look, here are settings: in Clarity Section – Dynamics: Micro Contrast 1.00, Low Contrast 0.28, Medium Contrast -0.50, and High Contrast 0.06; Tone Level: Black Level 0.61, Midtones 0.14, and White Level 0.72; and in Hue/Sat/Lum Section – Hue: Only Red 0.16, Yellow -0.05, and Green -0.17 were adjusted; Sat: only Green -0.22 and Overall -0.45 were adjusted; and Lum: Only Orange 0.36, Yellow 0.89, Green -0.91, Aqua 0.30, and Blue -0.09 were adjusted. Kim Klassen Cafe‘s January Set 2801 texture was applied and set to Multiply at 100% opacity. Shadowhouse Creations Text  Brush 1 was put on its own layer at 61% layer opacity. (These brushes are free and really cool, as is his site, too.) A couple other steps were done to get the nice texturized feel, but overall, the flowers benefited greatly by using Clarity.

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Clarity with Texture!
Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow
How to Make Frames or Borders
InstaTone in photoFXlabs – Great Fun and Great Results!


Topaz Simplify Artistic Workflow

Been under the weather this week so I thought I would just go through my basic Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Simplify 4 workflow. Nothing too fancy, but always a lot of fun to work with Simplify. The image above is a composite of a variegated leaf from Hawaii and the body of a Palamedes Swallowtail Butterfly that was in my penta flowers. The butterfly body was selected and placed on its own layer before moving into the leaf image. On a composite image some of the colors in the leaves were swapped around using the new Topaz Clarity and then Topaz Simplify 4 was applied using my Tulip Preset to get the pretty colors. (The preset settings if you would like them are as follows: oost 0, Details Strength .80, Details Boost 1.29, Details Size 0.96, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.2o; Adjust: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 1.11, Saturation 0.60, Saturation Boost 2.06, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.00, and Structure Boost 1.00; and Edges – Color Edge: Normal, Edge Strength 0.00, Simplify Edge 0.60, Reduce Weak 24.00, Reduce Small 0.20, and Fatten Edge 0.00.) While still in Simplify, another preset was applied, Sketch -> Pastel II preset with Transparency: Overall Transparency set to 0.52. The layer was duplicated and a Gaussian Blur was added to soften the details in the background. With a layer mask, the leaf and butterfly were painted back. On another composite layer, the wings effect was created using the CS6 Oily Classic Blender #4 Mixer Brush to smooth out the rough edges that are a dead give-away that you used Simplify. Just put an OnOne PhotoFrame effect on image (this program is no longer available) and FrenchKiss Studio 3 WhiteWash texture set to Soft Light to give a painterly effect. There were a few other steps and tweaks to get the color pop but overall it followed the workflow below. I love using the Mixer Brushes – always adds that more realistic feel to the Simplify images.
…..This may not be the perfect photo, and obviously I was not that enamored with it until Lightroom 5 came out with their Upright correction, but the more I looked at this image, the more interesting it was. And the color in the image turned out to be quite striking. Below you can see what is going on with all the people. What a treasure trove! You can see all kinds of activities and expressions with just the people in front of this busy cathedral. Very cool!
This follows one of my pretty basic workflows for getting a crisp artistic look to an image, not exactly painterly, but not a photographic effect either.

  • After using Lightroom to straighten up the image at least to an acceptable amount, the image was cleaned up in Photoshop and a sharpener added for clarity of the detail lines. Now is a good time to use both Topaz DeNoise and Detail – I use them both before doing any real painting or filtering of an image.
  • Next Topaz Simplify 4 is used starting with one of their presets, changing it, and saving as my own preset if I like the results and think I would want to use it again. The above images used this preset: Used Painting -> Watercolor preset as a starting point, then adjusted the following settings. Simplify: Color Space YCbC4, Simplify Size 0.46, Feature Boost 1, Details Strength 1.87, Details Boost 0.20, Details Size 0.58, Remove Small 0.10 and Remove Weak 0.20; Adjust: Brightness 0.02, Contrast 0.82, Saturation 0.85, Saturation Boost 2.06, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.00, and Structure Boost 1.00; and Turned off Edges Section.
  • A layer mask is added to the Simplify layer and areas are painted out where more detail was to be added.
  • A Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer is added to adjust colors, green in the above case.
  • A New Layer is created and a Regular or Mixer Brush is selected, an artistic feel is added to the image. Above I used CS6 Oily Classic Blender Mixer Brush #4 (found in the CS6 Mixer Brush Tool Presets when Mixer Brush Tool is selected) for the tree branches to give a more “painterly” look to the image – this brush is excellent for smoothing out jagged edges on any of your images. The opacity of that layer was then set to 46%
  • Another New Layer was created to paint out distractions like wrong colors on white that draws the eye.

The last step for the Cathedral image was to add another a Hue/Sat Adj Layer to get rid of purple color in sign on Church (used a black layer mask and painted back just the sign in white). To see a different way I processed the same image, check out my Tidbits Blog called Lightroom 5′s New Upright Adjustments Section.
…..
Used exactly the same workflow above except in the Topaz Simplify 4 preset, I also checked the Tones section and set the Tone Strength to .67. Some of the grasses did not look natural, so with a 30% soft black brush, parts of the detail in the grasses were painted back to give a more natural look and not so computer generated feel. I find Topaz does seem to do this if you do not get the Simplify slider set just right – that is OK because you will probably want to clean it up in Photoshop a little anyway. The Hue/Saturation Level was set to Colorize and a yellow color used (Hue 298/Saturation 63/Lightness -23). Then a Pastel Brush was used to paint the white blow out daisy flowers that now look yellow, with a couple pink colors to add interest. Several New Layers were created and the petals and edges of the petals were painted using pastel brushes with texture added and the Pencil Tool Watercolor Salt brush to paint around the edges of the flowers to give some additional texture to the flowers. This time two of Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures were added on top – 2 for Friday Set 5 Green Lake texture set to Soft Light at 77% opacity, and Set 2 Creamsicle set to Pin Light at 37% opacity. Both had a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to them with the Saturation slider to -100 so no color, just texture, was added to the image. I used my free Default SJ Thin Double Edge Frame layer style to finish up.
…..
Just one final image using the same workflow. This is a lovely little dasha in the countryside near the city of Minsk in Belarus – definitely has that fairytale look to it. The Simplify preset used was the Painting -> Dynamic Boost Warm preset, where the Simplify Size was set to 0.37, the Feature Boost to 2, and the Vignetting was turned off. I used OnOne’s PhotoFrame instead. On the Simplify layer, a layer mask was added and with a black soft brush set to 30% opacity, the detail was added back into the area where it was needed to keep it from looking too cookie-cutter. Used the Mixer Brush layer to clean up a few things. Some Curves, Levels, and Hue/Saturation Adjustments Layers to balance out everything and that was it!

It takes a while to get a really good look, but the plug-in definitely helps get you started. Hope this gives you a little bit of a workflow to help get started using this plug-in effect if you have not tried it before. I really love this plug-in – it is easy to use and easy to fit into an artistic workflow. I am not sure there are any other plug-ins on the market that do exactly what this one does. Lots of fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Getting a Nice Painterly Landscape Effect with Topaz Simplify and Texture
Using Topaz Simplify for That Artistic Feel!
Painterly Effect using Topaz Detail and Simplify
Topaz Simplify and Lens Effects Saves an Image!


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