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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.
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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.
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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!


Digital Lady Syd Reviews Topaz Black & White Effects 2.1

I first reviewed this plug-in with its initial release back in my Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner! blog where I cover lots of things I still like about this plug-in. Behind Topaz Detail 3 and DeNoise 3, plug-ins I consider essential for any image, Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Black & White Effects is my next most used Topaz plug-in – even more than Adjust. And black and white treatments are not the first thing I think about when using this plug-in – I think creative expression (as you can see by this and my related blog posts). It is a very easy way to adjust the tones and color effects without having to do more manipulation later in Photoshop, which is usually required with other black and white plug-ins. When I am stuck on what to do with an image and nothing seems to look right, I can almost always find the answer in Black & White Effects – it never ceases to amaze me what it can do with an image! The actual black and white effect creates very good results also. I loved the original version so to me the newer release is just a better and updated version of the original. It now supports very clear large thumbnail views of the large number of presets (over 200) that come with the program. It has a cleaner interface that is more in line with Lightroom (which I think has the best interface of any program) and its competitors.

The image above shows an example of how I like to use this plug-in. The Traditional Collection’s Warm Tool II preset was used as a starting point. In the Basic Exposure section only the Contrast and Brightness was changed slightly. The Adaptive Exposure slider was increased to 0.16 and the Regions was changed to 15.10 – these two sliders are usually where all the Topaz magic occurs when adjusting image exposure. In Local Adjustments, several different brushes can be applied to the image at different overall strengths. A Detail brush was used to paint over the cups, a Smooth brush was applied to the reddish hanging jacket and white sack, a Burn brush was added over the white sack to tone it down a bit, and a Dodge brush was used on the top cup to make it show up a little more. Only the Color brush was not used above, which can really give an image a very special effect. The final step in the program was to set the Overall Transparency slider to 0.35. For more info on the image processing, see Image 1 at end of blog.

WHAT I LIKE!

1. Price! Price! Price! This program has all the features of the other programs and is a great value if you are not specializing in black and white photography. All the bells and whistles are there. And the guarantee that you are will receive free upgrades – this is a no-brainer in my opinion. I got the upgrade for free and this guarantee is true with all their plug-ins. I do not know of any other software developers that offer this type of program. In fact recently, Topaz released a version 2.1 to add more depth to the program.

2. The Quad Tone section is, in my humble opinion, the major reason this program is better than the others. No one offers these Quad Tone sliders for changing the color combinations (except in Photoshop itself using an 8-bit flattened Grayscale, then to Indexed mode) – this is just plain unique! It also is one of the major reasons the unusual soft effects can be created quickly.

3. There is now a full screen window that shows all the presets on large thumbnails of your image. It makes it really easy to compare the various effects from the different presets. And it will also do this on your own My Collection presets and your Favorites. Very handy! If you do not want to do this, a larger thumbnail will appear with the effect applied to your image as you slide over the list of presets.

4. One little feature it now has, and that I love, is the ability to leave each panel open so you can go back and forth without opening up each section every time you want to adjust a slider. Lightroom has always had this capability and it can be very handy to have various panels open. This can be turned on and off in Preferences if you do not like it, but I think it is great feature.

5. The Overall Transparency slider (which maxes out at only 50% of the color in the image) – use this with the Localized Adjustments Color Brush and you can get some wonderful soft color effects on your images. This combination cannot be done near as easily in other programs.

Version 2.1 Update

6. My biggest complaint was answered – Topaz put in an Apply button so you can stack your effects. This allows you to create special Quad Tone presets and Diffusion setting presets that can be applied to an image after you have created your basic black and white image. What a great feature to have – now you do not have to go out of the plug-in and re-enter – it can all be done at once!

7. Another great addition –  I particularly love the Silver and Paper Tone presets shown as drops of color at the top of the right panel in their new Quick Tools section. These can create some beautiful subtle changes to your image. And once again you can set up special preset effects just for this section to use after the original effect has been created. The Color Filter presets are very nice to have handy also.

8. They added many more variations in a drop-down list for black and white borders that makes this section much more functional. It still has a size slider to adjust how large to make it on the image. I will probably use it much more now.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE!

Topaz has been really great about adding new features to this plug-in, so it does not have too many things I do not like, but there are a few.

1. I have a problem with the Adjustment Brushes totally disappearing. This happens when using a brush tool(s) on your image, and you switch to another section to and change a slider in a any of the other section, like Diffusion Effect for example, leaving your brush panel open. When your return to the Localized Adjustments section the brushes will not appear even. This was a problem in some of the Beta versions and that was fixed but reappeared again in this latest version. Why let you keep the panels open if they do not work when you return to them? I have put in a comment on this in the forum so hopefully this will get fixed soon. This should be an easy fix for Topaz. The work-around is to totally close up the brush panel by clicking the little down arrow next to the number 3 Local Adjustments section (do not worry, your original brush strokes will remain), and re-open it up again. Your brushes will now start working again.

2. Wish they would put an Tone Effect slider for the Quad Tones section so just that area could be adjusted. This is available in Adjust5 and Simpify4. It would also be nice to have a Strength Slider active for the Color Brush, as it is for all the other brushes.

3. Watch out after applying an effect that used a Localized Brush – the brushstrokes are not reset after an Apply. This can really mess your next effect you are adding. Just be sure to reset the section if you do not want the same brushstrokes applied again. (This also happens in Topaz Adjust 5 and Simplify 4, but does not happen in Topaz Detail 3 with the Effect Mask.)

4. Still having trouble getting the correct basic settings back when using the image as a Smart Object – I cannot get them to stick. The Last Used preset usually appears from when the program was last opened. I feel this is the weakest point with all the recent Topaz plug-ins. If there are settings I really need to remember, I create a preset or create in Notepad a list of my setting to copy into a Note in Photoshop (sits with the Eyedropper Tool).

5. Little personal complaints here: I miss the old preset image that was on the top left. Sometimes the large thumbnails are just too much and stick a bit more than I like and it would be nice to have that choice back. That is just my personal opinion. Please make a larger Apply button at bottom like in the other programs. Another little request of mine. Please move the size icons back to the right – I do not like going up to the top of the middle of the image to increase to 1:1.

I guess I am sounding a little critical in this blog, but this is such a good plug-in that I would really like it to be perfect. I know Adjust is Topaz’s  best known plug-in, but this B&W Effects has the ability of being one of the best ever created with just a few tweaks. There are some other really nice features too. There is now a Curves Tool section and a nice selection of curves to choose from in a drop-down list which other programs do not offer – this is very handy if you are not liking the way the image looks and need to add some quick contrast. It still has the Diffusion section where the Softness, Diffusion and Diffusion transition can be adjusted gives a slight softness to the whole image – add the detail back in a specific area by using opening the Localized Adjustments and selecting the Detail Brush. This is a wonderful addition to your images and also appears to be unique to B&W Effects. Usually this is found in a color effect plug-in. Another add-on that has been included is a Zone Mode (click the Z at the top right which changes the navigation window into a histogram). By clicking on a number underneath, you can see by different colors which areas are part of that zone on your image. Since I am not into black and white and the Ansel Adams effect to that extent, it is probably not a feature I will use a lot, but many people will find this extremely useful.

If you have other Topaz plug-ins, you will find they all have very similar interfaces and the learning curve is pretty quick for this plug-in. As you can see from my selection of images and previous blogs, I really like the artistic flair this plug-in can add to an image for a needed pop. It is especially strong with the vintage feel. Since I own the other plug-ins and I have been comparing results, I cannot find any areas that Topaz has missed for those interested in doing straight black and white conversions.
……These begonias were just ending up too bright for my taste. To tone it down subtly, as a last step this image was opened up in Topaz Black & White Effects II using a preset I created in the first version that I call SJ Vintage Feel (all my old presets were moved upon updating). This preset contains these settings for Basic Exposure: Contrast 0.06, Brightness 0.06, Boost Blacks 0.26, and Boost Whites 0; and Finishing Touches: Silver and Paper Tone – Tonal Strength was set to 0.64, Balance 0, Silver Hue 12.29, Silver Tone Strength 0.85, Paper Hue 43.90, and Paper Tone Strength 0.38. The Overall Transparency slider was set to 0.55. It gave the soft feel that I needed with just a few clicks. This is something that I cannot do as easily if at all in the other black and white plug-ins. See Image 2 below for more details.
…..Another image from the Native American Festival. These beautiful leather purses being sold by a vendor looked a little overcome by color in the original RAW image. But by using the Black & White Effects plug-in, it becomes much more interesting to view. For the post processing in this image, all I did was click the reset button down at the bottom of the right-hand panels. Then I just went into each section and adjusted each slider until I liked what I saw. One section to look very closely at is the Adaptive Exposure and Regions sliders in the Adaptive Exposure section – these two sliders will give some very good results (this is true with any Topaz filter that has these sliders – always check them out). See Image 3 below for more info.
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These beautiful pink dahlias were so easy to process. It was hard to decide which version to present but this was basically created by combining a very rich texture with Black & White Effects. I used a preset I had created called Hawaiian Morning uses my favorite Quad Tone section to get the results that are always spectacular. See Image 4 below for preset settings if you would like to them. The Black & White Layer was set to a Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity so the original image is still preset.
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To create my rather dark sepia toned image, Black & White Effects was applied to the image layer and also to one of the texture layers. The Platinum preset was applied with a Diffusion effect added, and then used a Detail Brush to bring back the fairies face. Another preset was applied to add a Quad Tone effect to the image for the nice sepia feel. See Image 5 information for more details, including my preset settings. A colorful texture was added in Photoshop on top of the fairy layer, and another of my old presets was applied to it to give it a similar color tone.
…..I took some artistic liberty on this image of the Towers at Westminster Abbey in London. I wanted to make the picture look different from what everyone else has. My first step once in Photoshop was to go to Topaz B&W Effects 2 and just added Traditional Collection High Pass I with the Creative Effects Diffusion – Softness slider at .16 and Diffusion slider at .14. Then three textures were added to get the final effect. See Image 6 info for more.

Bottom line – if you want a black and white plug-in, this is a fabulous way to go without spending so much and you get all the added color options. This program is one of the most powerful in the Topaz line-up in what it provides and the new upgrade just gives it a fresher look. It is still a solid contender as a black and white plug-in. It is definitely worth a second look if you want to add some creative aspects to your images. Check out my related blogs below – there are many different Quad Tones settings you may like. Definitely try out the trial and see what you think!

Sorry for the long post, but this is really that good a plug-in so I felt it needed to be reviewed thoroughly……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs – check them out to see how I used this plug-in in different ways:
Beautiful Feathers!
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 7: Check Out Your Local History
Clowning Around with Topaz!
Where Am I?
Hibiscus Flowers – I Love to Photograph Them!
Black and White Effects on Outside Art
Cleaning Up a Messed Up Photo
Topaz Black and White Effects Quad Tones Are Great!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
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IMAGE INFORMATION
Image 1: Topaz Detail 3 using the Overall Medium Detail II preset was applied – a layer mask filled with black was added and the mugs were painted back. Next Topaz Black & White Effects 2 was applied using setting discussed above. Kim Klassen’s Return texture (sign up for Kim’s newsletter and get several of her beautiful textures including the Return texture used in this image) was added with a 78% layer opacity – a white layer mask was added and the center of the image softly painted back into view. Next French Kiss Artiste Breeze texture was set to Overlay and 53% opacity. 2 Lil’ Owls Bonus Texture 4 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was used as a border in white that was placed around the image. A Curves Adjustment Layer was the last step to add some contrast back into the image.
Image 2: This image actually used Topaz Detail 3 twice and localizing the effect on the flowers. Also some leaves had to be added to cover some rather ugly tissue paper that was sticking up. Three textures were stacked: 2 Lil’ Owls Mosaic Set Destine texture was set to Soft Light at 100% opacity, Kim Klassen’s Cloth & Paper Texture Florence set to Soft Light blend mode at 47% layer opacity, and French Kiss Artiste Avril texture set to Overlay blend mode at 29% opacity. A Curves Adjustment Layer was applied and the Auto button clicked to get the good colors. Then the Black & White Effects plug-in was applied as stated above.
Image 3: This image was very simply processed. Just used Topaz B&W Effects 2 to begin with using settings under image, then added a slight S Curves Adjustment Layer and painted out the two purses in the middle to add focus. Next a Levels Adjustment Layer was added with the middle tab set to 0.65 and the Output Levels set to 41 to soften the image just a little.
Image 4: I bought these dahlias to plant in my yard, but before I did, I took their picture using a kid’s bent white poster board for a background. It was then easy to add a painterly texture to the image without any distractions in the background. Mellisa Gallo’s Painted Textures 2 for 5 Friday Spring Sky texture was added. The Dahlia layer was duplicated, moved on top, and set to Soft Light blend Mode at 100% opacity – this removes all the white areas so the texture shows through. A Levels Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+Click between layers) and the Output Levels were set to 0 and 229 to lighten the image a little. Next I used created darken and lighten layers to dodge and burn on the flowers (see my The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! blog). A composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) was placed on top where Black & White Effects was applied. (Here are the settings I used: Adaptive Exposure:  Adaptive Exposure  0.41, Regions  26, Protect Highlights 0, Protect Shadows  0, Detail 1.11, Detail Boost  1.09, and Process Details Independently; Quad Tone: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08, Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9, Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5, and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0;  Vignette:  Vignette Strength  -.039, Vignette Size  0.83, Vignette Transition  0.58, and Vignette Curvature  0.70.; and Transparency:  Overall Transparency 1.00.). Once back in Photoshop, in the Layer Style Advanced Blending section, the B Channel was unchecked which gives a bluish tint to the whole image. The layer was set to Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity.
Image 5: Once out of Lightroom, Black & White Effects 2 was applied using the Platinum preset and changing Adaptive Exposure slider to 0.42. Next the Diffusion section was opened and the Diffusion slider was set to 0.79. In the Located Adjustments, the Details Brush at 0.50 opacity was used to paint detail back into the fairy’s face and hair. These settings were applied. Next a Quad Tone preset was applied and set to an Overall Transparency of 1.00. (Here are my SJ_Quad_DkB_Gr_Yel_Wh preset settings: Color 1 Region (R1/G1/B12) at 15.08 ; Color 2 Region (R63/G78/B85) at 143.9; Color 3 Region (R216/G211/B129) at 227.5; and Color 4 Region (R255/G254/B237) at 255.0.) Back in Photoshop Kim Klassen’s Framed texture was added on top and set to Soft Light at 100% to get the slight edge around image. Next Kim Klassen’s Abstract Texture was added and taken into Black & White Effects 2 where my SJ Partial Color Look preset (one of my favorites) was applied. (Here are the settings for this preset if you would like them: Basic Exposure:  Contrast  0.10, Brightness  -0.02, Boost Blacks  -0.10, and Boost Whites  0.50; Adaptive Exposure:  Adaptive Exposure  0.64, Regions  50, Protect Highlights  0.02, Protect Shadows  0.02, Detail  2.28, Detail Boost  1.00, and check Process Details Independently; Quad Tone:  Color 1 Region  (R16/G15/B11) 7.46, Color 2 Region  (R79/G78/B68)  83.33, Color 3 Region  (R159/G156/B143)  164.2, and Color 4 Region  (R255/G254/B242)  255.0; Film Grain:  Grain Kodak TMaxPro 100, Grain Contrast  1.25, and Grain Size  32.50; Vignette:  Vignette Strength  -.058, Vignette Size  0.92, Vignette Transition  0.28, and Vignette Curvature 0.11; and Transparency:  Overall Transparency  0.67). This layer was set to Soft Light blend mode at 43% opacity.) Now just a Levels Adjustment Layer and a couple text layer using free Radium J and Batik Regular fonts.
Image 6: The three textures used in the image were: Melissa Gallo’s Painted Textures Winter Storm set to Linear Burn blend mode at 42%, Taupe Canvas set to Linear Dodge at 48% opacity, and Confetti set to Color Burn at 60%. These textures were all obtained from her specials such as Black Friday or 2 for Friday specials.


Native American Beauty

This week I decided to just display a few of the beautiful images I got from the 24th Annual Native American Festival in Ormond Beach, Florida this past January. If you get a chance to go to a Native American event, it is a great place to photograph unusual items and the colors are wonderful! This headdress was one of the most beautiful things I saw.  Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Detail 3’s Overall Strong II preset was applied first. Topaz Simplify’s BuzSim preset was applied to a duplicate layer. With a soft black brush on an added layer mask, the edges of the feathers were painted back in showing the layer below. A composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and Topaz Adjust 5’s French Countryside preset was selected. The layer mask for the Simplify layer was copied by highlighting it – press ALT and drag it up to the Adjust layer. Next Kim Klassen‘s texture 1612 (beautiful texture that was free by signing up for her newsletter) was left to Normal blend mode at 89%, but a layer mask was applied to the texture and the center painted out to clear out the middle. A Curves Adjustment Layer was used to lighten the image up just a little. A New Layer was added to burn in and define some of the feather edges where they overlap in the image. (See my Fun Photoshop Blog The Best Dodging and Burning Technique! for more information on how to do this.) The last step involved adding my free SJ Painter Oil Frame to the image with a Bevel and Emboss Layer style (check Texture and set Scale 100% and Depth +79} – used my SJ Smudge Texture set to grayscale for a pattern, but any gray and white pattern would be fine). The frame was set to 72% opacity.
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These Rawhide Rattles are something I do not ever remember seeing before. One of the vendor’s had this assortment for sale. The image was first processed in Nik Color Efex Pro 4 using three filters stacked: Detail Extractor, Midnight set to Neutral Color Set and Opacity of 67%, and Monday Morning using Sepia Color Set at 80% opacity – kind of an unusual group. 2 Lil’ Owls Workbook Bonus Texture 16 (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) was applied using Soft Light at 100% opacity. In the white layer mask, some of the detail was brought back on the left rattle. Basically that was all that was done to get this very antique look.
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This image of a Mexican Aztec dancer was a little difficult to process due the fact that there were a lot of distractions in the background, and his face was not real clear and needed a lot of clean up. The feathers in his headdress were so beautiful that I really wanted to process the image. Therefore, first the headdress was carefully extracted the Quick Selection Tool and Quick Mask Mode, and Shadowhouse Creations Rage Texture was placed behind him and set to Normal at 100% opacity. Topaz  Adjust 5’s Painting Venice preset and Topaz Detail 3’s Overall Detail Medium II preset were applied. A Selective Color Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the Reds and Yellows in the image. A frame was added and set to a tan color.
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This was a wide assortment of Native American toys that were on a bright red tablecloth. I decided it would look better as a sketch with toned down colors. In Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was used to make the image overexposed. Topaz Simplify 4 was added and a preset was created using a painting preset as a starting point and Quad Tones of Black/Deep Red/Gold/Light Yellow tones were applied at a Tone Strength of .57. An Overall Transparency of .31 was applied. I ran Simplify 4 again on a duplicate background layer and this time applied a light black and white preset. Back in Photoshop it was stacked it on top of the first Simplify layer and set to Soft Light.  A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was placed on top where Reds Saturation was set to -41 to desaturate the color slightly. Kim Klassen’s Mary texture was applied using Normal Blend Mode and just painting out the center of the texture in a layer mask. As a last step, a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied using the Auto button to even out the colors and contrast. I think it gives a really nice sketch look and is appropriate for the various types of objects that were being displayed.
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These are feather headbands that were also being sold by a vendor. This is a funny story as I would never have used these settings if not for some spam I received from a comment that referenced how he added texture to his images. Here is the result I got from following some of the process. First Topaz Adjust 5’s Spicify preset was applied at 83% opacity. Next apply Topaz Simplify 4’s Watercolor II preset. Changed image to an 8-bit mode and went to Filter -> Stylize ->Diffuse Filter and selected anisotropic. Exit filter and rotate document -90 degrees counter clockwise using Free Transform (CTRL+T). Apply same filter again. Exit and rotate image clockwise +90. Apply the filter for a third time. Now go to Filters -> Texture -> Texturizer and set texture to Canvas, Scaling 200%, Relief 7, and Lighting Top. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Level was applied increasing the saturation to +30 and a Curves Adjustment Layer was applied to increase contrast. Kind of a strange technique but I really liked the results.

I hope you enjoyed these images – nice to do something a little different. Have a nice week!…..Digital Lady Syd


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