Just had some fun experimenting this week and came up with these images. For the above I love the way the texture and color and abstract form compliment each other. I started out with a very over-exposed image of two pink grocery tulips – I was actually experimenting with my shutter settings on my camera when I shot this image. (See top image in photo below.) I do not know why I decided to use this image but it just looked so different – a few adjustments were made to the RAW file in Lightroom following my blog workflow in How to Use Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) or Lightroom 4 Quickly before opening it in Photoshop. (See bottom image in the photo below.) I wanted to try out some of my new watercolor brushes (here is a download link) I made in my How to Turn a Brush into a Watercolor Brush blog. Following this blog’s basic workflow the layer was duplicated and, instead of selecting the flowers, this top layer’s blend mode was set to Darken so the white disappears. On a New Layer set between the Background layer and duplicated layer, I selected SJ Watercolor Erodible 2 brush set to 250 pixels and a blue color where the watercolor background was painted in. A Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was clipped (ALT+click between the layers to clip) to the blue watercolor layer to change it to the purplish color. Since I only want to change the flowers, the top layer was highlighted and Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Simplify 4 plug-in was opened. The Oil Painted Tone I preset was applied as is. Back in Photoshop a Curves Adjustment Layer was added for a little more contrast to make the background stand out more. The center image below is where I was at in the workflow at this stage.
I decided to try just one more thing so a composite layer was created (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) of all layers. I opened up Topaz photoFXLab (this is the new Topaz interface to access the different plug-ins quickly) since I was not sure where I was going with the image. First I went into Topaz Adjust 5 and applied the Spicify preset – it looked great! I created a Stamped (same as a composite) layer in the plug-in and opened Topaz Lens Effects to see what a Fisheye effect would do – it did not look good so I started trying out the other lens effects. I ended up in the Lens-Split Prism section. After clicking on all the presets, I liked the Seven Way Split Prism with changes. (I changed the Mixing Level to .50, Radius to .42, Rotation to 83.76 and left at Type I.) Back in photoFXLab I created another stamped layer and in the Adjustments tab, the Saturation slider was set to -37 and my favorite Dynamics slider to +27. Another stamped layer and Topaz Simplify4 was opened where one of my old presets I call Factory HDR Look was applied. (The settings are Simplify section: YCbCr Colorspace, Simplify Size .52, Feature Boost 3, Details Strength 1.51, Details Boost 1.27, Details Size .62, Remove Small 0, and Remove Weak 0.16; Adjust section – Brightness .01, Contrast 1.07, Saturation 1.93, Saturation Boost .97, Dynamics 0, Structure 1.0, Structure Boost 1.00; Edges section – Edge Type MonoEdge – Fine, Edge Strength 4.47, Simplify Edge .39, Reduce Weak 7.78, Reduce Small 0.07, and Fatten Edge 4.11. In Finishing Touches section the Transparency was set to .53 – it made the flowers pop!) I decided this was enough photo manipulation. Back in Photoshop I wanted the tulips a different color than the actual reddish pink they were. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to turn them into the purple colors. (The settings were for Reds Hue to -97, Saturation to -38 and Lightness to +14; the Yellows Saturation was changed to -21; and the Greens Hue to -124 and Saturation to -29.) Totally changed the image. I used 2 Lil Owls Texture 4 from their Texture Workshop E-Book bundle set to Darken blend mode to remove the white center to create a border, and then turned the frame color to white by clipping a white Color Fill Adjustment Layer to the texture (ALT+click between the layers to clip). A final Curves Adjustment Layer was added just to even out contrast.
This is another image that I had to really fiddle around with to get something interesting. I liked the different plants in the image – it was taken while in my car at a stop light outside a shopping center. The original image is seen below.
I got the idea for the initial steps to this image from a very creative book I just purchased by Theresa Airey called Digital Photo Art New Directions. In it she uses a program called Akvis Sketch to create some effects on her images. With the new Topaz Simplify 4 Sketch section, it seemed reasonable to me that it could be used in the same way. It worked! This image started off using Topaz Adjust Mild Detail preset on a duplicate background layer. This layer was duplicated and Topaz Simplify 4 was opened to the Sketch section Hard Pencil II preset and adjustments were made to the preset. (All sections but Edges were turned off (here area the slider settings: MonoEdge Fine, Edge Strength 5.00, Simplify Edge .40, Reduce Weak .54, Reduce Small .52, and Flatten Edge 0). In Photoshop a composite layer of just the Topaz Adjust layer and the background (turn off the Simplify 4 layer by clicking on the eyeball in the Layers Panel) and highlight the two remaining layers – CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E. On this layer Topaz Simplify 4 was applied again but this time the Pastel preset was used. (These settings were changed: Simplify Section - YCbCr, Simplify Size 0.27, Details Boost 1.00, Details Size .20, Remove Small 0.10, and Remove Weak 0.31; Adjust Section – Brightness 0.10, Contrast 1.48, Saturation 1.70, Saturation Boost 1.24 , Dynamics 0.36, Structure 3.33, and Structure Boost 0.67; Finishing Touches, turned on the Tone section – Tone Strength 0.46; and Local Adjustments – painted back the yellow flowers and a little of the pink and whitish leaves using a .37 opacity brush). This layer was placed below the sketched layer and set to 73% opacity.) The Sketch Layer should be placed above the Simplify Pastel preset layer, turned on, set to Multiply blend mode to get rid of the white area, and set to 73% opacity. A new Composite layer was created using all the layers. A clean up layer was added to get rid of distracting areas. I decided I needed to fill the lower center area so I copied the purple pansies in the center, warped them and changed flowers to pink. Next I used a program that I have always loved but do not use a lot – The Plugin Galaxy – which has this marvelous Mirror Effect plugin. It was set to Vertical Right – then you can drag in the interface by right clicking and dragging to get very different results. I dragged all the way left for my final image above, but below is a screen shot dragging almost all the way right.
Since I wanted the pink hyacinth back in the image, I added a layer mask to the mirrored layer and used a black brush to paint back the pink flower and the side. A PNG filter similar to my SJ PNG Borders was added and a Gradient Overlay using the Pastel Grunge gradient (free from Graphix1 A White Shade of Pale Gradients set) at 130% scale at -112 degrees was added to create the pink to green frame effect. It took a while to do but the results are very nice and interesting.
Digital Lady Syd’s Rule No. 1: Take the time to Experiment! – Definitely paid off in this instance. Hope the workflow did not put you to sleep but I wanted to show how you can create some very interesting effects by just experimenting a little. In both cases Topaz Simplify 4 was applied twice using different presets for each image. Really liked the final results and they are something unique and truly mine!…..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Digital Lady Syd’s Review of Topaz photoFXlab v1.1
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop
Sometimes I like to just have one or two colors in an image for more impact and artistic appeal. There are many ways to do this in just Photoshop itself – some as simple as using a Black and White Adjustment Layer, a Channel Mixer Adjustment Layer (with the Monochrome box checked) or the Hue Saturation Adjustment Layer (with the Saturation slider set to 100), and in the attached layer mask painting back in the areas you want colored. I decided to use some of the wonderful Photoshop plug-ins that are available and all images in my post today are using them. The above uses probably the most powerful black and white plug-in made – Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). This image is of the steps up the side of the Keck Telescope on the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii. I loved the way the stairs made such a striking line against the white of the building and how the deep blue color matched the sky. I could actually imagine climbing up there and looking around and down at the telescope lens! Now that would be a cool shot! Since there were a lot of distracting colors in the image, the decision was made to convert it to a black and white to remove it, but wanted to retain the beautiful blue color. In SEP2 adjustments were made globally to the image using the Neutral preset and then control points were placed strategically on all the blue areas with the SC (Selective Coloration) sliders opened up to 100% to let the color show through. Nik’s Viveza 2 was used to even out the sky and that was about all. Very simple processing for a very simple image.
Here is another image (from the Hawaiian Waikoloa Village on the Big Island in Hawaii) using Nik plug-ins: First Viveza to add contrast and sharpness to several elements in the image; next SEP2 where control points were placed on the lounger and the water where the color was to appear – adjust the SC slider to 100% to get the full color showing up (or set it lower for just a little color as shown in the water area); and finally Color Efex Pro 4 using the Detail Extractor and the Glamour Glow filters (set to an overall effect of 73%). Back in Photoshop a Gaussian Blur layer was added to slightly soften the background – a gradient was applied to a layer mask to do this and the close up tree trunks were painted back in. The original image was way to busy with the full color applied, but with the blue and cool tones applied, it makes for a relaxing image of Hawaii.
The image above was taken while walking to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner in San Francisco in the winter. I had a really difficult time getting the look I wanted. This image originally had a very tungsten yellow look that was corrected in Lightroom. I knew it needed a lot of work but I did not want to get rid of it since it represents to me what San Francisco is all about. After trying many different plug-ins and Photoshop tools, this dark foggy image was the winner. It was really cold, windy and damp outside and this is exactly how I remember it. There were two things I had trouble working with – the bright street light and the soft shot from taking the image at night without a tripod. My camera (a Nikon D300) is not the best at night. One other thing that really improved this image was the crop – it took several attempts to get the balance I was looking for. There was little color in this image to being with, so I already knew it needed to be processed as a black and white image. Therefore, I went back to another of my favorites, Topaz Black and White Effects (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) using the Classic Traditional preset with adjustments. This plug-in is somewhat like SEP2, but does so many different things that it is hard to compare the two. Both are excellent products and I would be lost without either one of them. The windows were painted back in to bring out the soft warm glow feel. The last step added the Fog 1 preset in Topaz Lens Effects to enhance the fog that was already present to some extent, but this could have been painted in using a fog brush on a separate layer and adjusting the layer opacity. Also, I did use Imagenomics Noiseware on this image at the beginning as it had a lot of noise – they just came out with a new version and I am trying out the trial. So far I love it!
My last example is perhaps my favorite since it came out so sharp and clean. Believe it or not, this wonderful little mill sits outside the Big Thunder Mountain Roller Coaster (here’s a pretty lame U-Tube of the ride but it does bring back memories!) at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, Orlando, Florida. Once again, several attempts were made at processing this image with the red mill being the focal point I wanted in color. I ended up using OnOne’s Perfect Effects (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) to get this terrific look. I keep forgetting how powerful this program can be and yet it created such a low distortion to the image even though there were four filters stacked to get this result: Black & White Grainy Film preset with the mill and center area of the image painted back in to show the color, Photo Filters Tobacco, Glow Black Soft, and Vignette Big Softy. The masking feature in this program is fabulous and it took just a few minutes to mask in the colors I wanted.
Conclusion: As I said, there are many ways this can be done – you do not have to have the plug-ins. I do believe Photoshop’s Black and White Adjustment Layer is quite a powerful tool to turn you images into really beautiful black and whites. Most of the plug-in effects can then be accomplished using Hue Saturation Adjustment Layers or Selective Color Adjustment Layers. Even Curves and Levels Adjustment Layers can add some real interesting colors and contrast to an image. The plug-ins I used here do add a lot more dimension to an image in a very short time to get effects that take longer to do in just Photoshop, so I do recommend you try out any of the ones I mentioned. Experiment around and see what you can get. As you can see, it took me several attempts and I even walked away from an image for a day, to get the results I wanted. The really nice thing is that if an image is just too busy and there is too much color in it, try adding a quick B&W Adjustment Layer to see if converting it to a black and white can calm it down. If so, then try different Photoshop tools or plug-ins to bring back color on where you want the viewer to focus – it can make what appeared to be at first glance a bad picture into a great one!……Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
NIK’s Champion Plug-in – Silver Efex Pro 2
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Where Am I?
Black and White Photo or Not? Give It a Try on That Difficult Image
Loving Both Filters!
Since I am such a big fan of Topaz, I thought it might be interesting to use the same image and see what effects I could come up with using each of the five major plug-ins in the Topaz Plug-in Bundle (to go to website, click on the sidebar in my Tidbits Blog). The photo is of an old Sears Victorian house built in St. Augustine about 100 years ago. There are still a few that can be seen when driving around the city. Very beautiful houses! I could picture myself living in one! All these images were finished by painting in a flare in the top right corner using my Lens Flare Brushes since the image was blown out by the sun in that corner, and a Curves Adjustment Layer. I have written about almost all of these plug-ins previously, so check out my related blogs at bottom if you find you want more information on one of them.
This is the mainstay of the whole Topaz Plug-in Bundle, in my opinion, so this is the first plug-in used on the image. I used a preset I had created a long time ago to get this effect. Basically it involved using a warm feel to achieve an early morning look. Many different filters could easily have been used – this plug-in is fun to try on new looks to your images.
This is a creative plug-in – definitely gives a more painterly look as opposed to the more realistic look some of the other plug-ins give. The canned Buzz Sim preset was used to create this look, an effect I have always enjoyed – see my blog “Simplifier and Simplify Filters” about the original filter that was picked up by Topaz many years ago.
Topaz Lens Effect
Topaz recently updated this plug-in and added three more filters and several presets to make this plug-in even more versatile. I am not the best at setting up a great depth map, it does take some practice. In the image above, you can see that the center ground is more in focus than the foreground and background. This is where this plug-in really excels and once you get the hang of it, it is quit effective. I do not know of any other plug-in that does this type of effect. In this image, a Bokeh Selective effect was applied and several adjustments made after the depth map was created. This plug-in allows you to stack filters, so next a Filter Dual Tone was created where a Blue/Cyan color was added to the top and a slight yellow cast added to the bottom of the image. Finally a new filter from the latest upgrade was used called Warmth and the Warm I preset was applied. Overall, a bit of a different look with softer lines of the house with the focal point being centered on the palm tree and the color beams in the image.
Topaz Detail is an overlooked plug-in but actually gives some wonderful results. This image uses the Desaturation Blush preset with the Saturation slider set to -0.62. It gives a very nice effect on this house and perhaps the most natural of them all. I was surprised how similar it looks to the Topaz Adjust filter result.
Topaz Black and White Effects
This is my favorite plug-in in the bundle and a relative newcomer. Every time I use it, the image comes out really nice – not necessarily like I shot it, but with a bit of artistic flair added, and yet it retains the true nature of the image. It looks like how I envision an old Victorian house should look on a hot summer morning. Totally unique feel. In this image a preset I created for a sunny water landscape was used. (This preset contains the default Basic Exposure settings; Adaptive Exposure Settings: Adaptive Exposure 0.18, Regions 26.10, Protect Highlights and Shadows – 0, Detail 1.11 and Detail Boost 1.09; Quad Tone settings: Color 1 Region (color R1/G1/B12) set to 0.60, Color 2 Region (color R63/G78/B85) set to 95.97, Color 3 Region (color R216/G211/B129) set to 141.2, and Color 4 Region (color R255/G254/B237) set to 255.0; Edge Exposure set; and Transparency set 1.00. The key to this look is the Quad Tone section in Finishing Touches. See my Tidbits Blog “Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in” for more information on this.
Topaz Adjust, Detail and Black and White Effects
Topaz has done a wonderful job of providing great videos to learn how to use all their plug-ins provided in the bundle. A video, “Creative Essentials with Topaz Plug-Ins presented by Joel Wolfson,” was presented where he went over his Topaz workflow to create some beautiful works of digital art. I followed some of his suggestions and created this final image. I was very pleased with the results – looks similar to the one above but is more of a black and white effect and, again, not unlike what I visualize an old Victorian house might look like.
I hope this is giving everyone a chance to see the flexibility that this bundle of plug-ins can produce. With just a few of these plug-ins, a great variety of effects can be achieved and they can be used together to get even more interesting results. I am very happy that I have this set of filters at my fingertips – they do produce beautiful results. …..Digital Lady Syd
Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Using Topaz Adjust 5 and Color Efex Pro 4 with Photoshop Elements
Topaz Adjust 5 Is Here! First Look!
Topaz Lens Effect’s Artistic Flair!
Combining Plug-ins – Double the Effect! (Several Topaz Plug-ins)
Little Nighttime Fun from Topaz! (Topaz Adjust and Len Effects Plug-ins)
Loving Both Filters (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Trying Out the Minimalist Look? (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Same Image – Different Plug-In (Topaz B&W Effects and Lens Effects Plug-ins)
Sunny Preset for Topaz Black and White Effects
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Quad Tones in Topaz Black and White Effects Plug-in
Get Rid of Those Power Lines Fast – with Paths and Spot Healing Tool! (Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in)
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Just Another Topaz Black & White Effect Example
Topaz B&W Effects vs. Nik’s Silver Efex Pro
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-In – A Real Winner!
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Topaz InFocus Plug-in – Digital Lady Syd’s Review
More Filmstrip Fun – How Can This Be? (Topaz Detail Plug-in)
Instant Mirror and Quick Mirror for Photoshop (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)
How to Add Images to Text (Topaz Simplify Plug-in)
NIK Color Efex Pro 4, Topaz Lens Effects, and OnOne PhotoFrame 4.6
The original image was of a shop on St. George Street in St. Augustine. My Vivid Drawing Look preset (see my Tidbits Blog “Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 Pseudo HDR Recipe“) in Lightroom was used with some luminance color adjustment before being brought into Photoshop. In NIK Color Efex Pro 4 (CEP4), the Darken/Lighten Center filter and Film Efex: Vintage set to Film Type 27 was added. The layer was copied and Rasterized to get rid of the Smart Object (right-click on layer and select rasterize) and then the Topaz Lens Effect plug-in was used. The Fisheye Lens Effect was applied using 73% distortion amount and adjusting all the Image Adjustment sliders. A New Layer was added above and the Sharpen Tool was used to locally sharpen parts of the image. Finally the “acid burned controlled 05″ OnOne PhotoFrame was added to finish the look. This is a crazy look but it shows what an interesting result you can get by stacking the plug-in effects on one image.
Photomatix Pro 4, NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust 4
This image is of the famous pedestrian St. George Street in St. Augustine, Florida. It was processed as an HDR in Photomatix Pro 4.0 and then brought into two of my favorite Photoshop plug-ins: NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Topaz Adjust. To get this vintage artsy effect, six CEP4 filters were stacked into a recipe (Darken/Lighten Center, Brilliance/Warmth, Tonal Contrast, Image Borders, Dark Contrasts, and High Key in that order); and in Topaz Adjust 4, a preset was created from a Topaz video on “Rick Sammon’s Top Topaz Tricks, Tips, and Techniques” that used the Spicify preset to create a soft artsy effect.
NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0, Topaz Black and White Effects, and OnOne PhotoFrame 4.6
All my favorite plug-ins were used on this one. The Flagler Presbyterian Church in St. Augustine is one of the beautiful places to see while enjoying the city. NIK CEP4 was first applied using my Pseudo HDR1 preset from my blog “Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4” with an additional white Vignette filter. It was then toned down by using the Topaz Black and White Effects plug-in. The Albumen Collection – Aubergine preset was used as starting point and then adjusting the Basic Exposure settings and setting the Transparency setting to 0.58. Back in Photoshop this layer was set to 59%, a New Layer was added and the Sharpening Tool was used to bring out the edges on the tops of the little towers, and finally the “acid burned controlled 15″ preset from OnOne PhotoFrames was added in a matching cream color. These three plug-ins really do go hand-in-hand to create some stunning results!
It is a lot of fun to use these plug-ins! It is even more fun to mix and match! I use the OnOne PhotoFrames a lot because it can enhance an image that lacks some pizzazz. It is very great that the colors can be changed easily and sampled from the image to match the colors in the image. I also like Topaz Black and White Effects and NIK Color Efex Pro 4 as my two favorite creative plug-ins. Topaz Lens Effects does a great job of recreating the fisheye look without having to buy an expensive fisheye lens – there are several other effects in it that can be a lot of fun to try out. See below for my other blog links to these plug-ins for further information on how to use them.
Try stacking some of these effects – you will be surprised what great results you can create! Have fun experimenting!…..Digital Lady Syd
Related Digital Lady Syd Blog Links:
Topaz Lens Effects Plug-In
Why I Love Topaz Adjust!
Topaz B&W Effects Plug-in – A Real Winner!
NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 – First Try!
The New Film Efex-Vintage Filter from NIK CEP 4
NIK Color Efex Pro 4 – Digital Lady Syd’s Review!
The Art Corner: Painting and Sculpture by Tassaert
Pseudo HDR Using NIK Color Efex Pro 4
Settings for Vivid Drawing Look ACR/Lightroom Preset and NIK Color Efex Pro Pseudo HDR Recipe
I decided to do this blog because I was experimenting in Photoshop trying to see if different plug-ins can get the same look even though they are very different. I started with this basic image from Camachee Cove in St. Augustine, Florida. This is a really pretty place to take images and my beloved sailboat lives there. Only the Basic sliders in Lightroom were adjusted and all the following images used this one as a starting place. Also, whenever possible I used a Smart Layer to save the settings so I could easily go back to tweak the sliders. I am becoming a big fan of doing this with all plug-in adjustments!
Overall, the above is not a bad picture. That said, I still love the new Topaz Black and White Effect plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site) and decided to give it a whirl and see if the image feeling could be improved. Below is what was achieved using this plug-in.
Personally I loved the results (this is how I remember it) and the cool thing is that it took only two minutes to get this look and it was done! If you are interested in the settings for the Sunny Preset, my Tidbits Blog “Sunny Preset – Topaz Black and White Effects” list how to do it. There was just one further adjustment made in Photoshop which, unfortunately when adding most of these plug-ins, there is some noise created. I took the image back into Adobe Camera Raw (see my blog “Edit Layers with ACR Script“) but any Noise Reduction plug-in would work fine also.
Next I tackled the updated NIK Color Efex Pro 4.0 (CEP4) plug-in to see what I would get. This plug-in is another fabulous NIK product and I totally love using it. I could not get it to do what Topaz B&W Effects did as quickly and as well. I spent a long time fooling around in CEP4 trying to get this effect, especially the color effect.
The sky has a really ugly edge in the upper clouds that I could not adjust easily. This image also has Hue/Sat and Selective Color adjustment layers and still is not quite right. The stacked CEP4 filters used for this image were: High Key, Brilliance/Warmth, Graduated User Defined, and Vignette. Normally this image could be adjusted nicely but when trying to copy the Topaz B&W image, it does not do this so easily.
Now to be fair, since Topaz B&W was used, I next tried the NIK Silver Efex Pro 2 (SEP2). The results are pretty nice, but they still had to be adjusted in Photoshop. Below is the final image that started as a black and white using NIK .
The results are pretty close. The image was processed in SEP2 using the High Structure preset and a Red Color Filter. The layer was set to Luminosity blend mode in Photoshop, a Color Fill adjustment layer using a a yellow-beige Fill Color (9f9f84) set to Vivid Light blend mode and 55% opacity, and a low opacity light beige edge added to the top and bottom of the image. The sky and water color is very close to the Topaz B&W results, but it took a lot longer and required Photoshop work to achieve the results, and you had to know what you were trying to do.
Now this next image uses OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site). They have a new version coming out shortly which may make this much easier to do but overall, it gave a reasonable approximation to the Topaz B&W result.
I do not use this plug-in as much since I seem to have trouble getting the look I want and it is very computer RAM intensive. It also does not support Smart Objects at this point. In all fairness, I do believe it is a really good plug-in and it already has stacking abilities for effects. Unfortunately, at this point it does not have different sliders for the effects, but they do offer several setting choices for each filter, and several filter effects can be brushed on using a brush and mask in the plug-in. I plan on reviewing the upgrade after it becomes available. In this case, the clouds just do not have the detail and water and sky color is not quite right. There were 6 effects stacked to get the effect and I saved it down as a preset to preserve. If I was more familiar with the program, I might have been able to get a better result since there is no shortage of filters in this plug-in.
Alright, let’s change things up a bit and go back to Topaz using their fairly new Lens Effects plug-in (click on right in my Tidbits Blog to access site).
It also gives a nice result even though it is a different type of plug-in. The Dual Tone Filter Effect was used as a starting point using the Green to Yellow preset. Both Regions A and B were adjusted – this is very similar to the Quad Tones in Topaz B&W Effects. That is one reason there is some similarity, especially in the sky horizon area. A Vignette was also added in the program. It is nice that you can get similar results without buying every plug-in module in the set.
Personally I still like the Topaz Black and White Effects result the best. I hope this gives you some idea about how similar but how different these plug-ins are when applied to the same image. I did not mean to make it look like one plug-in is better than the other, just that it really depends on what your picture is will determine how it looks finished. If you do not like the way it turns out with one of the plug-ins, try a different one – it can be totally different! Have fun experimenting…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I am going to discuss textures since I suggested using them in last week’s blog on “The Soft, Dreamy Look,” which created a free action to apply to your images. Textures are a very popular effect and can give a totally nice and different look to an image if applied correctly.
The basic technique involves just adding a texture image (a jpg can be added to a raw, psd or tiff file at this stage) on top of your image. Do this by dragging the texture into your photo as a Smart Object from Photoshop Bridge or just open the texture file and copy and paste the layer onto the photo. At this point I usually rasterize the layer by right-clicking on the Smart Object in the Layers Palette and select Rasterize from the menu. A Smart Object is not necessary unless you are applying a filter to the texture and may want to adjust the settings at a later date. Most texture effects are achieved by changing the layer blend modes and varying layer opacities, then using layer masks to delete out areas where the texture is too obvious. The uniqueness can come from stacking several textures using different blend modes and opacities. There are many resources available on textures and how to use them effectively. The linked article, called “Tips for Texturing Photographs,” has several great tips – some that I want to share.
- How do you match your image subject to a texture? Look for subjects with a soft quality like flowers, misty images, or of simple composition.
- Figure out what you are trying to do with your picture – fill open spaces, get a painterly look, vintage feel, or grunge look?
- If the texture does not work, try a different one. Usually match the texture strength with the subject – soft textures for flowers, stronger textures for structures.
If using textures over photos of people, please check out this short video, “Guide to Using Textures with Photos in Photoshop (must be a member to access now),” to adjust the tone on the people and their skin. It uses the Average Filter in Photoshop instead of layer masks.
Textures can be bought or downloaded for free
There are many beautiful textures that can be bought. Florabella Collections has two very nice sets of textures. I like the Ash Textures that I purchased several years ago, but I just figured out he is no longer selling them. This is a shame since they are really nice textures. Flypaper Textures (blog linked above to Tips for Texturing Photographs) also has some very nice textures for sale. This site also has a lot of good information on textures so take a look. Caleb Kimbrough has released several hundred textures, some of excellent quality and most are free, at his website Lost and Taken. He has also written a really nice blog entry called “How to Create Subtle Grunge Textures” that shows how to make your own interesting textures by combining several different ones.
The top image uses a very popular effect. It is made simply by adding a worn-looking board texture at Hard Light blend mode over a flower photo (Curves Adjustment Layer on photo gives the blown out look). This particular texture is one from BittBox, another great free texture site – this particular texture can be downloaded from the Bittbox Flickr site here – just select the size you want, right click on image, and choose Save Image As to save on your hard drive.
This image was created using a brownish Ash texture layer set to Hard Light at 75% opacity and one of Caleb Kimbrough Summer textures, which I really like, set to Overlay at 73%.
The daisy image started with my “SJ-Soft Dreamy Look Action” that I created in last weeks blog. The image can be cleaned up on a layer before applying the action since it does not require a labeled Background Layer to run. An Ash Texture was added using the Hard Light blend mode at 75% opacity, and an OnOne PhotoTools (now OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0 – website link at my Tidbits Blog sidebar) layer using the HDR Enhancer effect and HiKey Color – Cool Fade preset as a second effect layer (I am getting some nice results with its stacking capabilities). The OnOne PhotoTools effect was basically a darkening of the edges and brightening in the middle, a heavy vignetting feel. Finally an OnOne PhotoFrame was added.
Textures can be found in plug-ins
As shown in the daisies above using the OnOne PhotoTools 2.6, this plug-in has many texture options as does its sister application, OnOne’s PhotoFrame, which surprisingly has many textures that can be applied with various blend modes, just like in Photoshop’s Layers Panel. Even plug-ins like Plugin Galaxy 2.0 have some interesting effects, such as Rain-Short Streaks, Snowflake effects, and Color Effects section, which can add some interesting textures. You just need to play around with whatever filters or plug-ins you have and start trying different settings with them.
Once again my action was applied to the Scottish home picture which starts you off with a really nice soft look (create a composite layer or CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E layer on top of the action layers to apply the plug-in). An OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 Overlay Effect with the Antique Paper preset at Normal blend mode and 100% opacity was added. A similar look could probably be achieved by adding a final Color Fill Adjustment Layer using a golden tone or a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer using a warm color at a fairly high density, and a layer mask to reduce the color in the house area. That is all that was done to get this nice look.
This image does contain a brownish Ash texture, but any darkish brown texture would look good, set to Vivid Light at 38% but the painterly effect of the sky was achieved in Topaz Lens Effects – with the Graduated Color Blue1 preset applied. Then the layer was copied and set to 62% opacity to make the sky bolder.
Textures can be created within Photoshop itself
I want to show that a texture does not have to be some fancy texture that you have to buy or download – it can just be a really nice paintbrush effect on a layer that you create. Then just experiment with the blend modes, layer opacities, and layer masks to get the exact feel you want.
The above image of Scotland has a rather vintage feel to it. This was accomplished by running my SJ-Soft Dreamy Look Action and then creating a New Layer above and using Grungetract Brushes Sample #16 by alex16 at deviantArt at 2500 pixels with a light tan color. The brushed layer’s blend mode was set to Screen, the layer opacity to 66%, and a layer mask was added using a 50% opacity brush to mask out the texture in certain areas.
In the floral photo, a coral colored Mixer Brush layer was created above the other texture layer using a 300 pixel brush, and was set to Soft Light blend mode. (See my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes” for more information on the Mixer Brushes.) It can be quite addictive once you start playing around with the Mixer brushes and create some beautiful textures. I found that the by varying the size and the color of the same Mixer Brush, and actually painting with them by moving slightly, you can get really nice effects. I have included my favorite texture Mixer Brush that can be downloaded here (there area two brushes – same brush at different sizes) and added to your Tool Presets. (Put the file in the User Name -> AppData -> Roaming -> Adobe -> Adobe Photoshop CS5 -> Tools file. Restart Photoshop to add brushes to your Tool Presets – go to the top upper left corner icon under the Menu line and click on down arrow, click on right pointed arrow in upper corner to open fly out menu, and select Load SJ Mixer Brushes Presets. I usually Append the tools and they will appear at the bottom of the list. NOTE: You must have the Mixer Brush selected in the vertical Toolbar to get the Mixer Brush variations to appear in the Tool Preset drop-down.)
This is a very simple example of applying texture that can be done just using Photoshop. First two New Layers were created and the Mixer Brushes I created above were used, the small brush in beige on the bottom layer and the larger one with the same color on the top layer to create an interesting texture. A layer mask was added to the top layer to bring out the center part of the flower. Now here is the neat part, a New Layer was created and a gradient applied with the Gradient Tool . This image used Graphix1 Gradient Muted4 which is a white to yellow beige color, but try out different gradients to see what effect you like. In the Options Bar select the Radial Gradient icon and drag with your cursor from the center of the flower outward to create the gradient. Set the layer blend mode to Soft Light and add a Bevel and Emboss Layer Style (2nd icon from left at bottom of Layer Panel) and double click the Texture option. This image used the Fractures Pattern Overlay, which is located in the Texture Fill set of patterns that come with Photoshop CS5, and set the Scale to 555% and the Depth to +34. Create a layer mask to darken the center again so the pattern is not as apparent over the center of the flower. That’s it – a texture applied that gives a really different look. Try other patterns – you can find lots of them on the internet.
And don’t forget the nice filters that come with Photoshop to create pleasing textures. I really like the Texturizer Filter using the Canvas texture set to Relief 3 to add a painting touch to an image.
I have tried to show that adding texture to an image can be done in many different ways and the different techniques can be combined to get some unique looks. Once again, it is just another way the versatility of Photoshop makes it so much fun to use. It is so satisfying to create your own textures that can actually go towards creating your own artistic style. Have fun creating!…..Digital Lady Syd
This week I am taking a break from my usual blog topics. Instead I am just going to post a few of the images I created while trying out some of my own blog techniques. I hope you get some new ideas from viewing them.
I added a couple of textures to this image to get the soft vintage look – one an Ash Texture (these textures are no longer available but see my more recent blog “Adding a Texture for Flair!” for other texture sites) and one from OnOne Software’s PhotoFrames. This beautiful egret was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery in May, a really good place to visit in Spring if you like to take pictures of birds.
Created this image by using Caleb Kimbrough’s beautiful Summer8 texture (he has a vast assortment of really nice textures and most are free – please check them out), the Tranquility Brushes by wyckedBrush, and my SJ-Cloud Brushes.
I loved this building in Jackson, Mississippi. It was perfect for an HDR effect (used Image ->Adjustments -> HDR Toning in Photoshop CS5 on a single image) A wonderful action called “Vintage Effect – Ps Actions – by photoshop-stock” was applied afterwards to give this nice vintage feel. (This site has a number of nice actions and textures – great resource!)
I wish I had a fisheye lens, but since I do not, I used Topaz Lens Effects selecting the Fisheye Lens effect with the Extreme Fisheye preset on this Palm Tree in Palm Beach Gardens in Florida. See my blog on “Topaz Lens Effects Plug-in” for more information on this fun plug-in.
More fun with text – used gradient, cloud layers using cloud brushes (can download my SJ-Cloud Brushes set here) and my blog on “How to Add Images to Text” to do this.
The image above was taken in Phoenix, Arizona at the Desert Botanical Gardens. I used mixer brushes (see my blog “Adobe Photoshop CS5′s Mixer Brushes” and followed a tutorial on Sandstorms in the book called “Digital Painting Techniques!,” which is loaded with tutorials from various designers making all kinds of special effects.
Here is a composite of images I pulled from a video I took of the fireworks at Flagler Beach for the 4th of July celebration (video below). See my blog, “Faking Fireworks” for tips on how to create this look.
I hope you liked some of my “Playing in Photoshop” creations – it is just so much fun to make these images. Take some time out and just explore something new – may give you a whole new perspective on what you can achieve! Enjoy…..Digital Lady Syd
Recently I discovered that several of the major Photoshop plug-ins all seem to be presenting a dual tone effect in their arsenal. I decided to create for you a Dual Tone Comparison using similar settings for each plug-in. In each case I used an image of a Spanish Cay beach in the Bahamas taken last year while sailing. I am trying to add a believable sunrise effect. So let’s get to comparing!
NIK Color Efex Pro 3.0
This NIK Color Efex Pro effect was created using the BiColor User Defined Preset. The swatches colors were set as follows: the Pink top color was set to R180 G152 B151, and the bottom blue color was set to R143 G141 B162. In the past I have used this preset with different colors on other images – it is really easy to apply and the BiColor Filter has many quick presets to choose from if you do not need to use specific colors. Personally I believe the real strength of most of the NIK plug-ins is that they provide quick, very visual choices which usually can create the look you want fast – and if you do not like the presets, you still have all the wonderful sliders to adjust to make the effect the way you like. Also, there are control points that can be applied on the image – in this case the opacity can be adjusted in the shadows and/or highlights areas. Four presets can be saved in the BiColor User Defined Preset Quick Save Slots to use again. To get a really nice look, the Polarization preset was also added with Rotate set to 0 and Strength set to 200%.
OnOne PhotoTools 2.6 (Now OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0)
OnOne has a totally different way of accessing the plug-in which I find a bit cumbersome. I have to go to the Image -> Automate and select it from a list to open up the interface. My computer runs more sluggish whenever I use one of their plug-ins but not a big enough problem for not using their products. That said, I was surprised at what a nice result I got in OnOnePhotoTools 2.6 (no longer available – see OnOne Perfect Effects 3.0 – click on OnOne icon in my Tidbits Blog sidebar) on the above image. Since the interface is different from most plug-ins, it takes a bit of practice to find where all the settings reside to get this effect, but once there, your choices are unlimited.
When choosing the effect you want, you must first go to the Library section at the bottom of the interface and select a Category which brings up many different results. In this image, Photo Filters was selected and 30 results were obtained; the Polarizer effect was choosen by clicking on Add to Stack. If the effect looks awful, just click Undo and it disappears. If you look under the Navigation Panel on the right side of the image above, you can that I stacked three effects (they can be dragged up or down for a different order) to get this one final look: Polarizer, Graduated Red, and Graduated Warm-Cool. You can spend many hours finding the perfect formula to get very creative results. I was not able to add the exact colors used in the NIK BiColor User Defined preset above, but it was a pretty close approximation. I will try to cover this plug-in more thoroughly at a later date. Just note that it does create a good dual tone effect and compares nicely with the Nik Color Efex Pro result. (Also, as far as I am concerned, there is no better way to add a frame to finish up your image than using OnOne’s PhotoFrame – all images in this blog have the same one applied from this program.)
Topaz Lens Effects
I really figured that the Topaz Lens Effect Dual Tone Filter would not be as good as the two above. When I did my blog on this feature last week, it did not create exactly the look I wanted. But bingo bango, I think this is the most accurate effect and it was pretty easy to adjust the sliders to get the look.
As you can see, I have created a SJ-Sunset preset that contains the settings used to make this dual tone effect. The Transition Adjustments section under the Navigation window sets how large and where you want the filter to be applied. The Region A Adjustments and Region B Adjustments allow you to create the colors you want – there is not option to add a specific color as in the BiColor User Defined preset but you adjust Cyan, Red, Magenta, Green, Yellow, and Blue sliders to get the two colors. A Polarization Filter can also be applied after the Dual Tone Filter, but there is only one slider, Strength, and I just did not care for the effect on the water. The polarizations effect was not as good as in the other two plug-ins above. Still, just the dual tone filter created a very good overall representation of what I wanted to present.
Plugin Galaxy 2.0
Plugin Galaxy 2.01 surprised me with the above result. I did not think the plug-in had the capability to do what I wanted, but I was wrong. Once again, you have to get used to the interface so you can figure out where to find the look you want. The interface appears to be much smaller than on the other three plug-ins but all you have to do is drag out the bottom right edge and it will almost fill the screen. Also, one of the tricks of this plug-in is that whenever you see a (+) in the center of your image, you can right click and drag it to place the effect in a specific location. In the interface image below, you can see the (+) in the lower right hand corner of the image. This is where I placed the effect.
I used the Expert Mode which gives you the most choices, and selected the Nature Group with the Sunset FX (filter effect). The first attempt was not so great as the Mode under the Brightness slider was set to Normal. But by trying different modes, I was able to select Add and get a really nice effect. The color sliders I had to experiment with to get the look – it makes a big difference whether you add just a bit of green or blue to the red – and the intensity and brightness sliders must be adjusted carefully. The interesting thing is that this plug-in has a lot of versatility – you just need to work with it to get that final look. This plug-in contains one of my vary favorite effects, the Instant Mirror Effect, which I blogged about here.
For me this has been a very interesting comparison. Each plug-in definitely has strengths that I love about each. My final decision on which plug-in worked best for the above image is the result I got with Topaz Lens Effects Dual Tones filter. Why? Because the mood created looks like what I think it should look like – the way there is a touch of yellow in the clouds that gives a more believable look to me. I really thought the NIK BiColor User Defined filter would do the trick best – it is one of my favorite filters. And OnOne’s PhotoTools really surprised me – I had not considered how many choices I had with that plug-in and if I played around a bit more with the presets, I might have been able to get the best look. And even though I did not like the Plugin Galaxy’s overall look for this particular image (and actually I really liked the way there was some color in the sand on the left bottom side which none of the other plug-ins created), this plug-in has some amazing choices that I am definitely going to experiment with more. Both Topaz Lens Effects and Plugin Galaxy have very reasonable prices for their plug-ins so they do give you a good alternative to the more expensive plug-ins and are definitely worth downloading and trying out the trial versions. With that said, I hope you enjoyed this comparison and all the images turned pretty nice – maybe you can try some comparisons of your own. You might get some surprises just as I did with the image above……Digital Lady Syd
I am happy to say that I am using the new Topaz Lens Effects Plug-in. I am still learning about all the things it will do but so far I like what I see. They advertise 20 lens effects and over 150 presets so there are plenty of things to try. These filter effects can be stacked to create a final look. Topaz has several short tutorials up on U-tube that walk you through many of the new features. Click here for Topaz Lens Effects Intro and this good basic tutorial called Introduction to the New Topaz Lens Effects to learn how to use some of the features. Here is a link to the Topaz Lens Effects User Manual that will help explain exactly what is going on in each of the listed sections below and lets you see for yourself all the great effects they have included.
Bokeh – Selective Effect and Vignette
The image above used the Bokeh – Selective Effect with manual settings. It helped a lot to watch the second tutorial above to understand how to make a good Depth Map. The Depth Map created by the program is usually a very good starting point. See the next section on how to use the brush to fine-tune your Depth Map. Some adjustments were then added to the Focal Plane and Focus Area sections. A slight Vignette from within this effect finished up the image. Once you have the focus set by using the Depth Map, it is pretty self-explanatory to figure out how to proceed.
Fisheye Effect and Bokeh – Selective Effect
There has been a lot of excitement about the Fisheye Effect since you do not have to actually buy the expensive lens to get the look. It is easy to apply – this funny image below used the Extreme Fisheye Preset for a starting point and just a tweak to center the effect under the FishEye Adjustments section. (To see original image, click here.) Next a Bokeh – Selective Effect was applied. It is really necessary to play around a bit with the Depth Map and understand how to use it to get a good result. First uncheck Use Gradient Brush if you want to paint on your depth map. (Check Use Gradient Brush only if you wish to create a gradient on the Depth Map.) White areas are used for distant objects, black for near objects, and gray in-between – for some reason this seems strange to me. At first I kept getting a completely black Depth Map when the Reset button was pressed – finally realized that the Depth Value Slider was set to 0 so everything started as black or in focus. Set this slider higher, not all the way back or it will be a completely white Depth Map, to get a place to start if you do not like what the program generated for the map. Then add areas in black or white with the Brush and adjust the size to fit the areas you are trying to contour. The manual states that the larger the brush size, the more it will affect the adjacent areas. I found this to be true so a little experimentation is required to get the correct map. The side-by-side view gives you a real-time comparison to see how the effect is working.
I could not get the Lens – Motion effect I wanted for this image so I went back to my OnOne PhotoFrames and chose one from their Zoom Effects. I may be able to achieve this look in Topaz, but for this image it was just not working out. I also did some adjusting with the Clone Stamp in Photoshop where the Depth Map was not quite correct and the edges were smudged a bit. The Eyes were sharpened to make them pop more.
Camera – Toy Effect
This image was created using the Camera – Toy Effect and the FoliageI Preset as a start. The effect was centered on the wheel and Toy Camera Aberrations were set as follows: Vignette Strength (-0.30), Camera Shake (2.22), Camera Shake Angle (8.87), Grain Amount (0.09) and Double Image (No); Placement Adjustments were set to: Region Size (0.01), Transition (0.48), and Angle (130.3); Region A Color Casts were all 0 except for the Blue Cast A slider (0.06); Region B Color Casts were all 0 except for the Yellow Cast B slider (0.06); and Image Adjustments: Brightness (0.41), Contrast (0.09), Saturation (0.06), Saturation Boost (-0.08), Shadows (0.53) and Highlights (-0.01). I listed these settings so you could get a feel for all the sliders that can be adjusted to get a really unique look as shown above. A preset called Bright Colors was then created since it is very different from the ones provided. (Two OnOne PhotoFrames were added to give the grunge and frame effects.) Smashing Magazine has an article, “Uncovering Toy Cameras and Polaroid Vintage Effects (with Photoshop Tutorials),” that shows what some of the original images looked like with different types of toy cameras if you need some inspiration.
Camera – Tilt & Shift Effect
This image was created using the built-in Tilt and Shift Effect after watching another short U-Tube video called Quick Tips – Miniature Scenes 101 from Topaz. It turned out to be fairly easy to create but a little Gaussian Blue was added to the image in Photoshop for a little more blur in a few places. Smashing Magazine has an article on 50 examples of Tilt-Shift Photography if you want to get some good ideas how to use this effect.
Dual Tone Effect
For this image a Dual Tone Effect adding a bit of yellow and red was applied. For the original as seen on Flickr, click here. The preset that was used as a starting point was Top Left Red Leak but then a lot of sliders were adjusted to get the look above. There are four areas that can be adjusted: Transition Adjustment which includes the Region Size, Transition and Angle – all of these are really important sliders; Region A Adjustment which sets the top color; Region B Adjustment which sets the bottom color; and Image Adjustment which includes the Brightness, Contrast and Saturation – all really important features. An OnOne PhotoFrame filmstrip border completes the image.
My final conclusion on this plug-in is that the Bokeh Effect has a possibility of being fantastic – it just has a bit of a learning curve but with practice, you should be able to get the exact results you want with the Depth Map. The other effects seem to give very pleasing results from the fun effects to the serious effects for doing major adjustments to you image. Even the Saturation and Sharpening effects I found to be really good. The Topaz Lens Effect plug-in is a great plug-in, but then I am a big Topaz fan and use most of their other products on a daily basis. The thing I like best about Topaz is that they keep the price down so for most people it is very affordable and makes Photoshop faster and more fun. (Check around for sites that will give you discounts for their products – NAPP members get 25% off.) Therefore, I give major Kudos to Topaz and all they do for the Photoshop community. That said, I do believe it is important to pool all your resources and if one plug-in does not give the look you want, use another one – they usually all work well together and the results can sometimes be spectacular.
Topaz has a 30-day fully functional download and they present short Webinars almost daily on the different effects. Give it a try and see if you can give your old images some new looks!