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AND THE BEST COMPLICATED SELECTION TOOL IS?

Image of a Snowy EgretHappy Holiday! Doing just a quick post this week. Thought I would show a beautiful Snowy Egret that required a rather complicated selection to show off his feathers appropriately. The bird was photographed at my favorite St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery where the egrets were in a frenzy looking for mates.

This was not an easy task to get a good selection, especially in the tail area. I created several files and trying out Photoshop CC2015’s Channel selections, Color Range Selection, and Refine Edge, OnOne’s (see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for website link) Perfect Layers 9.5 and even OnOne’s Perfect Mask 8.0, and Topaz (see sidebar of my Tidbits Blog for website link) photoFXlabs and ReMask. I even combined some using the layer mask in Refine Edge after creating it another way. I can honestly say I spent several hours trying to get a good result, and for this image the winner was:………. Topaz ReMask. It took a little figuring out exactly how to get the tools to do what I wanted, but it by far gave the best results of the techniques tried. That does not mean that the others are not good selection tools, it just means that in this case ReMask ended up being the easier to use and giving the best final results with not a lot of additional tweaking to get the feathers selected. So do not get discouraged if you do not have this filter – OnOne does a great job on most selections, but I just had trouble when tried on this image. Usually Refine Edge will give me great results on hair, but not as good on the bird. Guess the bottom line is, try different selection tools before giving up. One may end up doing exactly what you want.

That being said, if you want to see the way I selected this image in ReMask, check out Darcy Wheeler’s Topaz blog called A Hair Masking Trick That’ll Blow Your Mind.  Try adjusting the Color Recovery slider – I set mine close to 100 to get the best results. And check out the Mask Strength to get the best amount showing. Below is how my egret looked inside ReMask before any Brush cleanup, especially in the feather areas. By making your Magic Brush very tiny and zooming in on the image, you can remove some of the haze at the end of the feathers. You can see I added back some of leaves to give him something solid to be standing on.
Screenshot of Topaz ReMaskAlso, I should give credit to Jai Johnson textures – they are always wonderful on wildlife images and can be bought individually. This time I used her Soulful Sea Breeze texture under the bird set to 100% layer opacity and Normal blend mode. On top her Filly In the Field texture was set to Normal blend mode at 68% layer opacity which turned the texture into the lovely pinkish tones. The bird was the next layer, and then on top of that, her Soulful Sea Breeze texture was added again – set to Soft Light at 60%. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture to get the color adjustment just right – mainly added a little blue and cyan into Midtones and yellows into the Highlights. Some clean up on the foreground leaves and over the bright beak was done, and then Nik Viveza 2 was opened to adjust the strength of the feathers. Last step was a Curves Adjustment Layer to add back some contrast.

Hope this was helpful next time you got totally stumped on a hard selection. Have a great weekend!…..Digital Lady Syd

HOW TO USE THE TEXTURIZER FILTER IN PHOTOSHOP

Image of Caribbean Flamingoes
Thought I would cover a little texture trick that I had never used before. The image above was taken at SeaWorld-Orlando – these beautiful Caribbean Flamingos are so graceful looking and seemed quite content to be situated in this rather crazy area near the entrance to the park and a roller coaster.

What I really like about this image is first, the color. I have an interesting older book called Pantone Guide to Communicating with Color by Leatrice Eiseman  that says the color “purple is a glorious yet complex color, preferred by very creative and eccentric types.” This is a color I do not use a lot, but the purple color seems to add a nice exotic look that seems appropriate for these elegant birds.

Texturizer Filter for the Impasto Effect

To use the Filter Gallery, the image or texture needs to be in an 8-bit mode (File ->Mode->8 bit) or it will be grayed out in the menu.  (See Tips Squirrel’s Solving Common Photoshop Problems-Greyed Out Filters for a work-around.) The purple impasto texture is one I created with a little help from one of my favorite texture people, Shadowhouse Creations, who has some of the most beautiful free textures. This one is located in his Vintage Soft Grunge Set 2 called SHC V21b. First converted this texture into a Smart Object (or Smart Filter – same thing) so it can be adjusted later if you do not like the results or want to change the settings. To add the nice impasto feel to this texture, need to go to Filter -> Filter Gallery -> Texture and select Texturizer. In the dialog there is a drop-down box where you can select Burlap, Brick, Canvas or Sandstone – there is also a little box to the right where you can Load Texture. A psd file, also in 8-bit mode, must be selected. There is no limitation on what it looks like, even the same image can be loaded. The bird image used a texture I created in Painter called Crazy Sky that was saved as a psd file.

Image of the original texture and after it was applied in Texturizer

When added as the Texture in the filter, it softened the image but no color information was added. The filter is taking the My Crazy Sky Texture Red Channel from the RGB file and using it to displace the SHC V21b Texture. On the bird image, it gives a nice Impasto effect. Here are the settings used for the bird image: Scaling 165, Relief 34, Light Top, and check Invert box. Change these setting around and you get very different results. On a New Layer use any brush to smooth out noticeable  patterning due to the scaling. At this point I saved the file to my textures folder as psd and jpg files so it could be used over again without reapplying the filter.

Below is another example of how SHC V21b texture looks with a different one of my psd texture files used for the Texture. The Relief was set to a much lower amount along with the Scale.

Screenshot of image using a different texture

To create the image, the new saved texture was placed under the flamingos image. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to get the purple color. A layer mask was added to the bird layer, and using a brush with some texture in it and a very low brush opacity of 30% and Flow of 60%, the birds were lightly painted back just leaving some of the impasto effect of the texture on the birds. The rest was just clean up. Don’t forget that you can change the settings of an Eraser brush to help adjust some of your strokes. I have created a couple brushes just for this use – one I like for painting uses a brush opacity of 38% and Flow of 15%.

Changing the textures in this Texturizer Filter is really a lot of fun. There are so many different effects that can be created from images and textures you already have! And it is really easy to do!…..Digital Lady Syd

A PAINTED NATURE SCENE IN PHOTOSHOP (WITHOUT THE MIXER)

Painted image of Early Morning in the SwampSince I am still on my blogging break, I thought I would share a little painting done completely in Photoshop. And I might add, no Mixer Brushes! A few months ago my photo club took a trip to the Viera Wetlands in Brevard County, Florida. This inspired me to create what I imagine how the wetlands would appear in the early morning of a summer day.

Some of the brushes used in this image were purchased, but all of them are very inexpensive or free brushes and links have been provided below, along with a few of tips. The final image included 34 layers so it took some time to create. It represents a lot of experimentation and trying different effects to see what looked good. To me, this is what I love about Photoshop – all the possibilities and ways to do things is just incredible. This is probably why this program has remained the image editing standard for other programs to try and emulate. I hope everyone will have a chance to paint and play in Photoshop this week. Try out some new strokes with these resources…..Digital Lady Syd

Image Info including Resources and a Few Tips:

The basic scene of the tree, grass, and water was created on 8 individual layers. I tend to put each type of brush stroke on its own layer so the strokes can be erased, opacity changed, blend modes used, or just redone easily without redoing all the painting, – then group all the layers together to create just one line in the Layers Panel so it appears as a single layer. The brushes used to create the grass were from one of my very favorite natural brush sets and are available for free at DeviantArt called Grass Set2 Frostbo Grass 009. (Frostbo has many brush sets that can be downloaded and all the brushes are really easy to tweak in the Brush Panel to create different strokes. See my How To Create a Magical Feel in Photoshop blog on how to do this. Also, be sure to read his usage rules.) The tree was created using a brush from Aaron Blaise’s Foliage Set – SB 46-4. Water ripples from Aaron Blaise’s Water Set was used for the water effect (Brush SB 51-15-1436). Aaron has some great inexpensive brushes with videos explaining how to use them. He is a former Disney animator and all his brushes are wonderful. Light shoreline sketches were made using a very simple sketch brush  (Settings if you need one: Brush Tip Shape – 2 pixels, Hardness o, and Spacing 9%; Shape Dynamics – Size Jitter Control set to Pen Pressure; Transfer – Flow Jitter Control set to Pen Pressure; and Smoothing on. This makes a really nice sketch stroke and I use it all the time in my paintings. These layers were all put into a group by highlighting them all and pressing CTRL+G.

Underneath the group a New Layer was placed and Grut Brushes.com brush NM Wool Meander was used to add a little soft yellow accent in the sky and water, showing some behind the reeds and tree. Check out his site each week for a new free brush – these are totally great brushes. A stamped layer was placed on top. Topaz  (see the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impressions was opened and the supplied Ethereal Background by Blake Rudis preset was applied. A layer mask was added to the layer and the tree and reeds were painted back. On another stamped layer converted to a Smart Object, Nik Viveza 2 was added and 7 controls points were used to add blue into the image. The resulting layer opacity was set to 79%.

A New Layer was added on top and a free DeviantArt Midnighttouch’s rEgrets I’ve Had a Few set Egret Sample Brush #51 was used to create the bird in the image. A Bevel and Emboss layer style was added to the layer and set to Style Emboss, Tech Smooth, Depth 93, Direction Up, Size 2, Soften 5, Highlight Mode Linear Dodge (Add) at 5% opacity, and Shadow Mode Multiply at 38% opacity. This gave the bird just a touch of edge to it. On a New Layer the Beak and Eye were painted in with light orange and black. It was set to a 50% layer opacity. The layers were all highlighted and put into another group called Egret. On a New Layer above the group, Midnightstouch Sample Brush #4 was used to add the bird grouping. This layer was set to 36% layer opacity. She also has lots of other beautiful unique brushes – and do check out her use requirements before using.

Now to me the focal point was all off center, so the Crop Tool was selected to line up my objects, and then Content Aware Scale was used to add to the canvas. Content Aware Move was used to readjust the flying birds in the sky. On a stamped layer Topaz Lens Effects Reflector Gold filter was selected (Strength 0.17, Transition 0.40, Position 0.20, and Angle 90). You could do the same thing with Nik Color Efex Pro – I learned this trick from Jai Johnson. The Gold reflector filter adds a nice subtle warming effect to nature images.

So another cool trick for adding some localized blurring is to use the Blur Tool set to Strength of 72. I have never used this tool much, but it worked really great in this image. Since I did not want the white egret so emphasized, the blur tool just softened those edges a bit on the emboss layer style created on the bird. It was also used to soften the rather sharp edges of the leaves in the trees to give a more painterly look without removing the actual shape too  much. The flying birds were also blurred slightly.

I really did not like the reflection of the tree and some of the grass in the water and was having trouble getting it softened the way I liked it. Finally the Smudge Brush was selected and using Aaron Blaise’s Grass SB 48-3-236 smudge brush, the area was smoothed. This brush comes with his Foliage brushes but probably any smudge brush would work fine. Just keep it subtle – it was set to 35% Strength. This layer was then set down to 65% layer opacity as the smudge effect was a bit too much. (See my How To Use the Brush Modes and Smudge Brush on Objects blog.) A Levels Adjustment Layer was added. Since this image was supposed to have a dreamy soft early morning look, but still needed a contrast boost, the middle tab was set to 0.70 but the black and white tabs were left alone. The trick to the dreamy effect is to adjust the Output Level strip. The black tab was set to 23 and white tab to 239 to maintain the soft look. Lots of other clean up layers were sprinkled throughout this document, but I hope you can see how to get some pretty nice effects with these brushes.

HAVE SOME FUN WITH YOUR PHOTOS

Image of a painted Snowy Egret Still taking it easy with blogging, but thought I would discuss a topic I sometimes forget to do. While having a little break here, I am having a lot of fun adding a little, should I say “personality” to my images. As you can see in the image above called the “The Ballet Diva Making a Grand Entrance,” this Snowy Egret bird image (taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery) seemed to lend itself to some mild “ridicule” as I developed the painted version. I think I was inspired by an old Bob Ross Joy of Painting TV show I watched the other day, where he said that he gets to know each item he adds to his paintings. He was actually talking about one of the shrubs he was painting, but the point is that he was giving each item personal attention, not just painting in a bunch of shrubs. That sort of struck me as something I probably do not do, especially when digitally painting (and that is probably another whole blog topic). But it got me thinking – and I actually feel like I know these birds when working on one of their shots. Maybe that is why I enjoy painting them so much. So this brings me  to the point that even though most photography and painting is supposed to tell a story, maybe the story is just the crazy way you look at an image. It seems to be really rewarding to post-process or paint an image “just for the fun of it” so that is what I have done here. Check out my Tidbits Blog links below for more funny bird examples. Hope you are all enjoying your summer – I know I am!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Here’s Looking At You
Singing Spoonbill Duet Takes Rookery by Storm!
I See You! Checking Out a Snowy Egret
Storytelling with Your Images

Image Info: This image took a while to put together. It needed Photoshop’s Shake Reduction filter. Then lots of blending with Fay Sirkis’s Precious Oil Diamond Blender Mixer Brush which I find works well on feathers. (Her brushes are hard to find unless you are a KelbyOne subscriber – this one is a very creamy & oily brush which pulls out the feathers to points nicely.)  Little eye sharpening and leg clean up. Finally got to a stamped version. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Impression Watercolor IV preset was first applied, then Topaz ReStyle using the Lavender Gray preset with some tweaks, then another layer of painting with Fay’s mixer brush and PS Flat Angle Mixer, before adding a texture by Jai Johnson called Spring Blush canvas on page 6. Thought I was done so added Nik’s Viveza 2 to finish and then I thought, hum, I wonder what Topaz Glow would do for this image. So I added Abstract Settings-Blake Rudis preset and set it to Soft Light at 45% layer opacity. On another stamped layer, Topaz Impression was once again opened and the Degas Dancers I preset was applied. On a layer mask in PS, the bird was painted back somewhat but the background and foreground retained the painted effect. Phew!

HOW TO SEE IF YOU CAPTURED THE FOCAL POINT

Image of two painted Blue HeronsJust a short blog to say Hi with another one of my bird shots from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery. Thought I would review my focal point tips with you even though I have covered this recently. It is such a crucial part of both digital photography and digital painting to make your images successful. It is also one of the areas I struggle with the most.

Also I have been trying to get a good stroke with the Mixer Brushes in Photoshop. I am learning it is really important to have a good blending mixer brush, a good mixer to add color in very gently, and a good regular sketch brush to straighten up lines in your image. I can’t tell you how many clean up layers were in this image. Instead of adding a texture, this time the clean up involved using Mixer Brushes to smooth and remove the very cluttered appearance of nature behind the birds which was so distracting. (See left image below.) Found a very creamy oily brush (used Fay Sirkis‘s 04 Precious Oil Diamond Blender in case you have her brushes – love her Photoshop brushes for painting) to blend in areas to remove the distractions.

It was difficult determining what was important enough to leave in the image besides the birds. I did not want to totally remove the birds from their natural habitat, but in this image it was over-taking the birds in the image. Therefore lots of removing, checking it out, and removing more. Also needed to remember that people are drawn to the eyes and beak of a bird, so those needed to be pretty sharp even though they are painted. Used the Exposure Adjustment Layer again to help with this. (See How To Do a Quick Eye Sharpening in Photoshop.)

Two quick tricks can be an aid to determining if the focal point is actually correct:

1. Squint your eyes and see what pops out at you. Lots of painters use this trick and it seems to really help when looking at a busy image.

2. Add a temporary Black and White Adjustment Layer on top of your image and see what pops out at you. If your background is showing up too much, need to subdue it.

Here is what the original image looked like and what the final image looks like with the Black & White Adjustment Layer added. My focal point was the bird beaks and you can see how the beaks stand out nicely – in the original they blended much more into their bodies.

As a last step Nik Viveza 2 was used to create a soft vignette effect. I am finding I also use the Black & White Adjustment Layer at the beginning of my workflow to see where the tonal contrast is before I start post-processing the image. If that area is not where you want the eye to go, you have some work to do. Hope you have a wonderful week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How To Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer To See Contrast In an Image
What About This Focal Point Issue?

HOW TO DO A QUICK EYE SHARPENING IN PHOTOSHOP

Image of a Blue Heron in her nest with eggThought I would just do a quick post while taking some blogging time off. Don’t forget to check in on my short Tidbits Blog though. This beautiful Heron was very busy organizing her nest at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery.This is another image I painted in Photoshop using a couple Blender Mixer Brushes, meaning no color was added – just blending and smoothing the color that was already there.

This Calvin Hollywood eye technique is one I use all the time. The bird’s eye was sharpened by selecting the eye in Quick Mode (press Q – be sure Color Indicated is set to Selected Areas and press Q again to exit Quick Mode) although any selection tool works fine, and then opening up the Exposure Adjustment Layer. Now just the eye is showing as white in a black layer – if this is backwards, just CTRL+I in mask to invert. Set the Exposure to the right a little (which lightens the exposure of the eye) and then adjust the Offset (sliding to left darkens shadow areas) and sometimes the Gamma Correction (affects the midtones of area) – watch for any milky or color shifts with the Offset slider which means you have gone too far. Go back to the Exposure slider for final adjustment. For example, my settings were Exposure +2.06, Offset -0.0100, and Gamma Correction +1.04, which means the eye was brightened by 2 exposure stops and midtones evened out a little. To further enhance the brightness of the eye, add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Copy the Layer Mask from the Exposure Adjustment Layer by ALT+clicking on mask and dragging up – it will ask if you want to replace the mask – say yes. Adjust the Saturation slider and change the whole Hue/Sat Adjustment Layer to Luminosity blend mode so only brightness is changed in the eye.

Very little else was done to this image. Used a Curves Adjustment Layers to make a slight Vignette around the bird and to adjust the blue color in the image, and a Levels Adjustment Layer to open up the midtones a little. This is too much fun!…..Digital Lady Syd

HOW TO USE TEXTURE TO REMOVE DISTRACTING NATURE BACKGROUNDS

Image of two baby Great Egrets in a nestWell, these two little guys were just adorable. This shot was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm‘s famous Rookery. I was surprised how newborn they looked. If you get in the St. Augustine area in the April/May time slot and you love bird photography, there is just no better place to go. It is crazy with birds, people, tripods, and did I say kids, but you can still get some really nice shots.

This blog is about getting rid of the ugly natural backgrounds that often surround these beautiful creatures and totally distract the eye. One of the first things you need to think about is getting a texture that sort of matches what you are trying to block out. You want the texture to fit in seamlessly so that you do not notice when looking at the photo that a texture is even there. Below is what my image Background layer looked liked after the tone was adjusted a little and a huge crop was done in Lightroom. The mother egret’s leg is actually just to the left of the crop.

Original image of baby egrets before post processingI found the large branch behind the birds along with the over-sharpened next branches to be a bit overwhelming for this image. I wanted a bit of a painterly look to the image, but too much would just take away from the subjects which were so natural and nice already. Therefore there is one person who has the most beautiful natural textures for images that you can find and her name is Jai Johnson. She has several that can be downloaded for free, including the one that was used in this image, and it is definitely worth your time to look at all of her collections. She takes the most incredible bird and nature images and almost always blends in one of her beautiful textures to enhance the images. The one used in this image is called emeraldgreen-canvas and it matched the background and green colors of the original image very nicely.

Once the texture is placed into your image, put the texture underneath the image and add a layer mask to the image. Jai says there is more control by putting the texture under the image and then removing the image background in the layer mask. In my case, I like filling the mask with black by CTRL+I inside the mask and just painting back what I want showing. Since you cannot see where the objects are with a black mask, go to the Properties Panel and reduce the Density slider until you see what you need (I used 82%). TIP: To keep from accidentally painting on your image instead of your layer mask, click on the image thumbnail and click on the Lock Image Pixels icon, 2nd Lock icon at top of Layer Panel. Now you are unable to paint in the image. Just Unlock to open it up if you need to. Do some painting with white in the mask and then put the Density back up to 100%. Any brush can be used to add the paint into the layer mask where you want a little painterly effect. The Brush Opacity and Flow on the Options Bar can be adjusted to get really nice blended fits into the image. For the mask above, I painted with a My Chalk Brush around the birds. (Photoshop’s Chalk 60 brush and in the Brush Panel set size to 200 pixels and in the Shape Dynamics section set the 19%.) Then used a Brush Opacity of 100% and Flow of 3% to paint around the bird feathers in the layer mask. I use a very tiny brush size to do this – definitely under 10 pixels and sometimes just 1 or 2 to get the coverage I want. Lightly paint over the feather’s edges. Set Brush Opacity to 30% and Mode to Multiply for painting in nest area in front so the white feathers are not painted over but the nest twigs picked up the slight color texture color and were softened. Since this texture was similar to what was really in the original background, it blended very nicely.

Next Mixer Brushes were used on New Layers above to just blend the bird hairs back into the background. I like to use separate layers for each brush I use – just be sure that Sample All Layers is checked. Many people just paint directly on top of a duplicated image to give it the painterly feel. I like to have the option to adjust the painted layer or erase if something looks bad. In this case a Chalk brush mixer was used as a blender so no color was added (Load Brush after each stroke is turned off), a Soft round brush blender mixer, and a Wax Crayon mixer brush used to add paint back in were used to create the effect. I am working on creating some good Mixer brushes to share, but I would suggest you try some of Photoshop’s mixers for now as some of them are very nice.

An Exposure Adjustment Layer was used to sharpen the eyes by first selecting the eyes (I used the Quick Selection Tool or Q), and then opened the Exposure Adjustment Layer – the selection goes right into the mask. The Gamma slider and Exposure sliders were used to sharpen the eyes just a bit. Next a Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add contrast. The last step was using Nik Viveza 2 to draw the eye to the babies.
Image of a leopard and snakeThis image is of a scene that was set up at the Native American Festival in Ormond Beach earlier this year. Before adding the texture, Topaz Clarity was used to give some detail in my subjects. (Settings for SJ Good Bird Preset: Clarity Dynamics Micro Contrast 0.80, Low Contrast 0.91, Medium Contrast -0.62, and High Contrast -0.80.) The layer mask was once again used to start the painterly brush effect.  Next Jai Johnson’s subtlenature-canvas layer was placed in the image. This texture technique Jai Johnson explained very nicely in her Peach Blush Texture Demonstration video. She uses Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website link) FXLabs interface but the principles can still be applied on a Photoshop layer mask. Once again adjusting the Brush Opacity and Flow was used to create the more painterly looking edges. In this layer mask, a Soft (same as Hardness at 0) Round Brush set to 100% Brush Opacity and a Flow of 1.00 was used to do the large brush strokes in the layer mask to remove the image background. I keep painting back and forth between the black and white colors using the Brush Opacity at 96% and the Flow at 5%. Need to keep flow under 6 or 7% to soften the hard edges on the image. Already the image had a very nice soft look and you could stop here. I also found that I liked the Density slider at 82% in the Properties Bar so it was left there. Jai duplicates the texture layer and puts it on top with a different blend mode. Once you get the background the way you want, there are many other choices you have to finish up the image. In my case New Layers were added again to add even more of a painterly effect. Above the eyes were sharpened with the Exposure Adjustment Layer, applied Nik Viveza 2 to even out the color, and added a vignette using the Curves Adjustment Layer.

I hope this gave you some ideas on how to blend in those backgrounds really nicely – the Flow is a major player when getting that natural look in your images along with a good Mixer Brush. I appreciate Jai shared her insights on how to do this. Have a very Happy Holiday – I may take a few weeks off to try and catch up. See ya soon!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?
Taking Off From the Rookery Runway

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