Anything Photoshop or Photography



Painted image of a sailboat on a rough seaThis week I discovered that Macphun’s Luminar software has a free Beta release for us PC Windows 10 users to try out. (Click here to get the Beta download – they will quickly send you an E-mail to unlock the program once you submit a request.) You Mac people have been enjoying this stand-alone and plug-in for PS and LR for a while now, but this is great news for us PC folks. I just put it on my computer a couple days ago and am really enjoying it. Lots of new things to explore! It is only available for Windows as a stand-alone version right now, but a lot of the Mac functionality has been added to get some interesting results. I am finding this program very useful for getting a “pop” out of an image, and the canned presets are a great place to start.

My ocean image above was my first attempt at using this plug-in – and yes, the original painting was done in PS and Corel Painter and it was also finished up in PS. But the really beautiful overall effect (that pop I was looking for) was created in Luminar. It is fun to just try out the over 50 custom presets on an image, and there are also 30 individual filter effects with all kinds of sliders. This gives you quite a few options for getting some very different effects and pretty quickly. A lot of the filters were designed to emulate several of the now old Nik Color Efex Pro4 filters. Google is no longer updating their Nik plug-ins which means as operating systems and software get upgraded, they may no longer work – currently I am not having any problems with them. Many of the past Nik software engineers now work at Macphun. In fact if you are a member of KelbyOne, Scott Kelby’s training videos called How to Use Macphun’s Luminar Plugin for Lightroom and Photoshop help you set up some of the favorite Nik filters in Luminar. 
Screenshot of Luminar Interface
As you can see in the screenshot (click to see larger in Flickr), the filters applied for this image are in the right panel and the presets are in the film strip below –  the preset highlighted is one I created containing the right side filter settings. And notice the Dramatic filter (the cut-off last two settings were Brightness 3 and Saturation -25) which is very similar to the Bleach Bypass filter in Color Efex Pro4 for example.

The biggest drawback is that it is only a stand-alone program for Windows. Here is the work-around to use the Luminar image as a layer in Photoshop. For a full workflow on how the top image was created, see section below.

  1. Create a stamped layer on top in PS (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E).
  2. Duplicate this layer by doing this: Layers -> Duplicate and in the drop-down, select New and create a New Document.
  3. Save this file as either a PSD or a JPG – both will open as an image in Luminar.
  4. Open Luminar and do your changes – then Export as a JPG by clicking on the little box with the arrow going up (2nd icon over on top).
  5. Now add this JPG file into the original Photoshop file. I like to use the Bridge (File -> Open -> Place -> In Photoshop or right click and choose Place) to do this and it adds it right into the original file. From Photoshop go to File -> Place Embedded or can just open the Luminar JPG file in PS and drag over as a layer or go to Layers -> Duplicate and in the drop-down select the original file. Once combined, a Layer Mask, Blend Modes and Opacity can be added or changed on the layer.

I know this is a bit of a bother, but until the Windows version is released, which is scheduled for the end of November, this is what needs to be done. There are also several items missing in this version that can be frustrating – but remember this is just a Beta version. One of the big issues for me is that the individual filters cannot be turned on and off  to see the resulting effect – must go into the history icon (8th icon on top) and click back and forth to see the change it created – or each filter can be put on different Luminar layers so the whole layer can be turned on and off.  For each Luminar layer several filters can be added to it without creating a new  layer. Also, blend modes are missing for use with their filters and layers, which makes the Texture Overlay filter very hard to use right now. The image can only be exported as a JPG which is okay if you are just going to take it into PS to do more adjusting. The Mac version allows importing and exporting from Lightroom as a PSD file and as a layer in PS. There are several tools that will be added with the release including the Eraser, Denoise, Transform, Clone and Stamp, and Radial Gradient. Also Mask Feather, Mask Density, and Luminosity Masks will be added. Masks can be applied to both the individual filters and each layer if the Brush Tool is selected – I found this was a little tricky to do.

Ocean Image Example Workflow

The above image was created using one of my Corel Painter backgrounds (that did not look near this dramatic), Graphic Fairy’s Vintage Blue Boats Picture, and a brush called Tsaoshin Full Brushes Set – lightning brush 200. One of my vertical light leaks was added on the right side of the image and set to 52% opacity. (I created 5 different sizes and colors that I use all the time – can use a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the leak layer to change the color and Free Transform (CTLR+T) to line up in image. See my How to Create Light Leaks to Use Over Again blog.) At this point a composite layer was created on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) and taken into Luminar where the Sharp and Crisp Luminar preset was initially selected – it contained the Dramatic, Details Enhancer, Advanced Contrast and Sharpening filters all on Layer 0 and can be individually adjusted to your image. On a second layer the Accent AI Enhancer filter was added which contains a Boost slider – this is one of the newest and possibly best filters added in both Mac and Windows versions of the software. The Boost slider is their “Artificial Intelligence” slider and works wonders on almost any image! If it is too much in certain areas, the Gradient Tool or a Brush can be used on a mask to remove the effect. Now saved the image as a JPG. Back in the original PS, this JPG was placed back into the original using Adobe Bridge. In PS just a little clean up and masking was done where the sails looked a little too crisp. Last step, Matt K’s vignette was created and set to Multiply at 15% layer opacity. (See my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog for how to do this.)Image of an Edinburgh StreetFor the Edinburgh Street image above, no preset was selected, but just started adding effects until I found some I liked – the Dramatic and Adjustable Gradient filters were selected. Bottom line is that the program is a little quirky still – I got it to crash once and when using the brush in the layer  masks, got some really weird artifacts so expect this. But overall it is a lot of fun to try out and see what Macphun has created. Hope you get a change to load the software and see what you think.  Have a good week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Painted lady's image from Unsplash by Roksolana ZasiadkoThis week still having some summer fun. Have not been painting that much recently, so I decided to share a couple little things I am learning. Since I have been playing around with faces and portraits a little (Lisa Carney reruns have been on Creative Live recently and she is the best retoucher), I thought I would attempt a little painting in Photoshop. The above image was taken from a beautiful photo at Unsplash by Roksolana Zasiadko. First the image has to be cleaned up and the subject put on its own layer using some sort of selection process. I could not get her hair extracted properly in PS, even with a little “channel pulling” (using the channel with the best contrast to make a selection) to make the selection, so I improvised by doing using the Select and Mask command before painting in the missing hair. Then lots of layers of painting and retouching on the face . I cannot tell how important it is to develop a set of brushes for this type of work. So for example, I used the brush that was in my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog using a very small size to paint in the eyelashes. David Belliveau’s mixer brush was used to smooth skin. (A link to his free brushes are with his How to Blend Colors in Photoshop: 4 Essential Technique blog.) To add the hair, one of Aaron Blaise’s Lion Leopard Fur Brush was used at a large size. It worked amazingly well by just sampling lighter and darker colors. Added one of my orange light leaks (one I created using my How to Create Light Leaks to use Over Again blog) to the right side to lighten it up and give a sunny feel. One of my Corel Painter textures was used as a background. On the top a layer used one of 2 Lil’ Owls (for website, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Creative Masks set to Screen blend mode at 31% layer opacity for a little detail effect on the side. Just a lot of experimenting with brushes and effects. If you have a great photo to start with, it is not that hard. Still, it takes a lots of practicing to get the digital look  just right – hope to spend some more time on this this summer!

Image of painted coleus plants in my yardI discovered that using Topaz Impression2 to help your digital art is just fine, and then take art to the next level with your painting. This shot of a coleus plant was taken in my front yard – they grow almost like weeds once planted, but they are so pretty, and there are lots of pattern varieties. It took quite a bit of clean up to get to a point where the painting could begin. The plants were selected and placed on their own layer – much easier than the portrait with the hair above. Then the selected object was taken into Topaz (see sidebar for website link at my Tidbits Blog) Impression 2 was opened and my SJ Van Gogh Painting Start preset was applied – can be downloaded in the Topaz Community by searching for sj space. (These are the settings if choose to use: Started with Van Gogh II preset and made these changes: Stroke Type 01, Number of Strokes High, Brush Size 0.13, Paint Volume 0.20, Large Brush Volume 0, Paint Opacity 0.81, Stroke Rotation 0, Rotation Variation, Stroke Color Variation 0, Stroke Width 0.68, Stroke Length 0.58, Spill 0, smudge 0, and Coverage 1.00; Color Overall Saturation 0.17; Lighting Brightness 0.09 and Contrast -0.04; and no Texture.) For this image, the Orange, Aqua, and Green Colors were also adjusted. Next Jai Johnson’s Daily Textures Explorations 10 was added underneath and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was set above to get the background colors.

Several new layers were painted using my SJ 3-Pastel-Van Gogh TI1 brush – this is a brush I created just for painting this type of image. To make your own, follow my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog but with a couple important changes. First a small square was selected using the Marquee Tool showing a part of the plant Impression layer that showed some nice contrast and brush strokes in it. It was turned into a Pattern by going to Edit -> Define Pattern and name it. (I named mine TI Van Gogh). Next the Brush Panel Texture section was opened. Select the Pattern drop-down (little arrow on right side of pattern swatch) and go to the very bottom where the new Pattern is located. The setting for the pattern I created are: Scale 46%, Brightness -46, Contrast 34, check Texture Each Tip, Mode Color Dodge, Depth 38% and Depth Jitter 12%. Try adjusting all these settings to fit your particular pattern. This brush gives a nice stroke effect at both larger and smaller sizes. Then open the Color Dynamics section and check Apply per Tip, set the Hue Jitter to 2%, and Brightness Jitter to 11%. (It was used on the hair in a few places on the top image.) This is the only brush used in the Coleus picture and basically I dabbed around on each leaf to get the look I wanted. And since the image is a composite, the plant edges were painted over slightly using the brush at a little larger size and sampling the background color all around – this blends the edges much better so it does not look like you just popped the plant on the background. To finish off, another texture from Jai called Be My Valentine was added on top – it was set to Overlay blend mode at 80% layer opacity.  Another Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture (ALT+click between layers) to set the color correctly. Finally finished off with a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and a Levels Adjustment Layer to get the final tone and color correction.

Well it may sound like a lot of work, but I am finding using the new brush is very nice for painting, with no change of pattern. I did notice after several attempts to get the correct feel to this image that using a texture that matches the painting style being used is very helpful. And I was surprised how easy it was to get nice hair effects by creating your own hair. Until next week, have a good one – I hope to try a little more experimenting with these techniques……Digital Lady Syd


Creative Text imageThis week I am just taking it easy and playing around with some text and images. Sometimes you just have to let the creative side play and see what happens! Anyway, this is how Digital Lady Syd takes a break! I just can’t get away from Photoshop! I do not usually use other individuals’ images, but for practice it is great – I do not see me getting to these beautiful mountains soon! There are many resources today if you would like to try a few new things.

In the image above a text layer was placed in a new document – the font used was from a CD bought years ago by Cosmi called 04, a fabulously fat font. The Create Warped Text icon on the Options Bar was double-clicked and in the Warp Text dialog, a Style called Arc Upper was selected with a Bend of +50%. A Stroke Layer Style was set to a Size 7 px, inside set to Color white. The Default Drop Shadow was added. Some splatter brushes from French Kiss (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) were used above and underneath the text to add the crazy effect. A Pattern Adjustment Layer using a lace pattern was clipped (ALT+Click between the layers) to add a lacy effect in some of the strokes. (The Pattern used was a black and white lace texture from a set redheadstock at DeviantArt called Lace Photoshop Patterns.) The SS-Groping 1 Flying birds are also from redheadstock and set to 73% layer opacity. One of my painted textures was placed on the bottom and a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to desaturate it. On a composite layer (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) Topaz (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar) ReStyle was applied using the Snow Cover II preset with a few adjustments to the Color and Tone sections. The lower text font was called Berlin Sans FB Demi. On a layer above the text, Grut’s FX IL Bottle Topple brush from his terrific Inky Leaks Splatter brushes was applied to slightly cover the text – set to 64% layer opacity (and do not forget to look for his free brush of the week – it is a great way to get introduced to his big selection of brushes).

Digital art image a pretty modelThe original of the woman shows her standing in the middle of some orange colored leaves – I think she looks like a princess! (See Kuoma Stock Haunted 13 for original image at DeviantArt.) The woman was extracted from the background using the Select and Mask Command. Another one of my painted backgrounds was added and a couple layers of splatters were added behind the girl. Color was added to her face and nails and hair added into the image. On a New Blank Layer heart brush was created from the Custom Shape Tool (in Options Bar select the Heart Shape and set the 2nd button to Shape; go to the Paths Panel and click the Create a Selection icon at bottom; go back to Layers Panel and fill selection with black by ALT+Backspace to fill; with Marquee Tool, select the black Heart and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name Heart). Settings for the brush are: Brush Panel’s Brush Tip Shape Spacing 25%; Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 93%, Control Pen Pressure, Angle Jitter 12; Scattering Both Axes, Scatter 1000%, Count 1, Count Jitter 0; Color Dynamics Apply Per Tip, Foreground to Background 8%, Hue 7%, Sat Jitter 2%, Brightness Jitter 7%, and Purity -36%; Transfer Opacity Jitter 20% and Flow Jitter 32% and Smoothing on. Two New Blank Layers were used to add in different colors (white and light pink) hearts – one layer’s Layer Style ws opened and set to Bevel and Emboss to add a little texture to some of the hearts. Topaz Texture Effects 2 was opened and the Breaking Down preset was applied with the Spot Mask used to remove effect from her face. Duplicated the layer and opened up the Corel Painter plug-in (I am still using the old version) – the Flame brush was selected and pink and light color flames were painted just for fun. The old frame is from the Scrapbooker itKuPilli and is in a set called Amazing Grapes (could not locate). The font with the hearts is called Fiolex Girls. On top 2 Lil’ Owls Color Bokeh Grunge Set texture 4 (for website link see my Tidbits Blog sidebar – this is one of my favorite sets) was applied and set to 38% layer opacity.

Wintry image of Fur TreesThis is also a wonderful Unsplash photo by Johannes Plenio called Winter. I got a little carried away post-processing this image until it was brought to my attention that it looked like a raging forest fire – I thought it was an incredible sunset! (See below.) Just an example of good intentions that turned into not so good post processing. Anyway, just a little tweak from Topaz ReStyle and now it is a beautiful wintry image. So most of the dramatic changes were done in the new Topaz Studio using Sharpen, Radiance, Color Theme, Texture and HSL Color Tuning sections (I created a preset called SJ Forest Landscape in the Community if you have downloaded the plugin and would like to try it out). For more info, see my Introducing the Free Topaz Studio blog. This created the sunset look, but also created the nice sharp tree trunks and edges. Back in PS, two Curves Adjustment Layers were used to adjust the RGB curve for contrast, and then the Color using the individual Channel Curves. Next a Levels Adjustment was applied as it just looked good. Then a Black and White Adjustment Layer adjusting the color contrast sliders just a little and then set to Luminosity blend mode. And finally a Selective Color Adjustment Layer adjusted the Yellow color so the little tree on the left showed up better – set the layer mask to black (CTRL+I inside the mask) and painted back just the tree. 5 New Blank Layers were added and set to Overlay blend mode and with a soft round brush, various areas were highlighted with white, yellow, and sky colors. The layer opacities were reduced to taste. It was now a raging fire image! Oh my gosh! Okay, here is a small image so you get the idea and see how powerful ReStyle can be.

Fiery Image of Fur TreesQuickly Topaz ReStyle was opened and the Snow Cover II preset (once again) was applied with very few changes – just a few Tone and Detail changes. It was amazing how this preset was able to transform the image. In PS a New Blank Layer was added and Grut’s FX IL Dry Grit brush was used from his set above and snow was painted lightly on the trees. My free SJ Snow2 Overlay slight Blur was added at 75% layer opacity to give some nice snow effect. The Shadowhouse Creations Snow Overlay 11 (his resources are the best!) was added to give a little more snow dimension – it was set to Screen blend mode at 70% layer opacity. The last step added Matt Kloskowski’s vignette (see my Fun Photoshop How to Create a Subtle Vignette Blog.)

Hope you got a few ideas with this sort of lazy Summer Day Blog – have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of the Parrot of Paradise from Cuba
This week I have been playing around with some very old images from historical volumes that are readily available on line. I was surprised how many interesting items can be found in these old volumes and they are copyright free due to the old dates. I found that using these illustrations and text can create some very nice vintage effects. Thought I would share a couple tricks on how to get this info out of a downloaded PDF book file opened with the Acrobat Reader software and into your Photoshop files. Please do not copy from books that are currently copyrighted or remove photos from their files. This process should only be used on really old volumes where no copyright infringement is being violated. Read the copyright information on the book’s download site before using it in your own work.

The Parrot of Paradise from Cuba (could not figure out which bird this really is) was taken from an old volume printed in 1754 called The Natural History of Carolina, Florida and Bahama Islands – the downloadable PDF (on right side in web link) contains just the Bird portion of the volume. I have to thank one of my favorite bloggers, Sarah Vernon and her First Night Design Blog, for sharing this particular info with her readers (and check out her blog to see some beautiful vintage type items for sale). Now what is particularly cool about this book is that the text is in both Old English as shown in the image or French. And the text about both birds were copied from the book. For you ephemeral fans, this is a bonanza!

Capturing Text

So how do you capture the text? There are two ways to do this depending on what you want to do with the text. Do you want the text to appear as is does in the PDF file, or do you want to just copy the text letter-by-letter and select a different font for your image. Both of these images used the second method.

Method 1 – Copying Text as It Appears in the PDF file

  1. Find a page in the PDF document with text that would look good in your composition. Many times there are lead fancy letters that would be nice to have in a vintage piece.
  2. In Acrobat Reader, click on the little upward Arrow icon (Selection tool for text and images) in the Options Bar at top. Click inside Page and a little cross-hair icon appears – just line up the text wanted, then click and drag out a box around it. A blue overlay will appear over the selected text. Right click inside overlay and and choose Copy Image (even though it is not really an image).
  3. Open Photoshop and go to File -> New Document -> Clipboard and Create.
  4. Go to Edit -> Place and a new layer will appear on top of the Background layer with the text showing up as a light brown color and a black background. Therefore, the layer needs to be inverted (CTRL+I) so it appears as a light blue on a white background.
  5. Add a Curves Adjustment Layer on top and pull the bottom black tab on the left all the way across to the right side by the white tab. The text appears as a very readable black and white text.
  6. Create a stamped layer on top (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top.
  7. Go to Select -> Color Range and set the layer to Highlights in the drop-down (Fuzziness 0 and Range 216) and check the Invert Button so White lettering will be selected and the black is removed. Click OK – an active selection of the the letters will be shown.
  8. Add a New Layer and with the Foreground color set to black (if that is the color you want), press ALT+Backspace – the lettering is now on its own layer.
  9. If you want to keep this text for use again, highlight the text layer, and go to Layers -> Duplicate, and in the Document field drop-down, instead of using the current file name, select New. Now a new document with just that layer of text is selected. Save the text as a PNG file if you want the transparency to stay with the layer or as a JPG if want a layer with the white background color to be added (if white was the Background Contents color when original file was created).

Method 2 – Copy the Text Letter-by-Letter to Use with a Different Font

  1. Find a page in the PDF document with text that would look good in your composition.
  2. With the Selection Tool chosen (upward arrow), drag out a selection – by clicking inside the PDF just before the text to be copied and highlight by dragging your cursor to end of the text.
  3. Go to Edit -> Copy. (CTRL+C)
  4. Open Photoshop and create a New Document – any size will do like 8 1/2 inches X 11 inches at 300 ppi.
  5. Select the Horizontal Text Tool and drag out a box in the document to add the text copied from the Acrobat Reader volume. Click the checkmark (or double click inside layer) to set the text, even if letter size and font is incorrect. Press CTRL+V to paste or go to Edit -> Paste. Note that the text will not copy into Photoshop without a text box being drawn out first.
  6. Triple click inside text box to select all the individual letters. Open the Properties Panel, click ALT+H to hide the black highlighting, and open the drop-down menu that contains all the different fonts – use your mouse scroll wheel to run through them to find one you like.
  7. Now adjust size and text evenly so it fits in the text box created in Step 5.
  8. To be able to save this text as a PNG file or JPG file, go to Step 9 above. Note that when a text layer is duplicated, it will be rasterized in the new file and is not longer editable.

The text can be transformed, layer styles applied, different colors or patterns added, duplicated and flipped, anything that is needed. In the image above, a color was sampled from the bird for the text and placed over the bird. Then a layer mask was applied and the lettering removed from the bird. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio was used on the bird layer where the Radiance filter was applied to give it more line strength in the bird itself and the Color Theme filter was opened. A soft blue color was added as the last color that filled in the background with the pretty gray-blue vintage look.
Image of a Red Curlew bird from a vintage bookThe bird image (which was taken directly from the book in this case) layer above is of a Red Curlew bird (once again not sure what type of bird it is now called) and was actually taken into Topaz Impression and the Cartoon Your Critter preset was applied. A few different textures were used for the background and a box was used to add in the text about the bird in French from the book. What an interesting looking bird!

Capturing Image

I cannot leave you hanging – the best way to copy the image from a PDF document is as follows.

  1. With page open to image to copy out of the PDF in Acrobat Reader, select the icon next to the View Size field so book is viewed in single-mode view.
  2. Go to Edit -> Copy File to Clipboard (do not use Snapshot or CTRL+C). A slider showing Copying to Clipboard will appear at bottom of page when it is processing this info.
  3. Open Photoshop and go to File -> New Document -> Clipboard and Create, or if a file is already open go to Edit -> Paste Special -> Paste in Place. If placing in a document, the image may need to adjusted to fit using the Free Transform command (CTRL+T). See below for more on this.

Check the size and resolution of the bird image if brought in on the clipboard – there can be a lot of pixelation on the image if changed to 300 ppi. For example, the parrot image was set to 150 ppi, which is the lowest amount to use on a for a 8 1/2 by 11 inch image to be printed. (First go the Image -> Image Size and uncheck Resample; set resolution to 150 in this case or 300 if you can; check Resample box; change the height and width to size needed; and when upsizing as in this case, adjust the Noise slider if needed. If just using the image on the Internet or computer, just leave the resolution at 72 ppi – no problems. For images placed in PS, there will probably be some pixelation which is what happened with the Red Curlew bird – that is one reason why Topaz Impression was used on the layer. The pixelation also gave an interesting ink look so it is not always a bad thing. Now the layer can be altered however you want. The bird images for this volume actually has a link to just the pictures that can be downloaded as a JPG directly to your hard drive – still not a very large image. The Parrot image was copied this way, but the Red Curlew was taken from my downloaded copy of the PDF file. This time the French text from the book was selected for the bird text. The text is not affect as much as the images where pixelation is concerned. Text layers are actually vector layers so they upsize very nicely. May need to watch once the layer is rasterized and no longer editable since that converts the layer into pixels.

Well I hope you will have some fun taking the Old English and French text and using it in all kinds of images. It is a lot of fun to use text that is directly related to the image being used, even if you cannot read the actual language. I have a couple more nice book references that I will link either in this blog or my Tidbits blog, so stay tuned. This vintage effect is very popular right now. Have a great weekend and 4th of July here in the US!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Dive Boat and riders heading to ocean at Boynton Beach, FloridaI started to add this info into my How to Create My Favorite Brush post which used a Pattern in the Brush Panel and played a big role in the brush creation. There was so much to discuss about this topic, I decided to turn it into two blogs. Glad I did as I have recently learned a few new tricks on using Patterns that are discussed below.

Patterns..and How Crazy This Gets

When downloading Photoshop patterns from the Internet, the files must have a PAT extension (not JPG which most texture file extension use) to load them into your Pattern list. With Photoshop open, just double-click on the downloaded .PAT file and they load right into PS. Where are these patterns used? In the Pattern Fill Adjustment and Adjustment Layer where the Dialog obviously contains a Pattern drop-down menu. Click the little cog in upper right of the Pattern drop-down to add in other Patterns (another way to add them in – see below for more on this). The Content Aware Fill (Edit -> Fill) has a choice for Contents Pattern. Also are used in Layer Styles – Pattern Overlay section, Bevel and Emboss Texture section, and Stroke section (Fill Type) all contain the use of Patterns. When creating a brush using the Texture section of the Brush Panel, you are really adding a Pattern that carries a .PAT file extension, not a JPG. The following Brush Tools allow the use of a Texture section which uses Patterns: the Mixer Brush Tool, Pencil Tool, Eraser Tool, History Brush Tool, Art History Brush Tool, Clone Stamp Tool, Dodge Tool, Burn Tool, and  Sponge Tool . The Pattern Stamp Tool uses Patterns in both the brush settings and Options Bar. Several Tools have Patterns as a choice in the Options Bar: Bucket Tool (check out the Foreground drop-down. You can actually pour a Pattern onto a layer – who knew?), the Healing Brush (this is strange too!), all the Shape Tools set to Shape and clicking on Fill swatch and then clicking on the Pattern swatch, there is the pattern list. I may have missed a couple uses, but overall, I was amazed that Patterns are in all these places in Photoshop. And unfortunately, sometimes the Patterns are in Texture areas and sometimes not labeled at all – it can be a little confusing!

Loading and Creating a Pattern

If you want to convert one of your favorite textures or images into a Pattern, open the texture (which can be a JPG or PSD file) and go to Edit -> Define as a Pattern, name it and the pattern now appears at the bottom of your Pattern list. To see all your Patterns and to add more, go to Edit -> Presets -> Preset Manager and open Preset Type drop-down and select Patterns. The Patterns can be dragged around in the Preset Manager to put them in a better order. Click Load to add new ones or click the the little cog at top and see all the Photoshop canned presets available. (In case you wondered, the sets are: Artist Surfaces, Artists Brushes Canvas, Color Paper, Erodible Textures, Grayscale Paper, Legacy Patterns, Nature Patterns, Patterns 2, Patterns, Rock Patterns, Texture Fill 2, Texture Fill, Watercolour Patterns and Web Patterns – I had no idea all these were here!) Go to next section to see how to create a new pattern. It is useful to have colored and grayscale Patterns loaded. Even though the brush panel only uses the Patterns as grayscale color, the other Tools and commands will use the color. It is fun to try out watercolor blobs and brightly colored textures that you liked. And remember if you download Patterns, by double-clicking on the .PAT file will add them to the bottom of your Pattern List.

Creating a Noise Pattern for Your Library Panel

For some reason, it had not occurred to me that an Adjustment Layer could be saved and reused in the Library Panel. I do not use this panel much, but after watching Lisa Carney’s Color Techniques for Retouching classes on Creative Live this week, I am reconsidering. This noise tip came from her class on Portrait Retouching and involves creating a Pattern Adjustment Layer to add the final grain effect at the end of your workflow. She feels that adding a slight noise will pull an image together, especially when compositing. The image above of the Dive Boat going out to sea used this Noise Adjustment Layer – it looks really good with the vintage feel. (This results in a very similar look as the first tip in my 10 Not So Well Known Photoshop Tips blog where the Lens Blur Filter was used.)

Here is the workflow for this useful Adjustment Layer:

  1. Create a New Layer by clicking SHIFT + CTRL +N. In the Dialog name the layer Noise at this point, set it to Overlay blend mode, and check the Fill with overlay-neutral color (50% Gray). Note the blend mode must be set to Overlay before check box shows up.
  2. Go to Filter -> Noise -> Add Noise and set to 3, 5 or 8. Turn on Gaussian radio button and uncheck Monochromatic (do not want black and white grain on faces and skin especially).
  3. Go to Filter -> Blur -> Gaussian Blur and set to a Radius of .3 or .5 to lightly smooth.
  4. Desaturate the layer by going to Image -> Adjustments -> Hue/Saturation and set Saturation to -50.
  5. Go to Edit -> Define Pattern and name the pattern Add Noise 5-Gaus .3 Desat -50 so you know the settings used to create this Noise layer.
  6. In the Adjustment Layer icon at the bottom of the Layers Panel, select the Pattern Adjustment Layer – go to the bottom of the Patterns list and click on the new Pattern created in Step 5. The Scale can be adjusted if needed. Now would be a good time to rename the layer the same as the Pattern name if saving to the Library Panel in next step.
  7. Open Library Panel and drag the Pattern Adjustment Layer into panel. Anytime you want to add some noise at the end of your workflow, just right click on the Noise Pattern icon and select “Place Layers” – it appears in your image as a Pattern Adjustment Layer. Note: if you just select it, it will appear to be a rasterized version of the adjustment layer – this may be okay if that is what you want.
  8. Set the adjustment layer to Overlay blend mode and tweak the layer opacity if it needs it.

Image of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas

Using a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer to Add Texture to an Object

This image of New Plymouth on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas used a little trick I use all the time to give the little birds on the sand some texture. Birds are from a 7 bird brushes for You set by justadistrict12 girl on DeviantArt (could not find a link). They were added using black color at 100% Brush Opacity and Flow. Then a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer was added on top. It was then clipped to the bird layer (ALT+click between the layers) so that the Pattern is only applied to the birds and not the whole image. The Pattern used was a brown colored texture with beige lines going through it from a set redheadstock at DeviantArt called Lace Photoshop Patterns. It gives some detail to the birds making them look like they have a little definition where the wing would go. See Screenshot below. When dialog is open, the Scale can be changed and the Pattern moved by dragging it around in the image. This way the Pattern can be adjusted to give a nice effect. Now in this image, it may not look necessary to do this, but it makes the difference between making an image look finished or not. This is really nice on images where flying birds are added. Solid color birds will look like they are pasted into the image.

Screenshot of Pattern Adjustment Layer dialog
What is really nice about using the Pattern Adjustment Layer is that different noise patterns can be made using different settings in the Noise Filter, Gaussian Blur Filter, and the Saturation slider in the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Each one can be saved in the Library Panel so different effects can be tried out quickly to decide which one looks best. Just be sure they are named so the difference between them is obvious. The one used above I named SJ Add Noise 5-Gaus .3-Desat -50 (same as pattern name) to remind me what is applied. And favorite Patterns can also saved as adjustment layers in the Library for using just on bird brushes or anything that needs this type of effect applied.

Hope you enjoyed the Pattern post – it can get a little confusing! Try out the Noise Adjustment Layer – I think I will be using mine a lot….Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs
How To How To Use a Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer
I Didn’t Know That! Use A Pattern Fill Layer to Add a Painted Texture
A Little Layer Style Fun
Christmas Card from Digital Lady Syd!
How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-Up



Image of The Eye in LondonAs you all know, I am a huge Topaz Labs fan so I have been busily figuring out what can be done with the new Topaz Studio. To link to the download, go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar which goes directly to the free download and other info on the different adjustments. I will keep this link going since Studio has it owns Topaz site. I am not ready to do a full review so I will just go over what I have learned and pass on a few thoughts. It appears to be a wonderful upgrade to their original Topaz photoFXlab from several years ago (and which I have always thought was one of their best releases). Studio acts as a hub for all the programs from Topaz you already own. It can be accessed as both a stand-alone program or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. Studio is a basic RAW editor that contains several features similar to Lightroom or PS Camera Raw. JPG, TIFF, and PNG files may also be opened in the program. The heart of the editing lies in the various “adjustments” that are applied individually to create an overall original image effect. The London Eye image is an example of combining several of their adjustments to get the final image effect. (The Adjustments applied and saved in a preset are: Basic Adjustment, Precision Contrast, Radiance, Dehaze, Bloom and Posterize, then Reduce Noise and Vignette were applied on a separate layer.) There are also a myriad of presets on the left side that can be selected that contain several adjustments to apply in one click. This is very similar to the original photoFXlab. But now if a feature is not one you like, it can be deleted from the preset.

For starters, the program offers free adjustments to apply to your images. These 10 effects are:  Basic Adjustments (similar to photoFXlab Adjustments section), Blurs, Brightness/Contrast, Color Overlay, Dual Tone, Film Grain, Image Layer, Posterize, Tone Curves, and Vignette. Sounds a bit like Lightroom or Camera Raw doesn’t it? If you do not own Photoshop or Lightroom or know someone who does not, this is a great way to process RAW files and it is free download. The program adjustments work from the top down as opposed to bottom up like Photoshop layers. The adjustments actually look like layers, but you are unable to apply them as a group of layers as in PS, but you can create your own presets to use the same settings over again.
Image of Hillsboro Lighthouse in Pompano BeachThe Adjustment Pro Pack contains another 14 adjustments to apply more unique effects to the image. Each adjustment can be downloaded individually and  tried out for 30 days before buying. Definitely take advantage of this trial period to see how you like what Topaz is doing with this program. The Pro Pack has some really handy effects such as: Abstraction, Black and White, Bloom, Color Theme, Dehaze, Edge Exposure, Focal Blue, HSL Color Training, Precision Control, Radiance, Reduce Noise, Sharpen, Smudge, and Texture. I like the Precision Control Adjustment which is a contrast adder and is a lot like Clarity with the miracle Micro slider and also a pretty nifty Color slider. It is too bad it is not in the original set as it is a really nice effect. Reduce Noise takes some really good info from the Topaz DeNoise program that is so fabulous. And in Sharpen, the Lens Deblurring section is very similar to their Infocus plug-in and works wonderfully. Each of these adjustments can be duplicated and applied more than once. I believe Topaz tried to take some of the best from each of their plug-ins to make editing an image must faster. The image above is of the Hillsboro Lighthouse in Broward County, Florida, and used the Recital 001 preset in Topaz Studio. The image below was used in the stand-alone version of Studio – used Topaz ReStyle plugin’s Rusted Gray and Light Blue preset and then the Basic Adjustment. Quite a different feel to this image that was taken on a very overcast day.

Image of South Lake Worth Inlet in Southern FloridaOne of the best parts of the program is their Masking features. If you own Topaz Texture Effects 2 or Topaz Impression, the brushes and masking is very similar – but with a difference. Now the mask can have more than one way to localize the effect. Therefore the Gradient and Spot masks can both be used on the same mask or also add in the Brush or Luminance Mask – very nice! This way the adjustment can be localized to just one small area of the image. And they are using their Edge Aware technology that I have loved for years. I am missing the Burning/Dodging, Saturation/Desaturation/ and Smoothing/Detail brushes from the photoFXlab and a few of their other plug-ins like Black and White effects, but hopefully they will be added soon.

If you want to just jump right in and start using the program, check out a short video called Topaz Studio Welcome and Walkthrough by Heath Robinson of Topaz. He goes over the program interface very thoroughly. But to learn a little more about how to use the actual adjustments, check the video Intro to Topaz Studio by Greg Rastami – he gives some great ideas on how to actually use the adjustments on all types of images – very helpful! I know Topaz Labs will be coming out with many more videos as they are pros at getting their fans up to speed on their products. There are also short videos on each adjustment in case you need more info on how to use it.

As stated above, you can  still get into your regular Topaz plugins by going to the Menu Bar and selecting Plug-ins to further enhance the image. If you do apply a plug-in, it will duplicate the image in the Workspace at the bottom and now you have to finish adding effects onto the new one – there is not way to know what plug-in was applied by looking at the list in the left panel. I have had a few problems with this if I get too fancy and apply too many plug-ins. Just be aware of this. I know the Topaz group well enough to know that they are definitely working on this issue. The program is automatically updated when new versions are ready so no more downloading and executing new versions – that alone is a great new feature! Another drawback at the moment is that they do not have any tools for removing distractions like a Healing Brush Tool or Clone Stamp Tool – apparently this is going to be included in one of the next updates so watch for this. Below is a succulent plant that uses one of my presets called SJ Colorful Plant Effect that was uploaded to the community and can be found  from the preset search section of the program.

Image of a succulent plant leavesConsidering that this is a free program and it is hugely complicated, Topaz has really done a fantastic job! It is lots of fun to fiddle around with all the different adjustments and try out other presets – I can see that they will be fine-tuning this program as it continues to grow and will be a real contender in the RAW field down the road. Lots to check out and some incredible effects can be created! I will be using the plug-in more in the future and try to keep everyone updated on all the new software additions. In the meantime I would suggest you download it and enjoy! ….Digital Lady Syd


Image of three Roseate Spoonbill babies with Mom at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm RookeryA couple years ago this info was presented, but I feel it is an important topic – creating a reliable brush that will work most of the time. This brush is my SJ Pastel 3-painting brush, my “go-to brush” for cleaning up an image such as filling in spaces, cleaning up uneven edges, painting small places in layer masks, and adding in some texture where needed. This does not mean I do not use other brushes, I am a major Photoshop brush collector. But this brush is used to do all the little clean up and detail work that almost every image, whether a realistic photo image as above, or a more artistic creation, will require. The image of a Roseate Spoonbill family was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Rookery, a very noisy place at this time of year. I loved the bird expressions but it was difficult to get the birds to show up – they actually were nestled back in a tree and the light was very dappled and harsh. The brush created described below was used extensively to get in close to clean up the edges and even out some of the color. By sampling nearby colors and setting the brush in the Options Bar to 67% Brush Opacity, and adjusting the Flow as needed, it turned out to be quite useful. Need to experiment a little and I think you will get some good results with this brush. Another good image example that used 7 clean up layers with lots of sampling and painting is The Mighty Bat Flower from my recent Tidbits Blog.

My Favorite Brush

I have changed this brush only a little over the last 3 years to get what I consider is a really nice stroke effect. Here is the link to download the basic brush from a free set by Stacy David Wallingford at DeviantArt’s SDWHaven Pastel Brushes.abr to be used both personally and commercially. Photoshop makes it really easy to add these brushes to the Brush Preset list – first open up PS, then double click on the .abr file that was downloaded – they pop into the bottom of the brush list. The brush used is his Brush 11 at the very bottom of the list.

Open the Brush Panel by clicking F5 (or with the Brush Tool selected, choose the third icon over on the Options Bar at top) and make the following changes to the brush – be sure to click on the underlined word so it opens up the dialog for each section, except Smoothing which does not have settings.

Brush Tip Shape:
Size: It opens up at a huge 2130 px brush! The size was changed to 8 pixels. I like to use a small size for clean up, but this can be easily adjusted, when needed, like to add texture to an area.
Angle set to 137 degrees – change by dragging the arrow in the circle or adding in the Angle field
Roundness is 100% – can drag the little dots in the box to make tip elliptical
Spacing is 35%

Shape Dynamics:
All are set to 0 and Off except Angle Jitter slider set to 42% – this gives a slight variation of stroke effect, especially on the edges

Texture (which is really a pattern):
Uses the Rough pattern located in the free PS pattern set that come with the program called Erodible Textures. To load pattern, click on the little down arrow next to the texture window in the top of the panel, then press the little cog wheel that opens up drop-down menu. Select the Erodible Textures in the list which contains the last 8 textures in pattern list. Select Append in dialog box. See screenshot below and select the blue highlighted pattern called Rough.
Screenshot of Pattern panel in PhotoshopSelect Rough pattern
Scale is 87%
Brightness is -45
Contrast set to 0
Check Texture Each Tip
Mode is Multiply
Depth is 50%
Depth Jitter was set to 1%

Smoothing check box is turned on – it has no settings.

Be sure to save the brush as a Brush Preset by clicking on the Create New Brush at the bottom of the Brush Panel and Brush Preset Panel – it will appear at the bottom of your brush list. I personally saved the brush as a Brush Tool preset so that the Options Bar settings are also preserved which are set to Opacity 67% and Flow 100%. To do this, in the first icon on the Options Bar, select the little down arrow – click the Create new tool preset icon under the cog wheel icon and name your brush. It will always appear in the Tool Presets when the Brush is selected with the additional settings.

To add more texture into the brush, change to a different Texture pattern. I like the Guaze pattern which gives a hatch effect (it is located in the PS Artist Surfaces pattern set) to use for an interesting background effect – it especially looks good in a Mixer brush for both blending and adding color. Adjust the Scale, Brightness and Contrast sliders and change the Mode – watch the Brush Preview at bottom of Brush Panel to see what the changes are doing to the brush stroke. And of course try changing the Spacing in the Brush Tip Shape section and adding Scattering can result in an interesting brush to use. Check out my related blogs below for more info on saving and changing brushes.

I hope you will try the brush – it is pretty easy to create and with just a few tweaks, it works very nicely. And try using a different brush that has a different dab tip with the settings and see if you get an even better brush. I still use a soft round brush a lot, and many of my Grut Brushes (get a free brush to download every Monday) are other favorites, especially his Cloud and Inky Leaks Splatter brushes. But I still return to this stand-by of a brush for most of my clean up – it is always at the top of my brush list. Have a great week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
How to Save Your Favorite or Newly Created Brushes
Why Use the Tool Preset Panel? Photoshop Painters Listen Up!
What Does the Flow Slider in the Options Bar Do?
How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-Up

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