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Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done?

Happy New Year everyone! One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get back to what I really like and learn some new things. Therefore, I did my first project – digitally painted this rose following the acrylic painter David Jansen’s video called Painting a Beginning Rose with Acrylics. I wanted to see if I could actually follow his painting directions to create a similar result. I have never painted so this was a real challenge for me.

The basic flower was done in Corel Painter 2020 on several layers – created my own Acrylic brushes using their Opaque Acrylic Brush and adjusted some of the settings. (In Painter you can go in and change the Resat and Bleed settings easily to change the strokes and create blender brushes to somewhat get David’s stroke effect.) If you want to try this in Photoshop, I would suggest you download a set of free acrylic brushes by Jess Robley – select the first brush and try reducing opacity and adjust stroke angle to create some good acrylic strokes. (I tried size 30, 21% opacity and 86 degrees for angle.) I believe converting it to a Mixer Brush would be great for blending. NOTE: Here is a cool tip for converting a regular brush to a Mixer: select a Mixer Brush whose settings you like, then hold ALT + CTRL and click on the regular brush to convert to a Mixer – Voila! It is now a Mixer! This is a fairly new shortcut to PS. Just click off and then back on the brush to bring it back to a regular brush.

Now that the flower is basically there, the image was saved as a PSD file in Painter and brought into PS to finish up. The bottom flower cluster was created using what I consider a very cool Pattern Stamp Tool technique by Jessica Johnson (see video and some freebies at this link and my blogs listed at end). This image used a Pattern and Brush from her inexpensive Romantic English Garden Set. These are really nice brushes and patterns and is a great way to add in a little color or detail into all kinds of images, not just painted ones – good for filling in those little holes that show up in odd places. I actually had a hard time deciding which brush and pattern to use for this image! The flower was darkened down the right side with an Overlay burn layer with black paint and 9% Flow on a soft brush. Last step was to add the text – it is called modernline by Ef Studio and I really like it.

So the bottom line is that if you were familiar with painting in acrylics, the transition to digital painting with an acrylic look would probably be very easy for you. For me, I am not sure I got the true essence of acrylic paint but as a first attempt, it was really fun to try. I definitely want to try this flower again using just the PS brushes – I believe it would be just as good. I am glad I got a start doing something different and working on a new set of skills. I hope everyone is trying out some new things since we are still pretty much working at home. In the meantime, enjoy the New Year!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

Trying Out Some New Things

The Rag-a-Muffins

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO EVERYONE

Image of a Christmas Holiday scene

Just wishing everyone a wonderful holiday – it has been a rough year and we all deserve a little time to relax and look forward to 2021. Planning to be back blogging more regularly next year – needed a little down time just to put everything into perspective and see what direction my photography and art is going. I am planning on watching a few videos this next week and trying out some new things.

This image just contains fun things I have accumulated over the past several years. Basically just used some Corel Painter clipart they gave away last year. The Santa and reindeer in the sky is from a brush I created a few years ago and just painted in some color. The background was a purple and blue one created a while back and a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to give it the color. Used an Ivan Rosenberg snowflakes overlay for the authentic-looking snow (in his Christmas Overlays Creator set offered by Design Cuts a few years ago). A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer and a Curves Adjustment Layer finished it up. Lots of fun – I love doing holiday pix!

Hope everyone will start 2021 much more refreshed with new ideas and ready to dig into new projects. That’s what I am planning on doing …. and in the meantime have a great time this week!…..Digital Lady Syd

TRYING OUT SOME NEW THINGS

Image of flowers taken at the Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The last few weeks have been pretty busy for us Photoshop groupies what with all kinds of webinars and tutorials being released by both our favorite software companies and photographers. I thought I would just go over a few techniques..

Side Note here: With Black Friday coming up, here are my favorite filters: Viveza – still cannot be beat as an overall filter; Topaz (see my Tidbits Blog sidebar for website links for all plugins) AI Sharpen – use it on every photo and can’t live without it; and a tie between Luminar 4 – just has some cool things in it – not sure yet on their new AI, but I happy with this version for now; and Topaz Studio 3 – this program has so many filters that are so useful like Impression, ReMix, Color Theme, Glow and Edges (and DeNoise Clear). If I just had these filters, I would probably be totally happy. Now I will say Topaz DeNoise AI is excellent when the need arises but I do not use it on every image, and Topaz Gigapixel I use all the time as a stand-alone mainly. And yes Color Efex Pro is always great – I just do not use it much.

The above image of the inside at the Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, is a good example of what can be done with the Pattern Stamp Tool. It can create some pretty impressive results and is major useful for creating textures. Used Jessica Johnson‘s new techniques (video and some freebies) at this link – she has lots of newsletter freebies so sign up at her site. I recently bought her Instapressionist brushes and am having a lot of fun experimenting with them. I am finding I can blend this tool with my regular painting to get some very unique effects. I also use the brush to fill in places in my image that needs some soft detail in the backgrounds.

Pixabay image of a violin

The above violin image from Pixabay was used to apply Frequency Separation (FS) to the rather wrinkled backdrop behind the instrument – the link will show you the image as downloaded. I wanted to try this technique out on something other than portraits since I am not really a retoucher or portrait photographer. So in October Adobe Max 2020 had an on-line virtual Photoshop Creativity Conference. Their link takes you to gobs of sessions, many on PS only. (I believe I heard these videos will be available to access for a year.) Earth Oliver, a commercial retoucher, did three classes all on Frequency Separation 2.0: Part 1 – Photoshop FS2.0 Retouching, Part 2 – Taking Images to the Next Level, and Part 3 – Problem Solving Techniques. And he also supplies you with an action to use. He speaks pretty slowly, but he makes it really easy to understand FS. He also uses the Mixer Brush in some of his steps which I found really useful. FS videos were also presented by Lisa Carney at the Photoshop Virtual Summit 2 (created by Photoshop Guy Dave Cross) which brought together 20 PS experts for roughly 40 hours of videos, but these summits are always fun to watch and full of great tips in them – the videos had to be purchased at time of viewing. Lisa Carney did a Basic FS Class for Beginners and one using FS on all types of files, including smoothing out wrinkles in clothes or backgrounds. She also has a Creative Live video called Retouching Clothing and Fabric, which is really good. Using the info from two retouchers, the above image was adjusted. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was used to create the interesting color of the violin (just dragged in the image with the toggle finger). Design Cuts Blooming Corner by Maria Letta Corner1 brush was used as detail behind the violin after selecting the violin. Last step was adding a Curves Adjustment Layer selecting the preset Basic Matte Effect. I can finally say I understand FS and will now use it a lot more.

Image of a man with NYC in the background

This image uses two free images: etty fidele in Bologna Italy (Unsplash) and New York City from Deeezy (Image 12). Chris Spooner, a British PS person, recently gave away this really cool Gold Action. In the above case it was run separately on each photo and then combined with a nebula image (from Unsplash) added that was also turned to gold using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. Just sort of one of those fun things to try and every now and then and whenever something gold is needed. This really works!

Same image as above, but this time I put one of my own Corel Painter textures behind the violin and added some sand on the instrument (this was actually a snow brush from Serge Ramelli with a brown color). The colors were changed by using the old Match Color command which Ben Wilmore explained clearly in his Summit video. On Creative Live Ben has this info in his Photoshop Mastery Retouching and Collage videos – they are older but still very good. I have never used this command so I was surprised how good it turned out. As a Source image, one of the textures I had created with a beige color was selected. Then the Luminosity, Color Intensity and Fade sliders were adjusted to get the overall colors wanted. It was pretty easy and turned out nice. To get the beach feel, the PS Lighting Effects filter in the Render grouping was used with a Point light set to a yellowish color and Intensity of 19, a white Exposure of 26 and Ambience of 29 to get this soft beach feel.

Hope my US friends have a great Thanksgiving – probably a bit low key – I know mine is going to be. But have fun anyway. Hope you get in on some great sales – the plugin companies all have good deals going on. Later…..Digital Lady Syd

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Image of a Halloween Scene

Happy Halloween! Hard to believe it is here already! It is always fun to create a Halloween image. This year a lot of the the imagery came from a nifty little program that JixiPix Software gave away a few months ago. (I have gotten several free software programs from them by just being on their mailing list so sign up if you are interested.) It is called Hallows Eve and was really simple to use. JixiPix has several smaller plugin and stand-alone programs that look really nice also. Below is what the interface of Hallows Eve looked like as I was putting this image together.

A few other elements were added – the Zombie and the Moon from PixelSquid, a great program for adding elements (check it out to see the large amount of objects they have – great for compositing in images) and the objects can be accessed from a panel inside of Photoshop. Viveza 2 was used to balance out the image. The cobweb was a brush from Obsidian Dawn and the font is called Strings.

Hope everyone is having a great holiday. In the meantime enjoy playing around with all the new features in Photoshop 2021 – lots of fun trying them out. Will get back soon with info on some of my favorite plugins and PS features. Enjoy!…..Digital Lady Syd

REBLOG – HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP’S BRUSH TEXTURE SECTION FOR PAINTING CLEAN-UP

Image of three painted birds on a branch

Since I have not been taking a lot of images recently, I decided to practice some painting in Photoshop. The image above is one I experimented with using what I hope looks like a bit of a Fall background scene. These birds were mainly painted using PS Mixers – mostly the blenders at different sizes and shapes. Check out some of the Converted Legacy Tool Presets – Default Tool Presets (open the top left pop out and select) to get some really nice brushes to start some painting. (Check out the Blunt – Round Blender and Fan – Flat Blender – I have used both mixer blenders to paint images – try adjusting the Size and some of the Options Bar settings for different results.) If you change some brush settings and like the results, be sure to save the preset to keep those settings. There is definitely a bit of trial-and-error and so much depends on the image. I was not too sure how these birds would turn out, but I think they are fine. It is very relaxing to paint also. Well, hope you are enjoying cruising into the wonderful Fall weather. I hope to get going on those Halloween pix soon!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image of painted purple hydrangeaI have been painting in Corel Painter more but finding I just have to use Photoshop to finish up most of my work. This can be frustrating because as we all know, Painter excels with their hundreds of brushes and usually the strokes and dabs look much better when created in Painter. Therein lies my dilemma. How do I clean up some mis-strokes when I am in PS so that you can’t tell the clean up was done.

I have been working on a brush all week and a lot of the best results came from the PS Brush Panel’s Texture section settings. If you understand this section, you can create some really nice brushes for smoothing out hard edges or blending texture into a big splotches of paint.

Some Important Brush Panel Notes:

  • The Brush Panel in Photoshop is often called the Brush Engine as it is in Painter.
  • Also when creating a new brush, be sure to actually click on each brush section name to open it up. By clicking on the check box, the existing settings from the last brush used will be applied to it. This can wreak havoc on a brush!
  • Texture and Pattern can mean the same thing, depending on what you are doing in Photoshop (and Painter). A texture is really a texture that you are adding in as a layer to an image and usually have .jpg or .png file extensions. A texture can be a pattern when using the Paint Panel’s Texture Section, the swatches as shown below are actually patterns and will have a .pat extension. To convert a texture to a pattern, open the Texture in PS, and to a Pattern, go to Edit -> Define Pattern – a Rectangular Marquee Selection can be made of just part of the texture to use as a pattern also. It will now appear at the end of your Patterns list.

Brush Panel Texture Section Basics

Below is what the Texture section looks like when the brush created was used to clean up the above hydrangea image. See My Pastel Brush Settings section below for all the original brush settings – it is a favorite of mine to just paint with, without these Texture settings. The new settings are also listed again if you would like to create the brush.
Screenshot of Brush Panel Texture SectionAs you can see in the image, the Painter strokes created a lot of differing and textured swirls within this image. When the image was opened in Photoshop for final processing, I looked at the strokes more closely. Several looked too sharp – too much bristle or sketch-looking lines – and did not blend well with the other parts of the image.

The brush created was for adding texture into painted areas to either soften edges or add some interest. This is done in PS by adding one of the same patterns already listed in the drop-down (click on down arrow to left of pattern swatch to open up).  This is the same pattern list used with the Pattern Fill Adjustment Layer, Layer Style Pattern Overlay Section, Bevel & Emboss Texture Section, and Stroke Section. Here are a few of my Obsidian Dawn patterns shown in my drop-down list below.
Screenshot of pattern drop-down Menue in Texture SectionA colored pattern can work in the brush if it has lots of contrast, which is determined not by the color saturation but the light and dark tones. The black and white patterns seem to be the best choices. The texture used in this brush was called 12 and the link is in brush settings section below. The pattern had a nice contrast to it and created an interesting texture in the stroke. The pattern may not be visible in the stroke preview at all until the following section sliders are adjusted.

The Scale can be adjusted to get a bigger or smaller pattern size. If you make it too small, a repeat pattern line in larger brush strokes may be seen, so watch out for this. When the pattern is added and no change is visible, try adjusting the Brightness slider first and watch the Preview for a change. The Contrast can help but it is not usually as noticeable. The Mode can make a big difference. Try all the different modes as they sometimes give drastically different results. The Preview will show these differences. The Depth, Minimum Depth (must set a Control to use this slider), and Depth Jitter (randomness) sliders can also add some major texture contrast, especially on the edge of the stroke. Overall adding texture to a brush requires a lot of tweaking, but when you get a good result, it is so rewarding and helpful to have.

How to Paint with This Brush

Now that you have a brush you like, here are a couple little tips for using it. Since you are using a texture (pattern) in your brush, it can make your computer use a lot of ram to keep up with your stroking since most of the time the Texture Each Tip box is on. This means it is applying the texture to each stroke laid down. Try increasing the spacing just a bit – usually this will not make a very noticeable change and speeds up the stroking. Since I have an older computer, CS6 runs much smoother when painting with a textured brush. It can also help to change your image to 8-bit mode if having problems.

Next point, if you want to just smooth some of the strokes with this brush, sample the color you are painting on (ALT+click on spot). If you want to add a little texture to the stroke, just sample a similar color nearby or go a lighter or darker using the color swatch. This is how I mainly added the soft color in some of the larger areas of this image. This brush can be used without the Texture Section checked to make a much more smooth stroke for color clean up or sharp edges.

Sometimes a funny color results if you are painting on a layer that is underneath an adjustment layer. That’s because you are technically sampling All Layers even though it is not shown in the Options Bar. Either need to turn off the adjustment layers above and sample the colors before the adjustments layers were added, or create a stamped version (CTRL+ALT+SHIFT+E) on top and then add the New Layer for painting on. Now the sampled colors will be as you adjusted them. The stamped layer can then be deleted but the colors will stay correct.

Why Not Use the Smudge Brush or the Mixer Brush?

The Smudge brush does some wonderful things, but there is no access to the Texture Section in the Brush Panel for Smudge brushes (only Basic Tip Shape and Shape Dynamics can be adjusted with a Smudge Brush and no color can be laid down, only get blending). The Mixer brushes work very well but I find it takes a lot of experimenting to get the exact stroke needed. Since what I needed was a quick little clean up brush, this seemed a bit like over-kill unless it is needed for some fine art.

My Pastel Brush Settings

I really like the shape of this brush – as a starter it is very textured and makes a nice subtle rough edge with the dab. The new brush used in my image and in this blog was called SJ Pastel 3-painting texture adder2 (I do not remember why I named it Pastel 3 since it used their Pastel 11???). Both the new brush and my original brush (called SJ Pastel 3 Use) used this wonderful dab (tip shape of brush – similar to a captured dab type in Painter) can be found in SDW Pastel Brushes set as Pastel 11 brush. I listed my settings. I also created brushes using their Pastel 5 brush – try this one out for a good experiment – slightly different dab shape. I am not exactly sure this qualifies as a true pastel brush since the Erodible Tips are often used for pastel effects.

Brush Tip Shape:
Size: It opens up at a huge 2130 px brush! Here are the settings for the other sections so you can create the same brush or use this one to try and create some better results. The original SJ Pastel 3 brush was set to 35 pixels in size. For this painting brush, the size is set to 8 pixels. I like to use a small size for clean up and this can be adjusted easily.
Angle – 137 degrees – change by moving the little circle with the arrow around
Roundness – 100% – change by moving the little dots on circle inward
Spacing – 35%

Shape Dynamics:
Size Jitter – 17% but Control on Fade
Minimum Diameter 23%
Angle Jitter – 42% and Control Off
All other settings at 0.

Texture:  For SJ Pastel 3 Use (original brush)
Pattern in drop-down:  Rough, located in PS Erodible Textures
Scale – 87%
Brightness – (-45)
Contrast – 0
Check Texture Each Tip
Mode – Multiply
Depth – 50%
Depth Jitter – 1%

Texture:  For SJ Pastel 3-painting texture adder2 (new painting brush)

Used was Pattern 21 from Obsidian Dawn’s SS-grungy-dirty-patterns set. Check out her website – one of my favorites for brushes and everything Photoshop and some good tutorials are also available.
Scale – 87%
Brightness – 101
Contrast – 60
Check Texture Each Tip
Mode – Height
Depth – 36%
Depth Jitter – 55%

Smoothing:  Always leave toggled on

Options Bar Settings

For beginning setting, the brush Options Bar shows a Mode of Normal, Opacity 67% and Flow 100% for both brushes. Need to be careful. If your brush does not act correctly, take a peek up at these settings to make sure they are set correctly.

I usually save these brushes as both Brush Tool Presets and Brush Presets. Also go into the Preset Manager and save them on your hard drive so if you lose them accidentally, they can be restored easily.

Pink Wildflowers image These pretty little wildflowers were growing on my deck a while back. They were painted in PS using the original My Pastel Brush, and then clean up using the new SJ Pastel 3 brush from above. The background was painted in Painter and added over the image. There was a lot of clean up in this image, but overall it came out pretty much how I wanted it to look.

I hope you get a chance to try out the brush and experiment making your own. It can really help to clean up those over-looked Painter mistakes without having to go back and forth into the different programs. Also it works great when painting in PS as in the wildflower image, with and without the Texture Section turned on, to clean up the layers below.

COMMENTS ON HOW GREAT LUMINAR 4’S AI SKY REPLACEMENT IS

Image of Tree in Maui, Hawaii
Just popping in (apparently I can’t stay away from blogging very long) to show you an image I did using Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement (for website go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar). There has been so much controversy at the moment over what is too much Artificial Intelligence (AI) to apply to an image and what is acceptable. I do believe a lot of AI is being developed for apps to place on phones or tablets, but serious Photographers and Photoshop Users really don’t need or want a lot of it. It takes away some of the creative decisions we like to make. That being said, there are a few major exceptions to this rule of not using AI. I am totally in love with Topaz (for website go to my Tidbits Blog sidebar) Sharpen AI and Topaz Denoise AI (and don’t for get Topaz Gigapixel) – use them a lot, and I am totally crazy about Luminar 4’s AI Sky Replacement Tool (what I see as a filter). The image above is a great example – no matter what you do in PS, it cannot be done this quickly and easily as it is in Luminar. If you do sky replacements often, you have got to try out this software and all the sliders that are available to get a great result.

Below are a couple of Screenshots of the settings used on this image – and with Luminar as a Smart Object plugin in Photoshop, if you do not like the settings, they can be readjusted easily, including adjusting the individual tool layer masks. For information on what each of the Sky Replacement Tool sliders do, check out this Luminar 4’s Manual page on AI Sky Replacement Tool – they are all defined there. Click on each image below to see the Flicker image showing the settings used on this image. There are 29 skies provided by Luminar or you can provide your own sky JPGs. This one is from Karen Hutton’s Heavenly Clouds set called Delicate Staircase (Kelby One supplied these as a bonus a while back). Very easy to substitute in any sky!
Screenshot of Sky Replacement Settings in Luminar 4
I found that by tweaking the Landscape Enhancer Tool, the sky could be made to look even better!
Screenshot of Luminar 4's Landscape Enhancer settings

What I like best, is that there is no deterioration in the image after applying it – it looks totally natural!
Screenshot of Close Up of tree leaves
Below is the original image so you can see what a difference the sky made, and literally in just minutes.
Image of the original tree in Hawaii
Anyway, thought I would share what I think of this great AI Tool from Luminar. I know they are coming out with a whole new program of AI effects before long, so I cannot comment on what else they are doing. I just know that Luminar 4 has a real winner with the AI Sky Replacement Tool. I have not used the AI Augmented Sky Tool so I do not know how good it is. Will try to evaluate it soon. Hope this was some help for those of you who do want a decent sky replacement program – not sure this can be beat. Will blog again soon…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:
Checking Out Skylum’s Luminar 4
Tree on Fire

HOW TO USE PHOTOSHOP’S MEDIAN FILTER

Image of Great Orange Tip Butterfly
Not sure why, but last week I started playing around with the Median Filter and found out it is a pretty nifty Photoshop Filter. It is found by going to Filter -> Noise -> Medium. It works great with other filter or plugin effects and seems to be one of those overlooked older filters that Photoshop packs with its software. Using this filter basically creates an image made of softer shapes with less detail.

The funny little Great Orange Tip Butterfly photo taken at the Rainforest Exhibit at the University of Florida’s Museum used this filter. I did use Topaz Gigapixel (as the image was cropped really tight – see my How to Use Gigapixel AI as a Plug In to Photoshop blog) and Topaz Denoise AI since the crop really showed up any noise in the image. (Topaz website can be found in the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog.) Then I tried out the Medium filter – it actually provided a really interesting beginning background for this image. When set to Multiply blend mode, it gave a really rich feel to the background and made lots of the lines fade into the background. (The other filters used in this image were Corel Painter’s Particle Shop using the Heat Trail filter which gave the pretty string effect and Photoshop’s Spherize filter which really rounded up my butterfly – I will blog on this one soon as it is actually a lot of fun to use also.)

How does this filter work? Heads Up – technical info here – skip if you do not care

The filter is controlled by adjusting the size of the Radius slider which goes from 0 to 600. The following info is from Adobe Photoshop Special Effects Focus Guide from 2003. Amazing this filter is still around and useful. If you set a Radius of 25, the Median filter will select the image using groups of 25 pixels. It blends these pixels together according to the closeness of their color and brightness – any pixels that are too different from the average color in a group of pixels will be discarded.

Adobe says the Median Filter “reduces noise in an image by blending the brightness of pixels within a selection. The filter searches the radius of a pixel selection for pixels of similar brightness, discarding pixels that differ too much from adjacent pixels, and replaces the center pixel with the median brightness value of the searched pixels. This filter is useful for eliminating or reducing the effect of motion on an image.” Yawn!

When would you use this filter?

The filter can be used as an alternative to the Gaussian Blur filter to blur parts of an image to change the depth of field. The result can be more natural-looking similar to a real photograph effect.

At a very low level (like 1 or 2), it has a smoothing effect which can help reduce moire patterns and noise in an image. With scanned images, try setting it to a minimum amount to fill in small white scanning speckles. See my Scanning with a Black Box Blog for more on this.

The filter averages out colors that are too different from those found in the set Radius value. Here is an example of a Radius set very low at 19 and it gives a nice soft depth of field with just the guitar strings sharpened by removing the effect with a layer mask using a brush set to black. This image is one of my favorite images for practicing new techniques from ISO Republic called Guitar Man.

Image of Guitar Play with Median Filter applied

At higher levels, it produces soft, abstract images that still contain fairly distinct edges in contrast areas. This could be used for some very interesting effects.

The Median filters seems to work really well to just soften up any distracting things in the background but does a better job than the Gaussian Blur filter. I will try using this more and decide if it really is better. I tried to soften a waterfall with this filter and use a layer mask so only the water was affected. PS says it works well with motion blur, but I actually found the Motion Blur filter works better for this. (See my Smoothing Those Waterfalls Blog on how to do this.) It would probably be an easy experiment so give it a try. I plan on being a little more sporadic with my blogging for awhile but I will continue blogging. Just not on a very regular schedule. In the meantime, continue working in Photoshop and trying out all the cool things it has…..Digital Lady Syd

HOW TO USE TOPAZ SHARPEN AI

Image of a Peacock at the Jacksonville Zoo
I have always liked Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Sharpen AI. Since I hand-hold my camera when taking pictures, many of my images are just a little soft and is why it has become one of my favorite plugins. Since Topaz came out with the AI version, it seems to have gotten better and better. You can now get a very subtle sharpening effect without having to use a Photoshop mask.

Tips

  • In Lightroom or ACR, do not sharpen your image using the Detail Panel, let Sharpen AI do this. Also, be sure to use DeNoise first as the noise will be sharpened along with everything else if taken Sharpen AI first. This is when Topaz AI Clear is often used – where just a little noise reduction is needed. It is located in either Topaz DeNoise AI (which has a Color Noise Reduction slider) or Topaz Studio 2 (which has Exposure and Clarity sliders and I like this personally).
  • Duplicate your Background Layer in Photoshop before using the filter just in case you want to reduce the overall sharpening opacity later. Topaz Sharpen AI can also be applied while in Lightroom by right clicking on the image to select the program and choosing Edit a Copy with Lightroom Adjustments.
  • Turn off the Auto-update preview button as your computer will be running all the time if you don’t. And it does take a few seconds every time the Update button is selected, so the plugin take a while to process, especially when applying at the end.
  • How do you know if you need to update the plugin – this one should be intuitive, but sometimes I get lost on what it is doing. If the Update button is grayed out, it has updated. This is true also when masking. Just make sure it is updated when applying or it will not update when it goes back to PS.
  • Use the Navigator to move around your image which is is set to by default to 100% zoom instead of zooming all the way out to view the whole image. It takes a lot longer to update a preview when zoomed out and can crash the program. Topaz should be correcting this issue soon, but at least at 100% View it works just fine.
  • When the image is viewed at 100%, it is really viewing at 200% in PS, LR, OnOne, Luminar or most other software. So you are really zoomed in with Sharpen AI and seeing a lot of detail.
  • The Auto buttons are pretty good as a “starting place” to use on your images. Now there are two Auto buttons, one for selecting the correct mode and one for the settings.

Mode and Setting Selections

If the mode selected by Sharpen does not look that great, try the others. The Sharpen mode that Topaz selected is just for overall image sharpening. Stabilize mode is good for blurred images caused by motion blur from the camera or the subject. Focus is for images where the focus is in the “wrong plane” according to Joel Wolfson. This is especially useful when the eyes are not sharp but overall the image is good. On some of my furry friend pictures, Focus can cause some really weird sharpening so watch out for this. Stabilize mode usually works best for my image since movement is why my images are soft. When you click on a different mode, the Auto turns off.

Try adjusting the Settings sliders yourself as I have found that the ones Topaz selects are usually just a beginning point. Each time you change a setting or preview area, need to click the Update button if it is not grayed out. If you oversharpen, it will begin to look a little crunchy so watch out for this – sort of defeats the purpose of what you are trying to do. To reset the sliders to their default, just double click on the word “Sharpness” or “Noise Suppression.”

Image of initial settings for Topaz Sharpen AI on peacock image
The Screenshot above is set to 43% View for this blog so you can see what is happening, but I would not recommend going below the 100% View. For this image, Topaz had recommended the Sharpen mode, but it did not look good to me so I changed it to Stabilize but did try using the Settings on Auto. It is hard to tell, but the fence and the face are definitely sharper. Since I did not want the fence sharper, the mask below was created. The final settings are shown in the screenshot below.

Masking

I found creating a mask can be a little tricky for me. After watching the Topaz videos at their site (which I recommend you do), following these steps is how to do this correctly.

  • First set view to Single Panel (this works easiest for me) and press Update again.
  • Then click the Masking button at the top of the interface.
  • Select your brush by setting the Size (which can also be adjusted using brackets keys like in PS or using the slider), Softness, and Opacity.
  • Paint over areas where the sharpening needs to be applied. If close edges need to be followed, turn on the Edge-aware check box – turn it off when filling in the inside areas for selection as the computer runs a lot when on.
  • It is critical that you use the Navigator to scroll around the image (otherwise the program may crash like mine does) while adding in the mask. For the peacock image there was a little bird image in the bottom left corner that was clicked – it selected part of my bird at least. Use the X key to quickly switch between adding masking and removing it. You can see the mask in the little box on the bottom left – note there is a drop-down box with Options like Fill, Invert, Clear, and Delete.
  • Once the overlay shows it is all selected, click the Update button if not grayed out.
  • Now click Apply Mask.
  • Do not do make any other changes in AI Sharpen interface unless you want to Sharpen the whole image again and create another mask.
  • Click Apply to go back into PS.

A couple links on using Sharpen AI from Topaz are Sharpen Your Skills with Sharpen AI by Joel Wolfsen and How to Fix Blurry Images with Topaz Sharpen AI by Greg Rostami. The interface in the videos is a little behind what is in the version shown below, but the info will help if you are a little lost as I was when using this program. Below is a Screenshot of image showing the Sharpen AI settings and the Mask section open. This is what the mask looked like right after clicking the bird icon.

Screenshot of Peacock in Topaz Sharpen AI
Topaz is working hard on getting this plugin to work faster and better and it is being updated often. The program is definitely much better and I find I am using it on most of my images. Using the Sharpen mode will give just a nice subtle sharpening effect when there is not a real problem with the image. I believe that Topaz is still the front-runner in the race for the AI technology in the plugin world. It will be interesting to see where this is all going. Will be taking a week off to catch up on some post-processing work – see ya soon!….. Digital Lady Syd

HOW TO USE GIGAPIXEL AI AS A PLUG IN TO PHOTOSHOP

Image of a weather vane on a building at Windsor Castle in England

Recently Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) made their Gigapixel AI software available as a Lightroom and Photoshop plugin. I thought I would show you what I did after upgrading to this newest version. I was pretty astonished how great it can be. This Windsor Castle weather vane is an example of one of the images I tried using it on. Besides getting more detail in the close up area, Gigapixel is also great for printing out smaller images. Below is the original that was cropped in tight.

Original building image with weather vane
This image was taken using Aperture Mode, an 18-200 mm lens set to 200 mm, ISO 200, 1/320 sec Shutter Speed at F/9.0. That is as close as I could get to the weather vane using this lens. A couple things had to be done in Lightroom before opening it into Gigapixel AI. Obviously, first it had to be cropped; then in the Lens Correction Panel, checked Remove Chromatic Aberration and Enable Profile Correction. By zooming in so far into an image, you will probably see some chromatic aberration. To go into Gigapixel, just right click on the image and select it in the list – it will ask what file format you want the image to be brought back into Lightroom. In this case, I used a tiff file with a -Edit added to the file name which was then taken into Photoshop after it came back into Lightroom. Below is a Screenshot of what Gigapixel looked like for the above.

Screenshot of Gigapixel with weather vane image
You can see that I let Gigapixel AI Auto detect the Suppress Noise and Remove Blur in the image – it seemed to help since nothing like this had been applied in Lightroom. This does not have to be done and probably would not be checked in most cases. The image was doubled in size by selecting 2X. It is still a small image so I could have used 4X. The final post work in PS involved mainly adding Luminar 4 (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) to the image and adding a sky from a set by Karen Hutton called Heavenly Clouds-the Sunsets. Then the various sliders could be adjusted to fit the sky to my image. This is really a fabulous feature of Luminar.

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Image of a Gorilla at the Jacksonville Zoo

To do this same thing from Photoshop, you will not find the Topaz Gigapixel AI in the Topaz Lab folder under Filters since changing the size is something that cannot be done as a filter. Therefore, to find the plugin, go to File -> Automate -> Topaz Gigapixel AI and a similar screen will open as shown in the screenshot above. Make your corrections and click save – it will come back into Photoshop as a named “gigapixel layer” and the image will be larger than what it was. This is such a great upgrade – I think I will be using it a lot!

Original image of the gorilla
Above is the original image – it was taken through a plastic window using Aperture Mode, an 18-200 mm lens set to 200 mm, ISO 200, 1/60 sec Shutter Speed at F/5.6. It is really not that great an image, but by cropping in close and taking the result into Photoshop, it gives a pretty nice close up of his face. I actually did do some changes in Lightroom before opening the Raw file in Photoshop and cropping. The final work in Photoshop was once again using Luminar to enhance the detail in his face mainly.

If you have not tried Topaz Gigapixel AI, give it a try, especially if you do not have a really major large zoom lens. It has been suggested that you can freeze-frame a video image and use Gigapixel AI to enlarge just the portion wanted. I have not tried this yet, but will. Hope to report back more tips and tricks to using this software after I have tried out a few more pictures. Have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
The Best New Software Around – Topaz A.I. Gigapixel!
Posing for a Portrait

HOW TO ADD A SIGNATURE TO YOUR PHOTOS

Image from Garlic Restaurant in New Smyrna Beach, Florida
This week I made a video on how to add a signature and/or signature block to your digital images. There are lots of questions as to whether you should do this, and if so, do you add it all the time, and does it matter at all? I am not going to address this issue. Where do you put your signature? For a quick answer, some use the bottom left, bottom center or bottom left. Occasionally they are placed near the subject in the image. Again, I have not looked at this to really know what the current trend is for placement. But actually getting your signature into Photoshop is really not that hard – the video goes through all the steps listed below.

Here are the steps to follow that are in the video:

1. On a white sheet of paper sign your name in black with several different types of writing tools like a Magic Marker, Ball Point Pen, Artist Pen, etc. Also try different ways you might like your signature to appear on your images.

2. Either take a Digital Photo of this paper or Scan it in as a JPG. If using a Scanner, be sure to check the file once opened in Photoshop to make sure the resolution is at 300 (and not at 1600 or whatever it was scanned at) and that pixels (not inches) are set to under 2500 pixels. Do this by going to Image -> Image Size.

3. Look at the signatures on the page in Photoshop and choose one you like. Select the Marquee Tool and create a selection around that particular signature.

4. Copy signature selection by going to Edit -> Copy or CTRL+C.

5. Create a New Document by clicking on the House in the upper left hand corner and selecting Create New Document – will get the same dialog as if you pressed CTRL+N. Select the Clipboard and check that your resolution reads no more than 300 dpi.

6. Go to Edit -> Paste or CTRL+V to place the signature on a layer in the New Document.

7. To straighten the signature, go to View -> Rulers or CTRL + R and pull out a Horizontal Guide. Use Free Transform or CTRL + T to straighten – may not need to do this step. To remove the Guide, press CTRL + H to hide it (or can drag it up off the page) and CTRL + R to remove the Rulers.

8. Go to Image -> Image Adjustments -> Levels or CTRL + L to make the signature lines either darker or lighter – mainly move the middle tab to do this.

9. Go to Brush -> Define Brush Preset and name it – it shows up at the bottom of the Brushes Panel.

Now have a signature brush! Next create the Signature Block!

10. In the Photoshop file from which the brush was created, select the Text Tool and add in more information like SJ Photography for example. Use any font you want – Photoshop provides some great ones.

11. Add another Text Tool layer and this time add a Copyright symbol – to do this, press the ALT key and in the numeric number pad on your keyboard, press 0169 – when you release the ALT key, the symbol appears in the text. Add your name and the year.

12. Create another new brush – Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name something different. Now it can also be used on any of your images.

13. Save the PSD file so the copyright info can be updated for next year. Then just create a new brush.

14. To make into a Transparent Signature Block, turn off the background layer in the Photoshop File and do a Save -> Save as and select PNG format. Once saved, it can then be added into your Photoshop Library for quick use – the brushes can also be added!

Screenshot of PS Signature Block
The top image has a Signature Block and does not use my signature but uses fonts I liked. The Signature layer was duplicated three times to darken the font lines. The font used is one I really like and is called Crimson Foam Free at 37 pt. The font for Syd Johnson Photography is Birch Std at 7 pt, and the copyright font is DomCasualBT at 5 pt. The Screenshot shows the layers in the Photoshop file. A soft orange color was added to the signature layer by adding a Solid Fill Adjustment Layer (Layer -> New Fill Layer -> Solid Color) and clipping it to the signature layer (right click and select Create Clipping Mask or Layer -> Create Clipping Mask) – then just sampled a color from the image to find a color I liked. Some people use only black or white for their signature color, but I prefer adding something that will blend in nicely with the image.

Screenshot of signature block from video

The Screenshot above shows the PS layers for how a Signature Block was created using my actual signature from the video. The fonts used were: for Digital Lady Syd Photograph Brightside at 16 pt, and the copyright layer Abraham Lincoln font at 5 pt. Remember to check if these free fonts can be used for commercial work if you are going to sell your images or use them in products – you may need to buy a commercial license if you really like one. Most free fonts are okay to use for personal use. Also, some of the fonts do not have a copyright symbol so a different font must be chosen for the symbol – it can still be placed in the same layer that is using a different font for the rest of the text.

A little post processing info here. The top image is of an Italian Restaurant called Garlic in New Smyrna Beach, Florida – they have excellent Lasagna BTW! There were some real backlight issues with this image so those areas were selected and a texture was added and a Black layer mask was applied – now the texture only showed up where the light had been. Several Selective Color Adjustments Layers were used to get the colors just right. Viveza was used to direct the eye and sharpen just certain areas in the image. A Color Lookup Table using PS’s Fuji Eterna 250D Kodak 2395 was applied at 34% layer opacity.

It is really fun to try out different fonts in a Signature Block. I particularly like the script look, but some of the new writing-type fonts like Crimson Foam Free give a really nice new look to the block. If anyone has any questions on how to do this, give me a comment or E-mail, and I will be glad to help you out. Enjoy the rest of the summer!…..Digital Lady Syd

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