Anything Photoshop or Photography



Image of view from Edinburgh Castle, ScotlandI don’t know where everyone else is, but I am getting so totally confused about all the new software-plugin releases that have come out in recent days/weeks. I was hooked on plugins since I bought Nik Viveza at Christmas of 2009. I remember being nervous about paying so much for it, but loved it right from the beginning (and now it is free!!!). Over the years I have become totally immersed in what can be done with all the plugins available – and wish I could afford to get them all (sigh). So in this wordy blog I will try to sort this out.

As a quick example, let’s talk about Viveza 2 again. I downloaded the first beta version of Lightroom and never looked back. Lots of people said Nik Viveza was just a copy of what Lightroom (or Adobe Camera Raw)  could do for an image. Yes, it did similar things, but still was a lot different in my mind. Flash forward and I still use Viveza on nearly every post-processed photo even though we now have the somewhat similar Camera Raw Filter available in Photoshop. The point here is that yes, there is a lot of overlap between most of these programs, and yes, they do things just different enough that they all present some benefits to your post-processing workflow. It is really just personal taste in how you want to adjust your images.

So here we are now with not one, not two, but three really good updated software programs (not to mention several other newer ones on the scene) that can process Camera Raw images and do pretty much everything Lightroom/ACR does. They are now all stand-alone programs or plugins for Photoshop layers. For website links to all three programs, check out my Tidbits Blog sidebar. Using the same image of Edinburgh Castle, the top one used Luminar 2018 for Windows, and below used On1 Raw 2018 and Topaz Studio. I tried to use a fairly similar workflow doing the basic Raw editing first and then adding in filter effects. So here is my take on where we are now.

All three of the above programs are really good – I am not going to bash any of them as they all do things I totally love. Do they overlap in what they do? Somewhat, but each has a few things I wish they all could do. Of course that is what sets them apart and why it is so hard to decide which one(s) to get.

To figure out which one would fit your workflow, you need to answer a pretty simple question: What do you want to do with your image or several of your future images? Where is your interest going – do you want to go more into an artistic feel or are you just trying to get the most realistic images for your profession or travel experiences? Since I do not have a professional studio or take wedding or senior photos often, I am more inclined to really stretch what the plugins will do to give an artistic feel to an image. Now I do understand that having a few quick tricks up your sleeve for clients to give them a choice of a few really artistic images is nice to have so using special effect plugins is just fine for that.

  • Topaz Studio

First, the Topaz Studio is a free download and contains several adjustments to get your started. Your older Topaz Labs filters can be accessed in this interface so you will always have access to them. You can’t go wrong with Topaz Studio’s Impression or one of their other creative Labs programs like Topaz ReStyle or Topaz Texture Effects for the really artistic effects. Impression has given Topaz the one-up on the other programs for the artistic effects and I am sure you have read lots about it – it is one of my favorite plugins. And I have to mention this little slider that lets you stop the painting action wherever you want – great addition to the updated filter. Topaz has done a terrific job with their masking effects tools and the different masking tools work really smoothly. The biggest down side is that even though Topaz Studio platform is free, to get it to work well you need to buy their Pro Pack. Therefore it brings it in line with the other two programs as far as cost goes. The Impression filter (or Clarity, Detail, or Simplify) needs to be bought individually to add into the Studio interface. If you already own Topaz Impression (or the other filters) as a Topaz Labs filter, you are entitled to a free upgrade for Studio (forever is their policy – once a filter is bought it is upgraded for free). And please do update to the newer Topaz Studio Impression filter – it is much better than the older Impression 2. If you own many Topaz filters, they will all eventually be added into the Studio interface. I am not going to say the program does not have its problems, but I do know enough by working with them that their final product will be very good. They have a Basic Adjustment that is not as complete as the others, but with the addition of the Clarity and Detail plug-ins, and several color adjustments choices, it is fine. In the image below, just a little more work on the clouds and some color reduction would really help and can be easily fixed in the program.

Image of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland - using Topaz Studio

  • On1 Photo Raw 2018

Photo Raw is now a really good challenger to Lightroom and is definitely worth checking out if you do lots of photo shoots. I have always liked On1 but it was very computer processor intensive. Their Browse Module is now lightening fast – it makes LR look really slow. I was stunned at how fast it all happens and it appears to be picking up my keywords from LR – that was even more amazing! And my computer hardly even cared. Once an image is chosen, go into their Develop Module which sets you up with the needed filters and is very similar to LR. Besides Shadow and Highlight sliders, there is a Midtone slider which I really like. There are other similar sliders to LR and includes a Detail section and Lens Correction section. Then it is time to go into the Effects Module where they provide lots of presets and individual filter choices. A very popular filter is called Dynamic Contrast – very similar to Detail in Topaz. Also the Glow filter is to be very popular. When masking, they do have a lot of choices (including a new Chisel Brush and Blur Brush) but I found it a little harder to use than in Topaz or LR. The filter settings can be somewhat hidden which includes the  blending options, and Highlight, Midtone, and Shadow sliders so the filter is only applied to certain areas if wanted. My biggest problem with On1 is the high learning curve. I believe it is a fantastic program and technically is going to keep Adobe on their toes. But it does take time to watch the videos to understand where everything is in the interface and what all the different filters will do. I can honestly say that On1 is totally improved from previous versions and I plan on using it a lot more. In the image below, the cloud color is just not quite right to me but the foreground sharpness is incredible! The clouds can be fixed easily in the program.

Image of Edinburgh Castle, Scotland using ON1 Photo Raw 2018

  • Luminar 2018

And now to Luminar 2018 – new entry for me into the field since I am a Windows person and this was for Mac previously. The image at the top of the blog is the Luminar example – loved the cloud effect especially and the Golden Hour filter on the front of the buildings. There are other parts I love and parts I hate it! Okay – if they would have updated it to match their Mac counterpart for us Windows users, I would love it. After watching several  videos just to find out all the sliders are not there, it is a bit frustrating. I also find that the Masking Tools are harder to use than with the other programs. The Mac version has several grouped filters for different types of effects – for Raw images an Essentials group was created which contains Tone, Accent AI, Color Temp, and Polarizing Filters. In Windows there are Filters Catalog but the Essentials is not the same group. This is definitely confusing. (Thank you Serge Ramelli for the video showing this filter set up – see Luminar 2018 vs Lightroom Classic?) But I love their filters and they seem to give a slightly different feel to an image – the Sun Ray filter, the Golden House filter, an Accent AI filter – and many others. Of the 3 image results shown, I liked the results from Luminar the best. I am under the assumption Luminar will be catching up the Windows version soon so it will work just like the Mac users interface. When that occurs, I will blog on this so everyone knows.

  • Bottom Line

I do love all these programs – have used Topaz and On1 for years – in fact my second favorite plugin from years ago was On1’s Photo Frame 4.6 – the best framing plug-in ever and I was totally upset when they discontinued it. BTW they do still have some framing options, but it is not quite the same – will blog on this soon. All three of my images are not that different – just some personal preferences there. And this was basically just using the Raw processors – each program has decidedly different strengths which are not showcased in these examples. A recent post by Photoshop Guru Matt Kloskowski called Is There a Lightroom Replacement explains in more detail about the browser and Raw converter issues – a good read. And check out my Related Blogs below for some other examples of what these programs can do.

As you can see things are changing as we come into a faster and more efficient software era. We have to say good-bye to some of the ways we used to post-process and attempt to figure out what to do with all the “Raw Converters!” – and what do we need from a filter program. I think so much of what you choose has to be based on just trying out the software now and seeing what works. Like I said, I am pleased, I am frustrated, and I am amazed at some of the filters I am now seeing. All three of these plug-ins are seasoned software companies and know what they are doing. Apparently Nik has been bought from Google recently by DxO and will be coming out this Spring with some updates. So there will be a new-old kid in town to really spice things up. Will I use their Raw converters for my work? Probably not so much – still a LR person at this point. Will I use their Special Effects filters? Totally!!! Hope this helped a little if you are as confused as me. I will continue updating you on all the new things coming out with these plug-ins but in the meantime, just try them out. It is amazing what some of the new filters are doing and it may fit just what you need for creating a new type of post-processing effect. In the meantime, Happy Black Friday if you are in the US and good luck finding some great PS finds!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Macphun Luminar 2018 Sun Rays at a Glance
Now Available – Free Beta Version of Macphun’s Luminar for Windows
Introducing the Free Topaz Studio
Updated Impression Now in Topaz Studio
Updated Clarity Now in Topaz Studio
How to Add a Simple Glow Effect to Your Image
A Beautiful View
My Favorite Photo Frame Plug-In – OnOne PhotoFrames (hum!) – just a little nostalgia here



Image of a Magic Holiday TreeThis week I discovered a very easy way to create those glitter textures that are everywhere and would be perfect for the upcoming holiday season. Thought I would share this easy process and a couple of images on how I used them. The image above uses the dark blue glitter texture from in my video to create a soft sparkling background effect. This technique was described in a 2012 video tutorial called Music Lights by Dom Quichotte at FX-ray – it has lots of other interesting tips also. See my short video that demonstrates just how to create the texture effect. If you do not see the link in the RSS feed, please open the blog and it will be available.

If you are not a video person, or want a quick reference for steps on how to do this, here is the workflow for the glitter effect:

  1. Create a Document – the standard size for most textures is 8″ X 10″ at 300 resolution.
  2. Fill layer with a color to make your glitter texture. I used a dark blue color (R20/G30/B55) in the tree image above.
  3. Set the color swatch to the default colors Black and White by pressing D.
  4. Create a New Layer and fill with black – ALT+Backspace.
  5. Go to Filter -> Render -> Fibers and set Variance to 64 and Strength to 4.
  6. Change to Color Dodge blend mode.
  7. Go to Filter -> Other -> Minimum and set Radius to 2 pixels.
  8. Go to Filter -> Other -> Maximum and set Radius to 2 pixels. Now have a beautiful sparkling background.
  9. To add a little variation to the texture, add another New Layer and go to Filter -> Render -> Clouds and set to Overlay blend mode. If you do not like the cloud pattern created, press CTRL+F or just open the Filter menu item and select first option to generate a new pattern.
  10. Go to Filter -> Distort -> Spherize and set Amount to -100. Adjust opacity to taste.
  11. Save document as a JPG in your texture folder.
  12. To change the color of the glitter effect, just add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer on top – check Colorize box, and move the three sliders to get the new color. On the tree image, a Gradient Map was added on top of the blue texture to create the subtle multi-color background – in this case it was a brown to white to light blue to dark blue. (For more info on Image 1, go to bottom of blog.)

Image of white flowers on a green glitter textureThis image is the one shown in my video. The PNG file was created from the blue glitter texture also created in the video. Just followed the steps below. (For more info on the Hawaiian Flowers Image 2 above, go to bottom of blog.) To create a PNG of the just the sparkly points, continue with these steps:

  1. Open the Glitter jpg image and duplicate the layer.
  2. Go to Select -> Select Color Range and drag the eyedropper tool around in image until it looks like a nice starry look. Be sure Localized Color Clusters are checked and adjust both the Fuzziness slider (I set to 52) and the Range Slider (set to 100%). At this point it should be mainly black color with light points showing up as white in the filter window. Click OK.
  3. Add a layer mask to the duplicate texture layer and the light points appear as white in the mask but will probably have some color in them in the layer – add a white layer underneath to see what was selected.
  4. Right click inside the mask and select Apply Layer Mask.
  5. Turn off the other layers and go to Save -> Save As and select PNG file format.

Now you have a transparent texture with just the glitter highlights. To make the glitter color all white like snow, add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment and set the Lightness to +100. For black glitter set Lightness to -100, or change the color any way with the sliders. Duplicate the transparent texture and to to Edit -> Free Transform to spread the glitter out some – Perspective was used below. Then go to Filter -> Gaussian Blur and set a Radius to something like 3 to create a softening effect on that layer. By stacking the two PNG files, it can create a really nice snow effect. See below for how I used the PNG texture in the image of a Scottish Close in Edinburgh. (For more info on Image 3, check below.)

Image of Anchor Close in Edinburgh, Scotland I really like being able to create my own effects instead of having to worry about buying them or finding out they cannot be used for commercial projects. I hope to continue creating blogs that will help others create their own resource tools. Well that is it for this week. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image information:

Image 1:  For the Magic Tree image, first painted a tree trunk and branches freehand on New Layer above white background, then the glitter background was placed directly underneath it. The tree leaves were brushes created in Corel Painter’s using the Symmetrical Tool and different Painter brushes. The PS new Technology called Paint Symmetry is just not quite as good yet although one brush was created and used. I ended up with 16 new brushes used on the tree along with some little glitter brushes to give the magical look. Next the image was taken into Luminar 2018 where just two filters were applied: Soft Glow and the Golden Hour. They both really lightened up the tree and made the snowflake edges less sharp. Last step was back in PS where Nik Viveza 2 was used on the image to adjust the whole color tone.

Image 2: Not much here other than the blue texture was used and a Turquoise Solid Color Fill Layer was added clipped (ALT + Click between layers to clip) and set to Color blend mode for the greenish color. The white Hawaiian flowers were extracted and placed on top. Next the Sparkling Blue Glitter PNG was added on top of the flowers. To change just the color of the dots on just the flowers, select the flowers from the layer before by CTRL+clicking on the flowers, then select the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer – the layer mask will show just the flowers in it. The Hue was set to 33, Saturation 98, and Lightness -5 with Colorize checked. A Levels Adjustment Layer was added to adjust the contrast in the image. A darken layer and flower lines layer were used to clean up the flowers.

Image 3:  One iteration I created of this image is a very warm sunny day effect. I also liked the cool wintry effect. Lucis Pro (no longer available) was used to get the really sharp look. Nik Viveza 2 was used to darken down the image some. Lots of clean up layers. The snow was created using the steps above – duplicating the layer and blurring it – a Black and White Adjustment Layer was used to convert the color all to white.


Image of a hidden garden in Windsor CastleThis week I have been trying out an updated beta version of Luminar 2018 working (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog)  – had a few problems so I am sticking with mainly the Sun Rays filter as it worked beautifully and may be the best one in program. I believe this filter is one I would use which is a very good reason why I would buy this program. The final release is scheduled for November 16th and this plug-in has been updated for both Windows and Mac users to be a full-blown RAW editor besides adding interesting filter effects. I think everyone who has looked at the new program is totally intrigued with this new Sun Rays filter. Luminar says on “Sun Rays adds volumetric lighting to create beautiful beams of light in your image. This tool auto masks the light so it passes through trees, around mountains and even wraps around objects.” What I find intriguing is that it actually adds a soft lighting effect to rather plain images. The image above was enhanced using this wonderful filter. I tried to be a little subtle with its use as it seems like it could easily be overdone. To show you the interface, I took a screenshot of the settings used for the effect on the Windsor Castle hidden garden above.

Screenshot of Sun Rays filter in Luminar 2018The screenshot shows how the image looked as it was brought back into Photoshop. You can see how natural and sunny it looked by setting the sun effect right at the corner of the castle near the dangling tree branch. I had to do some more work in PS as the green was a little overwhelming but it could easily have been done in Luminar. I will cover more of this once the program has been released. With this image a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer using Edgy Amber preset was applied, set to Soft Light blend mode and 41% layer opacity – note Luminar’s new LUT filter will let you use lookup tables created in PS or any you have bought. A red channel luminance Curves Adjustment Layer was added to add just a little contrast in the highlights, and a orange hue was used for a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer vignette set to 39%. Below is what the RAW file looked like before just Basic Panel changes were done before going into PS.

RAW image of Windsor Castle hidden garden


Image of sun rising in the ForestThis is an image taken in my neighborhood right after Hurricane Irma and actually shows a little flooding on the floor of the little forest. I think you will see a lot of this “God Rays” effect in the coming months. Here are the sliders in this filter which and my setting in Parentheses for this image:

Sun Rays – X(21)/Y(20) – this allows you to set the rays wherever you want in the image

All the sliders go from 0 to 100. These sliders apply to the Rays:

Ray Amount (36) – this appears to me to be more like an layer opacity slider and is in a lot of their other filter
Look (69) – this goes from 1 to 100 and seems like a brightness slider-can bring in the “look”
Number (50) – number of beams – goes from 0 to 100
Length (53) – goes from 0 to 100
Warmth (57) – warms up the image but watch all the yellow tones as they brighten up also

These sliders apply to the Sun:

Sun Radius (30) – Size of the actual Sun dot
Glow Radius (71) – Looks like how bright the glow is as it radiates out from the sun dot
Glow Amount (73) – I do not see much difference between this slider and the Glow Radius – both have an effect
Warmth (70) – Determines how yellow your sun is and once again watch out for any yellow in the leaves for example that can get too bright

These sliders affect the whole image:

Penetration (67) – Major cool slider as it determines overall how strong this effect will look in your image
Randomize (40) – This is kind of nice to have – makes is so all the beams are not exactly the same

This image also used the Golden Hour filter (Amount 23 and Saturation 47), which is a fairly new filter. Below is a short video on how to use this filter. This beautiful forest image is from Simon Matzinger at Unsplash. If this video does not show a connection in the RSS feed, please open the actual blog where the connection is live.

To reiterate what was in the video, it can be seen how vivid the orange gets due to the high yellows in the Warmth sliders (61 for Rays and 37 for Sun). The Radius was set to a small 3 in upper right where focal point would be on a grid. I really think the Penetration slider does the best in keeping the whole color cast of the image together – it was set to a very high 79. By moving the Randomize slider, the rays can be set in different positions easily. There is a bit of brown patchiness that needs to be addressed in this image that can corrected by possibly adding a mask to the filter and painting some of it away.

Normally I would not blog about a preview release, but since everyone could download the beta, I figured I would go ahead and talk about it. The Sun Rays filter may not always look completely natural, but it can make the image much more interesting and evoke some emotion from a viewer.  I think it will take some practice to use it properly, but I believe that Luminar and the Sun Rays filter in particular have some good things going for it. Once it is released, I will do a full review of the software. I know the Mac people already have a good understanding of this software, but for us Windows users, this is new territory! For more on some of the other filters, check out my earlier blog called Now Available – Free Beta Version of MacPhun’s Luminar for Windows blog. Will catch ya later!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of little yellow blooms on a Ti PlantThis week I am doing a little video on how I brought these tiny yellow flowers into sharper focus using one of my favorite dodging and burning techniques and show what a few of my other workflow techniques look like once applied. This image could have been used with several other textures or have been cropped differently for a totally look. I really liked the negative space and dreamy feel of the image, so I left it the way it was done for the video. Links to more information are provided below. Here is the video:

Here is a list of places that will give you more info or where you can get more information on some of the techniques or resources presented in the video:

  • Lightroom Preset called Hazy Days 17 by 2 Lil’ Owls – See sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link, she has a lot of great Lightroom presets besides her gorgeous textures.
  • My Fun Photoshop The Best Dodging and Burning Technique blog – basically same technique as presented in the video except that a black brush color is used to burn instead of sampling a dark color from the image.
  • I Qwillo Brush from – keep checking back on Monday’s on Nicolai’s site for a free brush each week – love his brushes!
  • Adobe’s Paper Texture Pro – free panel that can be added into Photoshop to quickly add and change textures layers to your images – very useful.
  • My Fun Photoshop How to Add a Spot of Light blog – the blog used a technique by Corey Barker, but Pratik Naik uses the same technique with the soft round low flow brush – try this brush in different colors to get some interesting effects.
  • My Fun Photoshop How to Use a Black & White Adjustment Layer to See Contrast in an Image blog – should use this technique on every image to make sure your focal point is standing out.
  • My Fun Photoshop Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog – same technique used in the blog except the Gradient Editor was opened and the gradient color changed from black to a soft purplish color in the bottom left tab. Blake Rudis came up with a brilliant idea here!

If anyone has questions on some of the procedures performed on this image, just drop me a question in the comments below and I will go over it more clearly. This was a pretty fast pace for describing all the steps followed in this image. Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend and Happy Halloween!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a digitally painted Tri-colored HeronThis week Adobe Photoshop released CC2018, a long awaited update, which finally addresses some of the issue we painterly people have wanted for a long, long time. Adobe claims to have increased the speed of brushes for just painting. Since a lot of us have used Corel Painter for years and it has one of the easiest systems to set up brush palettes, it was always a wonder why Photoshop did not do a similar thing. Well they finally have. It may not be quite as easy to use as Painter’s, but it goes a long way towards correcting some of the digital artist problems with organizing their brushes. Above is a tri-colored heron taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm that was painted using the new Brushes Panel set-up. It took a while to get my brushes converted over, but it is overall a much faster workflow.

Photoshop Brushes Panel

To clean up some initial confusion, the old Brush Panel is now called the Brush Settings Panel and is where the settings for each brush are located. The old Brush Presets Panel is not called the Brushes Panel and is where all the brushes are listed.

  • Photoshop now allows New Groups (or folders) for saved brushes and sub-groups can be added into the new group. So for example, if you want to put all your Texture brushes into one group, the group can be added and sub-groups created for brushes used for backgrounds and those used in drawing. Also Mixers or Erasers or any different types of brushes can be grouped with Regular brushes so you can easily switch between the different types without having to select the new Tool.
  • Within the Brushes Panel, the brushes can be moved between the groups by just clicking and dragging. No need to go to the Preset Manager to organize the brush order. Some people like to keep brushes together for a current project so the top Group might be named Flower, and the sub-groups Background and Retouching. If you want the same brush in two places, a new copy of the brush needs to be made by highlighting the group to add it to and clicking on the New Brush icon at the bottom of the Brushes Panel – name it the same and the new preset brush will pop into the highlighted group.
  • The brush presets now store all the Options Bar information with them as if it was a Brush Tool Preset. So if you wanted to have one brush set to 100% opacity and the same brush set to 50% opacity, they could be created and saved in the same group for quick switching. This means no more Brush Tool Presets, but will still need to create Tool Presets for the Gradient Tool and Paint Bucket since they are not brushes.
  • Both the Brush Tip and the Brush Strokes can be seen in the display. To load the Brush Tip, click on the upper right pop-out in Brushes Panel, and check Brush Tip along with the Brush Stroke and Brush Name. The brush view can be made bigger or smaller by moving the slider at the bottom of the Brushes Panel. And the panel can be dragged out horizontally to display several columns of brushes if several are listed in a group. If a color is saved with the brush, a little square shows up in the list showing the color.
  • Brush Tool Presets can be easily converted to regular Brush presets. If just converting one or two Tool Preset brushes, just select the brush in your Tool Preset and click the Create New Brush icon at the bottom of the Brushes Panel. A New Brush dialog box appears with check boxes for Capture Brush Size in Preset, Include Tool Settings, and Include Color. A note of caution here – PS might name the brush some really weird title if that the brush creator used so make sure the brush has the desired name. The brush will be placed either at the bottom of the Brushes list or in a Group that was highlighted before saving the preset. If you accidentally try to save the brush as a Tool Preset, a long dialog appears asking if you want to actually change it to a Brush Preset instead. By saying yes, the brush will then be placed into a new Converted Tool Presets group. For converting all the Brush Tool Presets, go to the pop-out in the upper right corner of the Tool Preset panel and select Convert All to Brush Presets – they will all be placed in a new group called the Converted Tool Presets group. In this case, all the brushes will retain the same names from the Tool preset. Really weird. By converting the Tool Preset brushes to regular brushes, the brush file extensions in PS will change from a .tpl to .abr files.

Here is a link to a short video by of my favorite Adobe people, Julieanne Kost, called New Brush Preset Management in Photoshop CC for more information on the Brushes Panel.

Smoothing Slider

This new little feature has been added to the Options Bar in Photoshop whenever the Regular Brush Tool, the Pencil Tool, the Mixer Tool or the Eraser Tool is selected. This Smoothing Slider filters out jittering in your paint strokes. The default setting is 10% and it goes from 0 to 100. There are a couple drawbacks to setting this slider too high. 1) It can really slow your computer down depending on the brush selected. 2) And there can be a big lag – by clicking on the little gear next to the Slider field, there are some options that can be chosen which controls this.

By default, the Stroke Catch Up (Enables paint to catch up when brush cursor movement is paused) and Adjust for Zoom (Automatically adjust smoothing amount to avoid jitter in low zoom percentages) are checked. Disable Stroke Catch Up and the paint application stops as soon as the cursor movement stops. In Adjustment for Zoom, if the Smoothing amount will be decreased if zoomed in, and increased if zoomed out. The Pulled String Mode (Enable paint application beyond the radius set by smoothing values. Use when sharp corners are desired.) creates a really large lag if Smoothing is set high. It paints only when the string is taut and outside the radius. Definitely experiment with this slider and drop-down settings to see what works best for you. To change the setting on the fly, press ALT and numerical number like 3 for 30%. To completely turn off Smoothing in the selected brush, go into the Brush Settings Panel and uncheck the Smoothing box. For you Painter folks, it is still not near as sophisticated as the Smoothing Panel in Painter (the slider appears to be very similar to the Damping slider), but it is definitely a step in the right direction. I personally think the default settings are fine for most brushes as it seems there is not much of a lag in most brushes. But when using your favorite painting brushes where a lag can occur as you stroke, definitely adjust the Smoothing setting and try the different Smoothing options. In the above image a Smoothing setting of 35 was used and the default options.

Once again here is a short video by Julieanne Kost called Brush Stroke Smoothing and Paint Symmetry in Photoshop CC that goes into a really good explanation on these settings and shows some great examples.

Adding the new Kyle T Webster Default Brushes

Also, there is another little thing Photoshop added to the Brushes Panel – Kyle T Websters brushes are now most of the Default Brushes except for the round brushes. Many new brushes that can be explored here. To get to them, need to go to the pop-out in the Brushes panel and select Restore Default Brushes – they will not override the ones already in the list, but will add 4 new groups of brushes (General Brushes, Dry Media Brushes, Wet Media Brushes and Special Effects Brushes) – only the General Brushes are ones from before. If you want all brushes from CC2017, in the pop-out select Legacy Brushes – all of them will be appended and put in original category types groups. There is also a set called Convert Legacy Tool Preset brushes (some of you may not have known the Tool Preset Brushes were there – many of them are very nice brushes so check them out.) that can be appended to your brushes.

It appears to me that Adobe is beginning to phase out the Tool Presets and the Preset Manager. If you are interested to learn more on Photoshop CC2018, check out Adobes Information Page or a longer video by Jesus Ramirez at the Adobe Training Channel called Photoshop CC 2018 Tutorials – What’s NEW in Adobe Photoshop CC 2018. Well I think I am about talked out here. Lots of other new things to explore in Photoshop. Have a nice busy weekend catching up!…..Digital Lady Syd


The Royal Horseguards Hotel in LondonThis week just another simple technique learned mainly from Blake Rudis on how to create a pretty nice quick black and white image. The rather low key above image is of the Royal Horseguards Hotel, also known as Whitehall, in London taken from the London Eye. I think it has a bit of a Halloween feel to it. It is a good example of using the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to convert to a black and white photo.

I am sure most of you have heard that a black and white Gradient Map will create a pretty nice black and white image without doing much else. This effect can be improved by using a couple little tricks. Blake Rudis presented the following technique in a recent Creative Live presentation called Post-Processing Workflow for Portraits and Landscapes. To get a good black and white conversion, a good color image is first needed so this is the first step for getting a good result. To create a black and white image, first set set swatches to the default settings of black for foreground and white for background  – then clicking on the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. Often a very nice black and white image usually occurs and many people just use this. For this image, a really almost black blue tone was used instead of the black color by editing the Gradient in the Gradient Editor (click on strip to get editor). Blake’s tip is to add a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer underneath the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer. By adjusting the Hue, Saturation and Lightness sliders, a better range of tones can be achieved. By clicking in the image using the Targeted Adjustment Tool in the upper left of panel,  individual colors can be adjusted without changing the sliders manually. The bottom strips under the sliders are color range limiting bars (drag the outer triangles together or stretch them apart) and can be adjusted to get some more variation in tonal range. He also suggested trying a Selective Color Adjustment Layer or Black and White Adjustment Layer instead of the Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer. I found this whole concept to be very flexible and it makes the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer a much better tool for converting to black and white. The image above got the amazing detail by using Topaz (for website see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio with the Detail plug-in. Then the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer was used for the black and white conversion, and finally a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added underneath to get the great contrast. If the Gradient Map Adjustment Layer is turned off, a really weird colorized image appears. It is amazing that this works! The last step was adding a slight color effect using the Camera Raw filter’s Split Toning settings of Highlights 194, Saturation 15, Balance -10, Shadows Hue 234, and Saturation 17 – the layer opacity was changed to 62% for the cooler tint.


Image of a Malayan Tiger at the Jacksonville ZooThe above is one of my tiger images taken at the Jacksonville Zoo a while back. First added one of my colorful painted textures placed above the tiger layer and in a mask, the tiger was painted back. After a little clean up, a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer was added on top and a Black and White Adjustment layer was placed underneath it. The Blue Filter was selected in the Preset drop-down to bring out more detail in the tiger. The sliders were adjusted to get just the right contrast. Then several Curves Adjustment Layers were used to target different parts of the image to get the correct effect. Most of the time the last step in black and white images should be adding the tint. The tiger image used a nice subtle warm tint provided by Glyn Dewis for his lion image from a really good video called Take a Picture from Good to Great in 5 Steps. It was set up in Camera Raw as a Split Toning preset: Highlights Hue 23/Saturation 6 and Shadow Hue 41 and Saturation 6. In this case the last step involved adding a slight vignette to the image. (See my Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette! blog.)

Well that is it for this week. Enjoy this beautiful fall weather we are having!…..Digital Lady Syd


Image of a bunch of small pink flowersThis week I am just presenting a simple vignette technique – I have to admit I am always looking for the best and easiest way to create one. Blake Rudis, one of the best Photoshop gurus around, used this technique recently in a video – he always comes up with really original ways to use Photoshop and this simple vignette technique is one of them. Here is the video link called How to Make a Gradient Vignette in Photoshop.

To sum up the steps to what is happening, set the Foreground/Background swatches to black and white, then add a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer, set the Style to Radial and check the Reverse box. A gradient must be created once to do this technique quickly so double click on the gradient strip in the dialog box. In the Gradient Editor dialog, on the top edge of the strip, drag the left tab right to Location 68. On the lower edge, move the left black tab all the way over next to the black right tab. Click the New button and name the gradient (mine is named BRudis Vignette) and it saves at the bottom of the Presets list. Click OK to return to the Gradient Fill dialog, adjust the opening size by setting the Scale to 700 to over 800%. By dragging the cursor in the image (it turns into the Move Tool), the vignette can be moved around. Just for your information, before adding the vignette the image was duplicated and taken into Topaz (see website on sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio – used my uploaded to the Community SJ Small Flower preset which contains the Impression Adjustment for the painterly effect. In Photoshop the layer was set to just 42%. A layer above was set to Overlay and with  a large soft brush set to a really light yellow, the flowers in the center were painted in to lighten up the focal point – then the layer was set to 77% layer opacity. As a last step the Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer vignette was placed on top at 72% layer opacity.

Image taken at Hilton Waikoloa VillageThis Hilton Waikoloa Village image used the same type of vignette – I created a little action to add it onto the image. (Basically two steps: first add a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer to image, and second go into the Gradient Fill dialog and check Reverse, Radial and a large scale like 750%, then go into the Gradient Editor by clicking on the gradient strip and choose the new gradient preset, and OK twice.) This vignette creates a very simple and subtle effect. Also try changing the blend modes, using Blend If tabs in the Layer Style Dialog Box, or painting out other areas in the layer mask. For the above the adjustment layer was set to Soft Light blend mode at 53% layer opacity. The image was also first post-processed in Topaz Studio using Precision Contrast, Blurs, Focal Blur, and Color Theme Adjustments.

Image taken from the London Eye
A colored vignette can get a different look to the image. The London Eye image used a soft brown-colored vignette effect. To change the vignette color, apply the BRudis Vignette gradient.  In the gradient strip click on the bottom left tab and in the color field, change the color – it changes on the fly as you sample in the image or try a different color. The landscape was set to a Scale of 1000% do to the large width of the image, Soft Light blend mode, and layer opacity of 85%. Topaz Studio was used with my posted preset called SJ Building Sharp applied.

I am finding this is a very fast and natural way to add a vignette. A while back Matt Kloskowski had a great way of creating a vignette that I presented in my How to Create a Subtle Vignette blog. I find I use them both – sometimes one looks better than the other. Most of the plug-ins have very nice vignette presets. Another quick vignette can be made from a Curves Adjustment Layer (by dropping the right top point down the side and then painting in the layer mask with a soft black brush). Overall this technique by Blake is probably the fastest and easiest to use quickly, especially if the action is created . Well that’s it for this week – have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd

%d bloggers like this: