Anything Photoshop or Photography



Graphic image butterflies and flowersThought about taking a few weeks break so I can try out some things I am learning, but I am still here – I keep wanting to pass on info. I created this image just for fun and trying to reinforce a few work habits when creating this type of composite. Also thought I would add  on a few more tips I promised when creating my Giraffe composite a few weeks ago. (See my Taking a Break to Learn Some New Things blog.)

FONT TIP: This image started when I downloaded a couple new free fonts from Design Cuts called Style-Casual and Style Endings by TypeSETit. At first I was not too taken by either one of the fonts, and then I realized that by using the Style Endings font for the first and last letters of the text, and then using Style Casual font to connect the rest of the text, it looked really good – along with the pretty nice fancy small “o.” A Simply Wonderful text line was created and then turned into a brush by going to Edit -> Define Brush Preset. This is really fun to do if you have some nice fonts on your computer – they can easily be turned into text brushes and .PNG files. Very could be very useful for graphic projects.

ADDING A SUBSTRATE LAYER TIP: My substrate layer was non-existent almost until the end of working on this project when I finally put the white one created in the Azaleus image (see my How to Create a Pretty Simple Background and Text Effect blog) the text added. It definitely filled in some texture that was missing especially in the lighter areas of the image. So that is one thing I learned while creating this image – be sure to add some kind of bottom level texture just to fill in the holes. It can always be swapped out later after adding your elements.

PAINT ON THE ADDED ELEMENTS TIP: Another thing I did was to actually paint on some of the elements that were put in the image. The two butterflies on the left side were from a really nice brush set by Marrielle P Kokosidou – by painting in the elements after stamping down the original element, some additional interest could be achieved. The same was true with the branch of leaves at the top (from a painted set from Design Cuts in their Nature Plant Graphics Watercolour Grit Textures set with Octopus Artis elements), additional painting was done using some other colors on it. Design Cuts is a great place to get free samples of very good elements from great artists for these type of photos. The brush I used was mainly the SJ Pastel 3-painting brush (see my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog) – use it every day along with my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush. (It can be created by following my Painting Fun in Photoshop blog’s third paragraph – gives an explanation on how to make the base brush more painterly.) The other butterfly was also one from Design Cuts called Watercolour Butterfly by Octopus Artis – not much was done to the butterfly itself, but a watercolor paint stroke (stroke by Vintage Design Co. but could not find the download link) and a moon brush stroked (from 20 moon brushes by Liza Giannouri-moon 3) was placed behind it. Wanted to give credit to the people who did the flowers in this image – the pink center flower is from a frame in a set by from Creative Market (another site to follow – they  have some great free sets like this one and good deals like the Hydrangea set)  Ginko Textured Watercolor Graphic by Paperly Studio; and the Hydrangea flower is from Beautiful Watercolor Butterflies Knopazyzy Handrangea Flower set.

CREATE MORE PAINTBRUSHES TIP: Created a paintbrush (named it SJ Butterfly Brush 5 Row-Marrielle P Kokosidou) at a very small size and setting it to a small size with Spacing at 180%, Shape Dynamics Size Jitter 24% and Angle Jitter 21%, and a Color Dynamics set to 100% Foreground/Background Jitter and Purity -24%. It was used at the top of the image using a slight color variation and at the bottom of the image in just one color. I have brushes using hearts and bubbles using similar settings. So the  tip is: make a small object type of brush to add some interest around major elements instead of just using round splotches (which does work in some cases).

BRUSH IN SOME COLOR BEHIND YOUR ELEMENTS TIP: This is something I have been doing for a while, especially using the spotlight effect with white and black color at a low opacity and the layer set to Overlay blend mode. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.) It also works for any color using any type of brush – it will add some soft color into your image. The layer does not have to be set to Overlay blend mode – some very interesting effects can be achieved using other blend modes like Linear Burn – and be sure to adjust the Fill (not Layer) opacity to get some really nice effects. NOTE ON FILL SLIDER IN LAYER PANEL: The Layer Opacity will affect certain blend modes differently than the Fill slider – Color Burn, Linear Burn, Color Dodge, Linear Dodge (Add), Vivid Light, Linear Light, Hard Mix, and Difference. Check out which effect you want. Also the Fill opacity does not affect the opacity of layer effects such as drop shadows – this can be important if you have added a layer style like a stroke or bevel effect on a element. A reddish effect was added to the upper left corner. And obviously green in the upper right. The corners were subtlety darkened down using this technique to draw the eye in. Some texture was actually painted on the font lettering to add some interest by using a texture brush and setting the layer to Overlay blend mode – it really brightens up parts of the font.

A couple last things were done in this image. Topaz (for website link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) Studio was opened and a black and white sketch effect was applied. It is called SJ Graphic Sketch 1 preset (contains these adjustments: Basic, Precision Contrast, Tone Curves, Smudge and Abstraction) and is up in the community if you would like to try it out. And for me the best way to pull this whole image together is to use the (Google) Nik Viveza 2 – I could not have done this without using this filter. It adjusted out the focus since so much is going on in the image and the colors by adjusting the brightness of each element and sharpness. Need to try it out and since it is still free right now and still works just fine, definitely worth using.

The final image had 43 layers and lots of tweaking but I like the final result. It is important to find a subject you want to work on – this suited me just fine since Spring is almost here! Hope this answered everyone’s scrapbook effect questions – I have learned a lot and it just takes practice to get some nice designed. Also be sure to check out my Tidbits Blog – I added a nice sharpening tip last week. Have a wonderful week!…..Digital Lady Syd



Image of a group of Pink AzaleasI started to write about some of the things I learned from a mixed media scrapbooking class a few weeks ago and found that it was just too huge a topic to cover in one blog. Therefore, this week I am going to discuss only a couple items used in the Pink Azaleas image blooming in my yard right now. It is so good to see some Spring flowers and these were real beauties. Think I will take next week off (I say this right now – hum!)

First a  substrate for the flowers needs to be created. This is basically just a “pumped up background” layer(s). The texture often has a gesso effect applied to it. It can include typed text layers (as shown above), or various kinds of brushes to create stamps elements or strokes for color effects that make for an interesting background. It can contains multiple layers of stacked paper or texture layers using different blend modes and layer opacity to get some very unique effects. I hope to try creating my own gesso texture soon – it looks like fun but could be messy. This image used French Kiss’s (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Tableaux Wind Song texture for a  painted gesso-looking bottom layer substrate.

To me, it seemed logical to use text that is relevant to the subject. I decided I wanted to use a little poem from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses book called The Flowers (this was one of my very favorite books as a small child) as text for the image. The poem was converted into a Photoshop brush as follows:

  • Go online and find some text you like on the subject.
  • Highlight text and CTRL+C to copy
  • Open up a Text Layer in Photoshop by choosing the Horizontal Text Tool – make sure the color swatch is set to the default Black and White (D) and the actual size of the font is not too large for the text being brought into the image – otherwise the text can be cut off at the bottom. Just start by selecting a readable size that is fairly small as it can be expanded to fit later.
  • Next drag out a text block in the image in Photoshop approximately where the text will be placed.
  • Inside the block, paste by clicking CTRL+V and the text will appear as black in the box.
  • With the text added, it is time to turn this text layer into a brush for use in various places on a layer above the substrate layer. Make sure the Opacity and Flow in the Options Bar are set to 100%, and go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and name it. It does not need any additional tweaking since the text is a dark black – no midtones to worry about. The new brush appears at the bottom of the list in the Brushes Panel. If the size is really large, that is Okay – it will reduce down in size just fine. If not large enough, just delete the created brush and go back to the text layer and increase the size in the Text Layer. It is harder to get clean edges by sizing up a brush so larger is better.

The brush can now be stamped down in several places on a layer above the substrate layer(s) – add a layer mask to the text layer and using a brush set to 30%, paint out some of the text so it does not look all one brightness. I applied this mask and saved the text down as a second brush and used both in the image above. If using text from a PDF document, then check out my How to Create Vintage Text for Images blog for instructions on how to do this.

If you want would like to convert the text layer to a PNG file to add as an element instead of stamping as a brush, highlight the Text layer. Duplicate the text layer by right clicking and selecting Duplicate… in menu, then in Document drop down, choose New. The document can now be named if you want – it creates a new document. Go to File -> Save As and select the .PNG format so the transparency is retained for adding as a layer into another image. This can be very  handy to have as it seems to me the edges are sharper on the individual element than when using it as a stamped brush. Totally depends on the effect needed.

To finish up the image above, Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) AI ReMix adjustment was used to sharpen the stamens in the flowers by using a black layer mask to the Topaz layer in PS and painting back areas to reveal the sharpening (here are the settings using in AI ReMix: Set to Luminosity blend mode using last row/first column swatch and Medium Style Strength. Slider settings were: Brightness -0.12, Contrast 0.98, Sat 2.91, Hue 0.10, smooth Edge 0.11, and Sharpness 0.59.) The actual Azaleas image was copied and placed on top and another black layer mask was added so the flowers could be lightly painted in so some of the text showed through in places. A Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode and 65% layer opacity was added along with a Color Look Up Adjustment Layer using the Crisp Warm preset (see Matt Kloskowski’s short video called My Favorite Tool for Styling in Photoshop) set to Color blend mode and 54% layer opacity. On a New Layer some painting was done to define edges of the flowers a little more. Nik Viveza 2 was used to emphasize the center of the flowers and add a little corner vignetting and set t0 58% layer opacity. A Red Channel Luminosity Adjustment Layer was added for a little contrast.

This is a pretty simple way to include a few scrapbook effects to an image but I think it also has almost a painterly look to it. I will go over a few more tips on how to add some more interest to a piece in a later blog. Have a wonderful week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs
How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images
How to Create Photoshop Brushes from Objects or Text


Image of a wooden roadrunner bird from St. AugustineShort break here as Topaz released a new plugin. One thing you have to appreciate about Topaz (for website link, check out the sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) is that so many of their plugins are totally unique in the filter world. Topaz Studio’s AI (Artistic Intelligence – not artificial) ReMix Adjustment is one I did not see coming – totally different although it is sort of a blend of many of their filters. I am still trying to figure it out. At this point, there is not much info on it – they promise to supply more soon. So what is this plugin? Topaz says “AI ReMix harnesses the power of custom neural networks to create specialized artistic models based off of real art styles.” Basically they looked at hundreds of artistic images, chose some to train the Artistic Intelligence, and turned the results into what they call image styles. The filter appears to currently have 50 artistic styles from which to choose.

The top image of the wooden roadrunner wind chime was photographed outside a store on St. George Street (one of my previous images) in St. Augustine, Florida. It used the AI ReMix adjustment twice with different styles and blend modes, an HSL Color Tuning adjustment, and a Texture adjustment. Since the texture used was one of my own, I did not upload it to the Community. I was basically doing a little trial-and-error to figure out how to use the program. The bokeh background in the image before taking it into Studio was created by following a great tutorial called How to Create a Lens Dust Photoshop Action Effect by Marko Kozokar at Envato tuts+. The bokeh looks really good with this new adjustment. Below is the interface so you can see what the dialog looks like and some of the slider choices. (Click image for larger view in Flickr.)Screenshot of Topaz AI Adjustment ReMix dialog******
The Polar Bear and Penguin image below used a Studio preset on my original image (see below) that I created called SJ AI Cold Winter Effect and can be downloaded from the Community site. It contains three AI ReMix adjustments, a Color Theme adjustment and the Basic adjustment. The Penquin, Crow, and Baby Polar Bear are all from PixelSquid. To get the colors correct in this image, Topaz ReStyle was opened once back in PS and the Desaturated-Cool 1 preset was applied to get the cooler tones. Snow was brushed on by using Grut’s Inky Leaky brush set (these work great for this) and falling snow overlay provided by Shadowhouse Creations.
Image of penguin and polar bear in winter scene
Below is the original image taken of a portion of the waterfall at the entrance to the Ormond Memorial Art Museum and Gardens that was brought into AI ReMix. One ReMix adjustment was used on just the leaves in the foreground using a layer mask, another on the background only, and the last on the whole image at a lower opacity.
Original image used in the Penguin and Polar Bear imageI am not sure how they are really doing this, but it does give some interesting results. It does have a bit of a phone app feel to it, which I do not use often. They plan on releasing more image styles soon which should give a few more effects to use. To see what basically is happening in this adjustment, just be sure to update to Studio to 1.8.4 version and the adjustment will appear in your Adjustment list (icon will not be colored in). You do not have to get the trial to see what some of the results will look like. Click on the AI ReMix name and in the Preset drop-down field, click on one of the 5 choices included and also try changing the Opacity and blend mode for the adjustment – now you can see what it does to your image. Very unique results. To try out the adjustment for 30 days, click on the AI ReMix Adjustment and then click Try Pro at bottom of dialog panel – access to all the sliders will open up. Once activated there is a little indicator at the bottom of the adjustment panel that tells you how many days are left in your trial period.
This big bird uses the same AI ReMix adjustment style duplicated twice and set to different blend modes inside Studio (click the settings icon to left of the trash can to find the duplicate command). The bird is from a set of photos I purchased from Deal Jumbo in a set called Amazing Wild Animals 2 from  images taken at South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. This guy sort of stood out to me. A Precision Contrast adjustment was first used in Studio where it was only applied to the bird by using a Studio layer mask. Then two identical AI Adjustments were stacked (located at Column 3/Row 4) – one set to Normal and one to Linear Dodge at 0.49 opacity. The bird was painted partially out using a 50% brush transparency. A Texture adjustment was also added and my Cat Painting Texture was applied.  (The texture had been already loaded into the Texture Adjustment – if you would like to download it, here is the link at DeviantArt. It is just a close up of neutral color oil paint strokes from a beautiful cat image.) Back in PS, just used some of my regular workflow to improve color and contrast. Pretty simple.Image of an African BirdThe task is to try and figure out what to do with the results so it does look artistic and not canned. And not all images work well with it. The other negative is that is makes my computer run pretty hard when several stacked adjustments. It looks better to me to stack a couple AI ReMix adjustments using different styles and settings. Topaz recommends trying out the Overlay blend mode for exaggerated saturation in the original image, Color blend mode to blend the photo and style colors together, and Luminosity blend mode for the highlights and shadows and makes the result less overdone in some cases. I am also finding that if I do not like the colors that the image becomes (even when starting with a black and white image it turns it into color), so a color converter needs to be used. My favorite is the Color Theme Adjustment where 5 individual colors can be changed. Also the HSL Color Tuning Adjustment will do some of this. Topaz has very nice mask tools that can remove parts in the image to give even greater control, especially by using a Mask Transparency  brush setting around 0.50 and removing some of the effect from skin. I am looking forward to the update that is promised to come very soon.

It took me a while to actually get good results since it changes the original photo so much, but it is a lot of fun once you get the hang of it. Definitely worth clicking on the Adjustment and checking out the presets. I am sure this will become a very popular add-on once everyone learns how to use it correctly. I will be blogging on this more once the update is provided and try to do a quick video. Until then, I will just keep experimenting – it does seem to have some interesting possibilities! So glad Topaz is still coming up with new ideas for plugins – that is why they are right up there on my list of best filters!…..Digital Lady Syd


A composite image using giraffesI am taking some time to learn a few new techniques-hence the expression in the image. I have never really explored the large digital scrapbooking community-they often use some very different ways of approaching an artistic expression. This image represents several of their techniques learned from partially from Tiffany Tilmman-Emanuel in her Mixed Media for Digital Scrapbookers videos from Creative Live. She is an excellent presenter and there are many more new things to try. I hope to be blogging on some of these soon. This was my first attempt at trying out some new techniques and it ended up being 42 layers long.

Resources used in this image are: the giraffe face is my own image, the silhouette giraffes are brushes from TutsPS, left giraffe is from Mr. Vintage Wild Animals set, white bird by Flower & Bird Watercolor by Gringoanne, and green leaves are from Lisa Glantz’s Magical Watercolor Graphics Vol1 Sample; background composed of Free Spirit su Gesso Texture (check out this free download of gesso textures – they are really nice), French Kiss Glorious Grunge Index (not sure it is still available), and Kim Klassen 2170 with Script (not sure it is still available); and the text layer is from Chris Spooner’s Watercolour Text Effect.

Have a great week!……Digital Lady Syd


Image of colorful bikes at Flagler College Just enjoying a little Topaz Studio and trying to really understand the program. Bike image is from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. (See Image 1 below to see what Topaz Studio adjustments were used to get this effect.) Will be skipping a week of blogging. Several people are very confused and uncomfortable about upgrading. I understand the hesitation since the upgrade into the new Studio interface has not been easy to understand. From the software engineer’s perspective, it has probably been a nightmare since the various plug-ins do very different things and they have to be retooled to work together. Some of the Studio plug-ins have some good updates that really help the program. Others, maybe not so much. I can only say this, even if you update to Topaz Studio, you will have the Topaz Labs filters still available and can be used on a layer in PS as before. I use them often, mainly for one reason – all my personal presets are still in the Labs plug-ins and Topaz Studio cannot reproduce lots of them. With many of my presets I just have not had the time to update them.  Therefore, it is probably okay to upgrade to the free Studio interface since you will still have the Topaz Lab versions available in the Filter menu. And not only that, if you are in Studio and want to access one of the other plug-ins, just go to the Menu and select Plug-ins – they are also all there with their original interface. I find that having the Studio Clarity (the Precision Contrast adjustment) and Detail (the Precision Detail adjustment) available in one location is very handy – together they give some startling sharpness! And oddly enough, the actual Impression Adjustment has some decent beginning settings and the Painting Progress slider gives some very interesting results. If you download the free Topaz Studio (for download link, see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog), any Topaz plug-ins will be automatically added into the interface (PS lists this as Filter->Topaz Studio-> and the different types – while the Filter -> Topaz Labs are not touched). It will look different and some experimentation will need to be done, but there are lots of new options since the different adjustments from the different original plug-ins can be stacked to get even better looks.

List of Topaz Labs plug-ins currently added into Topaz Studio

At this point, here is a list of the filters that are now included in the Studio interface and which filters create the basic filter. If you owned the Topaz Labs filters, all the Studio adjustments filters will show up without buying the Pro Pack extra adjustments. To find the incorporated filters, need to go to the preset pop-out and click on the square icon with three horizontal lines in it. Set the Sort By to Featured. The first preset will indicate the Studio Adjustment workflow for each filter (for example, select Clarity and choose top preset called Clarity Workflow – the two adjustments to create the basic filter will be shown).

Clarity – Studio Adjustments are Precision Contrast and HSL Color Tuning (look at the Topaz Labs version and it is broken down into these two main components). Topaz did bring over my created presets with this filter and they also appear in the My Effects Group.

Detail – Adjustments include Precision Detail, Channel Mixer, and Basic Adjustment. (The Topaz Labs version was broken down into Detail and Tone, the Channel Mixer which is the Cyan-Red, Magenta-Green, and Yellow-Blue sliders, and the Basic Adjustment which basically contains the other Tone and Color sections’ sliders). Several of these I reproduced.

Glow – Adjustments include Glow, HSL Color Tuning, Vignette, and Smudge. (The Topaz Labs version has sections called Primary and Secondary Glow with same sliders that pop out in some cases in Studio, Color which is the same as the HSL Color Tuning, and Finishing Touches which includes the Smudge slider). None of my presets were brought over from the Labs version.

Impression – Only contains the Impression Adjustment. My presets were brought over from Topaz Labs and also appear in My Effects group.

Simplify – Contains Abstraction, Edges, and Quad Tone adjustments. None of my presets came over from Topaz Labs.

Textures – Contains the Basic Adjustment, Edge Exposure, and Quad Tone adjustments. No presets were brought over from Topaz Labs. They have added in new textures from 2 Lil Owls Studio and Hazel Meredith.

Image of Mountains from Unsplash and Jon FlobrantThis image contains exactly the same settings as the image above except a 2 Lil Owls Studio Texture Adjustment was added at the bottom of the stack. (See image below for more information.) Image from Unsplash and Jon Flobrant.

Image of Palm Trees from Castillo de San Marcos fortThis image is of some palm trees taken on the top of the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida – the creative coloring was done in Topaz Studio. I find a lot of the tips for Studio by watching the videos Topaz Labs supplies. Even if you do not like what the presenter is creating, often you can get a couple good ideas for some presets that make for some good results. That is what happened on this one. First a preset that I made from some of the settings in Hazel Meredith’s video called Texture Effects and Topaz Studio that I named SJ Graphic Sketch 1 (it is available in the Community on line) – makes for a very nice black and white image. This was applied and a preset called Cartoon Grid from Topaz that gave the partial colored effect. (See Image 3 below for more information on this image.) I saved it down as a project file .tsp file, but it did not take. So at this point I am not sure this format is really safe to use. Luckily I had noted the settings.

I hope this has helped a few of you decide to try out Studio. It is a pretty nice program overall and it will get better as they add more Topaz Labs plug-ins and new features into it. But it will probably take a while to get it all finished I am sure. In the meantime, parts of it are really good. Have a very good week!…..Digital Lady Syd

Image 1: This image was first opened in Lightroom and just the Basic Panel was used before opening up in Photoshop. The next step was to duplicate the image and open Topaz Studio. These are the settings that were used: Precision Contrast: used Highlight Dynamic Range in dropdown; Abstraction: Used JWolfson Painting Prep in drop-down (Joel explains how to create this in his Topaz Labs video he did this week – I will add link when it is posted), then changed Simplify Size to 0.24; Impression SJ Colored Pencil preset: changed Stroke Width to -78, Stroke Length to -0.85, and spill -1.00, then set Texture to Solid; and used HSL Color Tuning – changed Orange Sat -0.40, Yellow Sat 0.55, Aqua Sat 0.63, and Blue Sat 0.39 and Lightness 0.13, and Details 0.50; Created Subtle Colored Pencil preset which is posted in the Community presets if you would like to use it. Back in PS, used a Red Channel Luminosity Curves Adjustment Layer, Nick Viveza 2 to add a slight vignette in corners, and a Levels Adjustment Layer setting Output levels to 31/255 and regular settings 0/0.76/255 – gives the slight matte feel.

Image 2: The Unsplash image was opened in Topaz Studio stand alone program and used exactly the same steps above except the HSL Color Tuning sliders were used to adjust the colors in this image and a Texture from 2 Lil Owls was added at 28% layer opacity and Luminosity blend mode. It was opened in PS and the same steps as used above were done.

Image 3: Three images were taken into Aurora 2018 HDR from Lightroom to begin post-processing. This gave a really nice sharp image back in LR. It was then taken into PS and the background layer was duplicated. Brought image into STO from PS. First Version Applied Graphic Sketch L and set to Effect Opacity 0.53; Made a few slight changes to Basic Adjustment to Exposure -0.05, Clarity 0.52, Shadow -0.32, Highlight -0.50, Black Level -0.33 and White Level 0.68; Precision Contrast Opacity 0.88 and Multiply blend mode, Micro 0.18, Low 0.20, Medium 0.93, Lighting Shadow -0.31, Midtone 0.37, Highlight 0.47, Medium; Brightness Contrast Opacity 0.44, Brightness 0.29, Contrast 0.91, and Saturation -1.00; Tone Curve – left as set; Smudge Strength 0.11, Extent -0.34, and Sharpness 0.21; Bloom hooked to Smudge set to 0.70 opacity and Screen bm, Strength 0.40, Threshold 0.62, and Bloom size 0.25; Abstraction Color Space RGB, Simplify Size 0.41, Feature Boost 0.16, Detail Strength 0.20, Detail Boost 0, and Detail Radius 0.25 with Radiance set to Screen blend mode hooked to it, Radiance Type Dark, Strength 0.82, Width 0.29, Length 0.73, Curl 0, Suppress Weak 0.12, Sat 0.76, Coverage 1.00, Fade 0.11 and Sat 0; Duplicated this version and set same settings to Effect Opacity of 1.00. Created a preset called SJ Graphic Sketch I. Duplicated this version and applied the settings above. Then applied preset called Cartoon Gold with some changes: Brightness Contrast Adj: Contrast 1.54; Smudge Strength 0.10, Extent -0.38, and Sharpness 0.02; Abstraction Adj 0.58 layer opacity, Color Space RGB, Simplify Size 0.93 and Detail Radius 0.25; Dual Tone Opacity 0.29 and Saturation blend mode; Highlight Color 1.00, Highlight 0.16, Shadow Color 0.34, Shadow Hue 0.05, and Balance 0.45. Back in PS just my regular workflow: a Red Channel Curves Adjustment Layer, Nik Viveza 2 to adjust color on the trees, and a Black and White Adjustment Layer set to Luminosity blend mode.


Image of a pink dahlia for Valentines DayJust my annual Valentine Blog with a few tips. I really like to create images for this holiday. The little tiny dahlia flower above is growing in my otherwise very dead-looking garden. Unfortunately in Florida we had a couple cold days below freezing at night and many of my beautiful plants and flowers were lost.

The image was taken into Photoshop where the Shake Reduction filter was applied since the shot was taken hand-held while on my hands and knees – definitely some shakiness there! Then the layer was duplicated and the flower was selected – used the Select and Mask dialog to refine the selection. Applied the mask so the background could be painted out. I had to use Tip 1 to find out which brush I had used to paint the background – it was a Fay Sirkis’s Precious Oil Diamond Blender brush (her brushes are pretty hard to find now but worth it for painting in PS – they are still available from KelbyOne along with several very good earlier PS painting videos if you are a member – just search for her name and download course assets) with a few Brush Setting Panel changes that made a nice smooth pinkish background. Her Portrait Face Sfumato Detail Blender was used to paint the flower petals. The Valentine Brushes created in Tip 2 were used to add the holiday feel. A Bevel and Emboss default  layer style was used on the valentine objects. A yellow-orange light leak was applied to the lower left corner (see Tip 3 for this). Finished off with my regular workflow. The text font is Birch Standard.

Happy Valentine greeting with textured imageThis image started out as a texture I was creating with the hearts from Julie Mead’s Valentine Gift 2 set (See Step 2 below for link). The cupid is also from this set. Used my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush was used to add the green background color on the bottom layer. (Also Tip 2 below.) Different layers were used to add each valentine brush and the cupid brush to the image. To make the cupid green, the cupid layer style was opened up by double clicking on the layer words in the Layers Panel – a 2 px Stroke was used in a dark red color, a Gradient Overlay was selected using the Forest Walk green to white linear gradient from Random Gradients – Graphix 1, and an Outer Glow set to 65% opacity using a pink color. A small 17 pixel valentine brush by Digital Touch was used to paint little valentines all over a New Layer and a Pattern Overlay layer style was added using a pink valentine pattern set to Multiply. (Tip 2 shows you how to create this brush easily.) The font used was MC Sweetie Hearts. Last step was to add a New Layer and use a spotlight effect on the cupid – set to Overlay blend mode at 55% layer opacity. (See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog.) The last step used a Gradient Fill Adjustment Layer to create a vignette using a dark red color. (See my Yet Another Great Way to Create a Vignette blog.)

By My Valentine image More crazy Valentine Fun above – this time started with the free Big Heart brush – the rest of the valentine was built up around this main feature.  A darkish red and pink texture was used and could be made using Dave Belliveau’s Mixer brush from Tip 2 for a bottom background. On top of this a Heart Bokeh Stock element by sweethooligan (no current link could be found but appeared to be an old DeviantArt location) was applied and set to Screen blend mode at 57% layer opacity. The Be My Valentine text blurb was from by Ulia Choo. The music playing cupid was from Glass Prism Cupid Brushes at DeviantArt set to Multiply and then a dark Inner Gray Layer Style was added that shows the original square edge around the element. Upper left element is Heart Corner Large from Valentine Brush Set by Cheshire Angel that was set to Multiply blend mode to remove the white background. Some small valentines using the same Digital Touch brush as in image above was used – this is a handy valentine brush! Then three Light Leaks were used to add some variance to the color tones in the image.

Tip 1: Use the File Info Dialog to Find Brushes and Filters Settings Used

This is a tip I have mentioned before, but it is worth repeating. Have you ever forgotten what brush you used to create a certain effect and want to use it again? Or what settings were used on an Adjustment or filter that were not noted? This info can be found if you go to File -> Info (ALT+CTRL+SHIFT+I) to open the dialog. But to be able to recover this information, your Preferences (Edit -> Preferences -> History Log) in the History Log tab must have the Metadata radial turned on when the image is created. I just keep this turned on even though I do not use this function often, there are times it has been helpful to have.

Tip 2: Find or Create Brushes – then Get Comfortable Using Them

Mixers: When painting in Photoshop, it is really important to have a couple Mixer brushes ready to use – at least one good blending brush and one for adding color. It is important to have confidence these brushes and learn to change the settings on the fly to get good results – that is what I did using Fay Sirkis’s Precious Oil Diamond Blender brush. I have large and small sized ones and a couple that add color using the same basic dab. To find out what the dab of any brush looks like, just turn off the Spacing setting in the Tip Shape section of the Brush Panel. One of my favorite Mixer blender brushes for smooth background colors is free from David Belliveau with his How to Blend Colors in Photoshop: 4 Essential Technique blog download (included with regular soft and hard edged brushes and a Smudge brush).

Regular Painting Brushes: Check out my How to Create my Favorite Brush blog and make a nice regular brush (my SJ 3 Pastel Brush) – great for painting or just touching up an image when used at a small size. In the second image, my SJ 3 Pastel-Van Gogh TI brush was  used. It can be created by following my Painting Fun in Photoshop blog’s third paragraph – gives an explanation on how to make the base brush more painterly. My favorite paint brush site is Grut who gives away a brush of the week to try out – also his sampler has some really nice paint brushes. I use Grut brushes all the time.

Regular Stamp Type Brushes: Converting a PNG to a regular stamp brush: Both these images used some brushes created from nice free valentine hearts by Julie Mead at E-scape & Scrap. There are 9 wonderful valentine PNG files that instantly made me think of Photoshop Brushes. So that is exactly what I did – created several valentine brushes. See Tip 2 below.. All the PNG but the first heart were converted to brushes adding the PNG file to a New Document, then converting to Black and White – I used the Black and White Adjustment Layer to do this – and then creating a stamped layer on top. Now go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and create the brush. I did not make many changes – mainly just size. I also created a couple of brushes that were created by stamping down the new brushes together on another layer and saving that as a brush. This can be seen in the second Valentine Greetings image. This image started out as a texture that was created by using New Layers for each color and just stamping down the Julie brushes for the effect.

Creating a stamp brush from a Photoshop Shape: The little Valentine Brush used in the last two images can be created by selecting the Custom Shape Tool in Photoshop and set to Shape in the Options Bar. On a New Document, go to the Options Bar Shape: drop-down menu, select the valentine and drag out holding the SHIFT key to hold the shape and press enter. Go to the Layers Panel and use the Marquee Tool to draw a selection around the shape – go to Edit -> Define Brush Preset and press Enter. A Valentine Brush has been created and added to the bottom of the Brushes Panel. Now any settings you would like to add can be done in the Brush Settings Panel.

Tip 3: Make Other Resources

Sometimes it is easier just to use resources you have collected, but sometimes this is not possible. That is when I try to reproduce what I like – it may turn out better than the original. This does take time so I do not make all my resources. Make your own texture when you can. In the last valentine, the red heart background could easily be created by using a black background and painting red hearts using the valentine brush (shape brush in Tip 2) and Brush Settings Panel’s Scatter and Color Dynamic settings. Tip 2 shows how to make the Valentine texture in the second image. The text block could easily have been reproduced using Text Layers and fonts in PS. Create some Light Leaks to add nice color variations to your images. (See my How to Create Light Leaks to Use Over Again blog.) I keep them in my PS Library so it can be tried out on images quickly.

Hope these tips were useful and has some fun making Valentines in Photoshop. It is my favorite Photoshop holiday – Happy Valentines Day! …..Digital Lady Syd


Image of Whitehall (Flagler Museum) in Palm Beach, FloridaThis week I performed just a little comparison of the my HDR programs. I get so confused about which one I want to use and what the differences are between them so I decided to take the same image and run it through each of them. What I found out is although the basic image is the same, depending upon the HDR program used, a totally different look will be achieved. So what my final conclusion is that you need to decide up front what effect you like, and then choose the program that gives this result. That is why running an image through each program is so informative – it shows the subtle differences that need to be known to make the an intelligent choice. So below is the image example and a little info I learned about each software as I experimented. The image was taken of a Hat Rack that is outside a store on St. George Street in the historic district of St. Augustine, Florida. Also, all three images had a little work done in Photoshop – the price tag amounts were removed, the same High Pass filter set to 2.0 Radius and Overlay blend mode was used on each (except the On1 image which was sharpened enough and it caused haloing), and a Red Channel Luminosity Adjustment Layer was applied although different RGB settings were used for each. The top image is a 3 image HDR of the ballroom at Whitehall (Flagler Museum), Henry M. Flagler’s Residence in Palm Beach, Florida. It was post-processed using Aurora 2018.

Aurora 2018

To begin with, I love this new HDR software. Why? Because it is so easy to use. Aurora (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) have canned presets (and some more can be downloaded for free from within the program) and the interface is pretty simple. That said, there are a few problems if you are a Windows user. It is hard to navigate around the image when zoomed in is my first pet-peeve. The biggest problem is when using the Dodge & Burn filter which I really like on the image. The program did a great job in removing ghosting but the colors seem to be a little off to me. Below is the result I got using this program. (Here are the settings used on it: AU 2018 – HDR Basic: Temp 9, Tint 16, Exposure -0.44, Contrast -2, HDR Enhance 79, Smart Tone -31, Highlights 24, Whites 36, and Blacks -20; Color Vibrance 44, HDR Structure: Amount 78; Image Radiance Amount 41 and Brightness -20; HSL Sat Red 47, Orange -11, Aqua -67, and Blue -58; Dodge & Burn – set brush to 12% Strength and painted with Darken around the edges and with Lighten on the lighter parts of the hats; Vignette: Amount -62, Size 32, Roundness -51, Feather 53.) Overall, this is a great program, especially for Apple people, but it needs to be updated to the Apple version for Windows people to really get the full punch of the program.

Image of a Hat Rack in St. Augustine using Aurora 2018 HDR software
NIK Efex Pro 2

I decided to include this one since everyone probably owns it since it is free. When this program first came out several years ago there was a lot of excitement generated by this HDR software. I found it still works really good. There are lots of presets to try out and that is exactly how this image was started. It looks very different from the above – the colors are much truer. Is that the look I wanted? Maybe. The disadvantage in this program is there is no Dodge and Burn filter which is what I think made the first image more interesting. (Here are the settings used on this image: NIK HDR Efex Pro 2: Selected Pale & Structure and changed Tone Compression to -18%, Method Strength 41%, HDR Drama far left and the Color Sat to -14%. Add control point to reduce the effect on the bright items in the door on right. Added Vignette Lens 3 vignette and changed amount to -5%.) This is not a fatal flaw since this can be done in Photoshop. I am a little disturbed by the slight amount of haloing that I could not figure out how to reduce in the plug-in so I ended up hand cloning out – still some present. I am not sure this plug-in is still available as a stand-alone, but I have never used it this way. Overall, it gives a nice result and I am sure the haloing issue could be avoided with the proper settings.

Image of Hat Rack in St. Augustine using NIK HDR Efex Pro 2

On1 Photo Raw 2018 HDR

On1 software (for website link see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog) has come a long way in the last few years and their HDR filter within the software interface is pretty great. The HDR section is set up so that once the HDR images are selected in the Browse module, the Create HDR dialog opens showing two tabs, Tone & Color tab (with are the standard LR Basic sliders) and HDR Look  (which has the compression slider among others). Once the HDR image is saved and created, the program lets you use their Develop module or Effects module to further enhance the image which opens a lot of extra possibilities. (Here are the settings used in image below: Create HDR-Tone & Color – Exposure -0.2, Contrast -12, Highlights 0, Shadows -17, Whites 1, Blacks -14, Structure 17, Haze -9, Temp 4650, Tint 4, and Vibrance 37 and HDR Look: Compression 51, Details 21, Clarity 27, Vibrance 10, Glow 0, and Grunge 7. Effects module: HDR with the settings from HDR Look show up; Dynamic Contrast: Small 6, Medium 61, and Large 43, Highlights 17, and Shadows -4; and Color Enhancer: Red Sat 10; Orange Brightness 10; and Blue Sat -11; and Vignette: Big Softy preset and Brightness -51, Size 38, Feather 100, and Roundness -56.) I have done several HDR images with this program and really like it. I found on a water scene it had a little trouble with the ghosting of some sailboat masts. But other than that I have gotten some great results. In this image it seems that the whites are much better than th two above.
Image of Hat Rack in St. Augustine using On1 Photo Raw 2018 HDR software

Lightroom HDR

This is very easy to do in Lightroom – just select the images to create the HDR image, right click and choose Photo Merge -> HDR and in the HDR Merge Preview dialog, check the options you want and click Merge. It brings the new HDR image back into LR as a DNG file. I do not use DNG files usually, but have found not problems with it. Now you can do all the same adjustments that are made in LR normally. Major great and easy! The HDR image allows the Exposure slider to go from (+5) to (-5) to (+10) to (-10). I found the resulting HDR image almost sterile looking – no noise, color absolutely correct – almost a flat look. On the other hand it is very realistic. After doing the Basic changes in LR (Settings were: Basic panel-Tint +21, Exposure +0.71, Contrast -16, Highlights -100, Shadows -7, Whites +2, Blacks -48, Clarity +2, Vibrance +18, and Saturation +4; HSL Panel Luminance Orange -20 and Yellow -8; and with the Adjustment Brush set to Exposure 0.80, Clarity 77 and Sharpness 83, the hats were painted over.), the photo was taken into PS. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was used to add a little more brown-gold look to the image. Since there was not texture at all in this image on the background, a Digital Grain texture I had created a while back was applied on top. It did seem to help a little.

Image of a Hat Rack in St. Augustine using Lightroom HDRSo which of these programs did I prefer? This is such a hard one to decide. I did not use Photomatix Pro as I own version 3.3 and apparently they are on version 6.0 – I did not mind using it a few years ago as it gave very good results. They all gave sharp and clean images. I believe that Lightroom’s HDR effect is extremely realistic and that is perfect when you need something with really sharp lines. It does a fantastic job with this. On1 has this great advantage of also being tack sharp which one of the things I like about this program even when not doing HDR – their Dynamic Contrast filter is just fabulous! Their HDR is also very good. Nik HDR Efex Pro 2 may be lagging just slightly behind, but this is extremely power HDR software and if you cannot afford to buy new program, just download this one. It is still just fine for most image. The new guy for me, Aurora 2018, is really good – it is the brainchild of Trey Radcliff, a major HDR guru, so this is why it is so good and easy to use. I thought it did a really good job on the Flagler Museum image which has a lot of exposure issues in it. Overall, the best way to figure this out is to try them all. I can see if I do not like the results of one software, try a different one – it will look different!

Hope you enjoyed this blog – have a great week…..Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:
Sunny Florida
Checking Out Aurora HDR 2018 for Windows
Trying Out On1 Photo Raw 2018’s New HDR Filter
Digital Lady Syd Reviews Nik HDR Efex Pro 2
HDR Using Photoshop Merge to HDR and Nik”s HDR EFex Pro and Silver Efex Pro? Wow!

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