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A FEW PHOTOSHOP AND LIGHTROOM TIPS AND TRICKS

Image of a lioness drawing

This week I thought I would present a few handy tips and tricks that you may not know or had forgotten – some are from a few years ago. These are ones I found while experimenting on my latest images. Maybe they will be helpful for you while working on yours. The image above was drawn and painted from an photo I took at the Jacksonville Zoo a while back. I love her expression. So here we go…..

  1. CHECK VALUES QUICKLY (PS): Sam Peterson from Adobe Creative Live, has this excellent way to turn your photo to black and white to see how the image values are looking. First need to set up the panel. In PS go to View -> Proof Setup -> Custom and in Customize Proof Condition Dialog, set Proof Conditions – Device to Simulate to Dot Gain 20%, Rendering Intent to Relative Colorimetric, and check Black Point Compensation. Now these settings will always remain. Simply press CTRL+Y and instantly you will see the whole image in B&W. Just press CTRL+Y again and it removes the effect. Also, the Color Picker still works when image is in B&W so you can see what color is causing a problem if you do not like the results. Really cool! I am using this all the time now for a quick view of what is happening with the tones in the image.
  2. SHADOW AND HIGHLIGHT LAYERS (PS): Another Sam Peterson trick – this guy does have some really interesting techniques! For images with really neutral lighting, he creates a New Layer and sets it to Multiply blend mode and selects a grayish-blue tone (try #8e969e). Clip this layer to object layer for keeping shadows confined to the object only. Otherwise can use on the whole image. Use any brush, soft Airbrush or hard edged, to paint in the shadows. (Can create a gobo lighting effect doing this with an interesting stamp brush – see my Photoshop Gobo Lightng Effect blog.) He does the same technique for Highlights using a Color Dodge blend mode and a darkish mid-gray color (try #42403d). These two layers work well together and give some beautiful results. By using these colors and adjusting the brush opacity and flow, a subtle result can be achieved.
  3. BRUSH SMOOTHING FOR TRACING (PS): This tip is from Paul Trani also from Adobe Creative Live. When tracing over an image and are having problems controlling the brush strokes, set the brush Smoothing up to 50 and the lines stroke much easier. It does slow the brush down a little, but it really helps to create nice smooth curves lines. I am finding this very helpful anytime I am using a very small sized thin line brush – used it to add some tree branches on a trunk recently.
  4. SELECT AND MASK REFINE EDGE BRUSH (PS): I have always struggled with getting good results in this panel. Well Sam Peterson once again gave me some insight for this tool. With the layer mask highlighted, go into the Select and Mask Panel and choose the Refine Edge brush icon, 2nd down on left side. In Tool Options Bar at top, open the drop-down next to the brush size field and set the brush Hardness to 0, Spacing to 25%, Angle to 0, Roundness to 100% and Size to Off. Also not that the Radius is set to 0, Smart Radius is not checked, and Object Aware selected. Once I did this, I found it was much easier to get good results on the edges, particularly when selecting hair or fur. He also cautions that dragging the brush too much inside selection will allow the edges to creep in. Drag on the very edges outside of object for best results. Use the ALT key and paint back any area that leaks in or use the Brush Tool (3rd icon on left) to clean up.
  5. CAPS LOCK TO FIND AND PAINT WITH BRUSH (PS): Kim Klassen of texture fame put me onto this one. When painting with a very tiny brush or very large brush where it is hard to see, just press the Caps Lock to get a small cross so you can see where the center of the brush is. It works with painting with a very tiny sized brush. I use this trick all the time when using cleaning up areas with small brushes like cleaning up halos, etc.
  6. SMUDGE BRUSH AND MIXER BRUSH LAG ISSUES (PS): These tips comes from Kyle T. Webster, the Adobe Brush Evangelist. If your Smudge or Mixer brush are acting very sluggish, you may need to turn off Sample All Layers due to several layers in image. Can also go into the Brush Settings Panel -> Brush Tip Shape section and – for Smudge Tool, uncheck Spacing and for Mixers set the Spacing to 5%. Try reducing the brush size also. It helps to close other documents open in PS and any open web browsers to speed things up too.
  7. DEHAZE SLIDER TIPS (LR): Two major Lightroom and Photoshop gurus offer these tips. Moose Peterson, of wildlife reknown, says that whenever he uses Dehaze, he always lowers the Blue Saturation in the HSL/Grayscale tab since the slider tends to crank up the blues. John Paul Caponigro, possibly my favorite PS guru, says that Neutral areas may turn magenta, and Shadow areas pick up strong blue or green casts. Can reduce Saturation after using, but what he likes to do it create a Virtual Copy. On one copy use no Dehaze and on another use it. Highlight both images in filmstrip, right click on an image, and select Edit In -> Open as Layers in PS. Put layer with no Dehaze on top and change to Color blend mode. Something to try IMO.
  8. ADJUSTING PRESENCE SLIDERS IN LANDSCAPE IMAGES (LR): This info comes from Randy Van Duinon, a very good architectural and landscape photographer, who uses an interesting LR workflow. He starts by first adjusting the Texture slider which works in the fine detail adding contrast in these areas; next the Clarity slider which adds contrast in the midtone areas (he keeps this amount around 35 and more on cloudy days); and finally Dehaze which adds contrast to the larger areas. Then he continues with the Basic settings. This has worked out well for me at times.
  9. USING PROFILES IN LIGHTROOM (LR): Daniel Gregory, a professional fine art photographer, came up with what I consider is a rather common sense tip. Since the image can change rather dramatically just by changing a profile, he believes that it should be applied first as he would be making different setting decisions depending upon which profile he uses. The Adobe profiles do not have an amount slider, but usually creative profiles that are downloaded have this slider. Consider the Amount slider the same as an Opacity slider on a layer in PS. I will add that many people do not add the profile until the end (Matt Kloskowsky for example) so this is definitely something to try.
  10. PARAMETRIC AND LINEAR CURVES (LR): This tip is from Tobi Shinobi, a bright young newcomer on the PS scene. In the Tone Curves section, first adjust the Linear Curve (2nd white round circle) and add your points. Press ALT to reset the curve and ALT+click over the curve to set a point to adjust. Right click to delete point. The go to Parametric Curve and adjust – they work independently of each other. Use this order to add some finesse to your images.

I hope there were some new ideas presented in these tips. Some really great PS and LR gurus have some great ideas! It was fun putting this together. See ya soon again…..Digital Lady Syd

DIGITALLY PAINTED OR RETOUCHED?

Image of a painted young person

Hi everybody! I know it has been a while since I blogged, but I really have been busy with Photoshop! Major project going through all brushes! So many to choose from and big decisions on which to use. Of course this is a whole other blog on how to sort through this. The portrait image above, by Christopher Campbell at Unsplash, is one that worked nicely with the brushes for the painting effect required in this blog.

Starting Out

Adobe Creative Cloud has Photoshop Daily Creative Challenge videos that are released for Photoshop every few weeks. A couple months ago Sam Peterson, an illustrator and painter, ran two weeks of some really fabulous PS videos. One was called Brushes where he gives you a starter file and walks you through how to create a similar effect as shown above. The image used PS’s Camera Raw, Angled Strokes and Oil Paint filters to begin the painterly process as Sam demonstrates. He also showed how to create a background to match the image to be painted. This photo used a brush called Clay for the background that was in Kyle T. Webster’s India Set he sold for charity (unfortunately no longer available). It is basically a chunky block brush. For a very similar brush, check out the Brix Brush in Kyle’s Summer 2020 brush set or for the brushe, Disastro or Disastro Spatter in his Summer 2021 Brushes, which uses both the foreground and background colors (press harder or lighter to get variations and a cool texture effect). Lots of different brushes were tried before finding a background brush I liked – but then this is half the fun! For info on how to download and load Kyle’s free PS sets, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog – scroll down to the How To Find His Brushes and Loading the Brushes sections.

The Mixer Blender

Sam gave guidance on what brush settings to use, but it is up to you to find a brush on which to apply these settings. This process is using a Mixer brush to blend, not a Smudge brush which a lot of people call a blender brush. Mixer brushes are a more advanced version of the Smudge. It does not appear Kyle uses Mixer brushes very often for blending as there are only a few in his sets (there are several Mixers in his Megapack Real Oils section will work nicely). For something like digital painting, I would recommend using Mixer Blenders for this exact and complicated blending. The main thing to remember is that the Wet and Load amounts, which Sam sets at 15% to start, can be adjusted “on the fly” to get a more or less painterly effect from the brush. He did not change his Mix and Flow which were both at 50%. Still okay to change if it helps. Also, if a color is needed to be added in, like for a cheek or lips, there are several ways to do this. I find the easiest is to select a regular brush and splash a bit of color in for blending with the Mixer. In another blog I will discuss some of these Mixer points.

One of my favorite Mixer (blender) brushes, and one I used extensively on this image, is by David Belliveau (free download of 4 brushes at the link and also check out his amazing drawing tutorials – link to my blog on David’s technique is listed below). The settings Sam suggested worked fine with this brush (set to 195 pixels). When set to 15 pixels, used David’s settings to do the detail work on the image, like the eyes, lips, and some hair – mainly where the focal point is, after the original blending was done. The larger brush was used to soften down all the other edges other than the eyes and hair by the right eye which were left sharpened as discussed below. As a reminder, once the settings have been added into the Brush Settings panel for the Mixer, save it down as a new brush. Otherwise all the settings will be lost if you go to a different brush and want to come back to this Mixer.

Once a brush is chosen, it was time to paint with the Mixer – Sam seemed to only paint on one layer, but I found it much better to split it up for the different areas being painted. For the right image below, here is a list of some of the layers created – started with a basic once over on the face smoothing the edges like in Sam’s tutorial, then evening out the lighting effect on the next layer, added color to her cheeks, eyelash layer, pupils layer, iris layer, catchlight layer, fixed the shirt on another layer – just duplicated part of it and blended it together, some hair strands added on another, and lips painted. As you can see, it is a bit labor intensive, but the results are worth it. By putting everything on separate layers, corrections can be made really easily. Below on the left is the original image and on the right is the one that looks like a pretty decent retouch – so what makes it look more painterly?

Original and first attempt at painting portrait

Getting the Final Painterly Look

Mainly adding a texture is a key to getting the more painterly effect needed to sell the look. Sam has a texture in the PSD file he provides and several other brushing suggestions are given to get this look. Also using Color Lookup Adjustment Layers, and possibly Gradient Map Adjustment Layers, using different blend modes and opacities gives some nice painterly effects. And do not be afraid to stack several of the same kind of adjustments using different blend modes and opacities. Just remember that usually a Curves or Levels Adjustment Layer must be added on top to bring back some contrast. So this is what was done on this image to finish up the “look:”

  1. Liquify was applied to enlarge her eyes just little and give her mouth a bit of an upturn (this filter is so cool!).
  2. A stamped layer was created and a Sharpen action was run on the image – a black layer mask was applied and just her eyes, her hair strand on the right and a small section of her ear lob were sharpened.
  3. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer set to 80% opacity was run using On1-Heat Wave LUT – one that adds warmth into the image – any warm one you will probably get this effect. This really filled her face with a beautiful light effect.
  4. Another Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was added and set to 12% layer opacity called Teal Orange Plus Contrast preset (not sure where I got this). It darkened down the blues in her shirt.
  5. Added a Levels Adjustment Layer to flatten down the blacks a little since paintings do not have true blacks in them usually.
  6. Added French Kiss Tableaux Mirage-2 Texture – used a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer clipped to the texture with Saturation set to -100 so only the strokes from her texture show up. The texture was set to Overlay blend mode at 46% layer opacity. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.) These layers were grouped and set to 62% Group opacity – then the Group’s layer style was opened and the Blend If Slider was set to This Layer Black tab split to 0/86 and Underlying Layer White tab split to 121/255 so the strokes showed up just like I wanted them.
  7. Next on a New Layer below the Group file, a brush was created from the texture and used to cover the whole image to give it more of a painterly look – the layer was set to a reddish brown brush color, Color Burn blend mode and 93% opacity. It adds some nice soft canvas looking lines in the image, especially on the face. (See link to my blog on how to do this below.)
  8. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was clipped to the Group above and the Saturation was increased (+44) and Lightness lowered (-38) to darken down and add more color to the image.
  9. Last step was a final Levels Adjustment Layer – Black tab to 16 and Output Levels black set to 5.

Hopefully you can get an idea what really goes into these digital paintings. And I am still not sure it is really a “Painting” since the original image was used, but it definitely looks more painterly than just a good retouching effect. I still look at it and see places where it could be improved, but it is a learning process. Definitely it took me several hours just to figure out the Mixer blending to get the effects needed. Enjoyed being back and plan on doing this a lot more. ……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd’s Related Blogs:

Where to Find a Good Photoshop Painter – David Belliveau tutorial information

How to Create a Texture Brush to Match a Texture

How to Add Texture to an Image without Adding Its Color (You Tube video link in blog)

WORKING ON DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Sorry I have not been blogging as much as I have in the past. I have been watching a lot of videos and trying to figure out how to use the Photoshop brushes to actually give a reasonable painterly brush stroke. There does not seem to be much on how to actually do this – only a few digital artists talk about it. I felt like the above image starts to emulate painterly strokes as it might look in Corel Painter, but not sure about if it emulates real media results. (In my Painting Acrylics Digitally – Can It Be Done? blog, I did get a pretty decent acrylic look.) The original above image is from Unsplash by Luca Bravo in Arles, France and was posted in my Beautiful Blue Door Tidbits Blog 3 years ago that used the Mixer brushes. For this blog I have been experimenting to try and get a consistent painterly stroke and finding settings that might work on other brush tips for a similar look. I have listed throughout this blog several free resources for brushes used in the above so check out the hyperlinks. I am also finding out this is a huge subject to cover so I am just addressing a small portion this week.

Creating the Sketch (black outline)

In the above the black lines were drawn in to create the layout of the original image. Used the PS Megapack Inkbox and Kyle’s Clean as a Whistle brush – lots of Click + SHIFT’s to draw straight lines (and it still is not perfect). When drawing a horizontal or vertical line, just keep holding down the SHIFT key while dragging to see how it is looking. This was handy for this image. If needing a more diagonal line, it will not work. When doing regular sketching, I usually use Grut – I Qwillo brush ($1 for all his individual brushes). Nicolai has an enormous number of fabulous brushes on this site (his Cloud set is the best around) . Every Monday there is a free brush of the week to download and is a great way to try out different media brushes. In this case a little richer stronger line was needed. So I would suggest trying different brushes until you get the line effect you need.

Painting Brushes

I have been trying to stick mostly to Kyle’s brushes here that can downloaded easily to try tout if you are using the later versions of Photoshop. For more info on how to download his PS brushes, see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog. BTW Kyle has just released his Adobe PS Spring 2021 Brush set, so give them a try. The Edvard Munch brush set first appeared in 2017 in a 4-part video series called Get Started with Digital Painting Photoshop – they are not part of the PS2021 brushes, but are a free download here at the Adobe Creative Cloud. He found the Munch Filbert Dry Mixer gives a sort of an impasto look. To get the painterly strokes on each side of the door, I liked Kyle’s Munch Medium Flat brush but I did make some setting adjustments. I am using the brushes below to get some nice painterly strokes. I did switch a bit between them to get the right stroke effect on the walls.

The first brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Medium Flat-painting (150 px) and does not have much color variation but does use both the foreground and background colors with Pen Pressure (this means press light and background color appears and hard for foreground color when using a tablet.) Only the settings listed were changed: Texture section – was changed to one I imported from Painter, but the Rough pattern texture (Invert checked) seems pretty close (it can be found in the Photoshop default Erodible Textures set) and setting Brightness to -22, Contrast 57, Depth 19%, Minimum Depth 82%, Depth Jitter 27%, and Control to Pen Pressure; in Color Dynamics section checked the Apply Per Tip and set the Control to Pen Pressure; and in Transfer section set Opacity Jitter to 38%, Minimum to 55%, Flow Jitter 13% and Minimum 74%.

The second brush was named SJ KTW Munch-Med Flat-Painting Var1-try sim colors (175 px) to remind me how to use the brush. These settings were changed: Texture – changed it to same Rough pattern (Invert checked), Brightness to -13, Contrast to 33, Depth to 14%, Min Depth to 21%, Depth Jitter to 69%, and Control Pen Pressure; Color Dynamics changes were to check Apply Per Tip, Control set to Pen Pressure, and Saturation Jitter to 4%, Brightness 4%, and Purity to -20%; and Transfer set to Minimum Opacity Jitter 84%, Flow Jitter 43%, and Min 28%. Also the Dual Brush section was opened and the same brush,130 (size) Kyle munch flat medium1, was selected – should already show a Size of 130 px, Spacing 17%, Scatter with Both Axes checked, Scatter to 202% and Count 1; and finally Wet Edges section checked.

Try changing the Brush Tip Shape Spacing to adjust how much texture is showing up. Below are examples of how the strokes look all using the same foreground and background colors. If you have a different Texture pattern you want to try, go ahead but do adjust the sliders. Just be sure to save any brush variants you like when finished. See if you can get some nice stroke effects for solid areas especially. I would suggest trying a different brush tip (check out the list provided in the Brush Tip Shape section and just select one you like) using similar settings (or the settings from any brush you like). This is a great way to create your own paint stroke effect. I will talk more on this in a later blog.

Finishing Up

The bottom sidewalk and door pane effect was created using Kyle’s India Brushes Clay brush that I purchased recently for only $1 for his humanitarian cause of Covid 19 in India. (Available until May 10th.) All these brushes are great but I especially like the effect of this one. Kyle also has a free Builder Brush available at his website seems to do a similar result.

The other brushes used in this image were from Jessica Johnson and her fabulous Pattern Stamp brushes – I always seem to be using them! What I love most about Jessica is that she gives out samples of her different types of brushes which is always very helpful. This time it was the pattern at the top that was a give-away called 3 Modern Renaissance which included a brush and a pattern. Check out her You Tube video Free Photoshop Brush & Metallic Color Palette: Inspired by Dior Couture – Modern Renaissance to get her freebies (see 4-13-Free Renaissance Brush zip file) – and be sure to sign up for her E-mail to get notified when she has new brushes and patterns to release. In this case the Modern Renaissance was used as a regular brush and painted on in a darker gray color. Also used her Moody Floral Bold pattern stamp brush with her English Garden pattern (TM12) was used for the colorful flowers on the window sill and by the cat. When you go to her freebies for the Modern Renaissance brush, click on the 3-15-Free Brush Mon zip folder which contains the Moody Floral Brush and an accompanying pattern. I just love the flower stroke with this brush.

One of Chris Spooner’s free Subtle Grain Textures (6) was applied to give the wall a bit of a cement feel and tie it in as a building. It was masked off the cat and windows. He has lots of nice free resources at his site. The name plate with instructions are in my blog called How to Create Personal Overlays for Your Images – one of my most popular blogs.

Contour Trick

The large black cat is part of a set called Egyptian Hieroglyphs by Skybox Creative that cost $12. If you check every Monday several items are available at Free Goods of the Week which is how I got this vector cat. To give him the cool contour (like my gray cat Sophie), a Bevel & Emboss layer style was added using an Inner Bevel, Smooth, Depth 230%, Direction Up, Size 68 and Soften 0. Then in the Gloss Contour, the Gaussian contour was selected – then Highlight Mode Screen, White, at 29% Opacity and Shadow Mode Multiply, Black, at 32% Opacity. The Contour was checked and the Contour was set to one by Jenni and I have no idea where I got it. Just play around a little with – it give some really cool 3D effects. The other cat is from a set called Cat Family by teddybearcholla (found in a very old Photoshop Creative magazine). A Bevel and Emboss layer style was also used on this cat, with a Depth of 532%, Up, Size 7 px and Soften 0 – Highlight Opacity set to Screen and 77% opacity and Shadow Mode set to Multiply and 33% opacity. A Watercolor pattern texture was added and set to a Depth of +26%. The layer styles really gave both cat items a fresh look.

Digital Art image of a cat at a store door.

Above is a variation of the same image with just a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer with a Cerulean preset at 25% layer opacity and a Gradient Map set to Overlay at 34% layer opacity that used purple and pink randomized color added. Quite a different look. Eventually I hope to get an E-book or PDF together that can be used as a basic guide to show some of the little tricks the sliders do. For example, did you know that if you put the Shape Dynamics Size Jitter Control (even with no Jitter set) to Pen Pressure, the actual Brush stroke appears smaller. Check the Brush Preview in the Brush Settings panel to see the range between the thick and thin stroke now. There is a lot more to this, but that is just an example showing how the stroke will be different with just one setting change. And the people who do paint digitally use all kinds of different settings to get their brushes to work. In the meantime, I will try to pop in more often! Have some fun trying out some new brushes……Digital Lady Syd

Digital Lady Syd Related Blogs:

ReBlog – How to Use Photoshop’s Brush Texture Section for Painting Clean-up

Looking at the Smudge Tool – Again

How Photoshop’s Color Dynamics Brush Settings Work

What about the Pattern Stamp Tool? Not So Bad!

TWO FREE PAINTERLY PHOTOSHOP ACTIONS TO TRY OUT

Watercolor image of a tower in Edinburgh, Scotland.

This week as I was working on finding some interesting ways to use Photoshop to paint, two people came out with free actions that can really give your images painterly looks. Thought I would do a quick share as I continue on my other quest of finding good brushes for drawing and painting with Photoshop. The above image is from Edinburgh, Scotland – below is a sepia tone effect.

Sepia tone image of a building in Edinburgh, Scotland

Watercolor Artist – Photoshop Action Set

Recently Adobe Create Magazine sent out links to a free action by Nuwan Panditha (also known as Black Null) – it contained an action set (Setup and Watercolor Artist actions), 20 watercolor brushes (all kinds of regular and splatter brushes), 5 patterns to use with your watercolor (or any) images, and a 7-page PDF Guide on how to load and use all the included items. This version is an update from the one I wrote about in my Trying Out the Free Watercolor Action from Adobe – Pretty Nice! a couple years ago. The information and steps in my older blog still apply to this newer version. Use the nice PDF guide supplied which has good advice on how to make the action work smoothly.

There were a few issues with the action that need to be addressed. Make sure you stay within the image size parameters or your document will be huge. My file still came out to over 1.8 gigabytes – that is too much for my computer to give really good response time for detail work so I ended up having to delete layers that I did not use – the finished file was almost 1 gig. Also, it took several minutes to run – like up to 5 minutes. The author says he ran the action with a 5,000 pixels for Width and Height, but he recommends using 3,000 to 3,500 pixels. Make sure your image has some detail in it and is not all black or white. The Brush and Art History Brush parameters are listed in his very helpful PDF file. My files were set to 2493 width by 3256 Height and 300 ppi resolution.

Several layers were added after running the action to add in more of the watercolor feel. The furnished Watercolor Artist Wet and Wash brushes were used to supplement the color in the top image – these brushes are all pretty nice watercolor brushes. A Color Lookup Table was selected, a border effect was painted in, and a few flowers were added in with a Pattern Stamp Brush from Jessica Johnson using a pattern created from part of the flowers already in the image. (I can’t believe how often I use these flower brushes for filler areas.) You can do anything you want to your image after the original strokes are laid down. A pretty easy way to practice your painting!

Color Vector Photoshop Action

Pixabay image of a guitar player

This is another action that creates a really huge file so be ready for that. The image is from ISO Republic and is one of my favorites to try new techniques on. It was created by Justin Haider and can be downloaded for free from Deeezy. It is very similar to the above action in the way it is set up and has a Word file to explain how to load all the components. However there are a couple differences between the actions.

  1. The website says this about the size: Check the resolution of your photo. If its a low-resolution photo (1000 px), take the shortest length of your photo and increase it to around 2000 px or more. He recommends using photos that are 72 ppi resolution and at least 2500 px width. The image above was 300 ppi resolution, 3300 px wide X 2200 px high and it was almost 1 gig after removing a few layers that were not needed.
  2. Photo must be in 8-bit and the bottom layer must be a “Background Layer” – cannot use the Layer -> New -> Background from Layer. I got around this on one of my images by saving a copy as a JPG and which then had a natural Background Layer.
  3. THIS STEP IS IMPORTANT AND EASY TO OVERLOOK: Before running the action, create a New Layer and select the Brush Tool – I used the first one, Illustration-br-0, to paint over the subject with a black color on the layer. If you want a really sharp selection and not a real loose look, need to make a really good selection of your subject and fill with color on New Layer. In the above, it was painted in somewhat close to the subject – I did have to run the action twice to get the look I wanted.

There are 9 Brushes (these are also rather interesting and I think I will try them in some other images for painting), 8 Patterns, the Action and a Background texture which was used above, although any texture could be used. I deleted a lot of unused layers in this image also. The colors I got were created from the different adjustment layers provided in the various sections of the action. I did put a Lookup Table on top set to a Cerulean Blue at 65% layer opacity. The texture provided was flipped a couple ways to get this effect. Overall very easy and fun to do.

Hope everyone is easing into Spring. These actions were not hard to do, just a little labor intensive on your computer while they are running. Hope you enjoy trying them…..Digital Lady Syd

Trying Some Creative Art

Digital Art image of a tree

This week does not include a lot of actual painting, but it does contain a lot of free textures and brushes. I am not sure it matters as long as the creation is one of your own. Once again I followed a Julieanne Kost video called Photoshop Compositing Tools and Techniques from Adobe MAX 2020. It was an excellent fairly short video and a good refresher on how to make “fine art” digitally. Previously I did a Creating Composite Images Using the Julieanne Kost Workflow blog which gave details on her basic workflow. I am still learning her techniques and trying to keep my images as simplistic and to the point as she does. Her art does make me think about what I am trying to do with mine.

Julieanne says the “majority of her photos contain a primary subject, a secondary subject, and are set in a background or landscape that she creates.” All her items are there for a reason and she does not like to add in extraneous items that could be distracting. This is the goal I was trying to achieve with the above image.

I thought it might be helpful to include where my resources are from for this image and some of the basic techniques that were used. I hope this is something most people will find useful to do get a similar effect and quite easily.

  1. The tree was created first – just used the Filter -> Render -> Tree. No. 4 Maple Tree was selected (Light direction 36, Leaves Amount 1, Leaf Size 0, Branches Height 153, and Branches Thickness 58) which created a tree with no leaves. Lots of trees can be chosen here and the settings can be changed to get different effects easily. Really fun to do!
  2. Next a free texture was added from Shadowhouse Creations called Daguerreotype-8 to get the really odd foreground pattern. I have talked about his fabulous textures for years and he still has them all available for free. In a layer mask, the Gradient Tool was used to remove the texture from the sky area and leave it in the foreground only. A Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to the texture and set to Linear Dodge blend mode.
  3. Next a sky was needed so back to Shadowhouse Creations to get one called GF-5 – a beautiful painterly texture. A duplicate of the sky was flipped horizontally with the Free Transform tool to get the the look needed. A layer mask on the top one was used to blend the two versions together.
  4. I felt like a hill would make a nice element behind the tree so one was painted in using a great free set of Chalky Brushes by Ioana Sopov and containing Chalk Noisy-2 texture brush, which gave the painted soft edge – it was set to 89% layer opacity. It still needed more texture so one called GF-3, which is an old post card in the same group of textures as the sky, was added to the image and clipped (ALT + click between the two layers to link the top layer to the bottom one) to the plain painted hill and set to Multiply blend mode. A Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer was added to blend the hills into the scene, mainly desaturating and lightening it in the Master settings.
  5. Then to cover up the harsh horizon line, a brush from Jose Rodriguez called PTC Hair Brush set to 200 pixels and a darkish brown color (can download brush for free at his How to Blur Backgrounds in Photoshop video which was very good) was used to create the fence, and I thought it was an important element to further separate the tree and give it more of a sense of loneliness. Note this is a small Hairbrush but it worked great for this image so keep this in mind when using brushes – they are not always what they seem!
  6. The tree looked too harsh so it was duplicated and taken into Topaz (see sidebar of Tidbits Blog for website link) Studio 2 where Impression was opened with just the Oil Pastel preset applied. (The older version of Topaz Impression would also have worked.) Now it looked a lot more painterly. The original tree layer was turned off permanently now. For the Painterly tree, a Black and White Adjustment Layer was clipped to it and set to 68% layer opacity to almost turn the tree black and white. This is something else to remember, single layers with just one element can often be brought into PS filters to give interesting element effects.
  7. On two New Layers, the first airbrush found in the Converted Legacy Tool Presets Airbrush folder (loaded just like the Legacy brushes – see my Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes blog on how to load brushes) – it was set to a regular brush (it is a Mixer in the Tool Presets so select any regular brush first, then on the Airbrush mixer press CTRL+ALT+ click to switch it to a regular brush – and now adjust the brush settings to 3 pixels Size with Build Up and Smoothing checked) was used to draw along the tree roots – first used a dark brown, then with the same brush a lighter color was drawn next to them to make the roots stand out. If you have not used these older Tool Preset brushes, check them out – there are some good ones in there.
  8. Added textures – used the Adobe Paper Texture Pro, which is still working in PS for me, but it is no longer available from Adobe. Not sure what has happened, but textures can be added manually quite easily. The first one was called Necropolis that was set to Difference at 55% opacity – this gives a bluish tone to the whole image. Then Villa Adriana set to Color Dodge – opacity 32% and Fill 30% – a black layer mask was added and just the root area and a little bit of the trunk was painted back to get the rather glowy edges for the roots. They are both from Flypaper Textures – I believe I got the textures a long time ago with the PS extension so if you have it or had it previously, you may have already have a nice set of textures.
  9. Next a Photo Filter Adjustment Layer was added using a dark gold color (#8e7329) at 50% opacity.
  10. Added a Curves Adjustment Layer – just a straight diagonal line to upper right with a starting point at lower left set to Input 0 and Output 40 – gave a little bit of a matte look to the most dark pixels in the image.
  11. Next added a Gradient Map Adjustment Layer to give more of a dark blue as opposed to a dark black to the image – this technique was discussed in Julieanne’s video. A stop was added on the bottom of the gradient at Location 20 and a color swatch set to #292d33, a very dark blue. She continued adjusting the Saturation and Brightness amounts in the HSB settings of the swatch, but I did not need this. I liked this color that was being added. Only wanted it applied to the top area of the image, so in the layer mask a black to white gradient was created with the Gradient Tool to blend it in at the horizon.
  12. Added a New Layer and selected a brush I call “SJ Soft Br (MK) to blend orig. bkgds back into mask for animal pix” created from a Matt Kloskowski webinar. Basically the settings use a 30-pixel soft round brush with the Options Bar set to Opacity 41% and Flow to 26%. Matt uses this brush in a different way than how it was used in this image to soften the edges of the tree trunk so it blended into the background more, and soften some of the sharp color and edges of the smaller branches high up in the tree. A sampled color from the sky was used for this.
  13. A Color Balance Adjustment Layer was added and just a subtle change was made to add some lightness into the Highlights (Yellow-Blue set to -3) and darkness to the Shadows (Yellow-Blue +4).
  14. A Color Lookup Adjustment Layer was used to adjust the color in the overall image. The one used was called On1-Heat Wave LUTs-7 but there are so many to choose from that several were looked at before settling on this one – set to Normal at 19% layer opacity. I like to look at these last because LUTs tend to pull colors together really well.
  15. A Spotlight Effect was made with a New Layer set to Overlay blend mode at 87% opacity – using a white soft round brush to lighten up the middle of the sky where where the branches are. See my How to Add a Spot of Light blog for more on this.
  16. Last step was to add a Curves Adjustment Layer which was applied to only the top of the image by using the Gradient Tool in the layer mask at 90% layer opacity.

As you can see, it was a pretty large endeavor to get this image. Even though the steps look straight-forward, it definitely was not. Several adjustment layers were added and removed and changes in opacity were made to them as an after-thought. I guess one of my main points is that if you look around there are lots of free resources that can be added into your composites. I wanted to share some of these with you since it is expensive to always be buying products that you may only use once or twice. Some brushes included are all pretty simple to make and several free ones are very nice and totally different from what Kyle Webster offers with PS. And as a second point, if you are like me, I am always trying to find something new and different to do in PS and to add some new dimension to an image. I think Julieanne has lots of good ideas and it did start me thinking. Have a good one!…..Digital Lady Syd

Happy Valentines Day

Image of a Valentines Day card effect

This week I did a quick little Valentines Day card. Most of this card has the standard valentine elements I have used before. But I did create the element in the middle from a video I recently watched on Design Cuts called How to Create a 4-Way Mandala in Photoshop by Leslie Nicole from French Kiss Textures (her textures are some of the best you will find). It was so much fun trying out the Mandala designs that I had to show a couple. The design above also used some really nice valentine elements from Karen Bonaker, the Corel Painter Master. At her site, she gave these away as Painter brushes, but I switched them over to Photoshop ones by following one of my old blogs called How to Bring a Corel Painter Brush into Photoshop – worked like a charm! I painted the background using almost all the brushes she offered – lot of fun here.

Back to the Mandala – I had never seen Leslie’s technique for creating these so it really intrigued me. Below is an example of one created following the basic steps she uses. The video gives a great explanation of how it is done. Leslie mainly uses flower stems or designs to create them. Below my white lily image that is posted here was used as the starting element for the design.

Mandala of a White Lily

Some painted texture was added behind and Kyle’s Spatter brushes were used also. Topaz (see sidebar at my Tidbits Blog for website link) Simplify was used on the flower in the center to get it to match the image.

This technique is really not as hard as it seems and it gives a beautiful and original result. I plan on trying several more as they are quit fun to do! (Check out this one I just finished a little late: Valentines Mandala) Enjoy the Day!…..Digital Lady Syd

Kyle T. Webster’s Photoshop Brushes

Digitally painted image of a Kingfisher

I am continuing with another painting blog just because that is what I am doing right now. I am still getting caught up on my digital art skills which was one of my New Year’s resolutions. The beautiful Common Kingfisher image above was downloaded from Unsplash and was taken by Boris Smokrovic (there are many iterations of the bird on this site).

Since Photoshop’s brush engine has not really changed much since CS6 – and the Mixer showed up in CS5, there have been lots and lots of brushes available thru the years. The Regular brushes and the Mixer brushes are the ones most people think of using for digital painting in PS. But there are many Smudge brushes and Pattern Stamp brushes also available for painting, so don’t discount their usefulness.

The brushes used on the above Kingfisher image were from Fay Sirkis, a Corel Painter Master, who created some great PS Mixer brushes years ago (some of them can still be downloaded from KelbyOne) – not much was available back then but these hers are still great! Lots of brushes now come with PS so it is easy to get started trying a little painting of your favorite images. A huge amount of brushes were created by Kyle T. Webster are provided for free when you subscribe to Adobe’s program.

I spent a long time trying to find a few I thought would be useful to get everyone started with painting. Kyle has a lot of Regular brushes and Smudge brushes. The Goldfinch image below (by Stephen Walker at Unsplash) used : Kyle’s Drawing Box – Hatch Soft Mixer brush, Kyle’s Drawing Box – Shady Graphite Damp brush, Kyle’s Paintbox – Big Rough 880 Smudge brush, Kyle’s Inkbox – Spatter 1 brush, and at the bottom behind the bird in Kyle’s Spatter brushes – Wet Splat brush. Kyle’s Paintbox Seurat brush (pointillism-type brush) and Kyles Paintbox Cezanne2 brush both are contained in a different download called the Impressionist set and not the Megapack Paintbox folder. These brushes will give you a good idea of what is available for painting.

HOW TO FIND HIS BRUSHES: As you can see by the names of the brushes, they fall into different groups of brushes. To find the Drawing Box brushes, the Megapack must be downloaded and loaded into PS. To do this, just go to the Brushes Panel, open the Pop-out menu in the upper right corner and select Get More Brushes. All of Kyle’s brush groups will be listed – just scroll down to the one you want and download it.

LOADING THE BRUSHES: The way I load .abr or .tpl files is to open PS and then go to folder on my computer where the brushes were download and double click on the .abr or tpl files – they will load immediately as folders at the bottom of your brush list. With Kyle’s brushes, you can just select to add them right into PS instead of saving the brushes down. This is a very quick way to do this.

FINDING THE BRUSH YOU WANT: The Megapack is huge, so once loaded into PS, go to the Search field located at the top under the Size slider in the Brushes Panel and type in part of the brush name – all loaded will be listed. They added the search mechanism with the latest version of PS and it is a life-saver if you have lots of brushes loaded (which I do!). Try searching to find the above Hatch Soft brush or Shady Graphite brush. The Paintbox brushes are also listed in one of the Mega Pack folders, so search for those brushes and they will show up. There is another nice painterly set to download and it is called the Impressionist Brushes if you want to load the Seurat and Cezanne2 brushes – several other famous painter’s brushes are located here also.

Image of a painted American Goldfinch

In just the Megapack folder there are these different subfolders: Erasers (6 brushes); Drawing Box which contains these types of brushes – Charcoal, Markers, Crayons, Pencil, Colored Pencil, Sketch, Lots of Mixers both blenders and those that add color including Pastels/Oil Pastels/Pastel Smudge, and Smudge (74 brushes); Inkbox (157 brushes!); FX Box which contains Grains, Noise and Canvas brushes (27 brushes); Paintbox which contains 8 Smudge, 2 Acrylic, Bristle Brushes, Gesso brushes, 10 Gouache brushes, 8 Watercolor and several other kinds (53 brushes); Real Oils which contains the 6 Sargent brushes (44 brushes); Classic Group which contains all kinds of useful brushes (19 brushes); Bonus which just contains Chunky Charcoal brush; and Tech Pens which contains 5 brushes. I felt like this may help if you are looking for a particular type of brush. The Impressionist set contains 24 brushes and blenders.

The other brush sets that can downloaded are: Keith Haring-Inspired Brushes, Watercolor, Dry Media, Gouache, Spatter, Runny Inkers, Manga Brushes, Crosshatchers, Rake Brushes, Impressionist, Letterers, Halftones, Copier, Concept, Art Markers, Charcoal, Summer 2018 Brushes, Winter 2019 Brushes, Summer 2019 Brushes, Spring 2020 Brushes, Summer 2020 Brushes, and Winter 2020 Brushes. If you go up on Kyle’s brushes, there is a small description of what each set contains to help you decide if they will be useful. I did not look at all of these, just the Impressionist set which contained the Seurat and Cezanne2 brushes. The ones dated by year contain several different types of brushes so it definitely worth the time to try them out – your favorite brush may just be included! Kyle did say that he is planning on releasing a Spring 2021 group of brushes in May which will contain a brush with leaf shapes, so that should be fun to get.

Image of a painted Roseate Spoonbill from the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

The above image was taken at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm but was painted using some extra free Kyle Munch brushes. To create this effect, duplicate the image. The bird was then isolated from the top layer by using the Quick Selection Tool and Select Subject – add a layer mask and clean up any areas that need to be added or removed. Since it is being painted, it does not have to be perfect. A white Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer was added underneath the selected image. Now for the fun part – used brushes from Kyle that are not in the program files – they are called Munch brushes and were created to imitate Edvard Munch‘s brush style (his most famous painting is The Scream). I would recommend watching the first 7-minute video at the brush download site to learn how to use them properly – 7 brushes are included. This image only used the Munch – Filbert brush, set to a very small size for the details. A texture was added underneath the bird and over the Solid Color Fill Adjustment Layer. As a final touch, a Romantic English Garden Pattern Stamp Brushes and Patterns from Jessica Johnson was used to scatter a little color on the bottom. This was totally fun to do and not hard at all. These steps are basically how all three images were painted.

I thought I was ready to post this blog a few weeks ago, and then I started finding a number of Adobe Creative Cloud videos by Kyle to help understand how to use the PS brush engine and all the various types of brushes he created. If interested, check out these videos: Photoshop Masterclass: Brushes, Photoshop Brush Top Tips and Tricks with Kyle T. Webster, Brush Hour with Kyle T. Webster: Episode 1-Spatter Time (apparently he will be doing different types of brushes this year) – he produces videos at least weekly. Kyle basically says you don’t have to know how to create brushes, just experiment with the ones he has provided. He does spend a lot of time explaining what each of the Brush Settings Panel sections do so a brush can be changed “on the fly” to get a good result. He is a designer and illustrator and knows what kind of brushes are needed for all types of painting media.

I plan on expanding my brush info and some painting tips with you soon – you can never have too many brushes! Hope everyone is doing well and getting a chance to try some new things in PS. Until next time…..Digital Lady Syd

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

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